Monday, July 27, 2009

Bookend victories

Ever gotten a Christmas present you really didn't want? A couple of years ago, I got a zip-up sweater from my parents that wasn't my favorite. I held it up and muttered "huh...". Without saying another word, everyone knew that A) I didn't like it and B) I was too courteous to say so. And they haven't let me live it down, either. But hey, the wrapping paper was nice, and it's the "thought" that counts, right?

Much like that scenario, the Twins wrapped up their 10-game road trip with a win Sunday, leaving most fans with a nice taste in their mouths despite the 4-6 west coast swing. They wrapped up that turd of a trip with wins, but there's the issue of the proverbial sweater… the nuts and bolts of their journey. And it was an ugly one, where the pitching was horrid, for the most part. Interestingly enough, Anthony Swarzak emerged unscathed, with a 1.98 ERA in 13-2/3 innings in his two starts. But there weren't many bright spots outside of him. Most disappointing was the week-long collapse of our bullpen.

Joe Nathan saved the first three wins of the trip before blowing Friday's game. Jesse Crain got beat down on Friday in extra innings. R. A. Dickey gave up at least one run in each of his past four outings, ballooning his ERA to 4.05 from 2.83 on July 11. Even the previously untouchable Bobby Keppel was touched for four earned runs (Mon., Thu.) before pitching two shutout innings Sunday. But the good thing is that most of our relievers are good enough to bounce back. And we have some guys going pretty well, like Matt Guerrier, who's only given up ONE earned run since May 26. The key now is to keep them fresh with good starting pitching, so that they'll be of use to us in September.

Speaking of pitchers that are "of use", here are my top 6 Twins pitchers who scare me the least when taking the mound. I'll probably do this every week or two for the rest of the season.
  1. Joe Nathan - He's the king of the staff unless the Twins trade for Halladay (not happening) or Cliff Lee (seems exceedingly unlikely). Too bad our best pitcher doesn't start.
  2. Kevin Slowey - The fact that our most consistent starter is on the DL indefinitely should be very alarming for Twins fans. He may even need surgery to remove the bone chips in his wrist. If this were Perkins, I think we'd all feel better. But it's not. And Swarzak can't fill this hole forever. Slowey gave us good innings and rarely got into ugly jams… also struck out enough batters to get OUT of rougher innings.
  3. Matt Guerrier - He's been the second best reliever all year long. Thanks for the nice comeback, Matty G.
  4. Jose Mijares - Would have been ranked a bit higher if he hadn't given up earned runs in two of his past three outings.
  5. Scott Baker - Baker is the Ace of the starters right now - he's really the only guy with enough control and decent "stuff" to face the best competition. And even he got into some major trouble in his last start (10 baserunners, five innings). The problem is that against the best offenses, he lacks the major "out" pitch to get out of an inning, so the pitch count gets ugly in a hurry because opposing batters just foul everything off.
  6. Nick Blackburn - Blacky gives you innings and generally doesn't get destroyed. You can't ask for much else from a guy who doesn't strike people out and lacks devastating movement on breaking balls.
Here's LaVelle E. Neal's preview of the upcoming White Sox Series.

Have a great night - go Twins!

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