Results tagged ‘ Nick Punto ’

F*ck!

  • Slowey suffers setback in rehab

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Well, there goes the season 
Ugh, I hope it’s just a slight one.  The Slow Man was supposed to throw
a bullpen session today, but his wrist injury flared up again and was unable to do so
He’s supposed to try throwing again on Wednesday, and the Twins are
holding off on any further decisions regarding treatment until then. 
So I’m going to hold off on any further panicking until then.  What is
certain, however, is that he won’t be making his next scheduled
start on July 21 at Oakland.  Anthony Swarzak will get the nod instead. 

  • Casilla up, Tolbert down, Harris back to the bench?

122280_Mariners_Twins_Baseball

As LEN3 reported,
Alexi Casilla has been recalled from Rochester, while Matt Tolbert has
been sent back down.  It’s essentially Casilla’s last chance to prove
he can stick in the major leagues, or the Twins will probably be moving
him in the off-season.  Casilla struggled mightily at the plate earlier
this season, batting a mere .180/.242/.225, and all of the defensive
miscues certainly didn’t help his case.  But he’s been on fire since
his demotion to Rochester, batting .340/.379/.449/.827 OPS for the Red Wings.  Still, as Jason
Bartlett can attest, it’s very difficult to get out of Gardy’s doghouse
once you have been banished there.  Casilla will probably have to magically
turn into Chase Utley overnight to keep his job, and even that wouldn’t
be enough.

With Casilla getting the start at second, this begs
the question as to who will be the everyday shortstop.  Gardy says he
will try to find playing time for both Punto and Harris, but this is
highly unlikely.  Punto will most certainly be the starting SS, and
Harris will almost certainly be back to the bench. The Twins are paying
Punto $4 million this year, so he and his .201/.319/.223 line won’t be
playing the utility role.  Gardy has already said as much
And really, when you look at the numbers, neither one is exactly running away
with the starting job.  Punto is terrible at the plate, but he’s a
career 21.0 UZR at the position, so his defense is good enough to make
him at least replacement-level.  Harris isn’t very good on defense (he’s a
career -11.9 UZR) but his .275/.318/.392 line makes him just a little
better than replacement-level, but not enough to just hand him the job,
either.  Now, if only there was a way to combine Harris’ bat with Punto’s glove

  • Gomez goes 3-for-4 with a home run and 5 RBI in series finale against White Sox

That goofball is bound and determined to make me love him. 

Carlos-gomez-kisses-bat

Actually, I pretty much already decided that the first time I saw him sniff his bat.

I Guess Miracles Do Happen

  • Nick Punto (!) drives in winning run against Tigers

twins_win.jpgOk, first a bit of a rant.  Today’s game was nationally regionally broadcast on Fox.  Probably only 0.001% of the country actually saw it, since most of the rest of America got the Dodgers/Whoever game.  Fine.  Whatever.  I don’t care if the entire nation gets to see the Twins game, or what channel it’s on, as long as I get to see it on my tv (and I did).  What really drove me nuts, however, is when Fox cut from the Twins game to the Dodgers game just as Miguel Cabrera was stepping into the batter’s box because they felt it was so goddam important to show us Manny Ramirez’s first home run since coming back from his suspension.  News flash Fox:  I am a Twins fan, I don’t give a sh!t about Manny Ramirez.  I haven’t given a sh!t about Manny since he left the Indians, and now that he’s no longer in the American League, I care even less.  I want to watch Francisco Liriano pitch!  I haven’t been able to say that very often this year!  And I’m sure the Tigers fans watching the game really wanted to see Miguel Cabrera hit, not Manny.  Worse yet, Cabrera was on base when the mouth-breathers at Fox finally switched back to the Twins-Tiggers game, and we were left wondering how in the hell that happened.  Yes, the broadcasters later replayed Cabrera’s single to right, and yes, nothing really important happened in the game while they cut away, but that isn’t the point.  I am tired of the mainstream media acting like the only things that matter in baseball happen to the three largest markets in baseball.  I realize that a Twins-Tigers game probably isn’t that exciting to 99% of the country, but it is pretty f*cking important to Twins and Tigers fans.  It’s more important to us than whatever the hell Man-Ram or A-Rod or whatever other superstar-we’re-supposed-to-care-about-because-he-plays-in-a-large-market is doing.  Besides, ESPN will show the same Manny highlights every five minutes, so it’s not like we would never get to see it or anything.  Let us watch the battle for the AL Central in peace!

