After tying last night's game 1-1 in the eighth inning, the Twins loaded the bases with two outs for Michael Cuddyer. Fox Sports Net immediately played a clip of Cuddyer's grand slam from Wednesday afternoon's ballgame. The Twins' right fielder proceeded to tap a weak grounder to short, which Miguel Tejada mishandled, allowing Cuddyer to reach and a run to score. Immediately afterward, Jason Kubel came through with a legitimate run-scoring hit, driving a two-run double to the gap in left-center.
One inning later, Cuddyer came up once again with the bases loaded and two outs. Again, FSN played a clip of his Wednesday slam, and again Cuddyer failed to deliver a hit, as he was retired on a weak fly ball to left field. For the night, Cuddyer went 0-for-4, dropping his season hitting line to .274/.353/.436.
Last night, Cuddyer was living off of his success from the previous day. And in general, I think Cuddyer's success last season has allowed his poor play this year to go largely unnoticed. While a .274 average with 13 homers and 71 RBI might not look bad when compared to the rest of the Twins' offense, the numbers are decidedly sub par when you place them in the context of his piers around the league. Among 12 qualifying AL right fielders, Cuddyer ranks ninth in batting average and OPS, eighth in home runs, and sixth in RBI.
Cuddyer has long frustrated me with his inability to translate his hitting ability from the minors to the majors. Coming into the 2006 season, his career highs in batting average and slugging percentage were .263 and .440, respectively. Last season, it seemed like he had finally figured things out, hitting .284/.362/.507 with 24 HR and 41 doubles. While his average and on-base percentage are currently down from last year, they still aren't bad. It's the drop-off in power that has been extremely disappointing. Cuddyer has collected just 13 home runs and 21 doubles this year, putting him on pace to finish well below the career marks he set last season. You don't like to see that type of decline from a guy who is 28 and should be in the middle of his prime.
Some notes on last night's game and other Twins-related stuff:
* The Twins beat the Orioles 5-2 in last night's series opener in Baltimore, but it wasn't exactly an inspiring victory. The Twins' lineup failed to score for seven innings against Steve Trachsel (who is fairly lousy), and managed just three hits and a walk during that span. In the eighth, the Twins finally got on the board, and in fact scored four runs, but they did it with only two actual hits (one coming on a leadoff bunt single by Nick Punto and the other coming on the aforementioned Kubel double). The Orioles helped out immensely in the inning by issuing three walks, committing two errors, and throwing a wild pitch. Not exactly a convincing offensive outpouring for the Twins, but I guess you take what you can get at this point. Despite scoring five runs in the game, the Twins went 2-for-12 in scoring opportunities and stranded 10 baserunners.
* Glen Perkins struggled in a rehab start for Class-AA New Britain last night, allowing four walks and two home runs in three innings of work. I'd consider anything the Twins get out of Perkins for the rest of this season a bonus, but I hope he can come back strong next year and contribute to the big-league club in one way or another.
* After picking up 10 hits in his first 28 major-league at-bats, Tommy Watkins was placed on the disabled list yesterday with an abdominal muscle strain. The move opened a roster spot for Brian Buscher's return from the DL. I'm intrigued by Buscher, and I'm hoping he gets regular at-bats at third base for the rest of the season so the Twins can get a look at what they have in him going into 2008.
* Jason Bartlett returned to the lineup last night after missing several games with a sore hamstring. He went 2-for-4 with an RBI triple and a walk in the game. In the month of August, Bartlett is hitting .321/.344/.536.
* Torii Hunter is tied with Baltimore's Brian Roberts for fourth in the AL in doubles with 37.