April 22, 2005

Twins 10, Royals 9

It took 16 games, but I finally missed my first Twins game of the season yesterday afternoon. The game against the Royals was once again not available on TV here in the Twin Cities, and for the first time no technological miracles provided me with a special viewing. The 10-9 victory in extra innings turned out to be one of the more exciting games of the season, of course.

Anyway, my notes on the game are obviously rather limited by the fact that I didn't see a single pitch. So, instead of talking about things I saw yesterday, here are some things I missed ...

... Lew Ford going 4-for-6 with the game-winning RBI in the 10th inning to snap out of his early funk. Despite all his struggles and all the ink wasted on dissecting his situation with the team, Ford is now batting .296/.356/.444 on the year. He hit .299/.381/.446 last season.

... Dave Gassner erasing his great first impression with a poor outing. Gassner pitched a lot more like the guy I had major doubts about yesterday, giving up five runs while recording just five outs. He now heads back to Triple-A with a 5.87 ERA. I'm glad his good start came before his bad start, though, because it was nice to see his family crying over being happy last week. Gassner isn't as good as his first start and he's not as bad as his second start, but I think his 5.87 ERA is at least reasonably close to what can be expected from him over the long haul.

... Terry Tiffee striking out in his last major-league at-bat for at least a little while. Tiffee was sent down immediately after the game to make room for Justin Morneau on the roster. He did well in his eight-game stint, hitting .280/.345/.520, but also grounded into three double plays in 29 plate appearances and went 0-for-2 with a sacrifice fly in three chances with the bases loaded. Tiffee will be back as soon as the Twins decide Joe Mauer's knee is no longer something to be worried about on an everyday basis.

... Mauer pinch hitting for Corky Miller in the ninth inning and then staying in the game defensively. This may not sound like a big deal, but it is. Mauer had started three straight games before yesterday, so the fact that Ron Gardenhire was willing to use him defensively for a fourth consecutive game says a lot about the current state of The Knee. Mauer was intentionally walked to bring his on-base percentage up to .411 on the year.

... Michael Cuddyer shifting from third base to second base in the late innings. Yes, I know Cuddyer has been disappointing this year. And yes, I know most people think he's better suited for third base than second base. It still warms my heart to know that there is at least a glimmer of hope that Cuddyer could still take Luis Rivas' job. Of course, Cuddyer will have to actually start hitting for that to be a positive thing. He is just barely out-OPSing Rivas right now, .617 to .536.

... Torii Hunter continuing his hot hitting. Hunter was struggling early, but he went 3-for-4 in Game 1 of the Kansas City series and then went 2-for-4 with a homer, two walks, three RBIs, and three runs scored yesterday. He is now up to a very solid and very Hunter-like .274/.338/.532 on the year. Oh, and he stole another two bases yesterday. As I discussed earlier this week, Hunter is on a major base-stealing roll dating back to last season. He is now 25 for his last 28 (89.3%).

UPDATE: A reader who actually saw the game writes in with the following about Hunter's two stolen bases: "He was picked off both times but escaped actually being out. The first one he was dead picked off of 1st base but the runner on 3rd became a distraction after Sweeney (apparently) missed the tag on Hunter and Torii managed to get to 2nd. From where I was sitting Hunter was out on that play, and Tony Pena had a long discussion with the 1B Umpire about it also. The second time, Hunter did his little, the pitcher isn't paying attention so I'll just go move. Except that he went too early and MacDougal had him dead at second. Except that MacDougal threw the ball into center field."

... Jason Bartlett collecting multiple hits for the first time since April 13. Bartlett's batting average stood at .360 after going 2-for-5 against the Tigers that day, but it had fallen all the way down to .238 before yesterday's game. After going 2-for-6 with a double and three runs scored, it's now at least back up to .250.

... Matthew LeCroy's second homer of the year. LeCroy, who has done a spectacular job filling in for Morneau, went 3-for-5 with a homer and two RBIs yesterday. He is now up to .333/.440/.500 on the year. The most shocking thing about his performance thus far? Six walks in 50 plate appearances. LeCroy is currently walking .120 times per plate appearance, which is nearly double his career rate of .065 coming into this season. He has also seen 4.06 pitches per plate appearance, up over 10% from his career numbers.

... Juan Rincon giving up his first run of the season. He is actually human apparently, as his 1.08 ERA shows. Sort of.

... Joe Nathan not giving up a run for the eighth time this season. Nathan picked up his first win of the season by striking out the side in the top of the 10th inning and then watching as the Twins scored in the bottom of the frame. He is now 1-0 with five saves and a 0.00 ERA in eight appearances, with 10 strikeouts and zero walks in 7.1 innings.

Today at The Hardball Times:
- Blast From The Past: Wally Berger (by John Brattain)
- Hardball Questions: Richard Pound (by Ben Jacobs)

Today's Picks (21-11, +$1,100):
Los Angeles (Weaver) -140 over Colorado (Jennings)

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