Whew, I feel much better now.  Frankie was great in this game, although a late-inning near-meltdown prevented him from getting the win.  He shut out teh Kittehs through six innings, striking out seven and only walking one.  Unfortunately, F-bomb ran into trouble in the seventh when he surrendered a three-run homer to Twin-killer Magglio Ordonez, allowing the Tiggers to briefly take the lead.  He did settle down after that though, and managed to finsh the inning without any further damage.  This is obviously a huge step forward for a guy who would completely melt down whenever he got himself in trouble, and while Frankie might not be the same pitcher he was before TJ surgery, he should be better than his 5.49 ERA.

Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer both homered in this game, giving the Twins an early 2-0 lead.  The 2006 MVP had a very good afternoon at the plate, going 4-for-4 and driving in the tying run, besides hitting his 20th homer of the year.  But even the Mountie was overshadowed by Nick Punto (of all people), who provided the game-winning hit: a bloop single that drove in Matt Tolbert and put the Twins ahead 4-3 in the eighth.  You know, Punto’s been hitting .286/.545/.286 so far this month, so I’m going to stop making fun of him for now.  He still isn’t exactly earning his $4 million this season, but at least he isn’t as much of a liability in the bottom of the order.

  • Twins drop first game of series in sixteen innings

slowey-fail.jpgToday’s win was particularly sweet because Friday night’s game was no fun for Twins fans.  Kevin Slowey was awful, and as it turns out, is injured.  Slowey has looked like he might be hurt in his past few starts so this
news isn’t surprising, though the cause of the injury is somewhat
suspect (a line drive from a year ago, really?).  The Slow Man has been uncharacteristically wild, walking five batters in his past three starts and, most tellingly, hitting two (he had four hit batsmen all season last year).  Anthony Swarzak has been recalled from Rochester in the meantime.  Swarzak is hardly an ace, but he’s pitched well enough to be a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter and should at least serve as a competent fill-in while Slowey is on the DL.

By the way, this is what it looks like whenever Slowey issues a walk.

The Twins managed to tie the game in the sixth (and later in the fourteenth), but it was all in vain.  Teh Kittehs scored three runs off of R. A. Dickey in the sixteenth inning, and it would be enough to hold off the Twins.  For the Twinkies, this game was lost in the eleventh, when the game was still tied at 7 apiece and Michael Cuddyer came to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs.  The Tigers intentionally walked Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau to pitch to Cuddy, a move that would prove to be brilliant on Jim Leyland’s part.  Cuddy struck out on three pitches, chasing a pitch well outside the zone for strike three.  I actually gave up on the Twinks after that, something I pretty much never do.  I hate to do it, it makes me feel like a bad fan.  This is baseball, after all, and there’s always a chance for a miracle.  But when Cuddy essentially screwed up their best chance to win the game, it was pretty obvious that the Twins just didn’t want to win it.  They simply managed to torment their fans delay the inevitable for five more innings.

As of tonight, Baseball Prospectus has the Twins finishing the season
with 83.9 wins and the Tigers with 84.3.  In other words, the division
is there for the taking so FOR CHRISSAKES JUST GO AHEAD AND TAKE IT
ALREADY!!! 

OK, I’m back now

My hard drive is now fixed and seems to be working just fine.  I’m really glad this happened now and not during the semester, since it would be very, very difficult to get any work done without my laptop.  I’m also really glad I decided to back up all of my important files, otherwise I would have lost everything and would basically be screwed.  In the meantime, a lot of important stuff happened while I was gone:

The Twins win the series!

twins87.jpgI mean the weekend series against the Cardinals.  You know, I too find the fact that St. Louis is so unapologetically a baseball town to be quite endearing.  I do like football, and I am a Vikings fan, but even I have never understood why the Vikes are so beloved in this town.  Unlike the Twins, the Vikings have never won anything important and, if anything, actually have a reputation for choking in big games.  They haven’t brought us anything more than shame and embarrassment, and yet people love them more than any other sports franchise in this state.  Go figure.

Sadly, the Pioneer Press laid off 11 people, including Twins’ beat reporter Phil Miller.  The Press’ Twins’ coverage was pretty minimal at best, now I guess it’ll be non-existent.  Which is just one more reason why I have always preferred the Star Tribune.

Justin Morneau homered in three straight games, one of which was this lovely shot that landed in the fountain at Kauffman Stadium.  He came out of yesterday’s game against the Royals with a groin injury, but it doesn’t sound too serious and he should be back in the lineup tomorrow night against the Tigers.  As of right now, there is no need for a “F*ck!  There goes our season!” post.

