Series Two in the Books

This afternoon the Twins completed their weekend series in Baltimore, the second series of this young season. Now with a record of 4-2, the Twins are leading the division (tied with the White Sox) and have won their second consecutive series since who knows when. It is very good to see they have finally broken the spell the Orioles seemed to have on them in Baltimore.

During the weekend the Twins made their second roster adjustment of the season already. It’s hard to not see a connection between Tyler Robertson’s first pitch in relief Friday night resulting in a grand slam for Chris Davis, and Robertson’s being optioned to Rochester after the game Saturday. He was replaced Sunday by Anthony Swarzak, who was activated off the DL and pitched the same day, and picked up the win even though he was not particularly effect. He just happened to be the pitcher of record when the Twins took the lead.

Glen Perkins notched his second save of the series (and season) after backing into a “vulture” win in the Detroit series. Overall, a good first week for him.

Once again in this series, the Twins played every position player in at least one game and used the bullpen effectively to keep the Orioles from mounting comebacks after the colossal failure of the first game of the series Friday.

It will be interesting to see what happens to Roberto Hernandez after his decent stint as the starting pitcher Sunday filling in for Cole De Vries, whose forearm has still not loosened up enough to work and currently on the DL. Scott Diamond is due to come off the DL later in the week and probably will pitch in the series against the NY Mets beginning Friday, so one possibility is for Hernandez to be optioned out to clear room for him. On the other hand, I would not be surprised if he sticks a while longer with the Twins if Liam Hendriks has another terrible start Monday at Kansas City. It would be nice to have another lefthander (Hernandez) among the starters to complement Diamond when he returns.

Intriguing times for the fifth starter competitors. We shall see.

First Series Success

Surprise is always fun. Today, the Twins surprised me by winning their second game in a row and the first three-game series of the season. Compounding the surprise: it was against the prohibitive favorite of the AL Central Division and a pre-season favorite to win the World Series.

Today the bats broke out of their mini slumps and the Twins put 8 runs on the board. It was only a matter of time before the hits started coming in greater numbers than they produced in the first two games. It was particularly nice to see Chris Parmelee and Aaron Hicks come through in the eighth inning with run-producing hits, the first of the season for each of them. Every position player now has a hit, except Darin Mastroianni, who has played in two games, but has not yet made a plate appearance.

The most pleasant surprise has been the Twins’ starting pitching. Two quality starts in the first two games and 5 1/3 innings with no earned runs given up by Mike Pelfrey today. Two errors leading to runs extending the number of pitches enough that he was well into the 90’s in pitch count when he was relieved in the sixth. The bullpen managed to close out the game without giving up any runs, and that included the major league debut of Ryan Pressly in the 9th. Glen Perkins was warmed and ready but the Twins five-run spurt in the bottom of the eighth allowed him to be saved for appearance on the weekend.

Only Josh Roenicke was shaky out of the bullpen today, giving up a hit and walking two in 1/3 inning before being pulled for Robertson who got a strike out if Prince Fielder and Casey Fien who retired the final batter of the nerve-wracking seventh inning.

The pleasant surprise of this series demolished my prediction the Twins would start 0-3. I’ll take it! (And probably should refrain from too many bold predictions in the future.)

Game 2 Observations

Good:

  • Eduardo Escobar hits a walk-off double after subbing for Florimon who was lifted for a pinch hitter earlier in the game.
  • Pinch hitter Wilkin Ramirez gets a big RBI hit to produce the Twins first run of the game.
  • Chris Parmelee throws out Torii Hunter trying to advance to 3rd on a base hit. The play ends the inning w/ Prince Fielder due up.
  • Kevin Correia pitches very well but doesn’t get the win because Twins bats were silent when he was pitching. Though no official errors were committed, the defense failed him or he might have had seven shutout innings.

Bad:

  • On the first batter of the game, Aaron Hicks misjudges a pop-up and it falls for a bloop hit to center. Fortunately no damage was done that inning.
  • Trevor Plouffe fails to knock down a grounder off the bat of Fielder and it costs a run.
  • Too many strikeouts (10 today, 12 yesterday), especially too many looking!

 

General Observations:

  • Once again, the big bats fail to produce in the clutch, but nice to see the bottom of the order scrap to get the win. Three hits by three different players out of the 9th spot in the order today.
  • If Florimon keeps up the hitting streak (1 for 2 each game), how long will it be before Gardenhire lets him continue to hit instead of pinch hitting for him late in the game?

Game 1 Observations

Good:

  1. Joe Mauer hit the ball well.
  2. Casy Fien struck out the side in his only inning in relief.
  3. After a rough start when not-well-hit balls fell in for hits and non-stellar defense didn’t pick up the slack, I was impressed with Vance Worley. He threw 101 pitches, went six innings allowing only the three runs (scored in the first two innings) and got a lot of ground ball outs.
  4. Pedro Florimon had a good at bat that ended in a line drive base hit to right field. The latter may be a stretch to highlight here, but it was in fact the first single of the year (two others had doubled previous) and if the at bat is an omen it is a good one for his being able to hit well enough to stay in the lineup.
  5. Web gem of the day: Pedro Florimon went deep in the hole as shortstop and threw out the runner. Even if it was the slow-running,Prince Fielder, it was a solid play.

Bad:

  1. Pedro Florimon made an error on a routine ground ball. In his defense, he may have lost sight of the ball or been distracted by the base runner, but he needs to make that play.
  2. Pedro Florimon failed to get the tag on the runner on a strike-out, throw-out base stealing attempt. The throw from Mauer was a little high and off target, but Florimon needs to come to the ball then make the tag. It cost the Twins and Worley a run that inning.
  3. Several poor at-bats that effectively kept the Twins from scoring and probably winning the game. Josh Willingham had two opportunities with runners in scoring position and failed to deliver both times. Trevor Plouffe and Chris Parmelee also looked terrible when they both struck out with the bases loaded to end a potential rally.

General Observations:

  1. The game was better than I expected it to be, although it was very long. Verlander pitched well, but was not as efficient as he normally is. The cold may have had something to do with that.
  2. It is a little surprising as cold as it was to have no reported injuries.
  3. The telecast had a couple of new wrinkles:
    1. Along with the score, base runner graphic, and count to the batter, the FSN crew have added the total pitch count for the starting pitchers. Good to have that info as important as the pitch count has become in MLB.
    2. No visual framing of the strike zone on replays of close pitches. Will this feature return in future games or is this gone?

If the twelve strikeouts by Twins batters are an indication of what the future holds, it is going to be a frustrating season to watch, especially in clutch situations. Then again, Verlander will not be the opposing pitcher every game, and Aaron Hicks (3) and Josh Willingham (2) will get in a better groove eventually.