At least this lineup is a little more familiar than yesterday’s mental stunner. Morneau is out for the second day with the flu – I bet they are passing that around the clubhouse – and it’s one of the few teams that I wish he wasn’t quite such good friends with Mauer. Speaking of whom, Joe saw the specialist in Baltimore and then immediately flew back home to MN. When questioned about whether or not there was going to be an updated diagnosis for Mauer, team officials responded that his dual diagnosis of bilateral leg weakness and viral infection would stand and weren’t going to get any amendments. Whether the two are related or not is not really a big deal.
There was some good and some bad in this game but.. since it’s the first time we have been able to get a back to back win this season, I’m going to just say it was Good. Liriano wasn’t as good as I have seen him be in the past but he hung in there long enough andgot the job done – that’s going to happen to all pitchers and I hope that he’s able to do that kind of thing more often. His defense really did a great job behind him tonight for the most part – including a moment where Casilla was channeling the recently departed Nick Punto. I guarantee someone says that to Lexi in the clubhouse after the game tonight.
Secondly, this strike zone tonight was ridiculous – it was ridiculous for both teams though honestly but still it just SUCKED. The players were not appreciating that fact either which started to get pretty ugly at one point – and necessitated a little Showtime from the Manager. Gardy got ejected but following that, you got the unique visual of coaches literally trying to haul Thome off the homeplate ump – not an easy job & I can’t really remember seeing Big Jim get that mad before.
The new guy, Hoey, had a pretty solid (impressive even) outing in his Twins debut. It’s fun to see a legitimate heater thrown like that even if you do pause with each wind-up and pray that it goes where he wants it. Fun Stuff!
The BEST thing about tonight contributed highly to the Chat’s vote for BOD. Our spotlight hitter of the night was no other than … *drumroll* Sweet Drew Butera! no, really! it was! 2 hits with a double and 3 RBI actually give him a better BA than Thome (and Tolbert & Casilla). For keeping Francisco anchored for more than 5 innings, for getting the run-scoring off to a great start and for being a generally excellent backup for the ailing Mauer, Drew Butera is today’s BOD!
I’m not going to go through a recitation of all of the ailments currently afflicting the Twins. If you want to go through all of that even more than you have already, you can click on any one of about a dozen of the blogs in our Twins blogroll over on the sidebar (including Howard Sinker’s return to his “A Fan’s View from Section 219” blog… welcome back Howard!). Instead I’m going to focus on a cure.
If ever there was a team that appeared prepared to provide a cure for what’s ailing the Twins, it’s this week’s opponent, the Baltimore Orioles.
If you haven’t paid much attention to the O’s lately, you might wonder why I’d make that comment. After all, Baltimore got off to a 6-1 start during the first couple of series of the year. But things have not gone so well over the past week or so for the Birds. They’ve lost seven games in a row and have been scoring runs at a pace that almost makes the Twins’ offense look productive by comparison. Almost.
They’ve also been bitten by the same injury bug that has chewed its way through the Twins clubhouse. Don’t look for old friend JJ Hardy out there at shortstop for the O’s, he’s down with a strained oblique muscle. They’re also missing pitchers Justin Duchscherer and Brian Matusz.
We’re all familiar with the early season struggles of Francisco Liriano (0-3, 9.42 ERA), but if you wanted to conjure up a cure for Frankie’s ills, I’m not sure you could do much better than the lineup he’ll face tonight in Baltimore… not to mention his opponent on the mound. Chris Tilman sports an 0-1 record and a 7.30 ERA covering three starts, during which he’s amassed just 12 and 1/3 innings pitched.
In fact, the only game in this series that looks to have to potential to be a bit of a pitchers’ duel is game three on Wednesday, when Nick Blackburn takes his 3.06 ERA up against the Orioles’ Zach Britton, who’s been pretty much the O’s lone reliable starting pitcher. Britton sports a nifty 2.75 ERA over his three starts.
This would also appear to be a good series for Jim Thome to resume his assault on 600 career home runs. Not only is Oriole Park at Camden Yards known as a hitters’ park, but all four of the O’s starting pitchers this series are right-handers and Baltimore pitchers have already given up 19 home runs this season. That means Jimmers should get plenty of opportunities to put a ball out there on Eutaw Street. In fact, this would be an ideal time for Justin Morneau to find that home run stroke and the way Jason Kubel is swinging the bat, he could add a few taters to his total, as well.
Right now, the only Orioles hitter that’s been making solid contact is second baseman Brian Roberts. If you think Kubel and Denard Span are feeling a bit like they’re having to carry the load for the Twins, pity Roberts who doesn’t even have a partner to share the load with.