The Twins actually got pretty banged up during the series finale in Kansas City.  Mike Redmond had to come out after he got hit in the arm with a foul tip, and apparently he has a bruised forearm and might be out of commission for a bit.  Nick Punto also had to leave the game with back stiffness, after Jose Guillen tried to take him out on a questionable play.  Um, Guillen does realize that taking out Punto actually kind of helps the Twins, right?

The Sean Henn experiment is over, let the Brian Duensing experiment begin.

The Marian Gaborik era is over, let the Martin Havlat era begin.

The Wolves sort of did the NBA equivalent of taking a bunch of wide receivers in the draft.  Actually, I think that the Wolfies did the right thing, for once.  It makes sense for a team as devoid of talent as the Wolves to take the best available talent in the draft, since it will take more than one draft to fill all of the holes on the roster.  The Wolves will probably have to address most of their needs through trade, and now they actually have the assets to do so.  Of course, if the Wolves are still only winning 25 games five years from now, I will be writing an entirely different post.

Michael Jackson, well, it’s no secret that he had a lot of problems.  But if there is a more perfect pop album than Thriller, I have yet to hear it.  And it spawned the greatest music video of all time.

Oh, yeah, I guess Minnesota finally has a new senator.  Meh.  I guess now is as good a time as any to post this video:

Losing in Style

  • Twins hit four homers and lose anyway

Thumbnail image for kubel_homer.jpgZOMG, this is the most unclutchiest lineup ever!!!11!!  I mean, for the most part, clutch hitting has a lot more to do with luck than skill.  In general, even the greatest hitters will fail more often than not with runners in scoring position, that’s just how the game works.  It sucks, it’s frustrating, but that’s just the way it is.  Which is why I find this article in the Star Tribune so irritating. To suggest that the problem is that the Twins are relying too much on the long ball and not speed or sacrifice hits (i.e., Twins baseball) is ridiculous.  The power hitters in the lineup have been remarkably productive, with Joe Mauer batting .421/.490/.738, Justin Morneau .324/.398/.524 (which is pretty good, considering that he’s been in a slump recently), Jason Kubel .315/.377/.546, and even Michael Cuddyer is starting to pick things up, hitting .281/.360/.518 with 10 homers.  Joe Crede has been kind of an exception since he has a paltry .228 BA and .303 OPB, but he also has a .451 slugging percentage and is on pace to hit 20+ homers this year, so he isn’t really part of the problem, either.  The real problem has been the lack of production from the bottom of the order, and it has been all season.  The Twins certainly aren’t lacking speed in the lineup, with Carlos Gomez, Matt Tolbert, and even Nick Punto all threats to steal, but the three have struggled to get on base consistently.  Delmon Young hasn’t been living up to his potential, either, batting .258/.286/.302 while looking horribly uncomfortable at the plate.  The good news is that Gomez, Punto, and Young have all taken huge steps forward this month (Yes, even Gomez.  He’s drawing more walks and isn’t swinging at so many pitches outside the strike zone, he just hasn’t had much to show for it in the way of results).  The bad news however, is that all three are still barely replacement-level position players.

After tonight’s loss to Houston, the Twins have fallen back to the .500 mark and are threehenn.jpg games behind the Tigers.  This time, the offense wasn’t the problem, since they hit four homers and scored five runs.  No, this time it was the pitching staff, specifically the bullpen that fell down.  The Twins had a 3-2 lead in the seventh, until Sean Henn came in to relieve Scott Baker.  Henn surrendered three runs in the seventh (one was charged to Baker), including a two-run homer to pinch-hitter Jason Michaels, and was yanked in favor of Luis Ayala after recording only one out.  I had written before that the pitching isn’t as bad as fans tend to think, and that’s true.  But it hasn’t been that great, either.  The starting rotation has started to settle down and pitch effectively, but the bullpen is still an issue.  While Matt Guerrier and Joe Nathan have been as reliable as ever, and R.A. Dickey is settling into the long relief role, the rest of the ‘pen is simply a disaster waiting to happen.  Ayala has been much more effective recently, but he pitches to contact and can’t really be used in close games with runners on base.  Jose Mijares hasn’t been too bad, posting a 2.57 ERA in twenty-four appearances, but he’s also been suffering from control issues (his 1.70 K/BB ratio isn’t good) and is bound to get hit hard eventually.  The Twins clearly need bullpen help, but so does pretty much everybody else in the league, which will obviously complicate matters at the trade deadline.  Still, I guess we should be glad that our bullpen isn’t as bad as the Indians’.  Yikes.

