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In his last start, Scott Baker gave up five runs on eight hits (including two HR) in just five innings against the lowly Royals. He had given up three or more runs in his past three starts, and in five of his last six and eight of his last ten. The Rockies are actually a good team (over .500) with a solid offense, so what were the odds that Baker would put together his best start of the season? Well, that is exactly what happened.
Baker was almost impressive on the mound as KFAN’s Paul Allen was roaming the outfield grass at Target Field following the game. Speaking of PA, I will not be on KFAN at 9:20 on Thursday. I got bumped. Joe Mauer will be taking my 9:20 time slot. I got bumped by Joe Mauer. How cool is that?! Instead, I will be live on air with the svelte, swift-footed, rocket-armed Mr. Allen at 10:20. If you are in your car, be sure to listen in to KFAN (am1130) or one of their outstate affiliates, or listen live on KFAN.com. (In fact, you should try to catch that Mauer interview. He is a fountain of information!
Anyway, back to the impressive start of Timothy Scott Baker… He threw seven shutout innings and gave up just two hits, both singles. He walked just one batter, and struck out an impressive 12 batters. He was able to reduce his bloated ERA of 4.81 to a still-way-too-high.
I was getting a little nervous when, with just one out in the top of the 6th, Baker surpassed the 90 pitch count. I feared that another long plate appearance or two and he would not pitch in the seventh inning. Fortunately, he got the inning’s third out on one pitch. With just 95 pitches through six, he was able to pitch the seventh as well and ended the night with 108 pitches. Incredibly, 82 of those pitches were strikes!
Matt Guerrier came in with a 2-0 lead in the 8th and gave up a hit before hitting a batter. After a sacrifice bunt, Jose Mijares came into the game to face the underappreciated Carlos Gonzalez. After Joe Mauer inexplicably could not catch a fastball just off the outside corner which, coupled with his inability to handle the bounce off the wall, allowed the lead runner to score. But that’s when Jose Mijares showed Twins fans a little something, reminding us of how good he can be. He got Gonzalez to pop up to 3B, and then he struck out Todd Helton to end that threat and maintain the 2-1 lead. I loved that Mijares showed some excitement after the strikeout and sometimes wish that more pitchers would do that.
And something strange happened for me in the 9th inning. For the first time this year, I wasn’t even a little bit nervous when Jon Rauch came in for the 9th inning. He has again been very good of late. His pitches are all very sharp. And he came through with his 17th save in 19 opportunities.
The team managed just two runs on eight hits in the game. Although the middle of the order has been struggling of late, the team has managed some wins with the help of the other guys. Over the course of 162 games, even the All Star caliber players won’t play at an All-Star level every day. That’s where the other guys matter. Last night, it was the #8 and #9 hitters in the game.
Danny Valencia got the scoring started with an RBI single, his first RBI of the year. Later in the game, he drilled a double to the right centerfield gap for his first extra-base hit of the year and of his career. Valencia has looked much more comfortable at the plate of late and has been hitting the ball much more crisp including hitting the ball the other way. Nick Punto was in the 9th spot in the order. He singled in the second run of the game, one of his two hits.
A Dominican Dandy! Alright, all anyone wants to talk about is today’s terrific pitching matchup between a couple of good friends from the Dominican Republic. I almost hate to say too much. I mean, it’s two terrific pitchers with other-wordly numbers and stuff. I’d love to see a couple of no-hitters last late into the game, but baseball is such a fun and wonderful game that it’s also possible it’ll be a 13-11 game in which neither starter gets out of the 3rd inning. So, just sit back and enjoy it… and just look at these numbers:
- Francisco Liriano – (6-3, 2.90 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, .248 BAA, 80.2 IP, 21 BB, 87 K)
- Ubaldo Jimenez – (12-1, 1.16 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, .180 BAA, 93.1 IP, 34 BB, 84 K)
Ubaldo! has been in his own world through the season’s first ten weeks. Francisco Liriano has pitched at a very high, All-Star level. But what about in their previous two starts?
- Francisco Liriano (1-0, 1.20 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, 15 IP, 2 BB, 21 K)
- Ubaldo Jimenez (2-0, 3.46 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 13 IP, 8 BB, 14 K)
Yes, I just proved what you can do with statistics. You can manipulate them to look however you want, and in the end, they mean very little when it comes to what will happen in the game today.