The Twins return home after this series and the Orioles will be hosting the Yankees and Red Sox as their homestand continues after our guys leave town. I’m sure both of these struggling teams are looking for this series to provide a cure to their recent ailments. Let’s hope it’s the Twins that come away with that cure.
Getting their first series win of the season on the road in Baltimore would go a long way toward making everyone, players and fans alike, feel better.
Yes, a 5-10 record after the first 15 games of the season looks ugly… every bit as ugly as this Twins team has played much of this young season. Make no mistake, they have totally earned that 5-10 record.
Obviously, things are not going the way anyone with the team (not to mention its fans) hoped for. With that in mind, some changes are now being made.
On Sunday morning, Manager Ron Gardenhire announced that Matt Capps would be taking over Joe Nathan’s duties as closer. Not only that, but it seemed Nathan was not going to be relied upon to fill a significant set-up role, either, so that meant more adjustments were necessary in the bullpen roles.
Jose Mijares appears to be losing his late-inning lefty spot to Glen Perkins. But that still left a hole at the back end of games for a right handed set up arm. With Kevin Slowey on the DL and Jeff Manship not pitching well, only newly arrived Alex Burnett could even be considered for important right handed innings.
So, exit Manship to Rochester, enter Jim Hoey. Hoey’s promotion was announced following Sunday’s win over the Rays.
Hoey had several good performances in spring training (along with a couple of clunkers) and was told by the Twins, at the time he was sent down, to work on developing a reliable offspeed pitch to go with his high-90s fastball. The theory is that if a pitcher doesn’t have an offspeed pitch to keep batters off balance, MLB hitters are good enough to time any fastball, even those that approach 100 mph, like Hoey’s. Since I have doubts about whether a pitcher can develop a good offspeed pitch in two weeks, I guess we’re about to test that theory.
Down in Rochester, Hoey has struck out 8 hitters in 6 2/3 innings, while giving up 5 hits and walking only 1 (for a .90 WHIP) while appearing in four games and accumulating a 2.70 ERA. Maybe AAA hitters are more easily overwhelmed by pure heat than MLB hitters?
These moves are encouraging to me and not just because I advocated for using Capps as the closer and Hoey earning a spot in the bullpen out of spring training. At this point, my encouragement comes from the organization’s recognition that adjustments must be made… that you can’t wait until May or June to correct obvious problems. The 5-10 record is ugly, but the Twins situation could be much worse.
This team may be 6 games out of first place, but the teams at the top of the AL Central are the Cleveland Indians and Kansas City Royals… two teams that, let’s be frank, are not likely to remain in their lofty perches throughout the season. Following Sunday’s games, the Twins trail the White Sox by only two games and, depending on how their late afternoon game turns out, will trail the Tigers by either 1.5 or 2.5 games. Those are the two teams the Twins are likely to be contending with over the course of the season and neither of them have exactly rushed out of the starting gate, either.
So… there’s plenty of time to get this thing turned around. It would be nice to get guys like Joe Mauer (viral infection), Justin Morneau (flu symptoms) and Tsuyoshi Nishioka (broken fibula) back in the line up and to get some other players hitting the ball. But I believe the offense will come around.
And if I’m wrong, there are signs of offensive life already down in Rochester.
Outfielder Rene Tosoni is off to a hot start for the Red Wings, with four doubles and three home runs already and shortstop Trevor Plouffe has also already knocked three balls out of the yard, to go with a pair of doubles.
I’m trying to remain hopeful, despite some tough losses lately. But for right now, I’m just encouraged to feel the Twins are showing signs already that they won’t hesitate to make necessary changes. That has not always been their method of operation.
Finally, just in time if you happen to be a fan in dire need of a smile right now, the Twins have come up with another commercial (courtesy of a tweet from @MinnesotaTwins)… this one featuring Jim Thome and one or two other Minnesota icons!
Looking to avoid getting swept out of St. Petersburg, Gardy has apparently decided the trick is to have the strongest pinch hitting options on his bench and filled out the line up card accordingly. I suppose his options are somewhat limited, though, since reports are that the flu bug has now bitten Justin Morneau. Denard Span is apparently being rewarded for his big day at the plate yesterday with a day off today, as well.
In other news (the Pioneer-Press’ Kelsie Smith was a tweeting machine this morning), Joe Nathan met with Gardy and pitching coach Rick Anderson after last night’s meltdown and the triumvirate concluded that perhaps Joe should pitch in less critical situations while he finds the old magic. That leaves the closer spot to Matt Capps. While that’s who I thought should have had the job all along, he hasn’t exactly shut the Rays down the last couple of games, either.