  • Speaking of homers

Thumbnail image for joe_mauer.jpgMauer hit his 14th of the season, setting a new career record, and it isn’t even officially summer yet.  It was an opposite-field blast (of course) that had given the Twins a 3-1 lead at the time.  Someday, opposing pitchers will figure out that it isn’t a good idea to throw him fastballs on the outside corner.  Hopefully he’ll hit 20 homers before they do.  Obviously, Mauer isn’t going to put up such Pujolsian numbers all season long, since the physical demands of being a catcher will catch up to him eventually.  As of right now, though, Mauer is the most valuable player in the league, and it isn’t even close.

Milton Bradley = Greatest Outfielder Ever

122142_Cubs_Astros_Baseball.jpgMilton Bradley had a very tough day at work today.  He lost Jason Kubel’s routine fly ball in the sun, which put two on with nobody out and set up a two-run inning for the Twins.  Later in the same inning, he couldn’t field Michael Cuddyer’s line drive to right, playing a single into a run-scoring double.  But, most hilariously, he also had a major brain fart on a Joe Mauer pop fly.  Bradley forgot how many outs there were in the inning and threw the ball into the stands (hint:  there was only one, Milton).  Nick Punto scored easily and Brendan Harris was awarded third base.  Personally, I think the play should’ve been ruled a home run.  That ball went right into the stands!  So what if Bradley was the one who threw it there?  Bradley kind of redeemed himself by hitting a big two-run double in the sixth, cutting the Twins’ lead in half at that point.  Unfortunately, he couldn’t redeem himself completely, allowing Delmon Young to rob him of the potentially game-winning hit in the eighth.

For Twins fans and Cubs haters alike, this was a great game.  Joe Mauer hit his 13th home run of the season, a two-run blast that gave the Twins an early lead (and tied his career high set in 2006).  Jason Kubel hit a solo shot in the ninth that extended the lead to 7-4, his tenth of the season.  And Brendan Harris went 3-for-5 with an RBI and a run scored, which should help his case to be the starting shortstop (at least until Gardy realizes he isn’t a utility role player anymore).  Nick Punto even hit the ball out of the infield a couple of times.  I can’t remember the last time I wrote that.

Kevin Slowey was cruising along through the first five innings, allowing one hit and striking out nine Baby Bears.  I guess he decided not to rely on the worst defensive outfield ever behind him.  Slowey did start to fall apart in the sixth, when he surrendered three runs and cut the lead to only one run.  None of that can be blamed on the defense though, all of those runs came on some very hard hit line drives (the outfield didn’t walk Mike Fontenot, either).  The bullpen wasn’t great, but they managed to (barely) hang onto the lead for a change.  Joe Nathan retired the Cubs in order to pick up his fourteenth save of the season in a very non-heart-attack inducing manner.

Ron Gardenhire gets a lot of criticism from fans for his management of the bullpen, especially his reluctance to use Joe Nathan in anything other than a save situation.  And since the front office has consistently failed to put together a decent bullpen, the few reliable relievers on the staff get overworked (sometimes to the point of injury, see Pat Neshek and Jesse Crain).  Case in point:  Matt Guerrier.  Matty G. had logged 28.1 innings coming in to today’s game (where he was asked to record the final out in the eighth) and had made three straight relief appearances, while Joe Nathan had only logged 23.1 and hadn’t worked since Wednesday.  I realize that this is a national league ballpark, and the thought that Joe Nathan might come up to bat isn’t particularly appealing, but it was a save situation anyway and it makes sense to use Nathan since he’s had more rest.  Guerrier was awful in the second half of last season, posting a. 8.88 ERA and 2.092 WHIP after the All-Star break, and a lot of it has to do with the fact that he was overworked.  And with all of the innings he’s logged the past six seasons, it’s probably only a matter of time before he too ends up on the surgery list.

By the way, the best part of the game is that Wrigley was half full of Twins fans.  Seriously, if Wrigley Field weren’t so distinctive, one would think the Cubs were the visiting team.  Chants of “M-V-P!” and “Where’s Mark Prior?” whenever Joe Mauer came up to bat warmed even my icy cold heart.  There was plenty of cheering whenever the Twins would score, or when Kevin Slowey struck out yet another Cub.  There was also a lusty booing of Cub players, although I don’t think all of that was coming from Twins fans.

