Thursday, April 23, 2009

Stormy Days

Rainy conditions in Boston prevented the Twins and Red Sox from being able to play on Tuesday night and limited one of yesterday's double-header match-ups to seven innings, but the results of yesterday's quick sweeping from the Red Sox are ones we'd probably rather forget.

Sixteen games into the season, the Twins aren't in terrible shape as far as the standings are concerned. They're just two games under .500 at 7-9 and remain within a couple games of first place. Yet, this team has played awful baseball up to this point. Six of their nine losses have come by a margin of four or more runs, they've trailed at some point in every game they've played, and their run differential of -31 is the worst in baseball. Their only series that could be considered a success thus far was a three-game home sweep over an Angels team with a decimated pitching staff and without its best hitter. The Twins are lucky to be close to a .500 record right now, and they almost certainly won't continue to be if they can't drastically improve their play.

Yesterday's day game was just about as ugly as they come. Scott Baker continued to serve up pitches on a platter, allowing three more home runs in his 4 2/3 innings of work. He's now coughed up seven homers in 8 2/3 innings this season -- this after serving up four long balls in his final exhibition outing. Baker always has been and likely always will be somewhat homer-prone, but something is clearly wrong here because the rate he's allowing balls to leave the park is nothing short of ridiculous.

The bullpen stepped in and didn't do much to stop the bleeding. After Craig Breslow tossed 1 1/3 scoreless frames in relief of Baker, Juan Morillo came on to pitch the seventh. I mentioned on Tuesday that "In spite of [Morillo's] solid showing on Saturday night, I'm sure it won't be long before we catch a glimpse of the command issues that caused the Rockies to sour on him," and it certainly didn't take long for that to happen. Yesterday, Morillo couldn't find the strike zone with his high-90s fastball, as 13 of the 17 pitches he threw were called balls and he issued three straight walks following a double by David Ortiz before being removed without recording an out. Naturally, R.A. Dickey came in with the bases loaded and sent all of Morillo's baserunners home on a single, a sacrifice fly and a double before the game was mercifully shut down due to weather.

For its part, the offense had a miserable day against Sox starter Tim Wakefield, managing just one run on five hits over seven innings and going 1-for-10 in scoring opportunities. Alexi Casilla's 0-for-3 day dropped his average for the season to .184 while Michael Cuddyer, Joe Crede and Mike Redmond -- who have all displayed varying levels of ineptitude at the plate this year -- also went hitless in the affair.

In the nightcap, the Twins were soundly defeated again as Francisco Liriano was tagged for seven runs in four innings and the offense had another flat showing in a 7-3 loss. Cuddyer went hitless yet again and the replacements for Casilla, Crede and Redmond -- Brendan Harris, Brian Buscher and Jose Morales -- all failed to improve on the performances of their predecessors as each went hitless as well.

Between the day's two games, the Twins were outscored 17-4 and went 1-for-15 in scoring opportunities. These were a pair of bad, bad games, and unfortunately those have not been rare this season. On the bright side, it's still early and there's plenty of time to get things turned around. We can only hope that happens soon because this is hard to watch.