Taylor's Twins Talk

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

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Nightly Notes: Game #153

Never have I been happier to have to rewrite my intro than I was tonight. Instead of talking about the White Sox running out the clock on what was becoming a race to the bottom for the AL Central, I can instead talk about how the Twins have renewed life after getting a big comeback win over the Rays tonight to get to 1.5 games back of the White Sox. Here are some notes:

1.) I have not laughed harder at something baseball related this season than I did when Adam Everett pulled back his bunt and drove Trevor Miller's pitch into the left field corner for an RBI double. My heart was in my throat when I saw him pull the bat back, but the end result can't be argued with! As for the decision to pinch hit Everett for Kubel, I was actually fine with it (under the assumption that he was going to sacrifice -- had I known he was going to actually swing away I would have had a very different reaction, but since it worked out fine I can't be too upset). While I normally don't like giving up outs to advance runners, in this situation it made sense -- the team could expect to advance two runners, putting both in scoring position, while also avoiding the most likely kinds of double plays.

2.) The starting pitching has been horrendous of late, and the inability to get outs has spread through virtually the entire rotation. Glen Perkins has been amongst the hardest hit. Tonight's 2/3 of an inning disaster was just the worst of what has been a relatively rough months for Perkins -- he went just 3 innings in his last start, and went just 5.2 and 5 innings in his other two September starts. This follows an August in which he was solid -- he gave up 4 runs a few times, but made it at least 6 innings in every start and went 4-0 on the month. I really do have faith in this group of starters (and I can't wait to see them in action next year), but something is obviously wrong. I'm inclined to think it's just a bunch of young guys getting a little tight in the middle of a pennant race. I'm also inclined not to blame Gardy or Rick Anderson. Good thing those two aren't coaching in Milwaukee -- they probably would have been fired by now.

3.) Some nights, you just can't win against a particular player. Evan Longoria obviously owned the Twins tonight. I didn't get a good look at most of the pitches that led to the Longoria homers, although the 1st inning shot off of Glen Perkins didn't look like a terrible pitch -- fastball in and low. It might have drifted a bit into his zone, but it wasn't as egregious as, say, the fastball that Eddie Guardado threw to Grady Sizemore a couple of nights ago. I'll say one thing, though -- if the Twins have been using a particular strategy for facing Longoria, it certainly seems like its time to change it!

4.) Great job by Philip Humber tonight to go 5.1 innings when the Twins really needed it. He gave up 2 runs in that span, but I'd take a 5+ inning, 2 run performance from a starter -- and it's even more welcome from a long reliever. Remember, Humber will be out of options next year, and the Twins will almost certainly want him to win a job in Spring Training to avoid losing him. Tonight's performance may go a long way to demonstrating his ability to nail down a long relief role next year, since you have to assume the rotation is closed to him (barring the kind of injury that doesn't bear thinking about). One of the interesting questions over the winter and into the spring will be whether Humber, Bonser, both or neither will end up in the long relief role next season. I'd say Humber officially launched his bid tonight.

5.) For that matter, the entire bullpen deserves kudos. For much of the season, the Twins have been either losing because of or winning in spite of the bullpen. Tonight, the bullpen was a vital contributor to the victory (even Eddie Guardado!). It was also nice to see Joe Nathan come in and get a very solid save, after some dubious performances of late.

6.) Is it just me, or do you also cringe every time you see Matt Tolbert field a ball at third just as he fires across the field? It certainly seems like he could use some work on the accuracy of his throws.

7.) Nightly Milwaukee watch -- the Brewers lost tonight, and the Mets and Phillies are both winning as I write this. Yep, Ned Yost sure was the problem with that ball club.

8.) I'm loving the way the CU Buffs are handling West Virginia tonight heading to the half. While WVU doesn't appear to be as good as a lot of people (including me) thought they would be coming into the season, this would still be a big win for CU. They aren't good enough to win the Big 12, but they could do some damage to the mid-level and below squads in the conference. With Minnesota at 3-0 and the Buffs trying to go 3-0, I feel a little bit like the college football universe is out of balance. Of course, as soon as conference play begins in earnest in a couple of weekends, that feeling will probably go away pretty quickly!



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