On a completely unrelated note, but because I find the idea so delightfully disgusting, here is former Toronto pitching coach Bob Miller discussing the fine art of spitting tobacco juice on umpires:

Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down

  • Getting over the .500 mark is just too damn hard

Once again, a starter pitched well enough to get the win, and once again, it was all in vain.  Of course, this time Nick Blackburn screwed himself out of the “W” when he surrendered three runs in the bottom of the eighth (with a little help from Michael Cuddyer), allowing Oakland to tie the game.  Sean Henn and Matt Guerrier then conspired to give up the winning run in the bottom of the ninth.  Had they managed to close out this game, The Twins would have reached the .500 mark for the first time in nearly a month.  Instead, the Twinks have fallen to 30-32 and are currently trailing the division-leading Tigers by four games.  Oh, and their league-worst road record is now 9-20.  Not good.

The bats weren’t exactly hot this afternoon, but the Twins did jump out to an early lead thanks to a three-run homer by Joe Crede.  Gosh, that signing is looking better and better every day.  Even though Crede’s batting average is a paltry .233, he’s clubbed seven homers in just 81 at-bats and now has ten already on the year.  He has been a tad on the injury-prone side (to say the least), but at least his back hasn’t been much of an issue so far (*knocks on wood*).  Of course, the organization is probably just trying to protect its investment, so they’ll likely keep him out of the lineup if he isn’t exactly 100%.

Joe Mauer went 1-for-4 and his batting average has now dropped to .410, and is in danger of not being the first player since Ted Williams to hit over .400 in a season.  STUPID CHEAP TWINS WHY DIDNT U TAKE MARK PRIOR INSTEAD!!!1!!1!   

Not surprisingly, Alexi Casilla was sent back down after Nick Punto was activated from the DL earlier this afternoon.  Casilla made a few unfortunate misplays that nearly cost the Twins in Tuesday night’s game, but for the most part he hasn’t been that bad since being recalled from Rochester.  He’s been hitting .308/.357/.385, which is a vast improvement over the .167/.202/.231 he was batting before his first demotion.  However, Matt Tolbert is more versatile, and Nick Punto obviously isn’t going anywhere with that $8.5 million albatross of a contract he signed in the offseason, so Casilla was sort of the odd man out of the infield.  Still, I would rather the Twins send Brian Buscher down instead, since he’s a liability both offensively and defensively and is seldom used anyway (he’s played in all of 32 games this season).

Why is there this tingling in my left arm?

  • Twins survive ninth-inning nightmare to beat Oakland 10-5

HomerHA.jpgThis game was much, much closer than the final score would indicate.  The Twins had a 10-0 lead going into the ninth.  Scott Baker had pitched brilliantly, holding the A’s two just two hits in eight innings, and since he’d thrown only 96 pitches, was going for a complete game.  And that’s when things got a lot more interesting than they really needed to be.  Baker was obviously gassed, and loaded up the bases without recording an out (although he didn’t get any help from Alexi Casilla, more on that in a minute).  Jesse Crain was brought in to relieve Scotty, but ran into trouble of his own.  After Alexi Casilla again failed to field a routine ground ball that allowed a pair of runs to score, Crain had trouble finding the strike zone.  He walked Jack Cust with the bases loaded, and was yanked in favor of Jose Mijares.  Mijares struck out Jason Giambi, but then suffered some control issues of his own.  He walked the next two batters and forced in a pair of runs.  With the score now 10-5, and the bases loaded with only one out, Joe Nathan was brought in to complete what had suddenly become a save situation.  He struck out Jack Hannahan and Rajai Davis to end the threat and pick up his 12th save of the year. 

I’ll admit that I was nervous before Nathan came in.  If there’s any team that can screw up a 10-0 lead in the ninth inning, it is the Twins.  They’ve had such awful luck on the road this season and it really wouldn’t have surprised me if they ended up losing 11-10.  Besides, it’s not like this kind of thing has never happened before.

The horrorshow that unfolded in the ninth overshadowed what had been a rare quality road win.  Not only did Baker pitch a gem, but the bats sprang to life and gave him some much-needed run support.  Delmon Young, who’s really been having a rough season both on and off the field, went 2-for-4 with a double (his first extra-base hit since April 22) and three RBI.  Justin Morneau made me look silly for suggesting he might be in a slump, going 4-for-5 with a solo home run.  Jason Kubel hit a three-run homer.  Brendan Harris, who saw his career-high 12 game hitting streak come to an end on Monday night, went 3-for-4 with a walk and a run scored.  Even Carlos Gomez, who was put in the leadoff spot when Denard Span was forced to leave the game, came up with a big two-run double (though he also struck out twice).  It’s a good thing too, because the Twins needed every single one of those runs to hold off the A’s and get the win.

