Wednesday, April 7, 2010


The Twins ride the power of three home runs and, after a shaky start, Nick Blackburn settled down and pitched into the seventh inning, notching the first victory of the season for the Twins. Three first-inning runs proved to be the difference in the ballgame, as Joe Mauer's two-run home run provided the spark the Twins needed, and Justin Morneau and J. J. Hardy also hit their first home runs of the season. With Ron Gardenhire forced to leave the ballgame because of "flu-like symptoms," one of the drones had to fill in, in this case Scott Ullger, who proceeded to make the same ticky-tacky managerial moves that has come to be expected from The Brain. A computer could very well manage this ballclub, as Gardenhire has become merely mechanical in his in-game management.

Brian Douchebag got a key out in the seventh, making fans across the upper Midwest wonder why Brian Douchebag is asked to get key outs in the seventh inning. Matt Guerrier pitched a clean eighth which prompted Dick Bremer to personally induct Guerrier into the Hall of Fame, and Jon Rauch mowed down the Angels in the ninth, the first of many saves Rauch will pick up that Joe Nathan couldn't have done any better. As I've said before, the closer's job is perhaps the most overrated role in all of professional sports, and actually (don't jump out of your chair or anything) the Twins might be better off without Nathan in the ninth, for the simple reason that Ron Gardenhire classically underused Nathan. Maybe Gardy will be more apt to go to Rauch in the eighth inning, something that was anathema when Nathan was healthy. Gardenhire constantly babied Nathan and, as a result, lost more games in the eighth inning because he refused to put his best pitcher in the game. If anything, Rauch is a more durable reliever, and he could go for a two-inning save with relative ease. Of course, that won't happen with Ron Gardenhire managing this group or any group for that matter. When you struggled to play baseball successfully, as Gardenhire's brief playing career indicates, your talent appraising skills aren't the best, and real talent is something to be feared. How else do you explain the consistent benefit of the doubt given to slugs like Nick Punto and Matt Guerrier? Anyways, Rauch is guaranteed to get 30 saves. With any luck and a good offense that will provide Rauch many save opportunities, he could get 60 saves. That's why the closer's position is so overrated. Frankie Rodriguez had a terrible season with the Mets last year after setting the record for saves in 2008 -- a worse team and a lack of luck cut Rodriguez's saves in half in one season's time.

Carl Pavano toes the rubber tonight for the Twins, and like Blackburn, Pavano's a guy to keep your eye on. His stuff is eminently hittable, and he wasn't all that good last season with the Twins (don't believe what Dick Bremer will tell you -- Pavano was average at best after joining the ballclub). In an interesting irony, Pavano is currently on track to pitch the home opener, which means that he would have started the final game in Metrodome history and the first game in Target Field history. If that happens, that'd be a nice factoid for uncles to spring on unsuspecting nephews for Christmas gatherings aplenty in the future.
Photos: (1) AP/Jae C. Hong; (2) AP/Ann Heisenfelt

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