Taylor's Twins Talk

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

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Nightly Notes: Game #53

Didn't get a chance to put anything up last night about the game, so here's the delayed version. Nice to see the Twins continuing their winnings ways! Here are the notes:

1.) Obviously, by far the most interesting part of last night's game was the debut of Kevin Slowey. First off, some thoughts from other bloggers who I read regularly: I doubt that anyone who reads this blog doesn't read it already, but Seth from Seth Speaks has a few thoughts up on Slowey's start. Second, another invaluable resource this season has been the blog section of the Star Tribune's Twins page, and La Velle E. Neal III has his thoughts up on Slowey's start as well. I recommend them both for some good points about Slowey's starts.

Now, onto my thoughts. I'm impressed with the results: 1 run on 5 hits and 2 walks in 6 innings along with 3 strikeouts, including of the first batter he faced. I'm not as impressed as some are that Slowey kept pumping fastballs in to A's hitters. Now, to be fair, I think he had to; his breaking stuff wasn't working particularly well, and his changeups for the most part weren't well located either yesterday, so fastballs were pretty much the only choice he had. Certainly, he got through six innings, but they were tough innings. I'm hard on Boof Bonser when his pitch efficiency is poor, so I have to say that Slowey needs to figure out to get batters out without throwing pitches that they just keep fouling off, which Major League hitters can usually do against average or just-above average fastball, which is what Slowey appears to have. Why? The most obvious reason is that more pitches means fewer innings; if Slowey had been more efficient in innings 1-3, he probably would have been able to go another inning at least, which helps the bullpen a lot. But there are so many other things: the other team gets to see the entire array of your pitches and what you plan on doing; it's more likely you'll give up a walks and hits; your fielders go back on their heels a bit. As Slowey moves along in his Major League career, I don't think pitch efficiency will be a problem for him -- he just didn't have anything other than a fastball to try to get people out last night, which is understandable.

As for the meta-view, I'm thrilled with this start. Slowey showed that he has the poise and intelligence to battle Major League hitters and mostly come out on top, even without his good stuff. His line was very good, and he kept the team in the game. I think he's going to be a Twin for a very long time, and this was a strong debut, certainly one of the best for a Twins starter in recent memory. Congratulations to Slowey for getting over this hurdle, and I look forward to seeing his next start this coming week.

2.) The bullpen continues to shine, even if Joe Nathan did make things a bit more interesting last night than I would have liked. Nevertheless, Juan Rincon, Carmen Cali, and Pat Neshek got it done leading up to Nathan, and the two-run lead that Joe had going into the bottom of the 10th was just enough. For anyone who wonders whether Joe Nathan is losing his touch, I just say this: would you rather have him, or Todd Jones? I'll probably say more on this subject this coming both, but I have to ask at this point -- is Pat Neshek establishing himself as a future closer? Perhaps as the Twins future closer? Might a contract extension for Joe Nathan not be forthcoming? It's something that will warrant more discussion as the season moves along and the Twins make a decision on Nathan's 2008 option. And just to be clear, I am not suggesting at this point that the option shouldn't be picked up, or that Nathan doesn't have his best stuff anymore, or anything else. I'm just saying that things could get more complicated than it looked like they would when the season started.

3.) Lew Ford actually hit the ball pretty hard a couple of times yesterday, but just had a 1-for-5 to show for it. I know that Jason Kubel got the rest because Joe Kennedy had dominated lefty hitters to the tune of a .130 batting average against -- but I still would have started Kubel. Most disappointing from Ford, however, was his misplaying the ball hit to him in left at the start of the second (at least, I believe it was the start of the second). The only possible justification for playing Ford at this point would have to be for his defense -- but he didn't show much out there last night, and Jason Kubel hasn't exactly been a slouch in the field this season. I know I harp on it in every game that he plays, but Lew Ford is taking up a roster spot that could come in handy when Joe Mauer comes off of the DL if the Twins want to keep three catchers.

4.) With the Tigers epic collapse last night against the Indians, the Twins are now just 1.5 behind them for second in the AL Central -- and the Wild Card lead. The Tigers are 3-7 over their last ten, and the holes in their bullpen are really starting to show. Part of that is the fact that Todd Jones is still this team's closer, which is just silly. Maybe last night will convince them to make a change, considering that his ERA is now 6.04 this season. Of course, as a Twins fan, I'm completely in favor of Jones staying in his current role . . .

5.) The next two games will see Carlos Silva (4.22 ERA) v. Joe Blanton (4.28 ERA), and Johan Santana (3.21 ERA) v. Chad Gaudin (2.32 ERA). Even though the ERA's would suggest that tonight's game is a push, while the A's have an edge tomorrow, I would never bet against Johan Santana. I like the team's odds over the next couple of days.

6.) Low A Down on the Farm Report will come up later today -- and by the end of the weekend, I'll have another article up analyzing how Interleague play could play a pivotal role in deciding the AL Central. Here's a sneak peak -- the Twins don't get any favors from Interleague play, while the White Sox will have no excuses if they aren't right back in the division race by the time Interleague play wraps up.



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