Gardy also apparently hinted at more changes in the bullpen. Hard throwing righthander Jim Hoey is likely to be brought up. He has a 1-0 record in Rochester, with 8 Ks and only 1 walk in his 6 2/3 innings of work spread over four appearances. Gardy and Anderson told Hoey to work on an offspeed pitch when they sent him down near the end of spring training, in favor of keeping Jeff Manship. I don’t know whether Hoey has found an offspeed pitch or has just been blowing his 98 mph heat past AAA hitters, but it sounds like we’re about to find out.
I argued in favor of keeping Hoey out of spring training, in addition to giving Capps the closer job to start the season, so obviously Gardy is starting to realize he should just do what I say. If that trend continues, clearly the Twins should start turning things around very soon!
Of course, one way the Twins could choose to deal with the dilemma of who to have protect 1-2 run leads in the 9th inning would be to have bigger leads in the 9th. That would require hitting more and scoring more runs. Which brings us back around to today’s… interesting… lineup. Maybe this group will rack up a dozen runs or so. Stranger things have happened.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is what we in the business refer to as a “win”. It’s been a while, so it’s understandable if some folks don’t remember what those are.
The new pairing of Glen Perkins as the set up man for closer Matt Capps got the job done as they preserved the two run lead they were handed following another very nice performance by a Twins starting pitcher. Brian Duensing went seven strong innings. He struck out 5 and spaced out seven hits and a couple of walks. For that performance, Brian earns an assortment of baked goods (although, Brian, if someone hands you cookies, you might want to check them closely… some of those things have been getting dumped in ovens and on floors lately).
The Twins’ much-maligned outfield defense stepped up today, too. It should be interesting to watch for Web Gems tonight since Jason Repko had a terrific diving catch and Delmon Young contributed as well.
But on the strength of a couple of great plays deep in right field AND an opposite field home run, the GameChat crew awarded today’s Boyfriend of the Day award to Jason Kubel! Way to go KUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUBE (keep this up and you may get out of jamar’s doghouse by the All Star break!).
I think Mother Nature got a little off track with the calendar. April Fool’s Day was a couple weeks ago; snow now isn’t a prank, it’s just a little defeating. It’s all gone at my house now, though, and maybe the weather will get back on track sometime soon.
Hopefully the Twins can get back on track soon too. Today would be a nice time . . . just sayin’.
Well, that didn’t work out so well. I’m pretty much the last person to go to the dark side of negativism, but I’m getting pretty close. It’s hard to watch blown saves and such close losses. But I’m going to try really hard to remain hopeful that things will get better.
I’m the eternal optimist who is more than ready to put yesterday behind me (and all the horrible things that happened) and jut ee what happens today. I will admit that seeing Tolbert bat second does take me back a couple years though.. I kind of hoped we were past that. I disagree with JC’s belief that Holm will (new catcher we’re bringing up) will man the plate about half the time.. yeah, I just don’t think that is going to happen. Butera is well enough liked by the pitchers and the fielders that he’s still going to get the majority of the outings until Mauer returns. I’ll also remind Twins fans everywhere what happened for Joe Mauer the last time he missed the month of April on the DL.. uh huh, can anyone say Batting title?
A) I’m really glad the Twins got to go south to play this weekend because the weather here in MN is just plain being mean. It’s COLD out there.. and they say it might SNOW tomorrow? You know, it’s almost like Mother Nature knew that the homestand was over and decided to take a couple days off from the spring warm-up now that baseball is out of town. I’m glad that Mother Nature is CLEARLY a baseball fan but I will readily admit that I’m jealous as hell of the warmth and sunshine our boys of summer are currently enjoying. *pout*
B) There is a lot of ‘discussion’ since the lineups were posted about Mauer missing a second day in a row… WOW, can people overreact to the slightest thing. Come on folks, Gardy had already said that he was going to try to rest Mauer as often as possible and has also said that at the slightest hint of soreness, he is not going to play games with Mauer right now. And especially on a day when Pavano is starting and Butera has had a full day of rest, I think that it’s just as good right now to have him out there catching that speedy (except Damon) Rays lineup when they try to steal behind Carl – cause you KNOW they are going to try. Will I miss having Mauer’s bat in the lineup for the second day in a row? Well, yes, I certainly miss the potential but let’s be honest here, even Mauer has been struggling with the LowBA flu that seems to be running through our lineup. I say thank you Spanky & Kubel and let’s see the rest of the lineup start to knock the ball around a bit before we waste our energy freaking out that our $23 million catcher is permanently injured past the ability to perform before the second week of 2011 baseball has even ended. Sheesh.
