September 24, 2008

One down, two to go

The Twins played extremely strong last night to take game one of the series against the White Sox. Chicago was hit for 9 runs on 12 hits while Twins starter Scott Baker gave up just 1 run over 7 innings to pick up his 10th win of the season. Baker shined as the Metrodome roared in a playoff-like atmosphere as the Twins got ahead early and never looked back.

After being down 2-1 in the 2nd inning, Jason Kubel put the Twins up for good with a 2-run home run, his first (of two) on the night. Kubel went 3-5 in the game with a triple, 3 runs, and 3 RBI to go along with his two home runs. Delmon Young also had 3 hits in the game, and was just a triple away from the cycle. He drove in 2 of the 9 runs for the Twins. As good as they were, their home runs were not the key plays in the game.

Instead, those rights go to Carlos Gomez and Nick Punto who were both 2-4 with an RBI apiece. With a 2-run lead in the 4th inning, Delmon Young was on third base and Punto layed down a perfect bunt, putting on the suicide squeeze to not only drive Young in from 3rd base, but also reach base as well. After a stolen base, Carlos Gomez worked Javier Vazquez to a full count and ended up dropping his bat to pick up a 12-6 curveball to hit a bloop single into left field, scoring Punto in from 2nd base. Those to me, were what pumped this team up the most and what really gave the Twins the confidence that they needed.

Baker's pitching was outstanding. He really stepped up and showed just why he's the ace of this pitching staff. He did exactly what a good veteran pitcher should do late in September, and that is throw at least 7 innings to give his bullpen a break. Jesse Crain & Matt Guerrier both threw an inning apiece, and it could really help if the Twins need to use the bullpen earlier in any of the rest of the games.

Baker threw 102 pitches, 73 for strikes (72%) and allowed just 5 hits, 1 run, 1 walk to go along with 4 strikeouts. He lowered his ERA to 3.59 and became the 5th Twins starter this season to reach the double-digit win column.

Nick Blackburn (10-10, 4.15) will face Mark Buehrle (14-11, 3.87) tonight in game two of the series. Buehrle is 3-0 with a 2.13 ERA in his last 4 starts while Blackburn is 0-2 with 20.20 ERA in his last two starts, managing to throw just 5 1/3 innings between the two. It's definitely going to be a tough start for Blackburn, but I have confidence that he has the mentality to buckle down and pitch much better than he has in those last two starts.

It should be exciting, make sure to watch another high-intensity game. I just wish I could be in the Metrodome during this series, it must be insane!

Game Ball
Scott Baker - Starting Pitcher

7 innings pitched, 5 hits, 1 run, 1 walk, 4 K, win