Monday, April 2, 2007

Game Notes and Recap 4/3/2007 Twins 7- Orioles 4

Game 1; Orioles vs Twins Boxscore

Opening night is here and I'm absolutely stoked. Game notes.

-1st Pitch, Brad Radke for his final strike one. Ironically its one of the first early game pitches he's thrown in his life that wasn't hit for a home run.
-1st Orioles hitter. Johan Santana strike-out.
-Joe Mauer's 1st At-Bat, first pitch fastball away, single. On a personal note, I was sitting there thinking, "man I hope they throw him a first pitch fastball away, he chews those up.," then BAM, they did it. Honestly, did the Orioles forget to scout Mauer? Did they somehow miss the part where he had 181 hits last year? Most of them on that exact same pitch?
-Justin Morneau's 1st At-bat, first pitch fastball down mainstreet, homer just over my seats.
-Twins go back to back with Torii Hunter hitting the first offering he saw after Morneau's homer over the baggie in right-center. Both of them were first pitch no-doubters. I like the way things are going.
-Santana proves he is indeed human. I find myself surprised because the first three innings left me feeling as though me might actually be an android, a belief that is shattered by three doubles, and an absolute bomb by Tejada which may have ricocheted off the IDS Tower before landing 15 rows deep to almost dead center. Oh yeah, he had his orange crush.
-For as average as his line looked, Michael Cuddyer put up a fine ballgame working into deep counts each time he came up. The strikeout in the first was tough though, he took a fastball right down the middle and he knew it. Three strikeouts a night from the four hole though just wont suffice. But watching his at-bats I see no need for long-term concern.
-I'm surprise by Nick Punto and Jason Bartlett's nights. Punto's because he had a hit, Bartlett's because he didn't.
-After a bad looking first two at-bats Castillo can't be kept off the bases. A nice bunt and a couple good slashes through the infield.
-For anyone who was curious why Gardy would want three catchers, observe last night.
-I hate the Metrodome tonight. But I'll love it tomorrow.


Good game from our boys. Santana, though he struggled in the fourth did a good job of keeping the team in the game and showed flashes of his brilliance. In all his game was relatively short as its obvious the Twins are still trying to stretch him out as he went only 83 pitches in 6 innings, a good ratio. I was also pleased with his strike rate of 70% which means, as always he's finding the zone consistently which wasn't always the case early last year. Another thing I hope viewers on TV or at the game noticed about his outing is that his fastball was hitting 94. I'm not certain if any of you remember, but last year for the first 2-3 months he was only getting to 91-92. It might not seem like much but those extra couple miles and hour make his changeup just that much more effective. Now if he can just keep them down in the zone hitters wont be slashing them off the baggie quite as often. Also, I know he loves his changeup but I'd like to see him throw his slider/cutter to lefties more often. Its a nasty pitch for them because it looks so much like his fastball but has that tailing action that could induce a lot of soft grounders to Punto and Bartlett. Just an idea. Overall Santana had a fine night though going six, while giving up seven hits (4 doubles, 1 homer which tells me he just made some mistake pitches, mostly changeups from what I observed), walking two and striking out six.

Even if the Santana wasn't in midseason form though it was ok, because for the most part the lineup was. Other than Torii and Justin's back to back first pitch homeruns which will get most of the ink, Luis Castillo showed his abilities by slashing a ball down the third baseline for a double, and laying down a gorgeous bunt for a single and going 3-5 overall on the night. In all, the Twins racked up 12 hits while striking out only six times (3 by Cuddyer). The Twins also looked good on the bases with the exception of Morneau who inexplicably tried to take home and was gunned down by a mile but managed to rip off half of poor Paul Bako's chin. Morneau was also thrown out at second on a play where I assumed he must have thought there was going to be a relay throw home. Both throws were made by Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis.

After the sixth the Twins turned to their vaunted bullpen and it was more of the same. Dennys Reyes worked a third of an inning walking one and getting a strikeout. Then inexplicably they pulled Reyes (a lefty specialist) with another lefty coming up and went with Jesse Crain who shut the next two hitters down anyways. I just thought that was a particularly curious decision by Manager Ron Gardenhire who is probably the best bullpen manager in baseball. In the eighth the Twins brought on familiar setup man Juan Rincon who worked a good but not overly impressive inning where I feel the home-plate umpire Joe West suddenly shrunk the strike-zone. I'm not certain if anyone else saw this, but for both teams pitchers it suddenly because really hard to find the plate. Now I didn't like his zone from the onset, he gave too much inside, not enough away. But at least he was pretty consistent through six innings. But the one things I and every pitcher in the world hates is when the zone suddenly changes. Or worse, when you throw an identical pitch in the same exact location in back to back pitches like Rincon did and one gets called a strike and the other a ball. Maddening. In the ninth with a three run lead the Twins brought on Mr. Unhittable Joe Nathan. Four batters and one walk later the game was over.

Twins 1-0

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