Taylor's Twins Talk

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

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Nightly Notes: Game #3

Tonight was tough, wasn't it? It was just one of those nights where you knew by about the fifth inning that the Twins offense simply wasn't going to come through, and indeed that's exactly how it played out as the Twins suffered a heart-wrenching 1-0 loss. There was some good mixed in with the bad, though -- here are tonight's notes:

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.



  • At Wed Apr 02, 11:18:00 PM , Blogger neckrolls said...

    At this stage in his career, I think the chances of Gomez putting a ball in play while swinging away vs. K-Rod aren't great. He's much better at bunting, and even if he'd bounced it straight to somebody and they'd forced Tolbert at second, he would have been in position to run the bases. Putting the bunt on was the higher-percentage play - he just didn't get it done.

    With only one out in the 9th, I don't think you have to play for the long-ball just yet. Of the 3 lefties on the bench, Mauer has the best career OBP, and therefore the best chance of sustaining that rally and moving Tolbert into scoring position - he just didn't get it done. Had he had the chance, I wonder if Gardy would have sent Kubel up instead of Cuddyer - I would have given that serious consideration.

    Oh well, go get 'em, Slowey!

  • At Wed Apr 02, 11:52:00 PM , Blogger JST said...

    I think my Kubel over Mauer argument was born out of the heat of the moment, although I think it's at least worth thinking about. I fully stand by the Gomez-shouldn't-have-been-bunting argument, however. Of course, had anybody else been able to hit throughout the night, it wouldn't have mattered. The best thing to do is just not to be trailing by a run late!


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