C) Who the heck starts a game at 5:40 pm?? how weird is that?
Not often that both closers on a team each fail to make a save in the same game. Yet again, the blogger world is cursing the day of their births and declaring apocolypse. Somehow, I think that the sun will still rise tomorrow and Florida will be warmer than Minnesota and both Nathan and Capps will survive to close again.
On the other hand, wow, it was nice to see Pavano in classic Carl mode! He was ON tonight and really pitched a fantastic game. Sad to see his shutout put away but it was still a fantastic outing for the vereran and he proved once again why HE’s the one who gets our #1 starter position. It was just beautiful.
What it REALLY comes down to is that the Twins are going to have to start trying to win games with more than 2-3 runs. Let’s hope they remember that tomorrow.
[UPDATE] Mauer has been placed on the DL. Yeah, this could get ugly. Steve Holm (who?) has been called up to back up Butera.. so get this, according to Twins officials on Twitter, his injury is Bilateral leg weakness. Anyone care to decipher what the heck that is supposed to be?? Twitter once again answers my question: Bilateral Leg Weakness
We all can relate to this, I’m sure. You’re at a party or at the office and the topic of someone’s recent… shall we say… makeover… comes up. Then someone (hopefully not you, but hey, it happens) says something clever about the new [insert “clothes”, “facelift”, “tummytuck”, or whatever has been “made over”] and then everyone realizes it might have been said a little bit too loud and that the recently “madeover” person heard the comment. Now, this can go one of two ways, depending on the particular personalities of the parties involved.
Feelings could be hurt, harsh words could be exchanged, friendships could be ruined… or the person could take the comment in the spirit it was intended, everyone can have a good laugh, maybe make a new friend and, if you’re really lucky, maybe you find out the person who made the comment is in the business of doing “makeovers” and you learn something that helps you improve your appearance!
“What does this have to do with the Twins?” you ask. Well, nothing. This post is entirely about this blog. (That loud clicking noise you hear is 150 people simultaneaously exiting this site.)
Those of you who have been stopping by for a while are aware (I hope) that we’ve been undergoing a few cosmetic changes over the past couple of months. It started with a change in “theme” (that’s a fancy blogging term for the look and style of the site). We chose EvoLve. It has a ton of customization options, it’s generally easy on the eyes, it made transitioning from our old theme almost completely painless and, best of all, it was free.
We also found a new blogroll plugin that lets us list the most recently updated Twins blogs, rather than just listing them all alphabetically. (The downside to this is that K-bro’s Baseball Blog and Curve for a Strike will notice a significant drop in “hits” as I used to click those sites several times a day to find out which blogs had been updated recently… sorry k-bro and Topper).
Which brings us to the final (for now anyway) cosmetic enhancement here at Knuckleballs… our new banner. Funny story how that came about…
You may remember this post that CapitalBabs put up a while back about a cool “What baseball team should I root for?” flowchart developed by Paul Caputo over at Interpretation By Design. It’s one of the most clever things I’ve seen in a long time. In fact, it’s so clever, you probably saw it posted and linked to by several blogs, tweets, etc. Actually, there were so many of us linking to their site that all the hits crashed their site!
I’m certain there wasn’t much humorous about that to the folks at IBD at the time, but as tends to be the case, passage of time allows for those involved to reflect on the event and smile a bit (if not quite laugh, perhaps). And that’s what Paul did recently. He put up a post on the site about what had happened and how so many sites had said such great things about the flowchart and how much he appreciated all of that. Here, let me paste a paragraph from that post:
I’ll admit that it was a thrill to see something I created shared so extensively. Because the Internet mob tends to deal in extremes, the words “genius” and “hilarious” were thrown around next to my name on Twitter and on various blogs (trust me, I have screen captures of all of them). Though some of the nicest comments came from a site that uses both type on a curve and Comic Sans in its banner, so I’m a little conflicted.
Yes, he was referring to us in that last sentence.
Now… those of you who haven’t yet started your own blogs may not be aware of this, but a funny thing happens when someone links to your site… you get a “pingback”. I’m sure really popular sites get a ton of those, but here at Knuckleballs it’s enough of a rarity that we notice. We also click the link to see who’s linking to us. And we read what they say about us.
I have to be honest here… while I recognized the reference to “type on a curve”, I have NO idea what Comic Sans is. But I’m bright enough to recognize that Paul wasn’t a fan of the use of either in our banner.
