Phenom's second start of 2009 a bit more Price-esque.
A pair of strikeouts in the first. A pair of strikeouts in the second. Two more in the third, in the fourth, in the fifth. One more for good measure in the sixth. Eleven strikeouts over the better part of six innings, and there but for the grace of the baseball gods goes David Price.
Tampa's 23-year old southpaw did everything to the Twins but chew them up and spit them out, sustaining all of one run over the course of his afternoon. Fastballs, as abundant as they were fast and lethal, broke in and out of the strike zone; the slider was the only other pitch used more than twice, and it's just as nasty. Sure, the Twins got their base runners while Price was on the mound (five hits, two walks), but as Bert likes to say: good pitching beats good hitting. And really, the Twins don't have an abundance of good hitting.
Francisco Liriano buckled under the pressure again tonight, and was ruined by one substantial inning. In the bottom of the third inning he threw 47 pitches, which basically limited him to four innings; during an in-game interview, Ron Gardenhire expressed his desire to not send him out for that fourth inning, but was convinced otherwise by pitching coach Rick Anderson.
A couple of double plays and a trio of strikeouts enabled Liriano to be effective enough in the first, second and fourth innings, but that third inning was like watching the rain fill up your boat as you tried to empty it with a tea spoon. Somebody named Joe Dillon, a 33-year old minor league journeyman, hit his third career home run, a solo shot that tied the game at one. Following a ground out, the Rays lit Liriano up for five singles and a pair of walks before Cisco retired Dillon on strikes to end the offensive tirade.
It's difficult to know where to begin talking about the troubles Liriano is running into. We know he's effectively wild at his best, and we know about the hiccups in mechanics and the changes he's gone through since Tommy John surgery. But so far this year we've watched him struggle for any semblance of consistency, and as a result he struggles to be effective. Whether he bleeds to death or gets hammered by the one big inning, Liriano is getting beat. From what I'm observing, his getting beat has to do with the following:
- As was discussed in the comments section of this afternoon's game, pitching is as much mental as it is physical. Cisco has had issues wrapping his head around adverse situations in the past, and this season those situations are catching up to him. When he needs a big pitch he rarely throws it and, having backed himself into a difficult situation, seems to get into his own head. And for a pitcher, that's the last thing you need them to do.
- The second part of that equation is the physical bit, and for a pitcher as talented as Liriano who isn't getting many positive results, there has got to be a mechanical hiccup somewhere. He's unable to locate his fastball, and even on his sliders and changeups tonight Joe Mauer was having to move his glove on almost every pitch. If a pitcher can't put the ball where asked, he's going to get spanked.
- Luck has been a big factor for Liriano, and he's had his share of bad luck this year. His FIP is in the upper-4's, which is frustrating. In his last start, during Boston's big inning, all hits came with two outs and two strikes; two of those hits were ground balls that managed to just barely elude Minnesota's infielders. Cisco made good pitches there, too. It just wasn't meant to be.
Sigh. Moving on.
Joe Crede left the game early after fouling a ball off his leg.
As of this writing there's been no news on what his x-rays revealed, or how long Crede will be out. Hopefully it won't be long, because in spite of a low average and on-base percentage he's still more valuable than anyone else the Twins could play at third. [Edit: Crede has a left knee contusion, and will be day-to-day.]
R.A. Dickey continues to pitch well in his mop-up role, allowing just one run over four innings. So. Y'know. That's a plus.
Stars of the Game
#3: Brendan Harris (1-for-3, 2B, R, BB, .000 WPA)
#2: R.A. Dickey (4 IP, 2 H, 3 K, 2 BB, HR, .022 WPA)
#1: Joe Mauer (1-for-3, 2B, BB. .098 WPA)
Tears for You
#1: Francisco Liriano (4 IP, 7 H, 3 K, 3 BB, HR, 4 R, -.245 WPA)
#2: Delmon Young (0-for-4, 3 K, 3 LOB, -.099 WPA)
#3: Michael Cuddyer (0-for-4, 3 K, 4 LOB, -.131 WPA)