Taylor's Twins Talk

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

Friday, August 29, 2008

Nightly Notes: Game #135

As tough as the going has been at times on this monster road trip, the Twins find themselves tonight once again just a half game behind the White Sox in the battle for the AL Central. With just five games left on the trip, the Twins have to be pleased with how things have gone, even though there has been some heartbreak and some missed opportunities. Here are some notes from tonight's game:

1.) Kevin Slowey has been mostly fantastic for the month of August. He struggled a bit in his first outing of the month, going 6 innings and allowing 5 runs against the Indians on August 2. Since then, however, he's allowed just 1 or 2 earned runs in each of his five starts, and has gone at least 6 innings in all but one of those starts. He also has games in which he struck out 10 batters (tonight) and 12 batters (again against Oakland, on August 19). I would like to see him start to get through 7 innings more often, but I am more than pleased with his performance this year, and especially the recent strong run.

2.) It was huge for Craig Breslow to get through the final three innings of the night without giving up so much as a hit to the A's. The last thing the Twins needed in a game that they were in clear control of was to have a bullpen meltdown. Breslow now has a 2.37 ERA on the season, and I say again that I'm very glad the Twins picked him up to replace Juan Rincon.

3.) I don't know that offensive success on a night like tonight is all that notable -- it was pretty clear that the A's pitching was just horrid. Offensive failure, on the other hand, IS particularly notable -- and there's only one player who failed utterly at the plate tonight. Of course, it would have to be Nick Punto -- who was once again moved into the second spot in the lineup after some recent success. Punto proceeded to go 0-for-6, while Alexi Casilla went 3-for-5 in the 8 hole. Punto also left 6 men on base. The move didn't work out, but Gardy was on to something when he made the move -- Punto had been on something of a tear. On August 11, he was hitting .256 and the criticism of him playing virtually every day was at its height. After yesterday's game, Punto was hitting .293 -- nearly a 40 point increase in a span of a little over 2 weeks. I'm guessing, though, that an 0-for-6 on a night when the ball seemed to be on a tee will be enough to get Gardy to move him back to #8 tomorrow.

4.) I'm hoping for a brilliant big league debut from Michael Bowden for the Red Sox tomorrow night against the White Sox. Chi-town will be throwing Mark Buehrle at Boston, so the rookie will probably need an extremely solid start to beat the pale hose. On the plus side, Bowden has been great in the minors this year -- he posted a 2.33 ERA in 104 innings at AA before being promoted to AAA, where he also pitched will. I also think that guys who are debuting often have a fair amount of success because the opposition doesn't really know what to expect. If Bowden can deliver tomorrow, the Twins will have a chance to move into first behind The Franchise.

5.) I will be in college football heaven tomorrow despite the relative lack of big games. Hey, the opening weekend is opening weekend even if it features games like Oklahoma-Chattanooga and Villanova-West Virginia. I don't expect any of the top 25 to lose tomorrow (except, obviously, in the two cases where two top 25 teams square off), but I think #25 Pitt needs to be very careful against Bowling Green and #11 Texas should probably not look too far ahead Florida Atlantic. Basically, I'm betting the chalk tomorrow -- every top 25 favorite should win, including #6 Missouri over #20 Illinois and #9 Clemson over #24 Alabama.

6.) This is not a political blog, so I'm not going to express any political positions (you can see me do that on Marty's blog from time to time, but not here). I will say, however, that I was fascinated by John McCain's selection of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin to be his running mate today. What I find particularly interesting is that both major candidates selected running mates who cut against a major theme -- Obama's selection of Joe Biden cuts against his argument for "Change," while McCain's selection of Palin cuts against his argument for "Experience" (which of course is usually framed against Obama's "lack of experience"). All I know is I can't wait for election day -- I follow it with at least as much enthusiasm as I follow sports, and election day in a presidential election year is probably more exciting to me than any given sporting event.

7.) I hope to post my thoughts on September callups tomorrow. If for some reason I don't get around to that, I'll do so on Sunday. I also intend to post a nightly notes column after tomorrow nights game, and after Sunday's game as well. Also, I intend to appear on Marty's radiocast/podcast on Sunday night at 8 PM Central, so I invite you all to listen live if you get a chance. Busy weekend!

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