Sunday, August 05, 2007

Winning Without Hitting

It's hard to be overly enthusiastic about a victory like yesterday's. Matt Garza was relatively effective, but needed 93 pitches to get through four innings, forcing Ron Gardenhire to go to his bullpen very early. There was a lot of pressure on the bullpen to be perfect too, because the Twins offense could muster only three runs against Aaron Laffey, a 22-year-old making his major-league debut. Fortunately, the bullpen was up to the task, delivering five innings of scoreless ball against one of the league's better offenses.

Perhaps the most impressive performance surprisingly came from Ramon Ortiz, who bridged the gap to the late innings by entering in the fifth inning with the game tied and tossing a pair of scoreless frames. As bad as he was as a starter, Ortiz has been fairly solid since joining the bullpen, posting a 3.86 ERA in 30 1/3 innings of relief. He has also struck out 17 while issuing just three walks in that role. It's good that he's been able to step up, because Gardenhire has been forced to use him in increasingly important situations lately with Juan Rincon's plummeting performance.

Of course, the reason I said it was tough to be too enthusiastic about the game is that the offense continued with its maddening slump. Yesterday's game marked the 11th time in 20 games since the All-Star break where the Twins have scored three runs or less. By scoring two runs in the fourth yesterday, the Twins broke a 27-inning streak of failing to score multiple runs in a single inning. This team seems incapable of putting together a rally right now, and I keep wondering when it's going to find its way out of this slump. It's not happening. When one guy is hitting, three other guys aren't. When one part of the lineup is having success, another part is struggling mightily. Yesterday the 1-4 spots in the batting order went 6-for-15 with three runs and three RBI; the 5-9 spots went 2-for-15 with zero runs and zero batted in.

Today the Twins have their work cut out for them, with Fausto Carmona taking the hill for the Indians. When the Twins first faced Carmona back on April 24, the young right-hander was 0-1 with a 6.97 ERA. Since that point (including his win against the Twins that day), Carmona has gone 13-4 with a 2.97 ERA.

I'll leave you with this food for thought: over the last two weeks, the Twins averaged 2.62 runs per game. The Yankees, one of the three teams the Twins are chasing in the Wild Card race, averaged 8.46 runs per game during that span.