Taylor's Twins Talk

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

Monday, September 17, 2007

Nightly Notes

I love this time of the year -- we're two weeks from the end of the season and the start of the playoffs, and while I'd obviously prefer to be watching the Twins make a playoff run, I can't help but get excited for what the next fortnight has to bring regardless of my favorite team's misfortune this season. While I have a few Twins notes up front, the bulk of this nightly notes post will be devoted to some playoff comments and speculation.

1.) Kevin Slowey went 6 innings and allowed just 1 run while giving up 4 hits, walking nobody, and striking out 7. That's a pretty decent line, all told -- and while I'd prefer it if Slowey took fewer than 105 pitches to get through 6 innings, I would take this from him on most nights. The line would have looked better, of course, had the bullpen held up the score -- but more on that in a bit. My general feeling is that if Slowey manages to put up numbers like this over the last couple of starts that he should get this season, then he'll be in a very favorable position heading into Spring Training 2008, with a job in the rotation his to lose.

2.) Now, about that bullpen . . . Juan Rincon gave up 2 runs (1 earned) on 2 hits in an inning of work, and that sets his ERA on the season at 5.46. I'll have more to say on this when the season is over, but here's a quick highlight: Rincon is not yet eligible for free agency, but the Twins are going to have to think long and hard about bringing him back next year considering the amount of money that he could potentially make in arbitration. It would have helped if he was tradeable, but after the season that he's had I don't know if that's going to be possible. Keep him around and hope he recovers, or non-tender him and get nothing for him? I'll have more to say on this in a couple of weeks. As for the rest of the 'pen, Matt Guerrier was alright, but Joe Nathan allowed a run and needed to be bailed out, which was unfortunate.

3.) Garrett Jones got another chance to play in the outfield today (he's played 3 games in left and 1 in right already this season according to ESPN), and that's almost certainly being done so that the Twins can evaluate his ability to play out there as they continue to think about whether to keep him around next year. As with Rincon, I'll have more to say on this subject in a post-season round up -- but I'm not convinced by anything that I've seen this year that Jones is anywhere near being ready to contribute even as a bench player with a Major League team -- and since this is his last option year, I'm thinking he'll probably not be taking up a roster spot next season.

4.) Nick Punto is now hitting .206 on the year -- a slump could get him back under .200, but if I had to guess I would say that Punto will finish the season above the Mendoza line. That at least would be a minor success in a season that has been an utter disappointment for Punto and for those (like Terry Ryan) who believed in his ability to hold down a job as a regular MLB third baseman. I'm rooting for him to finish strongly.

5.) Sometimes, no matter what you think of a team, you have to admit that they seem to have something -- karma, luck, God, whatever -- on their side. The Indians seem to be such a team this year. I can't tell you how many times I've looked at the scoreboard, seen the Indians down by a few runs late, and thought "that one's over" -- only to see the final with Cleveland on top. It happened again tonight, with 3 in the 8th against Detroit to tie it up and the game-winner in the 11th. I didn't expect the Tigers to catch the Indians anyway, but I was hopeful that they'd catch the Yankees for the Wild Card -- unfortunately . . .

6.) Don't look now, but the Yankees are just 3.5 games behind the Red Sox and are back to 3.5 games ahead of the Tigers for the Wild Card after beating the Orioles tonight (coupled with Boston's loss to Toronto). In recent years, it seems like the story of the early season is always how bad the Yankees are playing -- and I get my hopes up that the playoff streak will be over. Then, reality sets in and the Yankees make their annual push into a playoff position. Looks like it's going to happen again.

7.) Amazing comebacks were the order of the day today, as the Cubs pulled one out against the Reds with 3 in the 9th to maintain their one game lead over the Brewers. The battle for the NL Central is going to be fascinating to watch, as too flawed teams fight for a playoff spot. I'm not sure who to root for in this one -- but I'm leaning to the Cubs because I'm a Piniella fan.

8.) Finally, how about that NL East race? The Mets have lost 4 in a row while the Phillies have won 5 straight -- that's taken the lead in the East from 6.5 for the Mets down to 2.5, and that has to scare the dickens out of Mets fans. This one could get pretty interesting down the stretch.



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