Boy, tough to find anything not to like about last night's game. The Twins won 3-2, got a number of strong performances, and played good fundamental baseball. They left a ton of runs on the bases by going just 3-for-15 in scoring opportunities, but fortunately three was enough on this night thanks to some great pitching.After watching the Twins suffer their first loss last night, my positive feelings about Monday's game feel like distant memories. In many ways, the Twins' 9-1 drubbing at the hands of the Angels last night was a polar opposite of Monday night's victory.
On Monday, Livan Hernandez was efficient and effective, delivering seven innings of two-run ball to pick up the victory. Last night, Boof Bonser -- while not terribly inefficient -- was far from effective, surrendering eight hits over six innings, including three doubles and a home run.
On Monday, the Twins played strong defense to support their starting pitcher. Last night, their fielding was shoddy, as they committed two errors and repeatedly failed to execute defensively.
On Monday, the bullpen was lights out, as Pat Neshek and Joe Nathan slammed the door in the eighth and ninth to protect a one-run Twins' lead. Last night, four Twins relievers combined to allow five runs (four earned), seven hits and three walks in three innings, effectively turning a loss into a blowout.
On Monday, the Twins made up for some poor situational hitting (3-for-15 in scoring opportunities) by running the bases well and scraping runs across with some big hits. Last night, they managed only one run on seven hits and one walk, wasting rare base-runners by grounding into two double plays.
In short, Monday night's game was a blast to watch and last night's was excruciating. The pitching struggles for the Twins weren't overly surprising, as I've come into th season expecting plenty of uneven performances from this young staff. I am, however, very disappointed with the offense's ineptitude. Justin Morneau has failed to collect a hit in his first two games, which in and of itself isn't particularly alarming but raises some concern when viewed in combination with his terrible spring and brutal August/September last season. The Twins managed only one extra-base hit in the game and pounded the ball into the ground consistently.
One bad game can certainly be excused, but last night's offensive performance was painfully reminiscent to last year.
Tonight the Twins face a new challenge, with Joe Saunders representing the first left-handed starter they have faced this year. Southpaws posed an especially large problem for the Twins' hitters last year, but the hope is that the addition of hitters like Delmon Young, Craig Monroe and Brendan Harris can help with that issue.
Meanwhile, Nick Blackburn will make his first start of the season for the Twins. I'm actually pretty excited to watch him this year. My expectations are relatively low because he's awfully old for a rookie and his overall minor-league numbers aren't particularly impressive; yet, it's tough to ignore the fact that he was outstanding in Rochester last season and had a very good spring for the Twins this year. And you've got to figure there's something behind Baseball America's decision to recently rank him as the organization's No. 1 prospect, despite his age and lack of a high profile. Heck, I've even seem him mentioned in some circles as a sleeper Rookie of the Year candidate.
Of course, since the Twins are facing the lefty Saunders tonight, it is highly likely that Monroe will be starting at DH over Jason Kubel, who was the only Twin with a hit during the first four innings of last night's game. Having Monroe in the lineup against a southpaw certainly isn't the worst thing in the world, but if he plays it will be mean he's been in the starting lineup twice as often as Kubel so far, which is unacceptable to me even three games into the season. And so, I'll finish my post with a little graphic I designed yesterday (which I've also added to the sidebar). It will probably become a rallying cry for me and perhaps others among the growing mass of fans frustrated with Ron Gardenhire's misuse of Kubel...