The Twins had another disappointing loss as they continued their trek towards their first sub-.500 record since 2000. Johan Santana struggled once again and this season looks destined to be the worst of his full-time starting career, with an ERA of 3.29 and a whopping 33 home runs allowed. Santana has always been a bit prone to the home run ball, but this year has been absolutely ridiculous. I'm not sure what the cause of this rise has been, as his groundout-to-airout ratio is well above his career ratio, and only in the 2006 season has he ever had a better ratio (as a starter). Like many Twins fans, I wish there was an easy solution to Johan's second-half struggles that would put him right back on track, but obviously it is never that easy. On the bright side, he did strike out 11 in the game and once again, despite the down year, is leading the league in strikeouts as a result of Erik Bedard's season-ending injury, albeit by only 2 over the Rays' Scott Kazmir.
In other news, Joe Mauer had his first 3-hit game since August 13th, and Nick Punto had another multi-hit game. Punto seems to be turning it around in September, as his line is now .360/.396/.460, which is infinitely better than his .127/.210/.155 line in August. I don't know if it is possible to ever make up for a month like his August (and the rest of his putrid season), but at least Punto is showing some improvement. As written over at Nick & Nick's Twins Blog, Punto, though maybe not the .290 hitter he was last year, is not a sub-.200 hitter either, and this September he has already risen his average 16 points to reach .214. And that's what scares me the most: I actually just wrote a positive note about how a player now has a .214 batting average.
One last note: how did Matt LeCroy and Lew Ford manage to get into the starting lineup over Jason Kubel? Oh, I forgot, Ford (.256/.347/.419 this season) and LeCroy (.183/.274/.220 in AAA this year) are much better hitters against lefties than Kubel (.242/.342/.355). Seriously, Kubel is a 25 year old hitter who has been on fire lately and seems to be finally hitting his stride after a major knee injury, while LeCroy and Ford are both 31 and on the decline. Gardy, sometimes you just have to use this thing called your brain in setting the lineups, rather than looking at which arm the pitcher throws with. And just as an aside, Buehrle's splits for the year:
vs. Lefties: .314/.358/.503
vs. Righties: .258/.300/.395