Mike: What is an 'Astro', anyway?
Jesse: I'm not sure, but if you rearrange the letters in 'Astros' you get 'Ass Rot'.
All this progress is making me ill. Not because we're playing well, but because in our first real winning streak we're spinning our wheels. The Twins are 9-1 in their last 10 games. So are the White Sox...no made up ground there. We have made up a game on the Tigers, however, since they lost tonight. The Tigers are 8-2 in their last 10. Where are the timely losing streaks by the division opponents above us in the standings?
But, enough pessimism for tonight. A victory is a victory, and is cause for another celebration...especially since Francisco Liriano is the real deal. Sorry, J.D., but someone's taking your self-adorned nickname. Since Liriano has entered the Minnesota rotation, he could arguably be our most consistent pitcher. Look how he's done in his 7 starts in 2006.
Date IP H ER K BB ERA (running)
May 19 5.0 2 1 5 3 2.96
May 26 5.0 4 0 6 1 2.51
May 31 6.0 1 0 4 4 2.11
Jun 6 6.0 7 3 3 2 2.44
Jun 11 7.0 1 0 6 2 2.10
Jun 16 7.0 5 2 11 1 2.16
Jun 22 8.0 4 2 7 2 2.17
Totals 44.0 24 8 42 15 1.64
Francisco: Who is this beetch? Who is this beetch looking in my general direction?
Joe: That's the hitter, Cisco.
Francisco: I shall strike him out.
Did you see the way Liriano's slider broke? I say this every time I see it, but that slider is NASTY. N-A-S-T-Y. Some guys couldn't believe it was in the strikezone. Others, like Ensberg, never got a lock on Liriano, either. Ensberg was jumping away from pitches directly over the plate; he also began walking toward the dugout on a third strike looking before the umpire rang him up. Until the 8th, when Liriano gave up the 2-run shot, there was nothing but junk. There was nothing but the violence of the pitching motion and the unsure swings of the hitters. It was fun to watch.
Liriano, outside of Minnesota, still has the luxury of flying in under the radar. Sure, there are rumors of a 97 mph fastball and a slider that breaks the laws of physics, but until you see it, it's all just talk. Roger Clemens doesn't have this luxury. All the talk about tonight's game had to do with the return of The Rocket. It had to do with the return of one of the greatest pitchers in the history of the game.
I expected Clemens to be a little rustier. Even at 43, however, Clemens didn't need his full arsenal to be effective. He knows hitters, he knows tendencies, and he knows how much he can take surviving on borrowed time. The good news for The Rocket is that borrowed time isn't all he has left in the tank.
Living On Borrowed Time? You know better.
Clemens showed flashes of his former self tonight. Striking out 4 through 5 innings, racing to cover first, locating his balls around the strikezone and with good command of his splitter, he found a way to get through 5 and keep his team in the game.
Only in the third inning did the Twins collect enough hits to do some damage on the Astros while the future Hall of Famer was still on the mound. Two runs, the only two Roger allowed, came across on a hard-hit Cuddyer grounder and a looping fly ball that bounced off the left field wall by Jason Kubel.
Joe: High five for that fur on your face.
Jason: My mom says I'm a catch.
Where the rust showed was in the pitch counts. Those numbers got away from Roger, who threw pitches in the lower-20's and upper-30's in the second and third respectively. By the fifth he was over 100, and that was the end of his night. He left to a standing ovation from the Houston faithful, and basing his 2006 on what I saw from one start, Clemens will be just fine. Unfortunately for Houston, that may not be enough.
Speaking of enough, Justin Morneau went yard AGAIN tonight, for the third time in the road trip. If you've had the pleasure of watching Justin on this torrid hot streak of his, notice his new approach at the plate. There's no hesitation in his movements. His eyes are focused, anticipating, not blank as if he's waiting to see what's coming. The best part about Morneau is that he's not necessarily swinging for the fences; his power is a result of strength and mechanics. Justin is simply a big, strong guy, and he's been nothing short of spectacular in the month of June.
Justin: Voy auge.
Games AB R H 2B HR RBI BB SO Avg Obp Slg
66 244 35 67 13 18 58 20 50 .275 .331 .549
151 558 80 153 30 41 133 46 114 .275 .331 .549
The first line is Morneau's line thus far in 2006; the second line are his projected numers. Every single number would be a career high for Justin, although it's the quality of the numbers that say how big of an achievement it would be as opposed to simply the fact itself. How many of you would flip out if a Twins hitter topped 40 home runs? Raise your hands. Go ahead. I'll start counting. Now, don't put your hands down until I've called your name...
After a 5-1 road trip that easily could have been a 6-0 road trip, the Twins have to feel like their fate is in their own hands at this point. It's going to take a lot of hard work and quite a bit of luck to make a legitimate postseason run, but we're at least in a position to be discussing such a thing.
Nothing like wins in bunches to breed sickeningly sweet optimism. Isn't it great? Wait, didn't I mention I felt ill at the top of this post?