Thursday, June 26, 2008

Notebook Dump (06.26.08)

Game: Twinks 9, Friars 3

Box Score

Record: 42-36, 2nd, .5 games out

Streak: 8 wins

San Diego Padres Greg Maddux wipes his brow after surrendering a two-run double to Minnesota Twins' Joe Mauer in the third  inning of a baseball game Wednesday, June 25, 2008 in San Diego.

The Quote: "I don't go by results; I go by how I pitch. I didn't locate my fastball well... I did blow a three-run lead. You blow a three-run lead, you're not supposed to win anyway” – Greg Maddux

The Inning: After cruising through the Twins batting order in the first and second innings, iconic right-hander Greg Maddux with his stereotypical pin-point control. The future Hall of Famer, from his commanding post on the mound at Petco, appeared comfortably in the driver’s seat with Mauer’s flyball to left field being the only ball that had left the infield. Like Minnesota’s Livan Hernandez, Maddux relies on location rather than velocity. In fact, Maddux’s 83.3-mph fastball average comes in slightly slower than Hernandez’s “blazing” 83.9 fastball (but Maddux boasts 12.2% strikeout rate to Livan’s 7.2%). Spotted with a three-run lead Maddux began the inning by erasing second baseman Brendan Harris with a strike out looking. "He starts it off the plate, and you see it early and say, 'Oh, that's a ball,'" Harris told the press after the game. "Then it just comes back, and it's frustrating because you sit there and drop a few curse words and say it's going to be a long night if he keeps putting the ball right there.”

With Harris disposed of this brought Brian Buscher to the plate. Buscher had been carving up right-handed pitching, looking very much like the answer to the Twins’ left-handed batting platoon option at third leaving Brendan Harris or Matt Macri (if the Twins find a way to make room) to handle the portsiders. In Buscher’s 38 plate appearances against right-handed pitching, he’s batting a manimal-like .424/.447/.576 in his short time with the big club. Since his recall, he is hitting .414 on base put in play thanks to a line drive rate of 32%. Of course, this output is not sustainable as the season progresses, but for now he has done everything possible to help the club including going 9-22 since the Twins winning streak began. Maddux began Buscher with two 84-mph fastball’s that were south of the k-zone. The third was up in the zone, out over the plate. Buscher laced it on a line between first and second for the Twins first base-runner of the game.

The defense, with the pitcher, Glen Perkins, coming to the plate with just the one out, pulled the corner infielders in to field the obvious sacrifice bunt. The Twin Cities native did his job amicably, pushing one to Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and advanced Buscher to second. Carlos Gomez followed by allowing himself to be hit by a blistering 86-mph (!!!) fastball, and trotted down to occupy first.

With two-outs and now Buscher in scoring position the Twins and Alexi Casilla have found themselves in a situation they have performed very well in. In 365 occasions the Twins as a team have come up to bat with runs in scoring position with 2-outs only to drive in 120 runs while hitting .278/.378/.425. Casilla, in his 24 plate appearances in that situation had driven in 13 runs while hitting .400/.500/.750. Then again, Casilla has had a rollercoaster month of June. On June 6th, Casilla was flirting with .350 for a batting average only to go 13-for-55 and witnessed his average drop 51 points by June 21st, 14 games later. Nevertheless, Casilla honed in on Maddux’s 1-1 cutter that cut the plate in half, pulling it on the ground to the right-side of the infield to watch it bleed through to score Buscher from second, Gomez, checked in at second.

This brought up Joe Mauer. Mauer, of course, has been hitting the ball well in every and any situation this year. Drudge up any circumstance and Mauer has succeeded. Versus right-handers? .303/.411/.399. Versus lefties? .368/.398/.500. Bases empty? .314/.390/.445. Runners in scoring position? .317/.427/.381. Runners in scoring position with 2-outs? .324/.378/.382. Runners in scoring position with 2-outs, Greg Maddux on the mound in Petco Park with the temperature at 88 degrees after 9:05 central standard time? 1.000/1.000/2.000. At least it was following his opposite field double on Maddux’s fastball that caught too much of the plate. Gomez scored easily and the speedy Casilla was right on his heals. "I couldn't locate my fastball tonight. I was wild up," Maddux said later. "Some other pitchers can do that, but I can't."