Congratulations, Commander Riker: You've Been Promoted to the Bullpen

July 10, 2008:  Open Thread Recap, Minnesota @ Detroit

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Riker:  Thank you, sir.  I also hit right handed, and for power.

The strange thing about Riker's promotion is that the bullpen was rock solid on Thursday afternoon, and Justin Morneau provided exactly enough power to fuel the offense.

Kevin Slowey was knocked around early and hard by the Tiger offense.  His final line was better only than his June 8th outing against the White Sox, but only marginally so.  He was knocked out before completing the fourth inning, getting charged with all six runs off of nine hits and a pair of walks.  No matter what he threw in that disasterous fourth inning, Detroit had the answer.

But tonight it was the Twins mounting the late rallies.  In the seventh, Nick Punto, Denard Span, Carlos Gomez and Alexi Casilla played roles in what would be a one-run inning.  Casilla's sac-fly to plate Punto brought the Twins within striking distance at 6-3.

In the eighth, Justin Morneau blasted a deep shot that bounced off the top of the wall just to the right side of center field.  The umpires converged and called it a double, but I'm not too sure.  It looked like a home run to me.  But it's a moot point now, and Justin wasn't done anyway.  He advanced to third before scoring on a Delmon Young ground out.

The ninth inning was a thing of beauty, and returned some of the bounces that had been working against the Twins the last few days.  Consecutive singles by Punto and Span ended up scoring a run thanks to the futility of Tiger outfielder Matt Joyce, and Joe Mauer immediately followed that up with a sacrifice fly to plate Span and tie the game at six.

Things were quiet until the top of the eleventh, thanks to a bullpen that combined for seven and a third scoreless innings by the end of the afternoon.  Following a Jason Kubel fly-out and a nice catch by Clete Thomas, Tiger reliever Freddy Dolsi had logged 2.1 innings and 32 pitches.  On Dolsi's second offering and 34th pitch, Justin Morneau turned and made dead red contact with the fat part of the lumber.  Dolsi's fastball was history the moment it left the bat, and this time they couldn't take Justin's home run away.  Matt Guerrier threw his second scoreless inning to end the game, joining Craig Breslow, Jesse Crain, Dennys Reyes and Joe Nathan in the relief effort.

There was only one point in the game where I truly felt the Twins were working against themselves.  In the bottom of the ninth with the game tied at six, Morneau had just walked to put runners on first and second with two away.  Detroit removed southpaw Bobby Seay for right-hander Freddy Dolsi.  Craig Monroe, who's absolutely destroyed right-handed pitchers this season to the tune of .284/.338/.622, was removed in lieu of Mike Lamb.

Mike Lamb grounded out.

Of course it isn't a big deal, because the Twins did manage to come back and tie the game prior to the plate appearance.  And ultimately, the Twins did win, and that's what matters.  (That, and Morneau going 5-for-5 with a homer, pair of doubles and a walk.)  But this move was completely incomprehensible and, in my mind, without any defense.  Lamb has had a rough year, and I feel for him and I still want him to succeed, but he hasn't hit this year.  It doesn't matter what hand the pitcher throws with, Lamb's been horrible.  Gardenhire, who uses Monroe versus southpaws in spite of his miserable numbers, then lifts him from an at-bat versus a right-hander, who he's destroyed.  Color me baffled.

Still, like I said, the Twins won.  Confusion is easily quelled when the long-term goal is met.  But hopefully, if this situation arrises again, Gardenhire can just turn to Riker.  He mashes righties AND lefties.

Also, the barriers of Deanna Troi's heart.

[Note by Jesse, 07/10/08 7:18 PM CDT ]  I almost forgot!  Mad props to Andersklasen, montanatwinsfan, caseintheface, cmathewson, TMW, Neil, DedicatedFlowerOfFastion, PhoenixV, neide, cooldude, .mnqwerd and Tony_O for keeping the game thread jumping!

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