  • Bert Blyleven is an a**

OK, here comes a mini-rant.  I’m not really a fan of the Twins’ broadcast team, but I don’t usually complain about them here because it’s a waste of time.  The Twins aren’t going to fire Bert and Dick simply because I don’t like them, and rehashing ad nauseum all the dumb things they say is enough to give me a headache.  And since most of my readers don’t have to listen to Dick and Bert, they’d probably have no idea what I’m talking about, anyway.  But when Blyleven called out Scott Baker during the broadcast for failing to pitch a complete game, I felt I needed to make an exception.  It wouldn’t have been so bad, but he made it sound like the ninth-inning collapse was all Scotty’s fault, and it wasn’t (Alexi Casilla had a lot to do with it, but I’ll get to that).  Baker was on his game all night: he struck out eight batters, didn’t walk anyone, and allowed only one extra-base hit.  He retired fourteen straight batters coming into the ninth inning, and considering how much Baker has struggled this season, his performance had already exceeded expectations.  The complete game would simply have been icing on the cake.  But Bert ripped into Scotty when he loaded the bases without recording an out (again, not really his fault), accusing him of lacking the mettle to pitch a complete game.  Ridiculous.  If Baker truly wasn’t interested in trying to finish the game, then what the hell was he doing out there in the first place?  It was obvious that he was exhausted, and one would think that if Baker didn’t care about finishing the game himself, he would’ve simply told Gardy that he was done for the night.  Scotty didn’t deserve the public tongue-lashing Bert doled out from the safety of the broadcast booth, not after pitching eight innings of two-hit ball.  And it will never happen, but Bert owes Scotty an on-air apology.  Maybe I should change the title of this blog to “Fire Bert Blyleven”.

Worse yet, there was little rage directed at the true goat of the game:  Alexi Casilla.  The second baseman booted a couple of routine ground balls, one of which might have been a double-play. If Alexi even made one of those plays, Baker likely would’ve escaped the ninth having pitched a three-hit, maybe one-run complete game.  But because of Casilla’s incompetence, Baker had to settle for eight innings and three unearned earned runs.  And the Twins had to use their closer to save what should have been a complete blowout (of course, Jesse Crain and Jose Mijares could’ve pitched better, too).  Ugh, I never thought I’d be so happy to hear that Nick Punto is coming back soon.  I will take a sub-.200 middle-infielder who can make routine plays over a sub-.200 middle-infielder who can’t any day.
        

Road Woes

126676_Royals_Twins_Baseball.jpg
Before I get into how awful the Twins have been away from the Dome, I just want to say:  OMG THE BULLPEN MANAGED TO NOT BLOW A ONE-RUN LEAD FOR ONCE.  ON THE ROAD TOO.  TRULY THE END IS NIGH.  Anyway, at 25-27, the Twins are currently two games under .500 and 4.5 games out of first in the AL Central.  And it’s really no mystery why our boys are struggling to stay above the .500 mark:  their 6-16 road record is abysmal.  While there aren’t many teams in the league with winning records away from home, few have such a record of futility as the Twinks.  There are only two teams in the league with worse road records than Minnesota:  Washington (6-20) and San Diego (8-19), and obviously neither one is likely to make the playoffs this year.  While the Twins had lost 11 of their past 12 road games before beating Tampa on Sunday, four of those losses had been by one run and six of their last nine losses have been by two runs or less.  

The Twins, like most teams in the league, have always played better at home than on the road.  Most people like to blame it on the obvious home field advantage the Twins enjoy at the Dome, but the disparity between their home and road records hasn’t been as vast as people tend to think (they usually have a league-best home record and a road record somewhere around the .500 mark).  In the seven seasons under manager Ron Gardenhire, the Twins have posted a worse road record through the end of May only once:  in 2006, when they were 8-20.  The Twins had gotten off to a slow start that year and were 24-29 on June 1st, 11.5 games behind the division-leading Tigers, before riding an incredible hot streak and finishing 96-66 to capture the division title (they finished with a 42-39 road record, btw). 

Pitching has obviously been part of the problem, though the pitching staff as a whole hasn’t been that much worse on the road.  As a team, the Twins have a road ERA of 5.16 compared to 4.53 at home. In road games, opponents are batting .272/.345/.485 against the Twins and the pitching staff in general is posting a 1.45 WHIP, 1.70 K/BB, and 6.15 K/9, compared to .273/.322/.427 with a 1.33 WHIP, 2.50 K/BB, 6.06 K/9 inside the teflon confines.  Obviously these numbers aren’t great, but they’re not bad for a team whose one and two starters have been pitching more like back-of-the-rotation starters through the first few months of the season.  For the most part, the pitching has been good enough to keep the team in ballgames as long as the offense has been productive.  Unfortunately, this hasn’t usually been the case.

