June 3, 2004

Same s***, different day

I'm really getting sick of this.

You may remember that in his start against the Royals last week, Johan Santana was cruising along before things completely imploded with one out in the seventh inning. Well, yesterday afternoon, Santana was really cruising along through five innings against the Devil Rays and then things blew up in the sixth inning.

Santana's line through five full innings:

 IP     H     R     ER     BB     SO     HR

5.0 0 0 0 2 5 0

Now, at no point did I say "I think Johan is gonna get a no-hitter today," but he was definitely cruising along and he looked very good. He had the hitters totally off-balance, and he had the fastball/changeup combo working. And, well, he did have the no-hitter going.

Then, just as has been the case this entire year, things fell apart in an instant. Geoff Blum doubled to lead off the sixth inning to break up Santana's no-hitter. Santana got Rey Sanchez to strikeout and then got Carl Crawford on a long fly out to center field. With two outs in the inning, it looked like he would continue to cruise ... and then it fell apart.

Julio Lugo got an infield single up the middle to score Blum, Rocco Baldelli followed with another single, and then Aubrey Huff hit a mammoth three-run homer to deeeeeep right field. Santana came into the inning with a no-hitter and left having given up four runs in six innings, for yet another "bad" start.

I cannot begin to tell you how frustrating it is to watch Santana this year. He is coming so incredibly close to putting everything together for great starts ... only to have it slip away so quickly. It's painful. My reaction to the homer by Huff was highly audible and included the mention of a parent and a word that the dictionary tells me means "someone who engages in sexual intercourse." When combined, the dictionary tells me, they mean "something regarded as thoroughly unpleasant, frustrating, or despicable," which sounds just about right.

The big difference yesterday as opposed to Johan's disappointing start last week against the Royals is that he can't blame the bullpen this time. He got himself into trouble and then Aubrey Huff made him pay.

After his messy sixth inning, Santana stayed in to pitch the seventh and two-thirds of the eighth. His final line for the game was actually pretty decent ...

 IP     H     R     ER     BB     SO     HR     PIT

7.2 4 4 4 4 7 1 114

... but "pretty decent" is not what you need when you're trying to bring your ERA down out of the 5.00s.

Santana, of course, got the loss, because the Twins aren't scoring runs anymore. They just aren't, that's how it goes. Instead, they are focusing all of their efforts on making completely mediocre (and worse) starting pitchers look like Cy Young candidates. Don't believe me? Here are the starting pitchers the Twins have faced recently, along with their career ERAs:

Victor Zambrano     4.58

Rob Bell 5.83
Jason Standridge 6.38
Zack Greinke 2.37
Dennys Reyes 4.57
Jimmy Gobble 4.78
Rob Bell 5.83
Doug Waechtler 3.96
Mark Hendrickson 5.01

Zack Greinke has a nice career ERA, but keep in mind that he's 20 years old, his career is exactly three starts long, and the start against the Twins was his second as a major leaguer.

If you go through a portion of your schedule in which you face Rob Bell twice and guys like Mark Hendrickson, Dennys Reyes and Jason Standridge once, and the best pitcher you face is a 20-year-old rookie, you should be pouring the runs on.

Instead, the Twins scored an average of 3.00 runs per game in those nine games. That's just pitiful and it was made even worse by the fact that they wasted some pretty good pitching in that stretch. The Twins gave up only 4.33 runs per game in those nine contests.

They did have one offensive explosion in the middle of all that crappy hitting, bashing the hell out of Paul Abbott on Tuesday. Funny thing is, even with those 16 runs added in, they averaged just 4.30 runs in the 10 games. The even funnier thing is, the Devil Rays released Paul Abbott and his 6.70 ERA yesterday.

This was supposed to be the easy part of the schedule too. Seven games against the last-place Devil Rays, three games against the last-place Royals, and then three games against the suddenly mediocre Tigers. Well, the Tigers are coming to town today and the Twins are 3-7 in the easy games thus far.

If it seems like the Twins have done this before, it's because they have. Last year, just before the All-Star break, the Twins dropped nine out of 10 games to three bad teams -- Cleveland (68-94), Texas (71-91) and Anaheim (77-85).

