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It’s time for another Nine Innings blog here at SethSpeaks.net. I think there are enough topics. Sure, the first inning is something that I posted last night already, but the rest of it will be new to you. I’d be curious your thoughts on the Nine Innings concept and if it is something you’d like to see continued.
1st Inning – Red Wings Combine for No-Hitter
Yesterday the talk was about getting Trevor Plouffe back to the Twins from Rochester. Tonight, there was another great story in the Red Wings 7-0 win over the division-leading Lehigh Valley IronPigs. Not only did four pitchers combine for a shutout, four pitchers combined for a no-hitter.
Jeff Manship made his first appearance May 15. He started and threw four no-hit innings. He walked two and struck out four. Jake Stevens, who was just called up today from New Britain when Anthony Slama was put on the Disabled List, threw the next three no-hit innings. Kyle Waldrop pitched the 8th, and Jim Hoey pitched the 9th frame to complete the no-hitter. With an out in the 9th, Toby Gardenhire ranged far to his right, dove, and came up firing to get Pete Orr at first base.
It was the 21st no-hitter in Red Wings history. The first, according to play-by-play man Josh Whetzel came exactly 123 years ago today, July 6, 1888.
Offensively, Dustin Martin led the way by going 2-3 with his 14th and 15th doubles. Brandon Roberts was 2-4. Delmon Young was 1-4 with a double.
Trevor Plouffe, after Ron Gardenhire called manager Tom Nieto to make it happen, started at 1B where he played the first eight innings. In the ninth inning, Plouffe went out to right field, switching spots with Jeff Bailey.
It’s been another frustrating year for the Red Wings and their fans, but this is a pretty exciting event. Congratulations to all involved, but especially to Jeff Manship on his return and to all of those pitchers!
2nd Inning – Minor League Notes and Scores
Along with that exciting Red Wings game, here is a quick update on the goings on through the rest of the Twins farm system with a reminder that at 10:00 central time tonight, you can catch Travis Aune and I for another episode of Twins Minor League Weekly.
The New Britain Rock Cats and New Hampshire got through two complete innings with no score. Dennys Suarex threw two scoreless innings. The Rock Cats had no hits, but they did score a run in the top of the 3rd before the rains came. The game was suspended and the teams will play a double header tomorrow.
Ft. Myers topped St. Lucie 3-2 in 11 innings. Jhon Garcia started and gave up just one run on six hits and two walks in six innings. He struck out three. Matt Schuld came on and gave up just one run over the next four innings. He got the win, and Matt Hauser came in with a runner on in the 11th and finished the game for his second save. Derek McCallum went 2-4. Nick Romero hit his third triple. Jhonathan Goncalves hit his 12th double. Jake Mauer was ejected in the 7th inning.
By the way, be sure to check out the most recent episode of Miracle Insider by Alex Margulies and Bryce Zimmerman. They have a fun interview with Tom Stuifbergen.
Beloit dropped a 3-2 decision to Peoria. Michael Gonzales provided the offense. He was 2-4 with his 12th home run and 58th RBI. AJ Achter started and gave up one run on four hits and a walk in six innings. He struck out five. Jose Gonzales took the loss. He gave up two runs on three hits in his two innings.
Todd Van Steensel put together his best start of the year and Elizabethton defeated Kingsport 9-3. Van Steensel threw five shutout innings. He gave up four hits, walked one and struck out two. Steven Evans pitched a scoreless frame. Garrett Jewell gavec up three runs (1 earned) on three hits and a walk and recorded two outs. Nick Alloway got the next four batters out. Steven Gruver pitched a perfect ninth. Miguel Sano led the offense. He went 3-5 with his fifth double and second triple. (He also committed his 11th error.) Nick Lockwood went 2-5 with his fifth double. Jairo Rodriguez went 2-3, was hit by a pitch twice, and stole a base.
The GCL Twins lost 5-3 to the GCL Orioles. Angel Mata went the first three innings and gave up two runs (1 earned) on four hits. He walked one and struck out three. Tyler Herr gave up three runs (2 earned) on five hits and a walk in 2.1 innings. He struck out three. Nick Cicio struck out two in 1.2 scoreless innings.
3rd Inning – Twins Take Two of Three from Tampa
The Tampa Bay Rays have the third best record in the AL East, and the third best record in the American League. And the Twins won the series two games to one. Yes, the Wednesday afternoon 12-5 loss was a frustrating one because the Twins bullpen imploded in the 8th and 9th innings after the Twins came back three times to tie the game at five after seven innings. But it should be no more frustrating than if they had played great and lost 6-5. The big picture remains to win series, especially at home.
On Monday afternoon, it was all about Brian Duensing in the team’s 7-0 win. Duensing threw his second career complete game shutout to top All Star David Price. Tsuyoshi Nishioka had his biggest hit as a Twins player to date. He broke the game open with a bases-loaded two-run double. Danny Valencia went 3-4 with a home run and the final dagger, a three-run home run.
