Saturday, May 26, 2007

Twins Just Squeeze By

After what was a depressing two weeks for the Twins, the team has now won five of its last seven games and have nearly reached .500 again. Last night, the offense got a few breaks, the bullpen was good, and Scott Baker was decent enough. The Twins offense collected 10 hits and managed four runs and just got by with a tight victory over the Blue Jays.

The offensive standouts included Luis Castillo, who went 2-for-3 with a walk and now owns a .336/.381/.371 line, as well as Michael Cuddyer, who hit a big two-run homer to give the Twins a 3-2 lead in the fifth. That gives Cuddyer 6 home runs and 31 RBI on the year. He has started rather slow this year, but he remains on pace to score over 100 runs, drive in 100, and hit 22 home runs. If Cuddyer really starts to heat up, those numbers may start to add up pretty quickly considering what he has done in a relatively slow start. Lastly, Torii Hunter's RBI single in the 7th to give the Twins the lead permanently added to what has already been a fantastic season for Hunter.

Pitching-wise, Baker was not nearly as good as he was in his first 2007 start against the Brewers last week. However, despite giving up three runs in only 5 1/3 innings, Baker had a good run in the game by retiring 10 straight batters. Baker's real problem, besides the game-tying home run he gave up to Frank Thomas, was the four walks he gave up in contrast to only two strikeouts. Baker ran into troubles last year when his fastballs ran high, as they often did last night, or when he lacked control. If he is going to have continued success, he needs to show the control he has shown in the minors.

On the other hand, those few good arms remaining in the bullpen did well again last night. Matt Guerrier, Pat Neshek, and Joe Nathan combined for 3 2/3 scoreless innings while striking out four, giving up three hits, and walking one. Nathan's ninth inning got a little hairy, but the breaking ball he threw to strike out Lyle Overbay and end the game was ridiculously nasty. The .294 OBA Nathan has allowed so far is unusual, but the ERA is a great 2.11 and he is still striking out plenty of batters. Looks like there was no reason to worry in April.

Tonight, a more interesting situation will appear for the Twins and their fans, as Ramon Ortiz will be starting after four straight awful outings. Many have now suggested Ortiz move into long relief, which I agree with, and if Ortiz has another atrocious start, the Twins should not think twice of making the move and bringing Kevin Slowey or Matt Garza up to claim their rightful spot in the rotation.

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