May 29, 2008

Twins make big comeback

Like Joe Christensen said, it certainly was 'A tale of two games.' One night after the team just absolutely collapsed (despite getting the win), the Twins made a big comeback for quite possibly the teams best effort of the season.

The game needed to be settled in extra-innings for the second night in a row, but this time it was for a good reason. Down by 5 runs with two outs in the top of the ninth, the Twins scored two runs on RBI singles by Mike Lamb and Carlos Gomez before Craig Monroe came on to pinch hit and delivered with a 3-run home run to left field to tie the game up. Justin Morneau then went deep in the top of the 10th inning to put the Twins up 9-8 and that's how it finished.

It certainly was a great game for the team after the intense ninth inning of Tuesday's game in which Delmon Young's decision to dive instead of play the hop nearly cost the twins the victory after Nick Blackburn's incredible performance.

Last Nights Game Ball
Mike Lamb - Third Base

3-4, 2 runs, 2 RBI

Delmon Young has been terrible since the Colorado series in which he went 7-12 with 3 doubles and a triple. Since then, he's gone 4-33 with 2 triples and 2 RBI's. It's really frustrating watching him both on offense and on defense right now. Last night he misplayed a fly ball which ended up costing the Twins a run. He was charged with his first two errors of the season, but one of which I blame both Mike Lamb and Livan Hernandez for more than I do Young. In fact, I don't think Young did a single thing wrong while he threw the ball in and both Lamb and Hernandez just did not cut it off. Hernandez, and the other pitchers look like they'll be getting fielding practice once they return to the Cities. One positive for Young during his last 9 games though have been his ability to draw walks. He has 8 walks opposed to just 5 strikeouts and appears to be more disciplined at the plate more than ever. However, he continues to still slap the ball the other way and he needs to start pulling them. He also needs to stop swinging for a home run every first pitch as it's obviously not working. I'm still confident that he will turn it around, but it may be time for MLB's current "Iron Man" to take a day's rest and gather himself. It's sad that he's played in 52 games and has just 14 RBI's when the light-hitting Alexi Casilla has played in just 12 and now has 12 RBI's on the season. He has already surpassed last seasons RBI total despite playing in 44 fewer games. Young needs to turn it around, and he needs to do it soon. The Twins have shown plenty of confidence in him so far, and he needs to start producing.

After going 3-4 last night, Mike Lamb is now hitting .407 (11/27) over his last 7 games and has a double, triple, home run along with 5 RBI's. He's increased his average from .218-.252 and has been just absolutely tremendous. It's finally starting to look like he's turned the corner and is ready to start showing that he's worth the money the Twins spent on him this off-season.

Jesse Crain lowered his ERA to 2.53 in May and picked up his third win of the season and second in consecutive games. Crain still has been hurting the team as much as helping them as he's on several occasions put the next reliever in a tough situation after putting multiple players on base, but that has to do with his lack of control and I think that he's been a great surprise this season after coming back from rotator cuff & labrum surgery on his right shoulder. And really, I know he's been hard to watch on several occasions, but being that I expected next to nothing from him, it's been great to see him have good numbers this season.

It looks like Nick Punto is ready to return from the D.L. and unfortunately, it looks like Matt Macri is the likeliest of options to be sent back down. I say it's unfortunate because with the strong play of Lamb, Brendan Harris and Casilla, he has not been able to crack the lineup besides a game in Detroit. Howie Clark is another option to be sent down, but he will need to clear waivers before being able to rejoin the Red Wings, which is why I believe the team will be sending Macri down. It's bitter sweet because obviously I love the way our infielders have been playing, but I really wanted to get a better look at Macri, and his opportunity looks to be diminishing.

Last night, Livan Hernandez looked very poor out on the mound at times and great at others. Unfortunately, he turned in his second poor performance in a row which has now raised his ERA .72 points and he may start settling into the pitcher the Twins expected to see. He is still a good source of innings, but I don't believe anyone expected to see him with a sub 4.00 ERA this season and I think the Twins will start seeing more and more sluggish performances by Hernandez as the season goes on. Charley Walters believes the Twins should explore trading him sometime soon as his trade value looks to be the highest it's going to get right now, but I don't think the Twins would get much if anything for him right now, and if they really wanted to explore a trade for him, they should wait until closer to the deadline. The reason for that is because contending teams may overpay for an inning-eating veteran and the Twins may end up with a solid young player in return. Of course, if the Twins are in contention, I don't see them even considering trading him. But then again, it's a new 'regime' in the front office and Bill Smith has already shown that he's not afraid of pulling the trigger if he feels it's the right deal.

