Thursday, May 24, 2007

Back In the Swing of Things

After stumbling into their latest road trip with a brutal sweep at the hands of the Indians, the Twins managed to salvage a 4-5 record over the nine-game trip by winning series in Milwaukee and Texas. When Fausto Carmona completed the Indians' sweep of the Twins last week with a complete game shutout, it was perhaps the lowest point of the season for this Minnesota team. But from that point on, the Twins have played much better baseball. In their six games against the Brewers and Rangers, the Twins' offense scored 8, 5, 5, 4, 7 and 5 runs. Now, it's difficult to be too impressed by those numbers considering the Twins didn't face much great pitching over that span and the majority of their offense came from two players (Torii Hunter and Justin Morneau combined drive in 19 of the Twins' 34 runs in those six games). Still, it's nice to see from an offense that had averaged just four runs per game previously in May -- that's including the 16-run outburst against the Tigers a couple Sundays ago. And the Twins won every one of those six games not started by Carlos Silva or Ramon Ortiz.

Yesterday's series-clinching 5-3 win over the Rangers was a nail-biter all the way. The Twins scored a run in each of the first three innings and added two in the fifth. This gave them a lead they would never surrender, but the Rangers always seemed just one swing away from tying the game or taking the lead. Boof Bonser struggled to hit his spots throughout the game and needed 101 pitches to work through five innings, but his end results were good once again. He picked up his third win in May, finishing with a line of: 5 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 6 K, 2 BB.

Bonser hasn't been in the big leagues for long, but already I'm starting to get the sense that he's the type of pitcher that will struggle a bit in the early going and then get better and better as he picks up steam. Last year, Bonser struggled a little bit during his first couple months in the majors, posting a 5.30 ERA over his first seven starts before being sent back down to Rochester for a bit. But he pitched very well down the stretch, posting a 3.62 ERA after returning to the Twins in August, including a September in which he went 4-1 with a 2.63 ERA.

This year, Bonser was roughed up in his first few starts and held a 6.89 ERA on April 15. Since then, he has posted a 2.70 ERA in seven starts and the Twins have won six of those games.

The one area where I'd really like to see Bonser improve is in his ability to pitch deep into ballgames. While Bonser's overall numbers are good (now 3-1 with a 3.88 ERA) and he's among the league leaders in strikeouts, he's averaged less than 5 2/3 innings per outing so far and has completed seven frames just twice in ten starts. With Ortiz and Silva already giving the bullpen plenty of work, you'd like to see Bonser step up pitch deeper into these games.