TORONTO 7, MINNESOTA 2 IN MINNESOTA
Date: Friday, April 4.
Batting stars: Doug Mientkiewicz was 2-for-3 with a home run, a double, a walk, and two runs. Bobby Kielty was 1-for-3 with a walk.
Pitching stars: Johan Santana struck out two in a scoreless inning, giving up one hit. Mike Fetters pitched a perfect inning.
Opposition stars: Tanyon Sturtze pitched 6.2 innings, giving up two runs (one earned) on four hits and two walks and struck out one. Josh Phelps was 2-for-3 with a home run and a walk. Vernon Wells was 2-for-4 with two home runs and four RBIs. Frank Catalanotto was 2-for-5 with a home run. Jeff Tam pitched two shutout innings, giving up a hit.
The game: The Twins missed a chance in the first. Jacque Jones led off with a single, was bunted to second, and stole third with one out. Torii Hunter then hit back to the pitcher and Jones was thrown out at the plate, presumably on a contact play. It cost them, because Phelps led off the second with a home run, putting the Blue Jays up 1-0. It went to 2-0 in the second, as Toronto scored on singles by Carlos Delgado and Phelps and an error.
The Twins got on the board in the fifth. Mientkiewicz walked and went to second on a ground out. Luis Rivas then reached on an error and Mientkiewicz scored, cutting the lead to 2-1. The Blue Jays responded immediately, with Catalanotto and Wells leading off the sixth with back-to-back homers to give Toronto a 4-1 lead.
The Blue Jays put it out of reach in the seventh. Mike Bordick and Shannon Stewart walked and Wells hit a two-out three-run homer, putting Toronto up 7-1. Mientkiewicz homered leading off the eighth, but the Twins never threatened to get back into the game.
WP: Sturtze (1-0). LP: Rick Reed (0-1). S: None.
Notes: Michael Cuddyer was at third base in place of Corey Koskie. Bobby Kielty was in right field.
The Twins did not make any lineup substitutions.
Reed pitched pretty well for five innings, but the back-to-back homers gave him a line of six innings, four runs, six hits, one walk, and two strikeouts. The big seventh came off Tony Fiore. Fiore had pitched well for the Twins in 2002, but would not repeat that in 2003.
I remembered Vernon Wells as a Twins killer. He wasn't, really. He did fine against them, but not that much differently from the way he hit against everyone. Against the Twins he batted .290/.321/.446, for an OPS of .767. For his career, he batted .270/.319/.459, for an OPS of .778.
Tanyon Sturtze pitched a long time for someone who wasn't very good. He had a good game here, obviously. Maybe he was one of those guys who, in Bill James' phrase, pitched well just often enough to fool people into pitching him some more. He was in the majors for parts of twelve seasons and went 40-44, 5.19, 1.53 WHIP in 797 innings. He appeared in 272 games, starting 84 of them. Excluding "seasons" in which he pitched fewer than ten innings, his lowest season ERA was 4.42. He had only three seasons in which he had an ERA under five. His numbers in AAA were 38-30, 4.71, 1.49 WHIP, so it's not like he just couldn't make the jump to the bigs. In fact, his numbers in AA are 13-18, 4.33, 1.49 WHIP. Even in high-A, he had an ERA of 3.84, but a WHIP of 1.45. I've written this so many times you're probably tired of reading it, but it just frustrates me that guys like this get chance after chance after chance, long after they've proven they're never going to be good enough, while other guys put up great numbers in the high minors and get a cursory look or none at all. I guess nobody said baseball, or life itself, was going to be fair.
Despite my hopes, the Twins would not go 162-0 in 2003.
Record: The Twins were 3-1, in second place in the American League Central, one game behind Kansas City.