Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Twins Survive Boston

Twinks 7, Red Sux 3 (Box Score)

Boston Red Sox' Clay Buchhholz throws against the Minnesota Twins in first inning of a baseball game Monday, May 12, 2008 in Minneapolis.
“I felt good in the ’pen. I felt my fastball was good, but I guess it wasn’t as good as I expected or wanted it to be,” said Buchholz to the Providence Journal. “It might have been that I was trying to throw too hard, like I do sometimes.* Then I pulled a few of them (wide of the plate). I have to find that happy medium. I was leaving pitches up and they got hit. And when I went to my off-speed stuff they were all over it. It seemed like they were right on every first-pitch changeup."
*I don't know if there are any 30 Rock viewers out there but on last week's episode Jenna Merony, the ditsy, self-involved blonde actress on the show-within-the-show TGS with Tracey Jordan, admitted to loving to use a 'backdoor brag'. This, she said, was the act of "Sneaking something wonderful about yourself in everyday conversation". The example she uses is "Its hard for me to watch American Idol because I have perfect pitch." Buchholz saying "I was trying to throw too hard, like I do sometimes" is vaguely similar to this, as if he were trying to remind everyone of his great velocity. Still, when you sport more than four necklaces at a give time and you are not the lead singer of Rush, you are chalked full of douchbaggery. I would bet he pops more than two collars at any given time.
According to pitch f/x data, Buchholz didn't throw that many first-pitch changeups. At least not to any of the Twins batters in the first through the fourth where he started only Brendan Harris and Michael Cuddyer with changeups previously. The quote is mostly likely Buchholz recalling his last three batters (Michael Cuddyer, Craig Monroe and Delmon Young) in which he threw four pitches - three of them change-ups - and all resulted in hits. Cuddyer thwacked a line-drive up the middle on a 80-mph change, sending Joe Mauer to 3rd. Craig Monroe was started with a 82-mph slider in the dirt but laced a double on the ensuing 79-mph changeup scoring Mauer and Cuddyer from first. At this juncture in the 5th, it is six to three Twins with Monroe on second and only one out. In the last two at-bats, three pitches were thrown and two of them were changeups. With this in mind, catcher Jason Varitek and his battery-mate, 23-year-old Buchholz set to work on Delmon Young stubbornly determined to prove that Clay's changeup works. Young proved the Boston duo wrong, sending his first-pitch 77-mph changeup through the middle to score Monroe, effectively ending Buchholz's night.
The Twins are finishing what is possibly the hardest four-game stretch in the next two weeks with a 3-1 record. In the last ten game prior to Monday night's victory, the Twins offense was hitting .276/.333/.409 while scoring 60 runs during a stretch when they went 7-3. The pitching faired well with a 4.09 era though allowing a batting line of .281/.334/.449 against three of the better hitting clubs in the American League: Chicago, Detroit and Boston. In from Cleveland comes Toronto, a 18-22 ball club that is every bit of a disappointment in the American League East as the Tampa Bay Rays are a pleasant surprise. In the Blue Jays' most recent ten games prior to the doubleheader against Cleveland on Monday, Toronto has hit .265/.316/.395 while scoring just 25 runs but winning six out of ten thanks to a sharp pitching staff, one that limited opponents to just 38 runs and a .202/.265/322 batting line.
This will certainly present a challenge to the Twins lineup who must remain persistant. Roy Halladay will be a tough equation to solve. In his career against the Twins he has pitched 64.1 innings with a 6-0 record in 8 starts thanks to a 2.66 era and 45 strikeouts. He will be matching up against Boof Bonser on Wednesday night.