Nightly Notes: Game #3
1.) I mentioned yesterday that Nick Blackburn had two chances to show the Twins that he belonged at the big league level. So far, you have to think he's accomplished that. Tonight was absolutely fantastic for Blackburn, as he went 7 strong innings and gave up just the one run on 5 hits and a walk while striking out 6. I didn't see the early innings, but it seems as if he allowed a few more baserunners early on. By the end of the night, though, there was no question that this was a fabulous start for Blackburn. One more like this, and the Twins could be faced with an interesting decision when Francisco Liriano is ready to come back -- and some friendly advice to Kevin Slowey: you best put it all on the table tomorrow, buddy, because Blackburn is fighting for the spot in the rotation you have right now.
2.) What a difference a night made with the bullpen -- one night after Reyes, Crain, Bass and Rincon each pretty much fell flat, the Twins got solid performances out of Reyes (sort of) and Neshek. Matt Guerrier gave up 2 hits and a walk in 1/3 of an inning and then got bailed out, so his performance wasn't very good -- but the bottom line is that the 'pen didn't allow any runs, and that was the major difference from yesterday.
3.) Congratulations to Matt Tolbert for picking up his first big league hit. If only his had been joined by a few more from his teammates . . .
4.) I've complained about bunting a baserunner over to second with nobody out quite a few times before, but tonight's ninth inning particularly bothered me. For one thing, Carlos Gomez is a bit excitable, and asking him to bunt a guy over in that situation might be a bit much. Don't get me wrong -- as a professional ballplayer, especially one with speed who will be bunting a lot, that's a skill that Gomez should have. Nonetheless, you have to understand the context surrounding a situation, and I think this was a situation that was a bit rough for Gomez. Standing alone, that probably wouldn't be enough -- but there's more. Perhaps the most important factor is that Gomez is very fast, and unless he hit the ball right at someone, the Twins probably wouldn't have had to worry about a double play (which had obviously been haunting the Twins all night). So, while I always think hitters should be allowed to hit away, tonight was particularly frustrating for me.
5.) Speaking of frustrating, how obvious was it that Joe Mauer was going to bounce into a double play to end the game? I absolutely love Joe Mauer, but he seems to go through stretches every year when he gets in front of balls and turns over his wrists, grounding out to the second baseman like clockwork. Over the last few nights, that's exactly what he's done -- so it just seemed logical that on a night when the Twins as a whole were bouncing into twin killings, Mauer would be cursed as well. (Of course I realize that there was no causation here -- it just felt karmic, that's all). Was there a better option? I think clearly yes -- Jason Kubel was available off the bench, and he has more pop than Mauer. There aren't a lot of situations when I think I would advocate going with Kubel over Mauer in a pinch hitting appearance (for instance, with a runner on second I'd go with Mauer every time), but this was one of those times. Odds are he would have been blown away by a series of K-Rod fastballs -- but I still think it would have been the right move.
Labels: Nightly Notes