Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Rocket Fuel

Roger Clemens may be in the discussion for greatest pitcher of all time, but at age 44 he's currently far from being one of the best pitchers in the league. At least he hadn't looked like it through the first four starts of his latest stint with the Yankees. Last night, however, Clemens was in fine form, holding the Twins to one run on two hits over eight innings en route to his 350th career victory as his Yankees defeated the Twins 5-1 in the opener of a four-game series at Yankee Stadium. After allowing a Michael Cuddyer single and a Justin Morneau walk to lead off the second inning, Clemens retired 20 of the last 21 batters he faced, racking up four strikeouts and 13 ground ball outs. Clemens looked good and had his splitter working in full effect, but that's no excuse for the inability of the Twins hitters to put together any rallies over eight innings after being shutout the night before.

Joe Mauer had two hits while Michael Cuddyer and Jason Bartlett had a single apiece, but the rest of the lineup went a combined 0-for-18. Meanwhile, starter Boof Bonser continued his trend of struggling once reaching the later innings of games. Bonser made it through the first five innings with only one run allowed, but in the sixth he gave up a solo home run to Bobby Abreu, followed by a double to Andy Phillips and a single to Robinson Cano. He left the game with two on and one out, and both of the runners he left on base ended up scoring. Bonser finished with nine hits and four earned runs allowed over 5 1/3 innings pitched. He struck out six but walked three. After a poor June, he has gotten his month of July off to a pretty discouraging start.

The only bright spot in the game was the season debut of Matt Garza, who came in to pitch the seventh and eighth innings on what was essentially mop-up duty. Garza allowed a pair of hits over his two innings, but kept the Yankees scoreless. He mixed his pitches and showed a nasty curveball to go along with his 97 MPH fastball. I'll be interested to see how Garza does when he starts against the White Sox on Friday.

Tonight's game matches up a pair of groundball pitchers in Chien-Ming Wang and Carlos Silva. Silva has not fared well in his career against the Yankees, posting a 7.31 ERA in 16 regular season innings and getting pummeled in the 2004 playoffs. My guess is that the Twins will need to put more than a couple runs on the board if they want to win this game and even the series.