Twins 5, Tigers 4
In my neverending quest to find other websites that link to this one, I stumbled across a blog called "There's your karma, ripe as peaches." Why is this noteworthy? Two reasons. One, it links to me and a bunch of my favorite blogs (Alex Belth, Paul Katcher, Larry Mahnken, Tony Pierce), yet appears to be written by an attractive, 23-year-old blonde (I remain highly skeptical on this point). Two, when you go to the front page of the blog, a "theme song of the day" automatically loads and plays.
When I went there yesterday afternoon it was a pretty good Red Hot Chili Peppers song. For some reason I found that really cool, perhaps in part because I have absolutely no clue how to do anything like that for this blog. Of course, considering what you guys think of my musical taste, it's probably better that I don't.
It does sometimes make me sad that I'm not more computer-savvy. For instance, I had the bright idea to allow reader comments for a small sampling of my entries, but when I tried to enable them I found that I have made so many misguided modifications to my blog "template" that adding comments didn't work. I have no idea why it wouldn't work or how I can get it to work, just that it won't work. And therein lies the problem. So, instead of making brilliant additions to this blog, I'll have to settle for talking about last night's game ...
Like seemingly every Minnesota starting pitcher this year, Joe Mays couldn't record three outs without giving up a run. He didn't get hit hard in the first inning, but was all over the place. His fastball was consistently in the 88-90 range, and it must have looked very hittable because the Tigers were going after it well above the strike zone. The Twins now have a -12 run differential in the first inning, which obviously can't continue if they hope to avoid making me insane.
Aside from the lack of control (he walked four batters in five innings), Mays' biggest problem of the night was the two-run homer he served up to Craig Monroe in the fifth inning. It came on an 0-2 pitch, which is a pet peeve of mine. What's the point of trying to get ahead in the count if you're just going to throw an 88 MPH fastball over the heart of the plate anyway? I'm not really picking on Mays specifically here, since he has a good excuse for being a little rusty.
Which brings me to the fact that Dick Bremer and Bert Blyleven (and Clay Matvick too, during the pregame) kept acting as if last night was Mays' first appearance since 2003. It was his first start, which is a big deal, but he did pitch two innings in relief against Chicago Friday. He even gave up a run. It just seemed weird to me that the announcers kept acting like it was his first time back on the mound while his 4.50 ERA from this season was being shown on the screen. A casual fan who didn't see him pitch the other night would have been very confused. I, of course, was just annoyed.
This would be where I talk about whether or not Mays looked like the Mays of old last night, but to be honest I don't remember well enough to say. The last time Mays was healthy and pitching effectively was 2001, and while I certainly remember watching him pitch plenty back then, I don't remember the details well enough to compare it to last night in anything resembling a meaningful way. In a general sense, Mays has always been a pitch-to-contact, ground ball pitcher, and he did that well enough last night. He got nine of his 15 outs on the ground and induced two double plays. The guy on the mound last night definitely looked capable of giving the Twins quality innings this year.
Along with Mays' encouraging first start, the Twins also got some good news yesterday regarding Carlos Silva. After reports initially had him out for at least half the season with his knee injury, the Twins are now saying Silva could be back by the end of the month. As in April. This is one of those "I'll believe it when I see it" situations, and I'm not very optimistic about a guy pitching on a torn knee, but I feel better about Silva's injury than I did two days ago.
On the other hand, the latest news on Justin Morneau is not great. Morneau is still experiencing dizziness and headaches as a result of being hit by a pitch in the third game of the year, so the team put him on the disabled list yesterday. The quotes from Morneau aren't exactly confidence-inspiring:
I can start swinging a bat as soon as I feel ready. The doctor just said if I start swinging too soon it will give me bad headaches, and then it will be longer. I feel better. If I come back before I'm ready and get hit again, I'm going to be out a lot longer to recover.
Even if the headaches and dizziness go away fairly soon, I'm still worried about his mental state the next time he steps to the plate. Missing another week or two isn't a big deal at all, but coming back tentative as a hitter would be. Only time will tell, I guess. In the meantime, at least Terry Tiffee gets his spot on the roster back.