The lack of offense has really been the heart of the Twins’ struggles away from the Dome.  There’s a very good assessment of the offense to this point here, and while it’s hardly surprising that the bottom of the lineup has been ice cold, these problems have been exacerbated on the road.  At home, the Twins are batting a decent-enough .278/.356/.447 with an OPS of .803.  On the road, however, the Twins are a mediocre .263/.335/.406 with an OPS of .741.  The best hitters in the lineup, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, have put up some very good numbers on the road, but with the likes of Nick Punto, Delmon Young, Matt Tolbert, Alexi Casilla, and Carlos Gomez at the bottom of the order it’s not surprising that the Twins have averaged only 4.2 runs per game away from the Dome (which is actually skewed from the 20-1 thumping of the Pale Hose).  And that’s an improvement over the 3.6 runs per game the team was averaging with Casilla and Tolbert batting second in the lineup.  While Young, Casilla, and Gomez are all young enough that they should improve, it remains to be seen how much longer the organization will be patient with their development.

Many Men Manage to Mash uh, Manageably

  • Twins score 16 runs against Rays

Thumbnail image for morny_homer.jpgJustin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer, and Jason Kubel all belted homers off of Rays’ starter Scott Shields en route to a 16-2 rout of Tampa Bay.  Denard Span, who has been struggling all spring, went 2-for-4 with a pair of hits and a pair of walks.  Even Nick Punto had a couple of hits and an RBI.  Punto has been hitting .435/.500/.652 this spring, and though I doubt he’s going to continue to be so productive during the regular season, I am hoping that this is a sign that his worst years are behind him.  I would be perfectly happy if he put up similar numbers to last year.

Scott Baker had his best outing of the spring, allowing two earned runs on five hits in five innings (one of which was a solo homer to Carl Crawford).  He recorded two strikeouts but only one walk, so it appears as though he had better command of his pitches.  Matt Guerrier bounced back from his awful appearance against the Red Sox in which he gave up two two-run homers, and pitched a scoreless frame.  Brian Duensing and Craig Breslow were also effective in shutting down the Rays.

  • No Surprises Here

pridie.jpgThere were five more players cut from the 25-man roster this morning, none of which were terribly surprising.  Jason Pridie was optioned to AAA Rochester, as there is no room on the roster for yet another outfielder.  Non-roster invitees Sean Henn, Bobby Keppel, Brock Peterson, and David Winfree were all reassigned to minor league camp.  Jose Mijares has survived the cuts so far, but i suspect this is because the Twins want him to continue working with pitching coach Rick Anderson some more before optioning him to AAA.  I would be extremely surprised if he actually made the team, considering the way he’s been pitching as of late. 

Boof Bonser and Joe Mauer will be placed on the DL, which would make room for two additional roster spots.  Whether or not the Twins will decide to carry extra pitchers or extra bench riders remains to be seen.  Right now, though, it looks like catcher Drew Butera, infielders Brendan Harris and Brian Buscher, and relief pitchers Philip Humber and R. A. Dickey are the top candidates to win the final roster spots.

Speaking of Mauer, the change in his medication appears to be working and he is able to run without pain.  It is now a matter of getting back into game shape, so it’s not likely that he’ll be on the DL for very long.  By the way, that same article has a nice story about former Yankee catcher Johnny Blanchard, who sadly passed away from a heart attack on Wednesday.

  • North Dakota is experiencing record flooding

sandbagging.jpgAbout a third of the residents of the Fargo-Moorhead area have been asked to evacuate their homes today due to the record flooding.  The President has already declared a State of Emergency for seven nearby counties, and the National Guard has already been deployed to help out with the relief efforts.  The river is expected to crest sometime tomorrow (the National Weather service now expects the flood waters to crest on Sunday), at about 43 feet.  This is higher than the record of 40 ft. set in 1897 and considerably higher than the 39.5 ft. in the recent 1997 flood, which caused some $3.5 billion in damages.  Let us please act like civilized humans for once and not let this turn into another Hurricane Katrina.

If you would like to help out the victims of the Red River flood, go here.

(image courtesy BBC News)

Injury Updates

  • Joe Mauer injury update:

Well, there’s no Mauer news just yet, but it appears that he and Joe Nathan have been cleared to participate in some light baseball-related activities:

Come to think of it, maybe this is how they both got injured in the first place.