With Hernandez now seemingly struggling on the mound, I believe he has moved down the Twins "power rankings" for starting pitchers. Mine go as followed:
  1. Nick Blackburn
  2. Livan Hernandez
  3. Glen Perkins
  4. Kevin Slowey
  5. Boof Bonser
Scott Baker would be 5th, but he's been on the DL since May 3rd. Everyone believes that unless Bonser turns in an absolutely stellar game against the Yankees (which would be a very tough task without this kind of pressure), then he'll be heading to the bullpen. Of course, nothing is set in stone, but with the way Perkins has pitched, I'd be very upset if he were demoted to either Rochester or the pen for the sake of keeping Bonser in the rotation. Slowey is another option, but really sending him to Rochester would be pointless as he's proven time and time again with dominating performance against I.L. league hitters. Unless Bonser really shows up against the Yankees he's done, of course it may not matter one way or another if Ron Gardenhire already has his mind made up.

Last night, the Twins Minor League Affiliates all got great outings by their starting pitchers. Danny Graves (Rochester), Ryan Mullins (New Britain) and Jeff Manship (Ft. Myers) were all credited with wins while Arias Santos was not part of the decision. The 4 starters combined to go 26 2/3 innings and had a 1.01 ERA. Mullins, Manship and Santos did not give up an earned run (although Mullins gave up two unearned runs), but Graves was hit for 3 runs and was just one out away from picking up a quality start.

Randy Ruiz had two hits again last night to bring his average up to .273 on the season. He is now hitting .366 his last 10 games and hit .615 (8-13) in the series against the Charlotte Knights. The Red Wings swept the series and won three games in a row for the first time this season. This is just the 3rd time this season the Red Wings have won 2 or more games in a row. The team has lost 2 or more games in a row 9 times including losing streaks of 7 and 5 games.

Erik Lis went 2-3 last night and raised his season average up to .292. Despite hitting just .265 over his last 10 games, Lis is now hitting .379 in the month of May and looks to be adjusting to the Eastern League just fine. Lis will continue to climb prospect lists this season and may get a few at bats in Rochester by seasons end. Lis has great gap power and has legitimate home run power. If the team is in need of a left-handed DH in the next couple years, Lis may fill that role nicely.

Danny Valencia's triple in the 5th inning of last nights game was his 3rd of the season. Valencia is definitely in line for a call up after spending nearly an entire year in the unfriendly Florida State League. Valencia is hitting .444 over his last 10 games and .418 in May. His average is up to .347 and despite missing a few games with a hand injury, he is just 1 RBI behind the league leader who has 21 more at bats. Ed Ovalle is another Miracle batter who may be in line for a call up after hitting .302 with 4 doubles, 6 triples, and 4 home runs in 159 at bats this season. Ovalle has really turned it on recently and now has a 10 game hitting streak and has raised his average .37 points in that time frame.

Before going 0-3 last night, Joe Benson was hitting .306 over his previous 10 games and had 5 runs, 4 doubles, a home runs, 8 RBI's and 4 stolen bases in that span. Benson still has terrible plate discipline, but he looks to be making slight adjustments at the plate. Neither Benson or Parmelee have been great this season, but both may be called up if there is room in Ft. Myers. I just don't see them staying in Beloit all season. Either way, despite their averages (which is correlated with their terrible K/BB ratio), both have been alright this season with OPS' of .759 for Benson and .859 for Parmelee. Both need to cut down on their strikeout totals if they want to really be great prospects. But both still have plenty of potential and will be figured into the systems plans for a long time.

Make sure to check out "Diana's Mailbag" over at Rookie Whites, it has great updates on several intriguing Twins prospects in Extended Spring Training and she gives us a look at who's expected to be in Elizabethton when the defending Appalachian League Champions open their season on June 17th.

Seth Stohs celebrates his 5th Anniversary of "Seth Speaks" today, and it's definitely deserving of high praise. Seth has been one of the most well-known Twins bloggers on the internet since he started and it's been all for great reasons. He offers non-biased views of not only the Twins, but also their minor league affiliates. I know many have been to his sight as the majority of my sites traffic is from his site, and I'd just personally like to thank Seth for all that he gives to Twins fans like myself and others. Without him (and in all honesty), you probably would not be reading this from me and I'm sure many would not have such great knowledge of the Twins system without his site. Thank you, Seth! (I figured I can try to repay you by making this entire section linked to you since I receive so much of my traffic through your site, although I'm aware it will never be enough).