Sunday, April 29, 2007

Recap 4/29/2007 Twins 3, Motor City Kitties 4

The Twins came to Comerica Park last night looking to secure a series sweep against AL central rival Detroit, and with Johan Santana on taking the mound the odds we're clearly in their favor. However for the third straight game the Twins failed to provide Johan with adequate run support, falling short against yet another "junk-throwing-lefty."

For his part Johan was far from his dominant self, struggling mightily in the first three innings against a tough Tigers lineup that includes Magglio Ordonez who has been one of the few hitters to have continued success against the CY Young winner. In those three innings he allowed four hits, and two walks, but managed to escape allowing just Ordonez's two run homerun. The Tigers would follow up that homerun with another off the bat of Marcus Thames in the fourth, but after the third inning Johan had already thrown 68 pitches, and was in danger of not being able to pitch through the fifth inning if the Twins held him at a 100 pitch count. Santana settled down well enough thought to finish the fifth with 96 pitches and I thought would be done for the night. However, for the second straight game, Gardenhire sent Santana back to the mound for another inning, displaying confidence not only in Johan's abilities, but also in his arms ability to hold up.

This usage of Santana also begs another question, is he also overusing Jesse Crain who is coming off what was described as shoulder tendinitis, a condition that will not heal until after this season? And if so, could this portend injury for our star? Clearly his usage of Santana is neither extreme nor frequent, but it is new, and how Santana's arm will react as the season progresses is worth following. As for Crain, this is the second game in which he's asked Crain to come back to pitch more than one inning, in both occasions the extra innings led to Crain allowing runs.

As for the offense, well, one day after beating the ball around against Rookie Of The Year Justin Verlander, they became woeful once again against lefty Mike Maroth. In most divisions the Twins inability to hit lefties, even exceptionally mediocre ones such as Mike Maroth or Jorge De La Rosa wouldn't be too concerning, but the AL Central happens to be one division that is fairly lefty heavy. The White Sox start Mark Burhle, and John Danks; the Indians have Jeremy Sowers, C.C. Sabathia, and Cliff Lee; the Royals Jorge De La Rosa, Zach Grinke, and Odalis Perez; and the Tigers have Mike Maroth, Kenny Rogers and Nate Robertson.

That means more than half the starters in our division are lefties, and when your team is hitting a pitiful .248/.284/.377 (including a .229/.229/.479 from "MVP" Justin Morneau) thats a VERY bad sign. Of course I don't think Morneau will hit that poorly all season but seeing enough of his at-bats makes one think it could be a prolonged slump.

The other glaring issue was the Twins inability, once again, to produce with runners in scoring position as they went 1-9 with the lone hit being Jason Kubel's first homerun of the season. Regretfully to say that homerun only counted as a double since the Tigers play in a ballpark the size of Montana.


- Nick Punto once again excelled as a leadoff hitter. His numbers are VERY limited as last night was only his second start in the position but in his nine at-bats he's hit .333 with a triple and walk.

- Jason Bartlett got his first start as the #2 hitter, something many fans had been begging for, and responded well going 2-4 with two doubles and a walk

- Jason Kubel continued his season long trend of hitting the ball hard but getting very little for his efforts. In the second he hit a ball to the warning track in left-center which was caught and Mike Redmond was doubled-up on. In the fourth he hit his double off the base of the wall in dead center (420 feet) and in the ninth he lined out to second.

- Torii Hunter. He just keeps on raking: two more hits and his fifth homerun, a bomb to left.


- The middle of the lineup. This was a game we could've won by 3-5 runs if they'd have produced. Particularly frustrating is that Joe Mauer chose this game to be human, failing in each of his four at-bats to score runners from second or third.

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