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The Twins improved to 13-5 on Saturday night with some extra work despite a poor starting pitching effort, an early deficit and a blown save.
Nick Blackburn had his start pushed back a day due to some elbow soreness. When he struggled early in the game, the easy response was to think that he was hurt. The harder reality was that he just wasn’t very good. The first two innings, not only was the ball up, but he had no offspeed pitch and his fastball was not really moving. That could also be from being a little too strong. By the third inning, the fastball was moving a little more. Some thought that Blackburn should have been removed in the second inning. And had it been any worse, I would not have disagreed. But as long as he was healthy and not aggravating an injury, you have to stick with him. There have been plenty of examples of a starter giving up some early runs and still getting the team through several more innings. Although not good, by Blackburn getting into the fifth inning, that saved at least one or two pitchers from being overextended. Ron Mahay got three outs. Then Pat Neshek made his first appearance in ten games, and he was lights out for two batters. Jesse Crain looked strong again for four outs, and Brian Duensing got the final two outs of the 8th inning. Matt Guerrier threw two shutout innings. Jon Rauch finally blew a save in the 11th inning, but he worked out of major issues that inning to keep the game going. The Twins got two in the top of the 12th and Rauch stayed in the ball game and got the final three outs.
The other thing to remember, when the Twins get down 4-0 early, is that this team scores a ton of runs. The thought that they need to score six or seven runs to win against the Royals should not be considered unachievable. That is especially true thanks to the excellent hitting of the Twins 3-4-5 hitters. That was true in this game as well. Joe Mauer went 5-6 with a sacrifice fly. He had a double and a triple. Justin Morneau had a hustle double that led to a couple of runs, and then late in the game, his two-run homer tied the game in the 7th inning. He also walked two more times and now had 19 walks with just 11 strikeouts. Michael Cuddyer went 2-5 as well, with a walk and a sacrifice fly in the 11th inning that gave the Twins their first lead of the game. Denard Span was 0-6 before his infield in, pop up that landed in shallow center field for the game-winning RBI. Orlando Hudson was just 1-7. Jason Kubel’s struggles continue. JJ Hardy was 0-5 and it is becoming clear that he still has not turned his offensive struggles around. In other words, this team is 13-5 (tied with Tampa Bay for best record in baseball) and could be playing a lot better. They could be better, and that is scary and exciting.
Another guy that deserves a ton of credit is Delmon Young He is a completely different player in 2010 than we have seen from him the last two years. The loss of 30 pounds is great, and showed tremendous commitment. Just as important seems to be the smile on his face. He truly seems to be having a great time with this team and teammates. His defense still is not exactly smooth, but his increased speed is noticeable in improved range. His arm is still tremendous. But to see him nearly beat out a ground ball to the left side of the infield? To see him nearly beat a force out play at 2B? Delmon Young’s effort level has never been this high. And yeah, he’s barely hitting .220, but we have all seen that he has been robbed of at least six of seven line drive extra base hits. Yes, others can say that too, and it is part of the game, but he is hitting the ball better and more authoritatively than ever. He is pulling the ball. He is taking extra bases. Who knows what the numbers will say at the end of the day, but at least three weeks into the season, I am very optimistic.
For a Sunday afternoon game, I think that Joe Mauer needs to not catch. I would like to see him DH, but I think Jim Thome needs to be in the lineup too. I also think that it would be good to get Luke Hughes a start at 2B. Jason Kubel should probably get a day off. But we shall see.
Tonight at 9:00 p.m., there will be a new episode of the SethSpeaks.net Weekly Minnesota Twins Podcast, complete with a few guests. We’ll talk Twins, AL Central, minor leagues and much more.
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SethSpeaks Saturday Minor League Hitter of the Day – Aaron Hicks – Beloit Snappers
SethSpeaks Saturday Minor League Pitcher of the Day – Dan Osterbrock – Beloit Snappers
Red Wings Report
Saturday – Rochester 3, Syracuse 6 – Matt Macri came off the Disabled List, and in his first game back, he had a great day. He played left field and went 2-3 with two walks and a double. Trevor Plouffe his now hitting .317 after going 3-5. Jason Repko and Danny Valencia each had two hits. However, thanks to another bad start from Glen Perkins. The lefty went just 3.2 innings and gave up five runs on six hits. He walked three and struck out four. Kyle Waldrop came in and gave up just one hit over the next 2.1 innings. Rob Delaney gave up a solo home run in the seventh inning, but struck out two. Anthony Slama pitched a perfect ninth inning.
New Britain Notes
Saturday – New Britain 5, Harrisburg 15 – Carlos Gutierrez told me on Friday night that his arm was feeling great. On Saturday night, he had a rough start. In the first inning, he gave up seven runs on six hits and a walk. Yet, he ended up going four innings. In total, he allowed eight runs on ten hits. He walked one, hit one and struck out three. Joe Testa then gave up three runs (1 earned) on four hits and two walks in two innings. He struck out four. Henry Arias gave up four runs on five hits and a walk in 1.2 innings. Cole Devries came in and got the final four outs, three on strikeouts. Ben Revere went 2-3 with two walks. Mark Dolenc went 2-4 with two RBI.
Saturday – Ft. Myers 2, Palm Beach 5 – Yangervis Solarte just continues to hit. In this game, he went 3-4 with his fourth double. Chris Herrmann hit his fifth double. But the Miracle had just five hits in the game. Kyle Gibson started. The righty went the first five innings. He gave up one run on four hits. He walked three and struck out four. Tony Davis went the next 1.1 innings. He gave up a run on one hit and three walks. Michael Allen then pitched 1.2 scoreless innings, issuing two walks and striking out three. Billy Bullock entered a tie game in the ninth, but he gave up three runs on two hits and two walks in the inning to take the loss.
Saturday – Beloit 7, Wisconsin 5 – Aaron Hicks is on a tear. He went 4-5 with a walk and his second home run in this game. Since starting the season 1-31 (.032), he has gone 14-25 (.480) and is now hitting .268. It has been a slow start for Josmil Pinto this year, but in this game, he was 4-5 with two doubles. Tobias Streich went 2-4 with his second double. Angel Morales hit his third home run. James Beresford went 2-5, including the game-winning RBI. Dan Osterbrock had a very good start. In seven innings, he gave up two runs on five hits. He walked one and struck out eight. He recorded nine groundouts to just one fly out. Peter Kennelly got just two outs and gave up three runs on two hits and a walk. Steve Blevins issued two walks and gave up a hit and got just two outs in a blown save. But he got the win thanks to Beresford and the offense, and Edgar Ibarra got the final two outs for the save.
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