August 12, 2008

Tag. You're it!

The Twins beat the Royals in the first two games before losing a heart breaker in the series finale on Sunday. The team then returned home to the Metrodome to beat the New York Yankees 4-0.

The Twins and White Sox have been back and forth in the standings for the last couple of weeks and I realistically see this continuing for the remainder of the season. Both teams have been hit by the injury bug, and both teams have had problems with their pitchers. The White Sox's starters have struggled, while the Twins' bullpen has been very inconsistent. The way this is currently set up, with the Twins and White Sox neck-and-neck, it sets up a very entertaining remainder of the season.

And who would have thought back in March or April that the Twins and White Sox would be the teams in contention, instead of the Tigers and Indians. It certainly is a good story and both of these teams have played great this season. The Twins play the White Sox just once more in a 3-game series at the Metrodome in late September. Both teams are on pace for 90+ wins which is pretty good for two teams that were expected to be bottom dwellers at the beginning of the season. And by no means, am I ready to write off the Tigers. Although their pitchers don't look to be turning around anytime soon.

Alexi Casilla will have the splint on his finger removed on Wednesday and is then expected to begin batting practice on Friday. He is hoping to rejoin the team around the time they leave on their next road trip which is next Friday. Casilla has been out since July 28th with a torn tendon in his thumb. It was orgininally believed to be a season-ending injury, however it has healed very well thus far and although he isn't expected to be 100% when he returns (will likely need the off-season to do that), he does expect to be a major contributor.

It looks as if Brendan Harris is stuck in Ron Gardenhire's 'doghouse' right now. Despite hitting .380 over his last 29 AB's with 6 doubles, a home run and 5 RBI, he's been out of the starting lineup since Friday. Harris' defense is obviously below that of either Nick Punto or Adam Everett's in the middle of the infield, however his bat is much better than either of theirs. Punto continuosly is penciled into the #2 spot despite hitting just .128 with a .228 OBP this month. He has no business hitting in the #2 spot. Delmon Young, Jason Kubel and Harris are all better options to hit in the #2 spot and really, even Everett right now is a better option to hit there as he seems to have a hot bat. Heck put Carlos Gomez in the #2 spot, he can't do any worse than Punto, can he?

Michael Cuddyer is going to do anything he can to get back in the Twins lineup before the end of the season. Even if it's for only the last week, he's determined to return from a broken bone in his foot which is expected to sideline him for up to the next 4-6 weeks. Hopefully he can return, however he has battled injuries all season and I'd be surprised if he can contribute any more than either Denard Span or Carlos Gomez can. Still, having a veteran bat could prove to be useful if the Twins do reach the playoffs, and he could give the offense a much needed boost. I guess we'll have to wait and see...

After three iffy performances in a row, Glen Perkins pitched a gem of a game on Monday night to beat the Yankees. He entering the game 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA in his previous two starts this season against the Bronx Bombers. And even after becoming a father the day before, Perkins made his start on Monday and threw 8 shutout innings to lead the Twins to a 4-0 victory. Perkins now sits at 9-3 on the season with a 4.07 ERA. His 1.43 WHIP is higher than you'd like, however he's been a good starter for the Twins this season and has handled the transition from starter-reliever-starter-reliever-starter nicely.

Francisco Liriano is 2-0 with a 2.31 ERA since rejoining the Twins rotation. On Saturday, he held threw 5 2/3 innings and gave up 3 runs on 6 hits but still picked up the win against the Royals. Despite giving up 3 runs (opposed to 0 in his first start) Liriano looked even more impressive to me in this start start. He raised his strikes thrown percentage by nearly 6%. He had much more movement on his pitches and got 14 batters to chase a ball this time, compared to just two his first start. He hit 87 MPH on his slider, and was much better at throwing first pitch strikes than in his first appearance. He certianly is improving and is making everyone very optimistic for not just the rest of this season, but what he'll be able to do next year as well.

The man he replaced in the Twins rotation, Livan Hernandez was claimed off of waivers by the Rockies last week and had a horrible debut. The 33-year-old veteran threw just 2 2/3 innings while allowing 7 hits, 4 walks, and 9 runs. Although I do think he played a positive role on this teams success thus far, I am relieved he is doing this for a team other than the Twins.

Game Ball (8/9)
Delmon Young - Left Field
Line: 2-4, 2 runs, Home Run, 2 RBI

Game Ball (8/10)
Scott Baker - Starting Pitcher
Line: 7 innings pitched, 2 runs, walk, 7 K's, ND

Game Ball (8/11)
Glen Perkins - Starting Pitcher
Line: 8 innings pitched, 4 hits, 3 walks, 4 K's, Win