On Tuesday night, the Twins won a tight one, by a 3-2 margin. In this game, it was about All-Star Michael Cuddyer and the bullpen. Scott Baker continued his dominance at Target Field with five scoreless innings before he left with a tender elbow. Michael Cuddyer grounded out to score the Twins first run, but he also grounded a single up the middle to drive in the second and third runs. After Baker left, Phil Dumatrait got five outs. Alex Burnett got the Twins out of the 7th inning. Joe Nathan looked tremendous again in the 8th. Matt Capps didn’t complete a save opportunity for the third straight time. Thankfully it was the second straight time that Gardy went to Glen Perkins to face a tough lefty, and for the second straight time, Perkins got the job done and recorded the save.
And again, on Wednesday afternoon, after Michael Cuddyer hit his 13th home run to tie the game at five after seven innings, Alex Burnett gave up four runs in the eighth and Phil Dumatrait gave up three more in the 9th for the final 12-5 score. Nishioka went 3-3 with a walk in the game. But Franky-ly, when your starter gives up five runs on six hits, four walks and three hit batters and doesn’t get through five innings, winnings isn’t too likely.
But in the end, the Twins won six of nine games on this home stand, and won all three series. That is a good thing, and a successful home stand.
4th Inning – AL Central Standings and Schedule
Cleveland Indians 46-39
Detroit Tigers 46-42 1.5
Chicago White Sox 43-45 4.5
Minnesota Twins 38-47 8.0
Kansas City Royals 36-51 11.0
Again, it remains far too early in the season to be scoreboard watching or to worry about the standings. That said, the All Star game is next Tuesday, and the July trade deadline is just three weeks away. I don’t think that the Twins need to determine now whether they will be Buyers or Sellers. However, The next 16 games for the Twins are all in the AL Central. It starts with four games against the White Sox in Chicago. Then, following the All Star break, the Twins will play the next 11 games at Target Field. It will be four against the Royals, three against Cleveland and four against the Tigers. The Twins will then play four games in Texas and then three games in Oakland, the third game on July 31, the trade deadline. However, following those 16 games against the AL Central, we may know a lot more about what the Twins should do.
5th Inning – Twins and White Sox for Four in Chi-Town
The Twins have had a lot of success in recent years, both at home and on the road. It would be great for the Twins to end the first half on a nice role. On Thursday, we expect to see the big league debut of Joe Mauer at first base. That should be entertaining. Who will start in Scott Baker’s place on Sunday? I would assume Anthony Swarzak will and that the two innings he pitched on Wednesday should not affect that decision. On Thursday, we will get to see short-term Twins pitcher Phil Humber who has been incredible for the White Sox this year after being really terrible for the Royals last year and the Twins the year before, and the Mets the year before. It has been one of the better stories of the year. Good for him. Here are the pitching matchups for the four game series (W-L, ERA, WHIP, Opp BA):
- Thursday night – 7:10 p.m. – Carl Pavano (5-6, 4.19, 1.30, .280) vs. Phil Humber (8-4, 2.69, 0.98, .201)
- Friday night – 7:10 p.m. – Nick Blackburn (6-6, 4.02, 1.41, .286) vs. Gavin Floyd (6-8, 4.17, 1.20, .250)
- Saturday afternoon – 3:10 p.m. – Brian Duensing (6-7, 4.25, 1.46, .280) vs. Mark Buehrle (6-5, 3.66, 1.30, .278)
- Sunday afternoon – 1:10 p.m. – Anthony Swarzak (1-2, 3.94, 1.34, .273) vs. Jake Peavy (4-2, 4.83, 1.11, .236)
6th Inning – The Twins Closer?
As those who have read this website for years, I am not a big fan of the Closer’s role, or the Save statistic, and really think that the Hold state can be overrated as well. I understand, someone has to have the backbone to get the final three outs of a game without the other team scoring the tying or the go-ahead run. Personally, I believe in the concept of Closer-by-committee. I think it makes much more sense to make pitching decisions based on matchups rather than by inning. The closer role is the worst case of that. Think about it. How many times has the closer been warming up with his team holding a two or three run lead? If the team scores and goes ahead by four runs, another pitcher warms up. The average closer is successful on about 80% of save opportunities. Mariano Rivera has been a given for about 15 years. How many other closers in baseball can be counted on from year to year. Papelbon, Rodriguez, Valverde, Cordero. These closers have all had really good runs, and some really poor stretches. Joe Nathan was as much of a given as anyone until he got hurt. Joakim Soria has been tremendous the last few years, but even he temporarily lost his closer’s role earlier this season.
Closers, by their very nature, are put into situations where they are either successful, or the team usually loses. There is stress in that. A pitcher has to be able to handle that. Matt Capps has been an adequate, average closer for more of the last five seasons. He has failed in his last three save opportunities. Before that, he did not allow a run in 11 appearances and looked very good. Joe Nathan has really looked good with his fastball and slider since his return from the DL a little more than a week ago. Glen Perkins has been tremendous all year and he continued that run since his return from the DL.
