September 16, 2008

Optimistic? Really?

The Twins had a great opportunity last night to move within a half-game of the White Sox. Facing Scott Lewis of the Indians, the Twins managed to score zero runs on just 3 hits against the crafty rookie left-hander. In just his second Major League start, Lewis blanked the Twins in 6 innings of work to make the Twins drop their second game in a row.

Luckily, the White Sox didn't have much luck of their own. They faced Alfredo Aceves (also a rookie) and got just 2 runs through 6 innings off of him and later lost the game in the 7th inning after a Wilson Betemit ground-rule double. The loss kept the Twins within 1.5 games behind the White Sox for the Division lead.

The Twins are set to face Zach Jackson on Tuesday followed by Cliff Lee who is the Cy Young front-runner for the AL before facing four very tough pitchers in Tampa Bay. The Rays are scheduled to start James Shields in game one against Glen Perkins, which may be a great matchup without looking strickly at just the pitchers own performance. Despite being a far better pitcher than Perkins, the Rays as a team are one of the worst in all of baseball versus left-handed pitchers, which may make game one a favorable matchup for the Twins. However, Shields is a very talented pitcher and definitely will make the Twins sweat despite being 1-1 with a 5.94 ERA in 3 career starts against the Twins. In game two, the Twins will face Edwin Jackson who is 0-2 with an 18.90 ERA in 5 games (2 starts vs. the Twins) while the Twins send out Nick Blackburn who has never faced the Rays however if he pitches like he did vs. the Orioles the game will be over quickly. In game three, Scott Kazmir will face Kevin Slowey which should be a very interesting matchup with two very young and talented pitchers. And finally, Francisco Liriano will face Andy Sonnanstine who is 3-1 with a 3.99 ERA in his last 8 starts.

Besides the game against Cliff Lee, which I fully expect to see him no-hit the Twins (I wish I was joking), but I can definitely see us win any of those other 5 games that I mentioned. Sure you can only put so much into numbers, since it's clear that Edwin Jackson is a much better pitcher than he was the last time he faced us, and both James Shields and Scott Kazmir are two of the better pitchers in the American League, however I do feel optimistic for the remainder of this road trip and don't ask me how I am. The Twins took 2 of 3 against the Orioles, however again were beaten up by the very hittable Radhames Liz while Nick Blackburn was crushed by the subpar Orioles. That along with the fact that our bullpen and defense are still very shaky, I cannot believe that I actually have any optimism whatsoever right now.

But for whatever reason, I still see the Twins being able to pull off a big feat and win at least the majority of their remaining games which might be enough to keep the Twins within a game or two of the division lead, if they don't take the lead. The White Sox have 9 games remaining on their current road trip including 3 more agains the Yankees and 3 against the Twins next week. They face the Royals in between which could be a huge series for the Twins. The Royals aren't playing for anything right now, but for whatever reason those teams generally are what decide a tight divisional race. They aren't taken seriously and I just hope that the White Sox go in with that mindset before they face the Twins later that week. On the other hand, I just hope the Twins don't allow the Royals to come in the last series of the year and let them walk all over us because the Twins didn't take them seriously.

Other links:
  • The Twins new ballpark now has a name. "Target Field" will open in time for the 2010 season, and is going to be the new home for Twins baseball. I'm not a real fan of the name yet, however it could've been much worse. I (like Aaron Gleeman) am more of a fan of "park" instead of "field" but that's neither here or there. It's kind of boring, however I'm just glad it's not named after "Land O'Lakes" so we don't have to see Joe Mauer in any more hideous commericials.
  • Make sure to try and listen to Seth Stohs (of Seth Speaks) weekly podcast tonight. I am in class until about 8 (which is the time it's starting) but will definitely tune in as soon as I get home to try and listen to him talk about some of the current issues related to Twins baseball. And while you're there, make sure to check out some of his past podcasts which feature great discussions with members from some of our minor league affiliates, Pat Neshek, and much more. Be sure to check it out, it's definitely worth it!
  • Aaron Gleeman looks at Denard Span's defense as well a theory that a reader wanted him to test out.