Back in 2001, when the Twins surprised everyone with a good first-half and then completely fell apart, they had an incredibly demoralizing stretch in which they surrounded losing two sets of games against the first-place Indians by going 2-9 against Tampa Bay and Toronto, who won 62 and 80 games respectively that year.

It's still very early, so these bad losses aren't as tough to take as they would be in, say, August. Still, I'll say this ... the White Sox aren't going to do all they can to give the Twins the division every year. They might have in 2002, they might have last year and they might again this year, but at some point losing games to horrible teams is going to come back and bite you in the ass.

Some final notes before I call it a week ...

My new laptop arrived yesterday afternoon. Once again, thank you to each and every person who donated money to help me buy this. It is greatly appreciated.

I have to say, my computer situation worked out a whole lot better than I first imagined it would. My old laptop crapped out on me on a Monday, I complained about it on Tuesday, asked for donations on a Wednesday, ordered the new computer on a Sunday, and I am now typing this very sentence on a brand new laptop on Thursday evening.

For those of you wondering (and, believe it or not, I got several e-mails about this), I got an HP Pavilion zx5000, which probably doesn't mean much to you unless you're a computer nerd. It's not the very top-of-the-line model, but it's a nice one. I chose an HP because my old laptop was an HP and, despite the various issues with it over the last two years, I liked having it and it treated me pretty well. I have worked on Toshiba and IBM laptops in the past, as well as the HP, and I found the HP to be the best for what I use it for.

I will, of course, let you know if anything goes wrong, but I'm crossing my fingers that it'll be great to me for the next couple years (and yes, for those of you who read Wednesday's entry about the "Aaron's Baseball Blog Jinx," that last part was sarcasm).

I also want to thank the people who e-mailed me about getting me a deal on a computer from the company they work for or through the company they work for. While it was very nice of all of you, I am a little uneasy accepting something like that, for whatever reason. I'm not sure why, but it just feels to me like asking for individual donations is one thing, but actually getting a computer from a reader is a whole separate issue.

I guess I still have to get used to the idea that there are a lot of people out there, with a lot of different jobs, at a lot of different places, who wouldn't mind doing me a favor or two. Hopefully this laptop will last me long enough that, by the time I need a new one, I'll have no problem calling on you guys for favors.

Finally ...

I am working on what I think is an interesting (and lengthy) article about the Twins' season thus far, which will be posted here first thing Monday morning. So make sure to stop by to check that out.

In the meantime, if you're looking for some stuff to read over the weekend, here are some of my recent articles from The Hardball Times:

- The Magic Twenty (Right Field)

- Beat 'Em Like They Stole Something (Part One)

- Beat 'Em Like They Stole Something (Part Two)

- Twins Notes

Oh, and Pistons in six. (Yeah, you heard me.)

And on that note, have a great weekend and I'll see you back here Monday ...

Friday's picks:

Philadelphia (Milton) -110 over Atlanta (Smith)

San Francisco (Schmidt) -155 over Colorado (Estes)

Texas (Rogers) +180 over New York (Brown)

Detroit (Maroth) +130 over Minnesota (Lohse)

Chicago (Garland) +115 over Seattle (Garcia)

Saturday's picks:

Montreal (Ohka) +150 over Cincinnati (Wilson)

Detroit (Knotts) +125 over Minnesota (Greisinger)

Chicago (Schoeneweis) -110 over Seattle (Franklin)

Toronto (Hentgen) +190 over Oakland (Hudson)

Sunday's picks:

Philadelphia (Millwood) -105 over Atlanta (Wright)

Florida (Penny) +105 over New York (Leiter)

Montreal (Hernandez) +120 over Cincinnati (Van Poppel)

Pittsburgh (Vogelsong) +200 over Chicago (Maddux)

Detroit (Robertson) +120 over Minnesota (Silva)

Boston (Lowe) -130 over Kansas City (George)

Cleveland (Sabathia) +135 over Anaheim (Colon)

Total to date: -$1,285

W/L record: 75-97 (1-1 yesterday for +65. Nearly 2-0 for +325, but the A's won in extra frames.)

*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

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