April 20, 2008

Twins Return the "Favor"

Just one day after being shut out by the Cleveland Indians, the Twins returned the favor and shutout the tribe in a 4-0 win. The win snapped an 8-game losing streak that the Twins had against the Indians which dated back to August 5th of last year.

The Twins rode a great start from Nick Blackburn late into the 8th inning before he left the game after throwing 102 pitches. He made the Indians ground into 14 ground outs, and the Twins infield turned in 4 double plays. Blackburn did throw just one strike, but had great command throughout the game. He hit Jamey Carroll, who was the second batter he faced, but besides that he showed pin point control.

I believe Justin Morneau's quote sums up the game/Blackburn perfectly:
"(Blackburn) was fun to watch today," Morneau said. "The way Nick was going, we needed that a little. His velocity was up and he threw strikes. Any time they got guys up there in scoring position it seemed like he beared down and got even tougher. We turned some key double plays. It was good to see. It was awesome to get him a win."
Dennys Reyes needed just two pitches to get Grady Sizemore out in the 8th to end the inning. Joe Nathan then came on and threw a perfect 9th inning to secure the win and to pick up another save. Nathan has been lights up so far this season. In seven games, he's allowed just 6 hits and has walked none while throwing 5 strikeouts. He's also recorded 6 saves in 6 opportunities.

Justin Morneau got the Twins on the board early with a two-run home run in the first inning. It was Morneau's 5th home run and 14th and 15th RBI of the season. Morneau finished the game going 2-4. Carlos Gomez drove in the other runner with a flaring single into left field in the second inning.Craig Monroe also had two hits, one of which was a double, his third of the season. Nick Punto and Delmon Young were the only Twins to not record a hit in the game, but Punto did walk.

Although they didn't record hits, both Punto and Young played great defense. Punto showed a great arm while being apart of all four of the double plays turned. Young made multiple catches in the outfield in which he had to cover a lot of ground, and he too showed off his arm while throwing out Asdrubal Cabrera at home plate in the 3rd inning.

Despite pitching great prior to yesterday's game, Blackburn was winless through his first 3 starts. He lost one game, which came off of his (now second) best performance of the season in which he threw 7 innings of one run ball to the Angels. Blackburn now sits at 1-1 with a 2.49 ERA and a 14/3 strikeout-walk ratio. The Twins may be forced to make a difficult decision when Kevin Slowey returns from the disabled list, all I know is if Blackburn continues to pitch the way he has, he should not be in any danger of losing his spot in the rotation. At least until Francisco Liriano regains better control, which I don't see happening for quite a while.

The Twins play another day game today. Paul Byrd will try to continue to build on his great resume of pitching in the Metrodome. In 9 career starts, he's 6-1 with a 2.11 ERA and two complete games while pitching in Minnesota. Against the Twins in his career, he's 10-3 with a 3.64 ERA in 16 starts. Scott Baker will take the mound for the Twins and will try keep the ball inside the park. Baker's allowed 6 home runs in the last 12 innings, all of which have been solo shots.

Game Ball
Nick Blackburn - Starting Pitcher
Line: 7 2/3 innings pitched, 8 hits, 0 runs, 0 walks, 1 strikeout, win

Down on the Farm
Hitter of the Day
Luke Hughes - Rock Cats - Second Base
Note: Hughes had another strong game at the plate. The 23-year-old out of Australia went 3-5 with a solo home run and came across home plate twice. It was his second three-hit game in a row, and his fourth multi-hit game in a row. Hughes is now 10 for his last 17. He's currently hitting .365 while playing primarily third base and hitting in the #3 spot.

Pitcher of the Day
Yohan Pino - Rock Cats - Starting Pitcher
Note: Pino got his second start of the season yesterday and continued to pitch well. The 24-year-old right-hander threw 5 innings of one-run ball. He struck out 5 and walked one while picking up a no-decision.

Minor League Box Scores