Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Game Notes and Recap 4/3/2007 Twins 3- Orioles 2

On night where the Metrodome proved its worth the Twins played some classic Minnesota baseball. The game also featured a cool occurence for me as I had the sincere pleasure of meeting and taking in a game with Nick Nelson of 'Nick and Nick's', he's great individual and every bit as knowledgeable a fan of the game as he seems in his writing.

Boof Bonser proved why the Twins made him their number two starter this year as he pitched six good innings. Things occasionally looked tough for Boof out there as he was certainly wild at times, and ended the fourth inning with 80 pitches. The final two innings went a bit better as he retired the Orioles 2-7 hitters in order in exactly 20 pitches. For the game he went six innings in 100 pitches (41B-59K) surrendering 3 hits, 3 walks and striking out 6 while allowing only two runs. Despite those good numbers however, I think Bonser did rely on his fastball way too much as I had him throwing only ten off-speed pitches all game. That may work fine against a weak Orioles lineup but I'm concerned that once he has to play some of the teams within our own division he might get hit hard. Hopefully he'll start utilizing his curve more as the season goes on as the times he did throw it, it broke nicely down and away on righties. Both Nick and I thought he should have gotten some back-door strikes on that pitch that weren't called.

After Bonser the Twins proved exactly why they may just be ok with the weak combination of Ramon Ortiz, Carlos Silva, and Sidney Ponson taking 60% of the starts early this year; the game really only lasts six innings for most opposing teams offenses. Pat Neshek came entered the game in the seventh and pitched a good frame. He hit Corey Patterson to lead off the inning but then got reserve catcher Alberto Castillo on a sac bunt, Roberts on a deep fly to center, and struck out Melvin Mora to end the inning.

The eighth was an interesting inning as Gardenhire brought on Juan Rincon to pitch (which is normal) and after he struck out Nick Markakis and allowed a crisp single to Miguel Tejada on a 0-2 count he was pulled for Dennys Reyes. Nick and I disagreed a bit about the logic but in the end everything worked out as Reyes gave up a single to Aubrey Huff but Jay Gibbons to ground to first. With two outs and runners on second and third Gardy made another call to the bullpen bringing in Jesse Crain for the second time in as many games (my argument with Nick was that he should've used Crain first where he might be more comfortable). Crain proved equal to the task though and got stone-aged Kevin Millar to toss a can of corn to Cuddyer in right to end the inning. The ninth inning was... you know, Joe Nathan. With two outs he walked Roberts on four pitches to make sure that he fulfilled his requisite 'no easy saves' rule but then got Mora swinging to end it.

The Twins offense, while not nearly as hot as last night managed to get the job done as we've seen them do numerous times over the last five years. It seems like the names and faces change but the Twins game pretty much stays the same. As a team the Twins managed only seven hits for the game going 7-29 overall. Daniel Cabrera, a notorious as both a wild pitcher and a Twins killer seemed like he would win again as the Twins couldn't put anything together in the first three innings before knocking in a run in both the fourth and fifth. But despite those runs, Cabrera seemed in control as Twins hitters seemed to play away from the pitchers weakness swinging early in counts. The Twins fifth inning run was largely a result of finally beginning to milk counts as both Torii Hunter and Jason Kubel drew walks before Luis Castillo brought Hunter home with two outs. For the game Cabrera went seven innings allowing 3 runs, all earned gave up six hits (all singles) while walking four and striking out eight. I did notice that his fastball topped out around 93. A tad slow from what I've come to expect out of him.

