Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Recap 5/1/2007 Twins 9, Fish Scales 1

After a day off the Twins traveled down to Tampa Bay for a series with the Devil Rays. Taking the ball for the Twins in the first contest was Sidney Ponson who had started the year 1-3 with a 8.44 ERA and was desperately in need of a good start to save his spot in the rotation, especially with essentially every one of the Twins top pitching prospects throwing well in Rochester.

Mission accomplished. Tonight Ponson gave the Twins seven solid if unspectacular innings, allowing five hits, two walks and hitting one batter. He did find himself in trouble a couple of times early as all of his baserunners were allowed in the first five innings but he settled down, worked out of jams and retired the final eight batters in a row. I wouldn't say he looked great as his sinker didn't appear to have a lot of life but he changed speeds, and moved the ball around well enough to limit the Rays scoring to one run. While many may be quick to point out his best two starts have come against the historically inept Devil Rays, I'll be quick to point out that they're the eleventh best scoring team in baseball after tonight. The offense also helped out as they jumped all over the hapless Devil Rays pitchers.

In the first innings the Twins offense jumped out to a quick two run lead in support of Ponson as Luis Castillo led off the game with two infield singles, no thats not a typo, but I'll get to that later... Nick Punto then continued his solid hitting from the night before with a hard hit double moving Castillo to third. Once again the Twins couldn't manage a hit but Joe Mauer bounced a ball to second scoring Castillo and moving Punto to third. Cuddyer then hit a ball just deep enough to center for Punto to tag and score.

After the Twins jumped out to that early lead in the first, the second inning became a comedy of errors that was surely only enjoyable for Twins fans. Torii Hunter walked and stole second even after being picked off as first baseman Tony Pena threw wide to second base. Jason Kubel then walked prompting manager Ron Gardenhire to ask Jason Tyner to sacrifice the runners over. Tyner did as asked but second baseman B.J. Upton didn't cover second and realizing he had no play at first pitcher Edwin Jackson, who had fielded the ball, turned to third and realized he may have had a play on Torii Hunter who had made an over-aggressive turn at third. However Jackson's throw went all Tigers-in-last-seasons-World-Series and ended up against the wall half way down the third base line. Third baseman Ty Wigginton and left fielder carl crawford gave chase but both base-runners scored and Tyner ended up on third. After a grounder to short by Bartlett scored Tyner, Castillo reached on a soft hit grounder got past Jackson. Then with Castillo going Punto smashed a grounder up the middle that was fielded by the covering second baseman Upton but skipped off the heel of his glove, giving Punto first. Mauer then singled to load the bases but Cuddyer grounded into a fielders choice and Morneau grounded to first to end the inning. All told the Twins plated four runs on three singles, two walks, two errors, which was more like three or four, and a couple ground outs, Joe Mauer's single was the only hit to leave the infield.

The rest of the game was really more of the same. Once again Twins hitters managed to clog the bases with runners via hits, walks, hit batters, errors, but were inept at driving them in. Even though the team scored nine tonight, it could very easily have been nineteen as the Twins were just 3-18 with runners in scoring position until Mauer and Josh rabe had back to back infield singles in the ninth. Particularly ineffective was so-called MVP Justin Morneau. While he was 2-6 on the night with a single and an absolutely SMOKED double off the wall in deep right-center, he was 0-4 with runners in scoring position, striking out twice, grounding to first once, and grounding into a 6-4-3 double play, all to end innings. Not exactly MVP-esque. Clean-up hitter Michael Cuddyer also deserves to be shamed, going 0-3 in the same situations and doing an absurd job rounding second base before falling into a hilarious somersault.

Deserving of special mention are the much maligned Piranha's who finally came through with a big game. Castillo (who was making his return appearance), Punto, Tyner, and Bartlett combined to go 9-19 with three walks, and five runs.


- Captain America. He was 3-6 with an RBI and threw out another runner. So far this year he's thrown out a ridiculous 7 of 11 would-be base stealers.

- The aforemention Piranha's for the aforementioned reasons.

- Sir Sidney for his first strong outing of the season.

- Torii "I'm in a contract year" Hunter. Another double, another steal, and (shock) a walk. Too bad he waited all these years to live up to his offensive potential.

- Matt Guerrier, who is looking better and better every time out. He's really learned to locate his curve and how and when to use it. His strikeout numbers bear out his improvement.


- Situational hitting. The Twins ended the night 5-21 with runners in scoring position, but the final two hits were both infield singles in the ninth. I'm the first to acknowledge that how a team hits in April is vastly less important than how they hit in August and September, but its concerning none-the-less.

- Juan Rincon. He pitched a scoreless frame tonight but he sure didn't make it easy on himself walking the first two batters he saw before retiring the next three. His 1.68 WHIP wont be good enough to be a consistent set-up guy.

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