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Sweeney Homers, Ass-Bats Return

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Eminem says:  Hip-hop The offense is in a state of 9-1-1.

I don't want to say I called it (actually, I don't mind), but I did:  Mike Sweeney hit his first home run of 2008 against the Twins on Wednesday.  While Oakland already had all the runs it would need to come away with the win, Sweeney's shot in the bottom of the eighth played through my visions like so many other of Sweeney's hits in his tenure with the Royals.  At 34 and seemingly a walking injury waiting to happen, he's still a good hitter.

After a disturbing start to the game, Boof Bonser ended up giving the Twins six quality innings.  Only 56% of his pitches went for strikes, and in the process he walked four.  Three hits allowed, none out of the park, kept the game close; when Bonser left Minnesota was only down 2-0.  He attributed his initial lack of effectiveness to "mechanical problems" and being "rusty", but also said the number of walks he issued were unnacceptable.

On the other side of the hill, Oakland starter Chad Gaudin completed seven innings in just 84 pitches, walking none and striking out four.  Allowing just four singles, his fourth start of the year was a far cry from the first pair, as each saw him lit up to the tune of eight earned runs in just 10 innings.  He'd also allowed 17 base runners between the two starts, but the man we saw on Wednesday night was an entirely different pitcher, and now has allowed just one run in his last 14 innings.  Against the Twins he executed superb command and a very good breaking ball, inducing a lot of ground-ball outs.

Offensively for the Twins, the only real threat of the night came on Kubel launching a ball deep into right field.  With Delmon Young on base it would have tied the game at 2-2, but it veered out of fair territory.  Craig Monroe would seal the inning's fate with a pop-up to strand runners on second and third.  Only Joe Mauer tallied an extra-base hit; a useless double in the top of the ninth.  His effort was wasted as again, Minnesota couldn't string together a series of hits.

Starting in center field on Wednesday was Denard Span, who went 1-for-3.  Carlos Gomez was given the night off, as going 1-for-18 in the last four games had indicated that his recent skid isn't just a slump, but that he's currently over-matched.  24 strikeouts and two walks in 87 at-bats is a miserable start, and since hitting .326/.356/.465 in his first ten games has hit .136/.136/.159 in his last ten.

How bad does it have to get, and for how long, before the Twins pull a u-turn on their plans for Carlos Gomez?  There's merit in just throwing a player into the fire, not just to see how he responds but to give him the experience necessary and to let him take his lumps.  But at certain junctures the philosophy can take on some negative qualities in regards to the player's development.

I'll get into that tonight.