Over the first Michael Cuddyer had his second straight dismal game and probably provided Nick and I with some of our best moments in predicting how many pitches it would take Cuddyer to strike out. Thankfully (or not so much) he obliged by striking out two more times and ended the first two games of the year with 5 strikeouts in 8 at-bats. Somehow he's managed to take only 3.13 pitchers per appearance this year, putting him the better part of a full pitch behind his career average, needless to say he'll need to improve upon that if he's going to duplicate his success of last year. Thats not to say everything was awful for him. He did smash a ball up the middle that Miguel Tejada made a ridiculous diving play on and turned into a 6-4-3 double play, easily the best defensive play of a game almost completely devoid of great defense. To be even more cruel, since he hit into the DP he didn't get credit for driving in Nick Punto. Luis Castillo had another good night at the plate going 2-4 on a pair of hits that really bring Cuddyer's robbery into sharper focus. In the 1st inning he hit a sharp grounder back to the mound that ricocheted off Daniel Cabrera and Castillo just beat out the throw after jogging out of the box. He got another cheap single in the 5th when he hit a chopper off the top of Cabrera's glove that planted itself in no mans land behind the mound and no one was able to make a play. Jason Bartlett also had a cheap single and RBI when he drove in the winning run in the seventh on a busted bat blooper that fell just fair beyond third base. I suppose thats just how baseball goes though.

As for MVP and Batting Champ they're each on pace to demolish Ted Williams' 56 game hit streak as they've now each logged hits in their first two games. Mauer had a pair of singles and Morneau singled in the second and walked in the 6th while striking out twice. While Morneau is still on track for a 162 game hitting streak, he has cooled off substantially on the homerun pace, falling from a projected 162 down to 81. He did come close to a homer in the second though when he drove one down the line in left and just foul before going up the middle for a single. On Morneau's last strikeout he looked particularly bad, after getting ahead 2-0 he then swung at three pitches on the out-half pulling his front shoulder out each time leaving himself no chance at the ball. Continuing an odd but hopeful trend, Rondell White who's never walked more than 41 times in a year (back in 1995!) drew his second walk of the season after drawing only 11 in 355 plate-appearances last year. He is now on pace for 162 walks though he's failed to get a hit in his first five at-bats.

For the game the Twins didn't manage a single extra-base hit but took advantage of Alberto Castillo making his first stat behind the plate as a reserve who was called up to provide a third catcher while Ramon Ortiz heals up. The Twins ran wild on Castillo, swiping five bases and not being caught once. Committing larceny for the Twins were Mauer, Castillo, Hunter, Bartlett and Tyner who had probably the ugliest stolen base I've ever seen. After White drew his second walk of the season (I still haven't gotten over that idea) in the seventh Tyner pinch ran and on the second pitch of the at-bat took off for second and beat the throw by a few strides. However in his head first dive he seemed to roll over his left shoulder, then his right, finally crawling into second still ahead of the tag for his second stolen base of the year. I was quite concerned at first as he didn't move immediately after the play and I thought he may have dislocated both shoulders in one dive. Thankfully to say he got up and eventually scored on a great hustle play going from second to home on Bartlett's Texas leaguer to score the winning run.

Up next Ramon Ortiz vs Jaret Wright


Kristen Mainz said...

I'm still bitter that Nick got to go with you and I had to stay at home :(

Corey Ettinger said...

Are you ever going to write about and call me out in public or just hate on me through comments?

Corey Ettinger said...

Also, you had practice.

Kristen Mainz said...

Yeah, I'll get to it eventually. And you know I would have missed practice to make it to the see the Twins. I miss my boyfriend you know!

Nick N. said...

I'm not gonna lie Kristen, Corey was a pretty terrific date.

Anyway Corey, I hope you looked up the stats on Patterson and now realize that he sucks. How about that .297 career OBP!

Corey Ettinger said...

Of all the stats I forgot, that was #1. However, my assertion wasn't that he was a great career guy but that he had a good year last year. I stand by that as he hit .276 with 16 homers, and .757 OPS with 45 stolen bases. Meaning he put himself into scoring position via hit or stolen base 69 times last year. Not top great but its pretty productive out of a bottom of the lineup guy. Also, its not the first time he's shown flashes as he also excelled in 2003 with the Cubbies.

Kristen Mainz said...

WTF, like he's a good date for you. I bet he bought you a Dome Dog too. Me, I have to buy my own stuff and he doesn't even take me out anymore! Now I'm angry.