What a goofy club. Win series' against the teams ahead of you in the standings: took 2/3 against Detroit and 3/4 against Cleveland, but lose to those chasing you: only 1/3 against KC and in danger of losing 3/4 against Chicago.
In an attempt to salvage a split with the South Siders, the Twins give Jose Berríos the ball whose lone loss in the past four starts was a no-show by the Twins offense in Seattle - 1 run on 4 hits. Jose scattered 8 hits over 7 1/3 innings, allowing only 2 earned runs (the 2nd the result of walking his last batter faced and Duke & Reed combining to untie the 8th inning tie ... in Seattle's favor) while striking out 8 and walking 1.
White Sox counter with 36-year-old RHP James Shields, owner of a 1-6 record on the year with a 91 ERA+, 4.27 FIP & 1.258 WHIP. In his last outing against Minnesota (May 6), Shields left in the 7th with one out, a one-run Chicago lead and runners at the corners. His replacement, Luis Avilan, promptly gave up a 2-run double to Logan Morrison.
Let's see what these two
mediocre teams have to offer today.
There’s little room for argument that Kyle Gibson has been a frustrating pitcher to watch, and probably to coach, over his four full major league seasons. Brilliant one start and seemingly brain-dead the next, far too often nibbling away his advantage after getting ahead in counts, and never seeming to trust his best stuff in tough situations despite ample evidence that he can and should. But we may be witnessing a metamorphosis of sorts with Gibby and this could be a breakout season for the 31-year old Hoosier, with the normal caveat about staying healthy.
Late last year Gibson finally started to show some confidence and consistency on the mound and finished the season strong. His Achilles heel continues to be inefficiency as he’s only averaged 5 1/3 innings per start this season despite notching impressive performance stats, to wit a 3.38 ERA (good for a 129 ERA+) that's nicely in line with his 3.42 FIP. He’s allowed only two long balls in 32 innings and pitched to a meager .212 opponent batting average while maintaining a low 1.28 WHIP. And he’s been an effective control and ground ball pitcher, tallying 36 strikeouts with a 2.25 K/BB ratio and 1.57 grounders for every fly ball struck. All told it’s been worth 0.9 WAR from Gibson through April.
Opposing Gibson today is James Shields, who has struggled some out of the gate to a 1-3 record. His 5.35 ERA and 4.73 FIP indicate he’s been a bit unlucky and the Pale Hose have lost five of his seven starts, four of them by a single run. Twins on the current roster have 200 at bats against Shields with a respectable slash line of .260/.323/.465/.788. Dozier especially has feasted, sporting a .333 average and 1.224 OPS against Shields, who has contributed just 0.2 WAR for the Southsiders this year.
Enough with the egghead stats already, this game happens on a field, not a spreadsheet. Play ball!
Here's a post for the game. You know, if you're into that kind of thing.
(vs. some newcomer flunky named James Shields)
Dude's from Canada, FWIW, so expect him to throw the ever lovin' back bacon out of the ball tonight.
The internet connection is extremely spotty at my house right now, so instead of giving you the well thought out, well researched behemoth of a game log intro that you all deserve, I'm going to spout off random things that I like and dislike about the team without backing any of it up with anything resembling a fact.
- Burton's Splange - He threw one or two last night, and when that pitch is on, it's a thing of beauty. He seems like a good pickup about 10% of the way through the season, and looks like he could be a decent late inning option. I wasn't expecting to say that about any of the offseason relief pickups, but none of them have been failing to live up to what I'd hope for (Grey is finally letting the rest of the team's pitchers wins a few games, Maloney hasn't tripped on the pitching rubber or picked any fights with fans or umpires, there might be someone else I'm forgetting, but the fact that he's not springing to mind means that I probably haven't been cursing his name too often, so... uh... keep being invisible, other relief guy).
- The Porkstar - My Reds fan buddy noted how nice it was that the Twins finally had a free agent signing work out. I could have punched him for his condescending tone, but instead, I simply nodded my head in agreement. Willingham's been good with the bat, and he's only the second worst outfielder I've seen play for Minnesota over the last five years. Once you factor in that they had to get rid of Delmon Young to make it so that they could go out and get him, and it's not just a net positive - I can confidently say that it's the best thing that's ever happened to this team.
- Mauer/Morneau - I was concerned about Morneau for a bit there in the first few games, but he seems to be taking much better swings over the last few games. Mauer's been solid as he ought to be; I just wish he were just a little bit more manly, because seriously, it's got to be bringing the team down.
- Having a middle infielder simultaneously batting second and not sucking - Carrol's D is much better than I expected (no one show me any +/- numbers, I don't want to see if I'm wrong on this one. It's also really nice to not have a black hole batting second. The hits are starting to come, and I love the patient way the guy bats. They've got 3 guys at the top of the lineup that bleed the pitcher dry. Very cool.
- Span - It's really nice having him back as the leadoff hitter. Now that Baker's probably gone forever, I'm tempted to say that Span's my favorite Twin.
- Casilla - I'm pretty sure that the stats don't bear me out on this, but I find myself constantly unimpressed by Casilla. I know he's the replacement-level guy who's just a placeholder at this point, but I find myself going to the kitchen to get a snack when he comes up. If my diet is going to succeed, I need someone else there.
- Starting pitching - I was slightly (probably stupidly) hopeful coming into the season. The idea of Liriano pitching well, Baker doing what he always does, Pavano eating innings, with some combination of who cares and someone else filling out the last two spots meant that the Twins would likely be getting 2 or 3 strong starts per time through the rotation. The quality start stat is an awful way of looking at anything, but if Pavano bombs tonight, we'll have gone 5 games without seeing a single start that was even halfway decent. With Hendricks, Blackburn, Swarzack, and Liriano (who seems to be intent on showing that 2011 was not his floor) behind Pavano, I have zero faith in the rotation - and more worryingly, no real hope for anything in the future to patch things up. The idea of being just close enough at trading season for management to go get a "proven winner" puts a chill in my bones.
- Capps - He hasn't exactly exploded into tiny pieces yet, but it's coming, my friends... oh yes, it's coming.
Pavano* takes on Shields* tonight.
I'm to predict a win. 6-3. Mauer gets a double and a couple of RBIs, but Willingham's hit streak ends (he'll make a comment in the aftergame interview on how all that stuff is cool, but "it doesn't matter, so long as we get the 'W'").
* Both of them have presumably played baseball at some point this season, but if you want all those sexy stats, you'll have to look them up yourself, my computer is currently in a hate/hate relationship with any kind of site where I could look them up for you.