New York, New YorkDespite his struggles elsewhere, it seems that Scott Baker has always been at his best when playing New York teams during his young major-league career. In two starts against the Yankees last season, Baker went 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA. Against all other opponents, he went 3-8 with a 7.19 ERA. Flash forward to this season. Baker entered last night's contest against the New York Mets sporting a 1-2 record and 7.33 ERA, and there were some indications that he may have been pitching for his spot in the Twins' rotation. Baker stepped up with a very solid outing, delivering five innings of two-run ball against a strong Mets lineup. He allowed seven hits and no walks, striking out three. He wasn't dazzling, but he made the pitches he needed to make, and just one of the seven hits he allowed went for extra bases (a first-inning double by Paul Lo Duca).
I want to wake up in a city that never sleeps
And find I'm a number one, top of the list
King of the hill, a number one
Frank Sinatra - New York, New York
Meanwhile, four scoreless innings from the bullpen and six runs of support from the offense turned Baker's solid outing into a 6-2 victory. Dennys Reyes got the first two outs in the sixth, and then the Twins busted out their big G.u.N.N. (Guerrier-Neshek-Nathan) to finish the job.
It was really nice to see the Twins come away with a victory last night because on paper it seemed like a game that was destined to be lost. While the Twins were sending the shaky Baker to the mound, the Mets were sending out their left-handed ace, Oliver Perez, who entered the game with a 2.93 ERA and .205 BAA. Perez has always had good stuff, but throughout the course of his career his biggest weakness his been his control, and the Twins took advantage by drawing five walks and forcing him to throw 110 pitches before chasing him after 5 1/3 innings.
Even though the Twins went just 3-for-16 in scoring opportunities over the course of the game, they got timely extra-base hits from Justin Morneau, Torii Hunter and Joe Mauer, which accounted for five of their six runs. Clearly, the Twins should have scored more than six runs in this game, but fortunately that proved to be enough thanks to the good work from Baker and the bullpen.
After getting blown out on Monday night, the Twins bounced back to outscore the Mets 15-2 over the next two games and take the series. There were plenty of encouraging sights in last night's game, from the offense's six walks and five extra-base hits to the bullpen's four scoreless innings following a couple shaky outings. But perhaps the most encouraging sight of the night was seeing Baker take the mound in a high-pressure situation and deliver five strong innings to ensure his spot in the rotation for at least a couple more games. On this night in the city that never sleeps, Baker was king of the hill.