Francisco Liriano is scaring me. You look at his 4-0 record, 1.14 ERA, .182 opponent batting average and very good 20 strikeouts in 23 2/3 innings, and it feels good. It feels like Liriano is back. But he's not, and we all know it. The same dominance just isn't there - he's not throwing as hard as he was before, and might not ever get all the way back (yes, we all knew this was a possibility). Even more disturbing though, are the 10 walks in those near-24 innings. Folks, our "golden boy" is having trouble finding the strike zone, and though he'll miss the Angels and continue "tuning up" vs. the whipping boys of the American League for a bit, there's going to come a time when a patient team eats him alive. A few more Liriano stats:
Anyway, despite all this, I went to bed last night with a good feeling - the Twins had won their fourth consecutive series, and six out of their past seven games. The starting pitching is looking decent and the bats lively... even the bullpen looked good yesterday. What's more, Alexi "it's a miracle" Casilla (4-for-7, RBI in two rehab starts) is back from his hand injury and will look to help spark the top of the order where Nick Punto faltered. The Twins optioned Brian Bass to Triple-A Rochester to make room. Good riddance. Casilla's at bats are much better than anything we have in the middle infield, and we have to hope he can hit the ground running this evening.
- He's thrown 401 pitches in 23 2/3 innings, which is about 17 pitches an inning - pretty inefficient. His fellow starters' numbers over the past four starts... Perkins (14.88 per inning), Slowey (16.01), Baker (16.8), Blackburn (15.4). Basically, he's giving himself the worst chance of ALL of our starters to go 6+ innings. Even Scott Baker, who's obviously struggling, has been a bit better.
- While Liriano has thrown about 61% of his pitches for strikes since "The Call-up", fellow Twins starters have faired much better - Baker (69.6%), Slowey (68.6%), Blackburn (64.3%), Perkins (69.1%).
Conversely, I woke up this morning and that feeling was all washed away... I mean, we're going to Anaheim...we're facing John Lackey tonight... we're a game back in the Central Division. Our starters have to deal with Vlad/Tex/Hunter for four games... our hitters - if there's to be a comeback win - will have to hit vs. the only guy better than our closer in Francisco Rodriguez. It's a brutal way to start a road trip, but I suppose it's best to get the worst over with first.
Game 1, tonight at 9:05 p.m. CST, will feature Scott Baker (7-3, 3.91 ERA) vs. John Lackey (10-2, 3.22 ERA), and tomorrow evening Glen Perkins (10-3, 4.17) will take on 14-game winner Joe Saunders (14-5, 3.14). Saturday's pitching probables are Nick Blackburn (9-7, 3.71) and Jon Garland (11-8, 4.33), and the series finale will feature Kevin Slowey (10-8, 3.78) and Ervin Santana (13-5, 3.39). Needless to say, we'll have our hands full with these guys, but it'll likely be the toughest test we face - outside of the White Sox series and the @Tampa Bay in September - the rest of the year.
Thought you should know that Matt Tolbert is now 1-for-6 in two rehab starts for New Britain, and is expected to rejoin the Twins when rosters expand on September 1... Last, I wanted to mention that Boof Bonser is looking much better lately. John Gordon talked about some increased velocity yesterday afternoon (hitting 95 mph), and that can only mean good things for our bullpen. He's boasting a 2.79 ERA, .250 BAA, 1.344 WHIP and 8.38 k/9 in eight August appearances.
That's enough for now...
Minor League Notes:
- 2B/3B Luke Hughes belted two hits, scored twice and stole his second base as a Rochester Red Wing last night. His batting totals (.284/.373/.540) have dropped a bit, but he's still looking good.
- Looking dominant, SP Anthony Swarzak moved to 4-0 with a 2.10 ERA/1.300 WHIP in five starts at the Triple-A level. Swarzak pitched one-run ball for six innings and struck out six batters while giving up just five hits. In addition, reliever Bobby Korecky now has nine straight scoreless innings, and racked up six saves and 9 Ks over that time period.
- Matthew Fox, a starter for Single-A Fort Myers, has been quite good over his past four starts (2-0, 1.14 ERA, 1.183 WHIP in 23 2/3 IP), including his most recent outing where he pitched seven shutout innings, striking out five.
- After getting blown up for eight earned runs in four innings on August 3, Beloit's Steven Hirschfield has been nearly untouchable. He's given up just three runs in the 21 subsequent innings, going 3-0 over that span.
- Elizabethton 1B Jonathan Waltenbury hadn't hit for much power lately, but rocketed two homers last night to bring his total to 10 on the season. He's currently on 10-game hitting streak that has his batting average back up to .329 on the year.
Thanks for reading, and have an awesome day!