The Twins opening series against the Seattle Mariners ended in a 2-2 split. Their .500 record is good enough to have them in 2nd place in the division heading into tonight’s game.
The Twins lost the game 1-6 as Felix Hernandez out dueled Francisco Liriano. The Twins had their chances in the game but Felix was good enough to hold them to 1 run while allowing 5 hits and issuing 3 walks. Liriano did not pitch poorly going 7.0 innings. He gave up 4 hits, 4 runs and struck out 3. Two of the four hits he allowed in the game were home runs.
The 2nd game of the series ended with an improbable 6-5 Twins victory. It featured a matchup between Erik Bedard and Nick Blackburn. Both starters only lasted 5 innings and neither pitcher fared very well. Blackburn was especially off in the game. In his 5 innings of work he allowed 8 H, 4 R, 3 BB and recorded only 1 SO. Humber and Guerrier held the Mariners to only 1 hit over the next 3 innings. The Mariners bullpen held the Twins hitless during the 6th, 7th and 8th innings and maintained the slim 4-3 lead. Ayala came in to pitch the 9th and allowed the Mariners to extend their lead to 5-3. What took place in the bottom of the ninth was simply amazing. Brandon Morrow got the first 2 outs of the inning and then walked the bases loaded. Miguel Batista came in to get the final out of the game, but Denard Span singled in a run making the score 5-4. Alexi Casilla singled on the 1st pitch he saw scoring two and the game was suddenly in the books as an improbable Twins victory.
Game 3 of the series featured a matchup of Kevin Slowey and former Twin Carlos Silva. Like the previous night, both starting pitchers were largely ineffective. Silva went 5 innings allowing 8 hits and 6 runs. Slowey, his counterpart, went 6 innings allowing 9 hits and 5 runs. Both teams’ bullpens were again solid and the score stayed at 6-5. Joe Nathan recorded his 200th save with the Minnesota Twins and joined Rick Aguilera as the only 2 Twins to have 200 saves with the team.
In the final game of the series Glen Perkins found himself up against Jarrod Washburn. For the first time in the series, both starters were on their games and threw well. Perkins went 8 innings allowing 5 hits and 1 run. Unfortunately Washburn was just a little better in his 8 innings giving up 5 hits and no runs. Ayala gave up a run in the top of the 9th, but this time Brendan Morrow was able to shut the Twins down and get the save.
The Twins starting rotation threw a respectable 26 innings with a 4.85 ERA and 1.19 WHIP.
The bullpen was solid in the series throwing 10 innings with a 2.70 ERA and 1.60 WHIP. Since the pen figures to be the main weakness for the 2009 Twins, the low ERA was an encouraging sign but they need to reduce the number of baserunners. Luis Ayala had a rough series allowing 2 runs and 6 hits in his 3.0 innings of relief work.
For the 4 game series the Twins hit .219 (28/128) and they clearly missed Joe Mauer’s presence in the lineup. The catchers, Redmond and Morales, combined to hit a paltry .182 (2/11). Michael Cuddyer, hitting in Mauer’s spot in the lineup, did okay hitting .267 (4/15).
Speaking of Cuddyer, the outfield musical chairs are already in full swing. Gomez was the one constant playing CF in all 4 games. Span also played all four games starting 3 in LF and 1 in RF. Cuddyer played in all 4 games, once as the DH and three times in RF. Delmon Young started once in LF and once at DH, which left room for Kubel in the lineup as the DH only two of the games. Gardenhire obviously is going to play Span everyday he can since he is the leadoff hitter. Similarly Gomez figures to play everyday since he is already the best defensive CF in baseball and has incredible upside offensively. What I do not understand is why Delmon and Kubel started only 2 of the 4 games each, while Cuddyer started in all four. Cuddyer has the least upside of the five players and aside from one season in 2006 has been little more than a major league average player. Kubel and Young are both just as capable as Cuddyer of hitting in the 3 hole in the lineup, although personally I’d like to see Morneau hitting 3rd until Mauer returns.