Saturday, May 12, 2007

No Support for Johan

If you looked at Johan Santana's numbers so far this year, you'd think he was doing pretty well. After all, he has 56 strikeouts in 51 innings with a 1.18 WHIP, 3.35 ERA, and a .237 BAA. They aren't near the great numbers he has put up the last few years, but they are quite good for the beginning of May. Of course, there is a problem: he's 4-3.

Last night, the Twins gave away a good Santana start in a 7-3 defeat, as the Tigers handed him his third loss of the year. Santana struck out six and gave up six hits in six innings for another quality start, but the Twins offense couldn't put much together against Mike Maroth, despite getting nine hits off of the Detroit starter.

What happened? A few Twins hitters came up short when the Twins needed them most. Six runners were left in scoring position with two outs, including two by Torii Hunter. Hunter, who ended his 23-game hitting streak Thursday, is 2-for-17 in his last four games and last night things didn't go well at all for him, as he left five men on and grounded into a double play that nearly killed a big scoring chance in the first.

Of course, it wasn't all Hunter's fault, as Nick Punto and Jason Kubel also came up empty. Good thing for Kubel he made two good catches during the game or he might have made another big step toward the bench (or the minors). In the middle of all this offensive ineptitude, Justin Morneau had a good night, going 2-for-4 with a triple and a two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth to bring the Twins within two before Juan Rincon returned the four-run lead to the Tigers in the next half-inning.

Since the offensive struggles are nothing new, the most worrisome aspect of last night's game had to be the performance of the bullpen. In three innings between Jesse Crain, Matt Guerrier, Rincon, and Dennys Reyes, the bullpen gave up seven hits and five runs while walking three and striking out only one. Those are some awful numbers, so it's a good thing that Joe Nathan and Pat Neshek weren't involved. However, if the bullpen starts to become less trustworthy, Twins fans will only have another reason to worry about the near future of this team.

Likewise, today's game probably won't make any Twins fans feel any better, with Sidney Ponson sadly getting another start, even though this team is now below .500 after last night's loss. Lets just hope this is the last one for Ponson.