But just because we don’t get matchups like this terribly often, I might as well throw a few thoughts out:
- Francisco Liriano has to stay calm and cool. Early in the game, you’ll be able to tell if he is trying to overthrow. His fastball will be up and away to right-handed batters. If that happens, he has to quickly correct that. He also needs to use all three of his pitches, including that changeup. Obviously those of you who have watched Liriano in the past know that this is nothing new. In fact, it’s pitching 101.
- How can the Twins hitters succeed against Ubaldo!? As you can see from the numbers, he can walk more batters than he would want. Considering he can throw 98 mph fastballs throughout an entire game, he doesn’t get as many strikeouts as you would think. The key for the Twins success will be to take a lot of pitches, to make Jimenez throw strikes, not to swing outside the strike zone. The goal should be to have him reach the 100 pitch count by the fifth or sixth inning to get him out of the game.
- The other thing is that the Twins have to go with their A lineup, and I think they will. Matchups like this don’t come around a lot, and hopefully all of the starters will want the opportunity to try to hit against Jimenez. I would hope that the lineup will contain the regulars. I’m also realistic that Joe Mauer will not bat second. So, hopefully the lineup will be:
- Span CF, Punto SS, Mauer C, Morneau 1B, Young LF, Kubel RF, Thome DH, Valencia 3B, Tolbert 2B.
- Yes, if there were ever a day to give Michael Cuddyer off, this would be it. I wouldn’t mind him playing some 2B either, except with Liriano pitching and getting a lot of ground balls, I’d want Tolbert out there. I’d play Young over Cuddyer because of Young’s aggressiveness, which is counter what I was writing about being patient. First, Young is playing great (assuming his wrist is alright).
There you go. Now, don’t overanalyze today. Just enjoy the game!! It should be fun! Get your thoughts and projections here.
Here is a quick glance at what happened on Wednesday in the Twins minor league system:
SethSpeaks Wednesday Minor League Hitter of the Day – Joe Benson – New Britain Rockcats
SethSpeaks Wednesday Minor League Pitcher of the Day – Brad Stillings – Beloit Snappers
Red Wings Report
Wednesday – Rochester – No Games Scheduled in the International League.
New Britain Notes
Wednesday – Game 1 – New Britain 1, Harrisburg 4 – Tyler Robertson pitched well with the exception of a couple of long balls. The lefty gave up three runs on seven hits (two HR) and a walk. Loek Van Mil gave up an unearned run on two hits in the 7th inning. Chris Parmelee went 2-4.
Wednesday – Game 2 – New Britain 6, Harrisburg 7 – Kyle Gibson was roughed up for the third straight start. In this one, he went four innings and gave up seven runs on ten hits. He walked two and struck out two. Cole DeVries and Tony Davis each pitched a scoreless inning. Then Matt Williams came in and gave up four runs on three hits and two walks in 0.2 innings before Michael Allen got the final out. Joe Benson was 1-4 in the first game, and in this game, he went 3-4 with his fifth AA double and his sixth AA home run. Jair Fernandez went 2-3. Juan Portes was 1-2 with his eighth double and four RBI.
Wednesday – Ft. Myers 0, Palm Beach 0 – These two teams played five innings, but neither team scored, so the game was suspended and will be finished tomorrow.
Wednesday – Beloit 11, Cedar Rapids 2 – For the third straight game, the Snappers topped the Kernels in Midwest League play. Brad Stillings got the start and gave up just one run on three hits in 5.1 innings. He walked four and struck out three. Peter Kennelly gave up a run on three hits in 1.2 innings. Matt Tone logged two scoreless innings. But this game was about the offense. Anderson Hidalgo continues to rake. He went 3-4 with a walk and his second home run. Josmil Pinto was 3-4 with a walk and his 11th double. Danny Rams hit his 16th double and his sixth home run in five at bats. Michael Gonzales hit his fourth and fifth doubles. Aaron Hicks went 1-2 with three walks.
Any thoughts of the Twins or the minor league system? Feel free to leave your questions and comments here.