Farnk: The Twins take on Texas this week--The Texas Rangers came into the three-game weekend series against the Twins April 25-27, the Texas Rangers were just 7-16. But including that series victory (2-1), the Rangers have gone 15-7 since. In other words, they are playing much better baseball. Vicente Padilla, their number two starter, came in 2-2 with a 4.97 E.R.A. But with a complete game, shutout victory over the Twins as a starting point, he has improved enough to go 4-0 in five starts, lowering his E.R.A. to 3.16. Thursday afternoon at the Metrodome, he will take on the Twins again. Starting pitcher Livan Hernandez will try to win a rematch with Padilla, whose Rangers defeated Hernandez and the Twins 10-0. That was the only loss for Hernandez so far. So what can the offense do differently this time against Padilla to support Livan more? How will the Twins cool off Texas? Will it be enough to play them at home, where we had won 10 of 11 before being swept by Toronto last week?
Bert: The Texas Rangers and the Tampa Bay Rays are the hottest teams in the American League right now. The Rays are second in the Eastern Division, to many people's surprise, and the Rangers are just trying to get back to the .500 mark. I'm happy for both these clubs because it's good for baseball and for their fans.
The rematch of Livan Hernandez vs. Vicente Padilla should be a good one. Livan has been everything the Twins needed in a veteran starter and a great example for the younger pitchers on the Twins staff. He is a pitcher not a thrower! The young starters will learn a lot by watching him pitch, if they want to learn! Vicente has turned his season around. He started the season off slow and sometimes a game like he had against the Twins can help turn any pitcher‘s season around. Maybe that negative thought in his head is gone? Both these pitchers are the aces of their rotation.
Frank: It’s always about pitching with you, Bert. J But their hitters are hot, too. The Rangers are second in the league in batting average, slugging percentage, and runs scored, and first in home runs. They have one or two players among the league leaders in every major offensive category. But since you love pitching (for some reason), let’s talk about the guys who have to try to deal with this offense late in the game:
When Pat Neshek went down with an elbow injury, it left a hole in the bullpen. Neshek was, until a week and a half ago, the primary setup man for the Twins -- the most likely to be called from the bullpen in a close game to try to get the ball to closer Joe Nathan with a lead. Now, he is out for the year, right? So what will help the Twins' bullpen avoid the kind of problems that they had the last time that we played in Detroit? The Twins return this weekend to the scene of the most disappointing performances of the year by the otherwise great bullpen, back-to-back, late-inning losses to the Detroit Tigers. Can the relievers hold up without Neshek?
Bert: The doctors have told Neshek to not even pick up a baseball for three months. Right now his arm is in a sling for about a month, so the muscles can heal without him having to move it around or even accidentally bumping it into something or someone. After three months, he will have to see if the soreness in his elbow is still there. Only time will tell if the rest heals the ligament. I had elbow surgery in 1982 and I know that sometimes rest doesn't help, so let's all hope that Pat's elbow heals without any future surgery.
Losing a key member on any staff puts an additional workload on some other pitchers. But the good news is that the Twins have some great arms in their bullpen. Everyone in the bullpen has only one goal and that is to get the ball into the hands of Joe Nathan for the ninth inning. With Pat out, Jesse Crain, Juan Rincon, Dennys Reyes, and Matt Guerrier will get a chance to fill the role Pat had. I just mentioned four pitchers that have filled this role before, so the bullpen staff will be fine. Brian Bass and Bobby Korecky will be asked to get to the four horsemen, and they then to get to Nathan. If the starters could go seven innings or more, it would help these guys out! I don't think that's asking too much! In today's game, you win division championships through your bullpen, and even with Pat gone for the season the Twins will have a chance.
Frank: Well sure, if the starting pitchers last for seven innings every game, then I agree that the bullpen should be fine. But it coudl be a challenge to beat Kevin Garnett and the Boston Celtics in a seven-game series!:
When the Twins head to Detroit this week, we will enter a city that is caught up in the NBA playoffs. The Detroit Pistons have advanced to the Eastern Conference finals for the sixth consecutive year. Have you ever been to a Pistons game? What about any NBA playoff game? I had seats at Target Center for two playoff games in 2004, including Game Five of the Western Conference finals. Can you top that? If the Twins play in Detroit at the same time as a Pistons home playoff game, which game would you attend?
Bert: The Detroit Tigers should be VERY HAPPY that the Pistons are in the playoffs because there is a positive air in Detroit. Once the NBA season is over, then sports fans in Detroit will look and say, "What the heck is going on with the Tigers?” The Tigers, who were supposed to run away with the division, are in last place! The Twins hope to help keep them there over the weekend.
I have only been to a few NBA games and I enjoyed watching how quickly those BIG men get up and down the court. Basketball players are in great shape and really put their bodies through a lot. They are some of the best athletes around, and I would put them right up there with pitchers. Ha ha!
If the Pistons were playing the same time as the Tigers, I personally would go to the Tigers game. Even though the excitement would be higher at the NBA game, the Tigers would be playing the Twins!!!! You can see where my loyalty lies!!!! Go Twins!
Frank: Now that I have poked fun at Bert for saying the same thing each week, let me do the same. . . Here are some things to look for that would help the Twins “go” this week:
1. We are all anxiously awaiting the arrival of home run power we have heard about (and come close to seeing) from new Twins Delmon Young and Mike Lamb – and the reappearance of Joe Mauer’s power. In the meantime we went back to the “big boys” last week, as Justin Morneau and Jason Kubel. We could use a few more this week against the Texas Rangers tonight through Thursday at the Metrodome, then at the Detroit Tigers this weekend.
2. The continued development of newly returned starters Kevin Slowey and Glen Perkins. Except for allowing too many home runs Slowey has been good. Maybe Perkins will prove to be the quality Twins starter he has always hoped to become, because he has been really good so far.
3. The stability of the lineup over the final week of playing every day -- especially if Carlos Gomez comes back tonight -- will help. It would be nice to add speed back to the lineup, now that Matt Tolbert and Nick Punto are on the DL.
Let’s hope that Boof Bonser rises to the challenge of cooling off a hot team tonight, and that the bullpen fares better this weekend than it did the last series in Detroit!
Check out the Twins on FSN North this week:
Monday: vs. Texas at 6:30 PM
Tuesday: vs. Texas at 6:30 PM
Wednesday: vs. Texas at 6:30 PM
Friday: vs. Detroit at 5:30 PM
Saturday: vs. Detroit at 5:30 PM