Thursday, June 28, 2007

Singled Out

I really don't think I'm going to be the first person to say this, but Scotty Ullger almost certainly does not do any research for his job. He has to be the most ill-prepared third base coach around. Last night isn't exactly the exception to the rule. Of course, he made a poor decision regarding Justin Morneau last Friday. However, there were also recent plays were he thought it was intelligent to send runners and challenge such great arms as Jeff Franceour and now Vernon Wells.

Twins fans love their Gold Glove center fielder Torii Hunter, but it's not a stretch to say Wells is a superior defender now. In the third inning, Ullger thought it wise to test his arm by sending Michael Cuddyer, who is not the greatest base-runner around, home from second on a Jason Kubel single. Greg Zaun blocked the plate well to get Cuddyer out, but the throw was there in plenty of time. Holding Cuddyer would have loaded the bases with one out for Mike Redmond. The Twins came away from that situation with only one run, which ended up costing them in an eventual 5-4 loss.

Clearly the loss can't be burdened on only Ullger's shoulders, but this isn't new and it's something that continues to be glossed over. Instead of questioning Ullger's decision, Dick and Bert and everyone else would rather talk about the great play by Wells and Zaun. Of course they made a great play, but Wells is a great defender and Zaun isn't a terrible backstop worth underestimating. Ullger should have been let go well over a decade ago, so there is no doubt that Ron Gardenhire and Terry Ryan love him for some reason. Thus, sadly things aren't about to change.

Naturally, there are plenty of other reasons for the Twins loss. The largest would have to be the offense's inability to get extra bases on even one of their 11 hits in the game. That's right, 11 hits, 11 singles. As a result, the offense left a total of six runners in scoring position with two outs, including two by Torii Hunter. Beyond the Twins' 11 hits, the Blue Jays also helped out with four errors in the game. Yet the Twins could only manage to squeak out four runs and couldn't take advantage of numerous opportunities, which is sad considering how hittable Towers has been this season.

Besides the offense, Boof Bonser had what can be best described as a ugly start. In six innings, he gave up seven hits and five earned runs while walking two and striking out only two, bringing his ERA up to 4.65. The worst part was watching Bonser give up a two-run blast to Zaun. The Blue Jays' catcher had a good year last year, but it was a career year largely out of place with regards to his career track, and this season he is hitting only .227. He might be hitting behind Frank Thomas, but much like the Twins lineup, it is more a result of lack of depth than anything else.

The bad news for the Twins is that it will be difficult for them to come out of the series with a split. Carlos Silva was great his last time out, which according to his pattern means he won't be so great this afternoon and his opponent A.J. Burnett has terrific stuff that has baffled Twins hitters in the past. Unless they can manage to hit themselves past first base, it's tough to see them getting a victory in the series finale.