Remember that post I had before the season started about not trying not to hit the panic button? Well...I'm still not going to. Had you told me that the Twins would kick off the season 1-3, based on the opening schedule taking them out for seven games to places that they've had less success than any others, I wouldn't have disagreed. What I didn't see coming was Pavano getting massacred for eight runs in four innings, Liriano giving up two homers and walking five while the offense managed one hit, or, on the flip side, Blackburn keeping a potent Jays lineup in check for one earned run while inducing 13 ground ball outs. All surprising in different ways. The opening series provided a few parts good mixed in with a healthy dose of bad and ugly.
Last night, the Twins once again succumbed to the Yankees in the Bronx, a scenario we're unfortunately all too familiar with. The first two innings looked like vintage (at times) Scott Baker, serving up home runs to Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada on a couple very poorly located pitches. Another young pitcher, Ivan Nova, was mowing the Twins down without much resistance. It looked like an ugly start to the season was about to get even uglier. In the fifth inning, though, the Twins started to show some signs of life. I'm not one for moral victories (and sometimes close losses are harder to take than blowouts), but at this stage of the season I'm much happier that this game ended as it did even if the result was a loss. It's too early for any serious statistical analysis, so the below is based largely on suffering through these games on TV.
- Justin Morneau had hit some balls hard during the Toronto series without much to show for it, and last night he turned in a 2 for 4 performance including a double that was absolutely smoked. It's hard not to cringe a little watching him slide into second, but he's looking more and more comfortable at the plate.
- The middle infield combo of Nishioka and Casilla combined for two doubles, one RBI, a run scored and turned two double plays. Let's hope the communication that looked sorely lacking in Toronto is coming around.
- In the spirit of Fire Joe Morgan, we try to avoid writing too much about the importance of determination, grit, etc, but it was encouraging to see Scott Baker make it through four scoreless innings after an atrocious start, albeit with the benefit of some hard-hit balls finding their way directly to a Twins fielder. According to PitchFX, his fastball averaged 90.39 mph, almost a full mph slower than his 2010 average, and his slider was almost three mph off his 2010 average of 84. Obviously it's still a little early in the season to be reading a lot into dips in velocity, but on Opening Day last year he averaged 91.48 and 82.75, respectively.
- After a 1-2-3 inning last night, Kevin Slowey has a 1.37 FIP through 3 2/3 innings and hasn't allowed a run or walked anyone. Sure, he's given up 5 hits but also has a 6:4 GB/FB ratio. Hooray for small sample sizes!
- Denard Span was 0-4 with three strikeouts. However, I'm going to give him a free pass because he single-handedly provided most of the Twins' offense over the weekend.
- Delmon Young was 1-4 with a swinging bunt as his only hit and also grounded into a double play. Remember what I said about him driving the ball with authority in spring training? Yeah...not so much yet, but he'll be fine. Parker Hagemann pointed out that the Yankees did a good job of working Delmon away in the zone - he'll need to do a better job of looking to drive the ball to the opposite field if other teams take this approach.
- I hate to even put him in this category, but Joe Mauer looks like he certainly could have used a few more weeks in Ft. Myers. I'm certainly not knocking him for not having enough at bats to get his swing where it needs to be, especially coming off knee surgery, but he's 1 for 11 and has only gotten the ball out of the infield a few times, with the bulk being weak ground balls. He'll come around as well, but he's obviously a little behind the curve right now.
- Valencia went 0-3, meaning his only hit of the season was his homer on Sunday (and leaving him with a BABIP of .000 in 15 plate appearances). It's also unlikely that this will continue, but needless to say it's been a slow start for the youngster for whom so many have been predicting regression.
If the Twins can manage to eke out one more win over the next three games, I'll accept taking the much-needed trip back to Target Field at 2-5. The Twins will have five games at home vs Oakland and KC, before heading back out to the AL East for 8 more (seriously, who made this schedule?) Sabathia will take the mound again tonight versus Duensing, but then Pavano and Liriano will likely face Freddy Garcia and A.J. Burnett, respectively. If Pavano and Liriano can put their awful first starts behind them, I like the Twins' chances in either of those games. The bottom line is that it's been an ugly start, but for most of the team, the only place to go from here is up.