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Scott Baker Is Getting Better, Denard Span Is Still Awesome

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Twins take series from Brew Crew.

Coming into this afternoon's game, I wouldn't have blamed you for being a little jumpy with Scott Baker on the hill.  After all, this was the guy who'd managed just a pair of quality starts in his first nine appearances, thanks in no small part to the home runs he offered up.

But like we discussed in the game thread, Baker has been on a bit of a hot (but quiet) streak recently.  Additionally, Eric in Madison was right:  baseball is all about the ups and downs.  Scott's 2009 won't be judged on his first two months, it'll be judged on the body of work.  And it's improving.

Including this afternoon's performance, six innigs and three runs (all off a pair of gopher balls in the sixth), Baker's now run his quality starts streak to five consecutive.  Surprised?  Me too.

In five June starts, Baker's logged 34.1 innings, allowing 13 earned runs off just 25 hits with 34 strikeouts and six walks.  Is the Baker we know and love and have longed for back?  He might be.  After tonight's game, Baker has actually induced more ground-outs this month (35) than air-outs (33).  The strikeouts are up, the walks are down, and even those nasty skyjacks were non-existant for three starts in a row.

In regards to the game Baker started strong, putting up five goose-eggs while allowing his offense to spot him a four-run lead.  Justin Morneau led off the scoring during a big fourth inning, singling in Denard Span (more on him in a moment) before Michael Cuddyer drew a bases-loaded walk to plate Brendan Harris.  The Twins would add one in the fifth and another in the sixth, off a big Joe Crede bomb to center field, before the Brewers cut the lead from 4-0 to 4-3.

Craig Counsell's walk (where did his awesome batting stance go and when did it change?) set up Casey McGehee for a two-run blast.  Prince Fielder followed two batters later with a solo blast, and if you weren't just a little nervous for the fate of the game, then I applaud your courage.

In spite of the brief run, Baker got through the inning and his offense picked him right back up.  A passed ball and a Joe Mauer double got the Twins a pair of runs back, and it would be enough.  R.A. Dickey, Matt Guerrier (who gave up a run, his first in 15 appearances) and Joe Nathan topped out the final three innings, with Nathan earning his 17th save.

Span's return couldn't really have been much better.  He picked up a big triple in the fifth and walked not once, not twice, but THREE TIMES.  Scoring three of the Twins runs, and basically picking up right where he left off, he made the ultimate impression this afternoon of exactly how valuable he is to this team in the leadoff role.  Welcome back, Denard.  It's been too long.

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Stars of the Game
#3:  Scott Baker  (6 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 2 HR, 5 K, 3 BB, .066 WPA)
#2:  Brendan Harris  (2-for-4, 2 R, RBI, .101 WPA)
#1:  Denard Span  (1-for-2, 3B, 3 BB, .165 WPA)