Normally, I’m one of those “I don’t give a hoot what you think” kind of people. Most of you know that if you told me you didn’t like our banner, I’d respond with some sort of smartass retort that would clearly communicate that I don’t give a hoot what you think. But this was a guy who runs a blog about web design and stuff. I mean… I wouldn’t care what any of you thought about the way I swing a baseball bat, either, but if Joe Mauer told me I’m doing it wrong, I’d listen (probably, anyway) or I would at least try to explain to Joe WHY I swing the way I do (“Joe, I know you don’t have this issue, but I’ve got a 38 inch waist I have to get the bat around.”)
So I did leave a comment on Paul’s post, letting him know WHY we used the “type on a curve” (after all, STRAIGHT text on a site named for a pitch that changes direction several times on its way to the plate just seemed wrong). Having done so, I merrily went on my way.
Well Paul responded, both in a follow up comment and in a personal email. He explained that the references to the type styles we used were a bit of a running joke over at IBD and he apologized for his snarky (his word, not mine) reference to our banner. This is where, like with our friends at the party from the opening paragraph, things could have gone one of two ways. If we really took ourselves seriously around here, I could have lashed out at Paul (“you may know web design but I bet you pitch like a girl!”) and things might have deteriorated from there. But as you all know, we really don’t take ourselves all that seriously… and I assured Paul such was the case.
Actually, I did a bit more than that. In an email back to him, I mentioned that he was welcome to take a swing (note clever baseball reference) at improving our banner.
A few hours later, our new banner came back to me in an email from Paul.
I admit I wasn’t really expecting him to take me up on my offer/request, any more than I would expect Mauer to take an interest in correcting my swing. These people are professionals, after all.
I love the banner. I’m grateful and I’m honored that the guy who came up with that website-crashing flowchart (or as it has become known over at Interpretation By Design, the “Information Design Example That Shall Not Be Named”) thought enough of our blog to design a new banner for us.
But… in the back of my mind, part of me wonders if he did it just because he really was so offended by the type on a curve and Comic Sans font (or our dominant use of the color red in the old banner… which, as it turns out, is also not a recommended thing to do. Who knew?). In the end, though, it really doesn’t matter.
What matters is that we’ve made a new friend (even if he is a Phillies fan). Thank you, Paul!
I’m glad enough that I got to WATCH the end of last night’s game because it was pretty much a classic Twins ending. I really do wish the boys didn’t always have to make everything so dramatic though. Today, I would appreciate if our boys took advantage of the fact that it’s not raining yet and hit early and often so as to not need extra innings this afternoon. Please?
I have definitely enjoyed afternoon baseball more than this in the past… There was quite a bit of discussion in the digital world before the game started that the team was trying to get Liriano to “pitch to contact” a bit more in an effort to extend his outtings to more innings… I don’t really think that particular method workd for Liriano – at least not today.
We did get to hitting early but once again, the LOB monster struck again.. I really do have to get Kbro to make that shirt for me. The Twins aren’t scoring many runs this year but they are hitting more than it looks like.. the numbers of LOB are purely ridiculous.
But I’m hoping that as hits pick up, so will runs.. seems like a numbers game to me and it’s early. Besides, we’re still doing better than the Red Sox right? I think?
I hope the boys enjoy the nice day tonight because it’s supposed to be cool and rainy the next couple days. I have yet another meeting tonight so I won’t be here for the beginning of the game but I will definitely be back before things are over… I hope. LOL
Well THAT was interesting! We saw some things we haven’t seen much of so far this season. Let’s see…
We saw the Twins score first AND we saw the Twins put up a crooked number in the 4th inning!
We saw Michael Cuddyer go four-for-four and more than DOUBLE his batting average for the year, from .107 to .219! That certainly warranted some BOD consideration. Even his one non-hit plate appearance was a walk in the 10th inning that moved the winning run over in to scoring position at 2B. WTG Cuddy, keep it up!
We had a nice starting pitching performance from Brian Duensing (tell ya what, Bri, we’ll just pretend you didn’t even take the mound in the 7th inning since you didn’t retire any of the 3 hitters you faced that inning anyway… and those first 6 innings were pretty darn nice!)
Then we saw 12 straight hitters sat down by the bullpen… a K by Mijares, five straight outs by Matt Capps (including a K that stranded a runner at 3B in the 7th inning), a 1-2-3 by Joe Nathan in the 9th and Dusty Hughes wrapped up the bullpen’s night with a perfect 10th inning (and a Web Gem of a diving catch, as well) to earn the Win. Not too shabby for a bullpen that so many people have expressed so little confidence in.
But our GameChat Boyfriend of the Day award really could go to nobody other than the guy who delivered the game winning RBI with a solid single to right center field with bases loaded in the bottom of the 10th inning. That heroic feat earns you our BOD award, Danny Valencia!