Taylor's Twins Talk

Focusing on the Twins, with a few ramblings on other things that catch my attention

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Nightly Notes - Game #5

Back on track as the team heads back to Minnesota for a rumble with the hated Yankees, as the Twins nip the White Sox 3-1. Here are tonight's notes:

1.) Johan Santana wasn't brilliant early on, needing a lot of pitches to get through the first inning and walking 3 batters early. However, he turned it on about halfway through the second, and was great the rest of the way, leaving the game after seven innings having allowed just 1 hit. He found himself in a somewhat surprising pitching duel with White Sox rookie John Danks, who was making his Major League debut, but Santana had more than enough in reserve to keep ahead of Danks (and the White Sox hitters). If Santana is already in this kind of form, the 2007 season could be a very entertaining one when he's on the mound.

2.) Twins starters have now put up 3 quality starts (6 or more innings, 3 or fewer runs allowed) in 5 games, with Boof Bonser, Ramon Ortiz, and Johan Santana all having one. The two starts that weren't quality starts weren't exactly terrible -- Satana went 6 while allowing 4 runs in his first starter, and Carlos Silva allowed 1 run in 5 innings yesterday. Who says starting pitching is no longer the strength of the Twins? (Note: I say that fully tongue in cheek).

3.) Juan Rincon was unavailable on Saturday, and was doubtful for Sunday. Considering that the Twins went with Jesse Crain in the 8th today (and he did a fine job as the emergency setup man), I would guess that Rincon's neck still wasn't up to playing. Hopefully he'll be available against the Yankees tomorrow -- with Sidney Ponson making the start, there's a possibility that the Twins will need all the relief they can get.

4.) How nice was it to see Morneau turn on that Danks fastball and knock it out of the park in the 4th? Welcome to the big leagues, kid. So far, Morneau has hit two homeruns this season, going the other way for his first one and taking a pitch that should have jammed him over the fence in right today. Even MVP's can improve -- a thought that should scare the rest of the American League.

5.) The Twins need to get some guys healthy. I like Jason Tyner, but not as a regular starter in the outfield. His speed allowed Ron Gardenhire to get creative during the Oriole series, and with no one else on the bench having much speed, the Twins were handcuffed a little bit in the White Sox series. Hopefully Rondell gets healthy and back in the lineup by Tuesday at the latest.

6.) Is anyone else excited for the Twins to get a shot at some of these Yankees starters? The matchups for the 3 game set between the two teams are: Ponson (0-0, 0.00) v. Pavano (0-0, 8.31); Boof Bonser (0-0, 3.00) v. Andy Pettite (0-0, 3.60); and Ramon Ortiz (1-0, 2.57) v. Mike Mussina (0-1, 13.50). There was a time when facing Pettite and Mussina in a series would have meant an almost automatic two losses -- I no longer feel that way. And when the inevitable "Mussina dominates the Twins" line comes up on Wednesday, don't buy it; it hasn't been true for at least 3 years.

7.) Sidney Ponson, Luis Rodriguez, and Chris Heintz are the last guys on the roster who are yet to play. Ponson will obviously change that tomorrow, but I'm not sure when a natural opportunity to get Rodriguez or Heintz some playing time will be. The Twins do have seven games in a row at home on the turf starting tomorrow, so maybe Luis Castillo's knees will need a break sometime around Thursday; that would probably give Luis Rodriguez a shot. Maybe Heintz would be used as a late pinch hitter for L-Rod in that game. Absent that, it might be tough to find him an at-bat.

8.) Was anyone else worried that Joe Crede's base hit gave A.J. Pierzynski another chance to play the hero? I trust Joe Nathan, but I hate giving A.J. a chance to gloat. I was convinced until Morneau stepped on the bag that somehow that grounder was going to score two runs, as completely implausible as that would have been. Thankfully, no such thing happened, and I don't have to spend the next 24 hours peeved that A.J. got away with another one.

9.) What we've learned this week: AL version. We've learned that the Angels are picked to win the AL West for a good reason -- they're a great team with a bullpen as good as, or *gasp* possibly better than, the Twins'. We've learned the Yankee starting rotation is so bad, it's not going to be fixed solely by the return of Chien Ming-Wang later this month. And we've learned that even though the Royals probably are going to lose a lot of ballgames, they've still got a pretty dangerous team that could sneak up on some people.

10.) What we've learned this week: NL version. All that exasperation by the Nationals and the team GM over people picking them to be terrible this year? It was either spin to try to get some suckers to buy tickets, or the front office in Washington is clueless. It was readily apparent from looking at the Nationals' roster that they were going to be horrid, and they've started off 1-6, with the one victory being somewhat of a fluke. It's going to be a long, long year for baseball fans in the nation's capital, just as pretty much everyone (other than the Nat's GM) knew it would be. We've also learned that the Cardinals are not the class of the NL Central -- that would probably be the Brewers -- and that the Pirates might be a fun little team to watch. And in the NL West -- we still don't know much, other than there are some good teams all around.



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