Friday, August 14, 2009

Twins Pitching For Two Weeks In August

Scotty Baker absolutely dominated the Cleveland Indians tonight, pitching a 2-hit shutout. Which is awesome. Couple that with the offense, which put together 11 runs, it's a great day, right?

Except....Twins fans are getting used to this sort of thing. One great start, one bad start is the pattern since the All-Star break, and unfortunately, that phrase works two ways--it could refer to the day-to-day ups and downs of the rotation, or the consecutive starts from the same starter. Let me demonstrate that last point, because I think it is the key.

I've already mentioned Scotty Baker's night tonight--9 innings, 2 hits, 0 runs. He's the ace of the staff! But his last start, on August 9th, suggested something else--against Detroit, Baker wasn't the pitcher of record, thanks to a furious Twins comeback after Baker only went 4 1/3 innings, giving up 9 hits and 6 runs, all earned.

The day before that disastrous start from Baker, The Twins were super encouraged by the excellent stuff from brand-new acquisition Carl Pavano--On the 8th, Pavano scattered 5 hits over 7 innings and didn't give up a run against the same Detroit team that would rough up Baker. Pavano is the Ace! But in his next start, Pavano went 7 innings again, gave up 5 hits again, but did not scatter them--those 5 hits (and 3 walks) led to 5 runs.

August 12, Francisco Liriano, with help from 5 first inning runs from his offense, goes 7 innings, giving up only 3 hits and one run. Liriano is the Ace! But Twins fans think back to his last start, on August 5th, against the (at that time) recently deconstructed Cleveland Indian Cartoon Faces, where he managed all of 5 innings, walking 4 and giving up 4 earned runs.

August 6--Nick Blackburn doesn't pitch a gem, per se, but it does qualify as a quality start--he leaves after 6 1/3 innings, having scattered 7 hits, and giving up 2 runs. Because the Twins can only manage one run against Cleveland starter Sipp, Blackburn gets saddled with the loss. Blackburn is the Twins Ace? Nope. In his next start, against the friggin' Royals, for Christ's sake, he does not make it 2 innings, and leaves the game on the hook for six runs.

In the past two weeks, the only consistent pitcher for the Twins has been rookie Anthony Swarzak, who has been consistently bad. August 1st, against the admittedly formidable Angels, he manages all of 3 innings, giving up 9 hits, and 6 runs (only 4 earned!). His next start, on August 6th, goes even worse--1 inning, 8 hits, 7 runs. That's brutal by anyone's definition.

You want to look for reasons that the Twins are struggling to stay in the hunt against a pretty mediocre Tigers team, even when the Twins have an offense that boasts the guy who is going to win the Batting Title, and the guy who is probably going to have the most RBI's in the American League? As much as I'd like to blame the Black Hole of Offensive Idiocy that is Nick Punto, the starting pitching problem is glaring. (I've not mentioned Glen Perkins, who had one horrible start in August, and has since been moved to the bullpen, and has medical issues, apparently.)

Quality starts is all this team needs to put together a 7 or 8 game winning streak. But saying that is one thing--doing it is another. There is a reason that this Twins team's longest winning streak all year is four wins. It's the same reason that right now the Twins have their longest winning streak in the month of the August--One Game.

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