I kept hearing all spring about how Ivan Rodriguez had slimmed down considerably. Well, it wasn't a lie. "Pudge" looked downright svelte last night. I don't really care one way or another why or how he lost the weight, but can you imagine the uproar if Barry Bonds had shown up to spring training with a similar weight loss? It apparently didn't hurt Rodriguez's throwing arm, as Jacque Jones found out the hard way last night. Bremer shouted out "Jones gets a great jump!" as Mike Maroth delivered a pitch to Lew Ford in the fourth inning and the ball was waiting for Jones at second base.
In what I'm sure is the same speech Mo Vaughn used to get every year, Ron Gardenhire apparently told Matthew LeCroy to play in a few steps at first base and not to go after any balls that aren't hit right to him. LeCroy has looked horrible at first base so far, but has shown in the past that he can play the position without looking completely awful. He'll be just fine as long as everyone stops bunting in his direction. Incidentally, if that advice from Gardenhire doesn't give you an idea of how slow LeCroy is, consider that he hit a grounder to shortstop last night, Carlos Guillen threw a three-hopper over to first base that Carlos Pena had to come off the bag to field on a knee, and they still got LeCroy by two steps.
As usual, the Twins are facing a ton of left-handed pitching this year. Maroth was the fourth lefty starter they've faced already, and they'll face their fifth in Nate Robertson in the third game of this series. With Michael Cuddyer at third base and Ford at designated hitter, the team is a little more equipped to deal with lefties than in years past. With that said, as long as the everyday lineup includes Jones, Morneau, and Joe Mauer they will be vulnerable to southpaws.
Just like last year, Jones is off to a good start against lefties. And just like last year, it won't last. I have to say that I was very pleased that, despite being down 0-2 in the count to lefty Jamie Walker last night, Jones was able to at least make contact to get Mauer in from third base to tie the score at three apiece. Hey, I just thought of a positive to Morneau being out: LeCroy is very good against lefties!
Maybe I'm just not enough of a jock to appreciate this, but why exactly is it being described as a positive thing that Mays tried to pitch through his elbow injury for a whole year? If someone gets shot in the stomach and they try to walk it off, do people talk about it as a good thing when the guy eventually crawls into the emergency room minus a few pints of blood? If I ever make a list of "Things I don't want my pitchers doing," I'm pretty sure "pitching through elbow pain" would be near the top of it. Well, that and "0-2 fastballs over the plate to Craig Monroe," I guess (it's a long list).
It was great to see Jason Bartlett go deep for the first time in the majors. He has looked very impressive at the plate thus far, especially for a rookie shortstop who went 1-for-12 in a brief stint last year. I have no hopes of him ever becoming a power threat, but 8-10 homers a year, along with everything else he does, would be pretty nice. The walk he drew against Ugueth Urbina to lead off the eighth inning was a thing of beauty.
The Tigers gave Mauer the third base line, so he dropped a decent bunt down and got himself to second base after Brandon Inge compounded what was an infield single with a throwing error. If we didn't already have about 1,000 pieces of evidence for this being true, I'd tell you what a smart player Mauer is. His walk against Urbina wasn't bad either. His attempt to score on the ball that got away from Rodriguez, on the other hand, was not so great (I could do without seeing Mauer slide into home for a little while longer).
Kyle Farnsworth looks like the guy who would come out of the opposing team's bullpen in the bottom of the ninth inning in a baseball movie.
Ford had a better night than his 1-for-4 line in the boxscore this morning would suggest. He hit the ball very well on all of his outs, including sending two balls deep into right-center, and scored the winning run after singling off Troy Percival in the bottom of the ninth. If Gardenhire keeps Ford in the lineup, he'll get on track soon enough.
Speaking of Percival, his amazing streak of dominance over Minnesota finally ended last night. Percival came into the game with a 0.00 ERA in 40 career innings against the Twins, having held them to a .105 batting average. The guy running on fumes after signing as a free agent with the Tigers this offseason isn't the same guy who put up all those scoreless innings, but it's still nice to score an earned run off him before he retires. Let's just say the real Percival doesn't walk Nick Punto after getting ahead of him 0-2 in the ninth inning.
Today at The Hardball Times:
- The Sophomore Slump (by Aaron Gleeman)
Today's Picks (10-5, +$600):
Milwaukee (Capuano) -120 over Pittsburgh (Fogg)
Houston (Clemens) -120 over New York (Ishii)