Friday, June 26, 2009

Brewers Series Wrap-up

Well, I didn't have a chance to write anything about the Twins' 3 games with the Brewers during the series, but now I'd like to put down some thoughts on it (and, as I said in my previous post, I didn't get a chance to because I was careening through season 1 of 24).

Game 1 was a comedy of errors, probably the most unwatchable game of the Twins season from a skills standpoint. Francisco Liriano worked harder to get a five-inning win than any pitcher I've ever seen, throwing 117 pitches in those five frames. He allowed 7 hits, walked 5, and threw 2 wild pitches. He allowed two baserunners in every inning, and was almost definitely on his last batter when he struck out Jason Kendall to end the fifth inning. He probably should have been out a batter or two before that, but Gardenhire clearly wanted him to get the W. And, even though you shouldn't play games for stats in that manner, I couldn't help but agree with him.

And Cisco was no better at the plate. Sure, he's a pitcher, but he looked ridiculous in his first plate appearance; I'd be willing to bet that he went up to bat thinking "I'll close my eyes and swing at every pitch," and he was set down on three pitches. In general, though, the NL teams seem to have an advantage because their pitchers can actually handle the bat. For instance, Jeff Suppan got a line drive base hit, while Nick Blackburn failed to put a bunt down on three consecutive pitches on Wednesday.

What made the game really sloppy, though, was the Brewers defense. The Twins scored 7 runs in the first 3 innings, and all of them could have been avoided with just adequate defense. In the first inning, Michael Cuddyer struck out with two runners on, but the ball bounced away and he reached first base. Joe Crede followed with a two-out, bases-clearing double. The next inning, Carlos Gomez (who had a hit in each of the first 3 innings) stretched a single into a double when Mike Cameron lackadaisically threw the ball back to the infield. He then scored on a Brendan Harris single. And in the third inning, J.J. Hardy booted an easy inning-ending double play ball, after which two runs would score. Even in the fourth inning, the Brewers made another mistake, when Jeff Suppan dropped a foul pop by Justin Morneau. He wound up getting a double in that at bat, but did not score.

In the second game, it was the Twins defense that gave the game away. Nick Blackburn followed Liriano by throwing only 97 pitches over eight innings for his second straight complete game. It quickly turned into a loss, though, when Jason Kendall doubled in a run with two outs in the eighth, and both Brendan Harris and Blackburn threw the ball away to allow Kendall to come home as the go-ahead run.

The third game was another victory that gave the Twins another series win against the Brewers. Denard Span returned to the lineup with a bang, getting on base 4 of 5 times, three times with a walk and once with a triple. He also scored 3 runs. Scott Baker was again victimized by the home run ball, allowing two of them in the sixth inning which cut a 4-0 lead to a tight 4-3 game. The Twins extended their lead in the next half-inning though, and thus Baker earned the victory.

A few other things of note from the series: Nick Punto was intentionally walked on Tuesday with Liriano batting behind him, and I was thinking about how rare that must be. But it was almost immediately one-upped when the Brewers gave Matt Tolbert (!!) a free pass to first base. I don't care who's hitting behind him, you do not put Matt Tolbert on base--for god's sake, he had an average of .167 and an OPS of .484 going into that game, and had just 3 hits in his last 32 at bats! For the record, it was Punto's 4th career IBB, while it was Tolbert's first ever (his last one was in AA in 2006).

And the other news was that Joe Mauer's batting average dropped under .400 for just the second time this year on Tuesday night, and currently sits at .395.

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