We missed you, Scott.
In one of his best starts this season, and let's be honest they've been few and far between, Scott Baker struck out a career-high ten batters over seven innings. And in a reversal of fortunes from Wednesday night, today's game saw the Twins offense give their starter plenty of run support.
Jason Kubel blasted a pair of home runs, joining Denard Span and Justin Morneau in Thursday's home run parade. Striking early and often, Minnesota chased Fausto Carmona after just two innings. Carmona, who's struggled to regain the form that made him so nasty in 2007, walked three and gave up five hits.
We've discussed the difference in production between the top of the order and the bottom of the order on this site before, but tonight's offensive outburst is a perfect snapshot of that problem.
Hitters 1-4: 10-for-15, 2B, 4 HR, 11 R, 10 RBI, 5 BB, 0 K
Hitters 5-9: 3-for-21, 2B, 0 HR, 0 R, 1 RBI, 0 BB, 2 K
Getting Michael Cuddyer back, and being able to slip Joe Crede back into the number six slot on most days stretches out the "capable" section of the lineup, but even those two are on completely different levels than the guys who hit one to four this afternoon. The problem, as it has been most of the season, has been the production at the bottom. We all know where the problems lie.
Still, today's focus has to be on the win. Baker's seven innings were great for the most part, scattering six hits and a walk. He threw 106 pitches and clearly tired near the end, with both of the final outs in the seventh inning coming on hard-hit line drives to center field that were up in the zone. But the ten strikeouts were something to watch, and for a great deal of the first six innings Baker had the Indians eating out of his hand.
Sean Henn pitched two scoreless innings in relief, lowering his ERA to 2.57 in mop-up duty.
Stars of the Game
#3: Justin Morneau (3-for-3, HR, 2B, 3 R, 3 RBI, 2 BB, .103 WPA)
#2: Scott Baker (7 IP, 6 H, HR, BB, 10 K, 3 R, .114 WPA)
#1: Jason Kubel (3-for-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 6 RBI, BB, .228 WPA)