Monday, July 19, 2004

A Few Good Men (And A Few Not So Good)

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past few days (or in Europe, as a certain co-blogger of mine has been) then you probably already know that the Twins lost three of four to the last-place, firesale-mode Kansas City Royals over the weekend.  Now, I will admit to you that the last two games were much more encouraging than the first two, but it doesn't change the fact that the Twins once again lost a series to a team that they should have beaten--something that "good" teams must avoid at all costs.  I could ramble on and on about the ramifications of this past weekend's series, but for the sake of my sanity and yours, I won't.  Instead, I'd like to highlight (or lowlight) some individual performances from the first series after the All-Star break.
The "We Need Them On That Wall" Category

Johan Santana 
Throughout the Twins' recent scuffles, Johan has been one of the lone bright spots, a shining beacon of excellence amid a sea of futility.  At this moment, I would have to say that he is the most dominant pitcher in the American League.  He hasn't had a less-than-spectacular start since June 3rd; a span of eight starts.  He's lowered his season ERA to 3.55 and has even managed to scrounge a remarkable 8 wins with extremely limited run support.  He pitched eight innings of 1-hit ball on Saturday, completely shutting down the Royals to give the Twins their only win of the series.
Lew Ford 
The Official Player of Twins Chatter seems to be snapping out his mini-slump (.208 average in July) as we speak.  He hit his first two homers in over a month the past two days, which unfortunately used up the Twins' run quota for the coming week.  Lew had been 1 for his last 23 before Saturday's blast, and hopefully he can keep his average above the .300 mark.  However, it is a shame that we have no one else to bat third, since, as good as Lew is, he isn't a #3 hitter.
Carlos Silva
I was very encouraged to see that Silva had a good outing yesterday.  Gardy probably should have taken him out after seven (although I understand he only had thrown about 75 pitches), as it would have saved a couple runs and the bullpen was very rested.  Either way, he pitched much better than he had in his previous three starts (6.50+ ERA) which was nice to see. 
The "They Can't Handle the Truth" Category

Grant Balfour
I am a huge Grant Balfour supporter, but I must admit, he screwed up big time yesterday by walking the bases loaded in the 10th.  That is something that no major league pitcher should EVER do.  Unlike some people, I can't fault Gardenhire for putting in Balfour in that situation; I probably would have done the same thing.  Balfour has been very dominant overall for about the past month or so, and we need to see if he can really become a dependable reliever during the stretch run.  While this one outing doesn't offer an definitive answer to that question, it does call into question Balfour's mental toughness when the game is on the line.  But if the Twins are going to win this year, they need major contributions from guys like Balfour.  I hope this was an aberration and Grant will rebound in his next outing.
Jose Offerman
I'll bet many of you expected to see Offerman's name in the other category based on the fact that he hit a "triple" during the ninth inning on Sunday.  Upon further review (remember, the game wasn't on TV) it appears that this "triple" was little more than a fly ball lost in the lights.  As I read on the DTFC, Offerman should be on the cover of "National Geographic": he has some amazing survival skills.  This guy contributes almost nothing to the team when he starts, yet manages to hang on to a roster spot by getting the occasional high-profile clutch hit.  Yesterday's "hit" will probably enable him to stick around for at least another month.
The Twins' Ability (or Lack Thereof) to Get Hits With Runners On Base
Once again, the Twins stranded 14 baserunners on Sunday.  The collected 10 hits, yet were only able to score 3 runs (2 of which stemmed from the above-mentioned gift triple).  I am honestly at a loss here: what can be done about this problem?  Are the Twins' hitter simply choking in the clutch?  Were they never that good in the first place?  Is this just a phase that will eventually pass?  If you know the answer (or even have a viable theory), please share it with the rest of us.
That's all we have from Twins Chatter for the time being.  It seems that many of you people enjoy (or at least find tolerable) what I have to offer each weekday, because you keep on coming back for more.  Take care, y'all, and don't forget to come back again sometime (preferably tomorrow).  :)