A Complete 180
The Twins sent their “5th Starter” to the mound against Yankees’ ace CC Sabathia last night. It didn’t look like a good matchup before the game, and three batters into the bottom of the 1st, the Twins were down by a score of 3-0. With Sabathia one the mound, I figured we were in for a long night. I was preparing for last night’s SethSpeaks.net Weekly Minnesota Twins podcast. I was annoyed and wondering if I could pull off a positive podcast under these circumstances.
As you know, I am a firm believer in a long season. Even with the early struggles against the AL East, I believe that the Twins will be a contender in the AL Central again. I still believe that absolutely anything can happen in the playoffs. But, plenty of other thoughts were creeping into my mind, and maybe into some of yours too?
· Brian Duensing was nibbling. Early in the game, he was trying to be too perfect, and in doing so, he was just missing and getting behind in the count. Once behind in the count, he gave up the three-run homer to Mark Teixeira. In the second inning, he got ahead of Andruw Jones 0-2, then nibbled until the count was 3-2. Jones then lined a homer over the left field wall to make the score 4-0. The same place that Scott Baker put the team the night before.
· Like Baker a night earlier, Duensing did settle down. Baker got through six innings, and Duensing completed seven innings without giving up another run. They do deserve a lot of credit for that. However, that doesn’t excuse the fact that they gave up the early runs. Now, later in the year, if the bullpen is being overused, and the starter gives up early runs yet is able to eat six or seven innings, it should be commended. It doesn’t make for a great start, but it does provide something for the Twins.
· Alexi Casilla had a play early that he dove up the middle for, but he actually overshot the ball. I noted that it was the second or third time in the first five games that I have questioned his depth perception. That was such a strange look that I couldn’t help but wonder if he needs some glasses? Offensively, he has terrific career numbers against Sabathia coming into the game. He hit the ball fairly hard in his first two at bats against the Yankees lefty, but in both cases, he swung at the first pitch. Listen, I believe in Casilla, both offensively and defensively. I believe this is his last shot and he has to know that. He can still be a quality utility infielder if starting doesn’t work out, but what does that mean for the Twins if that has to happen. He’ll be fine, but obviously there will be Uggh moments with him as well.
· Tsuyoshi Nishioka has been (to some degree rightfully so) beaten up by some of the media and by some fans. As I wrote yesterday, I see a guy who will do well defensively and turns the double play well. I see a good swing from both the left and right sides. What I’m also seeing is a guy who looks completely baffled by the strike zone. He has taken a lot of called third strikes on borderline pitches. Again, he will be fine in time, I am certain. I hope nobody was expecting All-Star caliber play from the Japanese 2B.
· Joe Mauer? Could he weakly ground out more than he has early? I was really getting tired of seeing it, just predictable. And then came the 8th inning when he worked out a walk to drive in the Twins first run. Then he scored from first on Young’s bloop double. Then he came up with the game-winning hit on a soft liner past Robinson Cano in the drawn in infield. Sure, maybe he’s just 2-14 so far this season (.143) which means that if he’s going to hit .345 this season, he is going to hit about .350 the rest of the way. I think he’ll be just fine.
· Delmon Young hit the ball harder than anyone this spring, but it has been a challenge to get going for him. He too is hitting just .143 so far. He is being predictably over-aggressive and he is striking out way too much. However, his defense has been good, and he came up with a very well placed double in a key moment off of David Robertson.
· Michael Cuddyer ended spring on a hot streak, but it too has not carried into the regular season. He was 0-4 in this game and is now hitting .133. He has started two games in right field and two games at 1B. Again, no worries, he will be just fine over the season. He can be frustrating when he is in one of his Guess-hitting streaks, to be sure!
· Jason Kubel has actually been playing well, including getting a few hits off of left-handers.
2-3 definitely is better than 1-4. To win a game that you were down 4-0 is always great. To win in extra innings is always fun. To beat the Yankees in such fashion is wonderful. To win a game started by CC Sabathia is great, especially after he was so great. He got out the final 17 Twins batters that he faced. How good was Matt Capps for two perfect innings, needing just 16 pitches. And having Joe Nathan throw a 1-2-3 inning for his save, including a game-ending strikeout of Derek Jeter.
The win doesn’t suddenly erase some of the Twins question marks, but hopefully it can be a stepping stone. I’d love to say that a win like this can catapult the Twins going forward against the Yankees. But you know what, we all thought that Jason Kubel’s grand slam against Mariano Rivera just last year would do the same thing. As baseball’s cliché says, momentum is only as good as your next day’s starting pitcher.
If that’s the case, maybe the Twins should have some confidence. The Twins will send Carl Pavano to the mound against Freddy Garcia. Which offense should score more? Can Pavano throw a couple of zeroes on the scoreboard early in the game? That would be important. And then on Thursday afternoon, it will be Francisco Liriano taking on AJ Burnett. So, the Twins could/should be favored the next two games. Hopefully they can come through and play much better.
Again, as I was prepping for last night’s SethSpeaks.net Weekly Minnesota Twins podcast, for seven innings, the tone of the show had to potential to be quite negative. In the end, it was a fun show, so if you have a chance, please listen and let me know what you think.
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