So, who should be the Twins closer? My first response is that I don’t really care. First things first, I don’t want it to be Glen Perkins? Why? Because I think that he is the team’s best relief pitcher. I don’t want him to be wasted in that glorified ninth inning role. I want him coming into the potentially game-changing situation in the 7th, 8th, or 9th inning. Last year, Jesse Crain was incredible in that role. While the closer comes in generally with the bases empty and a one, two or even three run lead, Crain (and now Perkins) has come in with runners on and a crucial point. Crain came through well last year, and Perkins has done the job incredibly this year.
Joe Nathan could take over the job again, but although he has looked good, it is hard to believe that he could pitch effectively two or three games in a row. I think if he can get there, that will be huge for the Twins.
Matt Capps has done the job most of the time, but he is struggling right now. What he needs is to get another opportunity and despite any struggles, get that 27th out. He has done the job and he can do the job. And frankly, will we trust him any more, or feel more confident, that he will get the job done in the 7th or 8th innings?
So, I guess I would have a situation where Nathan is the closer, but Capps gets that role if Nathan did the day before. And, Glen Perkins should face tough lefties in the ninth inning and come into crucial situations in the 7th or 8th inning.
7th Inning – Tom Kelly in the Booth!
Bert Blyleven is taking an extended All-Star break. On Wednesday, Tom Kelly joined Dick, errr… Richard, Bremer in the Twins TV telecast. I was able to listen for about three innings or so, and I have to say that I was impressed. I learned more from Tom Kelly in those innings than I have learned from Blyleven over the last several years. I’m sure he can’t say everything that he would know about players, but he knows a lot more than Blyleven. It was interesting to hear him talk about the struggles that Joe Mauer could have at first base. He said that it won’t be about catching the ball at 1B, but it will be more about understanding situational play like bunt plays or cut-off situations. It was interesting to hear him talk about the growth process of Danny Valencia, and also about Michael Cuddyer who is the only player remaining from when Kelly managed.
I am eagerly anticipating listening to Kelly throughout the next four games. No, I don’t think that he would be good as the everyday guy. He may not be good for the average fan who watches the Twins game. Let’s face it, if you’re reading this and peruse Twins blogs daily, you’re probably not the average Twins fan that watches Twins games. The average fan will listen to Blyleven’s old jokes and think it’s funny and any time he says anything (over and over) about pitching or team chemistry, etc., they enjoy it. I don’t mind listening at times, but I certainly don’t listen to Blyleven to learn anything. With Tom Kelly, I really felt like I was learning something and gaining just a little bit of inside information.
8th Inning – Jeter Approaches 3,000 Hits
Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter sits at 2,997 career hits entering games on Thursday. The team will head back to the Bronx for games this weekend. It is likely that Jeter will achieve the impressive career statistic at home in front of the Yankees fans, which is quite appropriate.
When he achieves the 3,000 hit milestone, he will become the 28th player in Major League Baseball history to do so. The most recent member of the exclusive club was Craig Biggio who got a single on June 28, 2007. Before that, it was Rafael Palmiero in July of 2005. Before that, Rickey Henderson in 2001. The last player to get his 3,000th hit in a Twins uniform was Paul Molitor in September of 1996 when he became the only player to hit a triple for his 3,000th hit. Exactly three years later, September 16, 1993, Dave Winfield got his 3,000th hit.
Derek Jeter is the Brett Favre of MLB. The media loves him and maybe over-hypes him. He can do no wrong. Nicknames like “Captain Clutch” may not be appropriate at all times. Sure, he may not have earned those Gold Gloves. Maybe he hasn’t been an “All Star” the last two years (his 36 and 37 year old years).
But take a step back. In my mind, when considering his position, Derek Jeter is as close to an inner-circle Hall of Famer as we have seen. Maybe not in the Babe Ruth category. Maybe not in the Willie Mays or Hank Aaron category, but he is elite.
He is a career .312/.383/.449 hitter. He’s a middle infielder so I’m not looking for huge power numbers, and yet he has 236 career home runs. He is a batting average and on-base percentage guy. And then, you can say that he’s played for the Yankees, but he has been a winner, and he has been the clear leader of that winner. I’m amazed by his durability. Since his first full big league season in 1996, he has had less than 650 plate appearances just once, and that was 2003 when he had 542 plate appearances. He has had one year in which he hit less than .290, and that was last year, his 36 year old season when he hit .270. He has seven top ten MVP finishes, has finished top three times and many believe he should have won at least one of those. He has stolen bases. He walks. He’s been terrific as a top of the lineup hitter. Honestly, there is nothing to not like about Jeter!
Maybe it’ll be 20 years down the line, but at some point, people outside of New York have to take a step back and realize just how good Jeter has been.
9th Inning – Rain Delay
Alright, for the second straight week, you’ll only get through eight innings, but there will be another blog post later today that you will want to consider. A discussion with KFAN’s Joe Nelson has given me an idea for a blog posting.
I will be on the Pale and Hosed podcast, a White Sox podcast, at about 9:30. I’ll provide more details when I can. Then at 10:00, Travis Aune and I will be co-hosting Twins Minor League Weekly.
That’s it for now. Thanks for reading! As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below.