There’s still no news. as of 9pm tonight.  I’m starting to really get worried.  The Star Tribune is reporting that the doctors and the FO are conferring over what to do, so it doesn’t look good.  Oh Lordy, I’ve already suffered enough disappointment with teams from Minnesota this year.  I certainly don’t need any more.

  • Nick Punto should be fine, or at least his elbow will be

Thumbnail image for nicky_punto.jpgApparently there isn’t anything wrong with Little Nicky’s elbow.  Team doctors re-examined the X-rays he had taken in Toronto, and determined that nothing is broken. Most of the swelling has subsided in the joint, and is tentatively scheduled to start in today’s game against the Yankees.  Little Nicky has gotten off to a very slow start this spring, with a .100/.100/.100 in ten plate appearances, and wasn’t very effective for Team Italy in the WBC, either (he was 0-for-12).  Normally I wouldn’t be all that concerned about a guy’s performance in spring training games, but Punto gives me several reasons to worry.  First of all, he’s thirty-one years old and probably reached his peak offensively last season (it was pretty much his career year, after all).  As I have mentioned before, his bat has a tendency to get cold whenever he’s guaranteed a starting job, and he is now the everyday SS after signing that two-year deal in December.  Obviously a lineup with Punto and without Mauer isn’t going to make opposing pitchers lose any sleep.

  • What happened to Team USA?

l4ZX66Ss.jpgSome of these WBC games have been very close nail-biters between some of the best pitchers in the world.  This, however, was not one of them.  The Puerto Ricans slaughtered the USA 11-1 in seven innings, after which the mercy rule was invoked and everyone was put out of their misery (including those of us who were watching this crap).  So what went so horribly wrong?  Well, apparently the American pitchers (Jake Peavy in particular) forgot how to record outs.  And the American hitters forgot how to drive in runs, or even get on base.  I guess the coaching was really bad, too.  I mean, really, if your pitcher gives up six runs in two innings, shouldn’t you pull the guy?

The worst part about this whole thing is that Jake Peavy was shown up by Javier Vazquez.  Who says Javy isn’t a big-game pitcher?

The United States now has the same record in round two as the Netherlands.  Like their Dutch counterparts, the next game is do-or-die for the American team.  Unlike the Dutch, however, the US was heavily favored to win this thing.  Team Hollandaise wasn’t expected to win a single game, let alone advance to the next round, so what they have accomplished so far is pretty remarkable. Even if it is the end of the line.  Another early exit from the WBC would be an embarrassment for the US team, though, and might kill any chance that the American public will actually start taking the tournament seriously.

  • The Wild Mild aren’t quite dead yet

Stars_score.jpgOh, they lost another must-win game at Dallas last night, but at least they showed some life for a change.  Yes, they made a couple of bad plays that ended up costing them the game, but at least it was only two this time.  For the most part they actually skated well.  And they played with the sort of desperation a team that is, well, desperate to make the playoffs really needs.  The Stars, who are also fighting for the last playoff spot, were just a little more desperate this time.

GM Doug Risebrough hasn’t been too happy with the team’s play as of late, either, and even said so yesterday.  Of course, DR is the one who chose to do nothing at the trade deadline even though the team was clearly struggling.  And he also let key contributors such as Brian Rolston walk without finding much in terms of a replacement.  He was the one who decided to give jobs to unproven rookies like Colton Gillies (and guys who might as well be rookies like James Sheppard) who should really be in juniors right now and not getting their confidence shattered in the NHL.  And he (probably) botched contract talks with the team’s leading scorer.  So, you know, the players aren’t entirely to blame for this mess.

Despite dropping three straight OT games (apparently our boys don’t realize that an OT loss is still a loss), the Wild are not completely out of the Western Conference playoff picture.  They are currently one point out of the eighth, and final spot (not that they really deserve a playoff berth, but that’s a different story).  They have to play the second of back-to-back road games in St. Louis tonight.  Ordinarily I would be glad to see the Blues on the schedule, since the Wild would most certainly win this game in the past.  However, given the awful effort the team has put forth lately, I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if they lost.  Again.

  • Hey, at least somebody can win a game!

The Wolves beat the Bobcats 108-100 last night, which marks their 20th win of the season.  Of course, they’re still 26 games below .500 and will most certainly finish with their fourth straight losing record, but at least they’ll probably surpass last year’s total of 22 wins.  This win was just a little more satisfying because the Wolves may have just killed Charlotte’s playoff hopes.  Way to go, guys!  If you aren’t going to make the playoffs, at least you can take someone else down with you.

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