A pathetic performance from the Twins on Monday, who managed a paltry two hits -- two -- of young Royal righthander Luke Hochevar, who's a terrible pitcher in every sense of the word. He struggled mightily early on just getting the ball over the plate, as he allowed two Twins to reach in each of the first three innings, but the Twins did not break through with a hit until the fourth. In that inning, Michael Cuddyer doubled to lead off the inning, and was unacceptably left there, as the vaunted combo of Brian Buscher, Seldom Young, and Nick Punto all flew out to the outfield. Yeah, that's Nick Punto folks, "healthy" again and in the everyday lineup. It was said, however, that Punto's ribs felt good enough to play on Monday but if they were to flare up again, Ron Gardenhire would have no choice but to put Punto on the disabled list. I'm crossing my fingers in the hope that those ribs flare up (and soon) and I even like that he played on Monday, because if he did go on the DL, he would miss the full 15 days, whereas if they had disabled him prior to Monday's game, he would have been eligible to play in about a week and a half, seeing as he had already missed five games. My hope is is that Gardy plays Punto tonight and he slides headfirst into first base again and he injures himself. In fact, while you're at it, break a leg, Punto, because you gone for the season would make this .500 team that much better to watch.
Speaking of injuries, Joe Crede's nagging injuries are back, and now it involves what Twins fans were dreading all along. Apparently Crede's back was giving him problems in St. Louis and that forced him out of the game on Monday. For the first three months, Crede had more injuries than I even think is humanly possible, but none of them concerned the back that was cited as Crede's liability in the offseason. Now the back is starting to hurt, and that could mean more playing time for Brian Buscher. That's not exactly a good thing, because Brian Buscher sucks -- I mean sucks. The guy's hitting .198 with little power, and he's no defensive upgrade, wherever he plays. Buscher doesn't belong in professional baseball -- he fits the mold of a good St. Paul Saint, in that he a) sucks, and b) he's got a Minnesota connection that could bring in a few fans here and there. He reminds me of another ex-Twin that I happened to notice scanning through the Northern League boxscores the other day: outfielder Dustan Mohr, who did have a pretty good year for the Twins in 2002, and then fell off the face of the earth and is now playing for the Wichita Wingnuts of the Northern League. Buscher's success last year was nothing more than a fluke, and he's proving it to everyone who follows the Twins now (well, except Ron Gardenhire). The Twins apparently have a top-notch prospect at third base named Danny Valencia, who was recently promoted to Triple-A. If Crede's back craps out, you might as well bring Valencia up -- the Twins aren't going anywhere this season anyway, and since Valencia will probably be the starter come Opening Day 2010, it might be a good idea to give the guy some experience now.
Nick Blackburn pitched very well for the Twins in the first five innings, surrendering only a two-out, unearned run in the second inning (caused by Michael Cuddyer stupidity, who insanely threw the ball into the left field corner to score a run). Then came the sixth, when Blackburn gave up back-to-back home runs to Alberto Callaspo and Miguel Olivo. I know, who???! You don't give up hits to guys like Alberto Callaspo, much less home runs. It should also be said that Blackburn gave up a base hit to Tony Pena Jr., who is by far the worst hitter among position players in the major leagues. Nick Punto looks like God at the plate compared to Pena, who came into the game hitting .088!!! It's not as if it's an anomaly, either -- Pena hit .169 in 95 games last season for the Royals, with an unheard-of OPS of .398. Blackburn's stuff is conducive to giving up some base hits, but if you're giving up hits to Tony Pena Jr. you don't belong in the bigs, I'm sorry.
Scott Baker pitches tonight for the Twins against right-hander Brian Bannister for the Royals, who's done well against the Twins in his career. Baker has done very well against the Royals in his career, too, notably coming close to a perfect game against KC in 2007. Baker had a no-hitter after six innings against the Royals this year (and had a 4-0 lead) and ended up losing the game in what was one of the most pathetic games I have ever seen. This Royal team has really struggled since the Twins first saw them this year, but the way the Twins' are (i.e. wildly inconsistent), it would make a lot of sense for them to win two series on the road against teams tied for first place and then get swept by the fourth-place Royals. Let's hope that doesn't happen.