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Twins 6, Royals 5: The Bullpen Holds On

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Nick Blackburn wasn't particularly sharp this afternoon, giving up five runs and two home runs over five innings. But the Twins bullpen bailed him out, pitching 4 scoreless innings to lead the Twins to a 6-5 victory at Target Field. With the victory, the Twins have clinched their fourth straight (out of four this season) series victory and move to 9-3 on the season.

You'll see more details below, but this year I'm going to be rolling out my "Total Run Accounting" metrics as part of the game recaps. I'll go into much more detail over the next few weeks, but the general concept is, taking every aspect of the game (batting, running, fielding and pitching), how many runs does each player contribute (positive and negative) on each and every play? Starting from a league average performance, which would mean 4.16 runs over 8 innings batting (as the Twins had today), each player's contribution increases or decreases the team's runs up until the actual number of runs scored, 6 today.

How did the Twins do as a team offensively today? My metrics indicate that the offense won this game as much with baserunning as hitting. Overall for the day, the Twins were +0.77 runs batting and +1.07 runs baserunning for a total of +1.84 runs offensively, which when added to the expected (based on league average for 8 innings) 4.16 runs gives us the Twins total of 6 runs scored. How did we get there?

Studs:

  1. Jim Thome: 1-2, HR, 2 RBI, 2 BB. Thome got the Twins started, and he clogged the bases most of the day. In all, Thome contributed +1.87 runs today. So basically, with Thome's performance the Twins were starting off with 6 runs. 
  2. Brian Duensing: 2 IP, H, SO. Duensing settled this game down after the Royals scored in the second, third and fifth. He's now 2-0 this season and has pitched very well out of the bullpen. 
  3. Orlando Hudson: 2-3, HR, BB. Hudson put the Twins ahead for good with a home run off the facing of the upper deck in left. I believe it's the first home run in Target Field to reach the upper deck in any way. Hudson contributed +1.16 runs today, mostly batting but a small (+0.07) portion running the bases.
  4. Matt Guerrier / Jon Rauch: 2 IP, H, 2 BB, SO. It may not have been pretty, but they held on to a one run lead.
  5. J.J. Hardy: 1-4, R, SO. Why was Hardy a "star" today? At the plate, he didn't do much (-0.45 runs). Yes, he doubled in the second, but that was more than canceled out by his other three at bats. But on the basepaths Hardy gave us +0.71 runs. How did he do this while reaching base only once? When Denard Span hit the grounder off Billy Butler's outstretched glove in the second inning, J.J. alertly rounded third to score, even though the ball never got more than about 10 feet from Butler. Since there were two outs at the time, Hardy pretty much gets credit for scoring that run with my metrics.

Duds:

  1. Jason Kubel: 0-4, GIDP. You'd think he was facing a left hander out there. Kubel contributed -2.05 runs batting today, in other words he more than canceled out Thome's day.
  2. Nick Blackburn: 5 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, BB, 3 SO, 2 HR. Blackburn has now allowed six home runs in three games. A few more outings like these and I may start to get worried.
  3. Brendan Harris: 0-3, R, BB, SO. Not a terrible game, Harris was at -0.27 runs total. His -0.40 runs batting was mitigated by good baserunning (+0.13 runs) when he scored his run.

Additional game notes and observations follow after the jump.

  • From the first batter, it was clear that the Royals hitters saw the ball as well as Angels and White Sox hitters in Blackburn's last two starts. David DeJesus lined a shot to right center field, but Denard Span (who was shading DeJesus to left) got a good jump and made a nice running catch.
  • Rick Ankiel hurt us today, hitting two home runs off Blackburn. He's a guy who could hit 40 home runs if he ever "gets it" at the plate.
  • Yuniesky Betancourt is simply not a very good shortstop. Orlando Hudson hit a Texas Leaguer over his head in the fourth inning and Betancourt turned himself around like Troy Williamson trying to catch the deep ball. 
  • ESPN says Thome's homer went 414 feet. I don't buy it, he crushed that ball into the evergreens. 
  • Blackburn gutted through this one. He clearly didn't have his good stuff (again), but after giving up the lead in the fifth he picked off Scott Podsednik and got Butler to ground out and end the threat.
  • Justin Morneau hit the first Twins triple in Target Field history with a fly ball off the left field fence. I swear Podsednik finally grabbed that ball as Morneau was rounding second. He's got "Johnny Damon Arm".
  • Jim Thome's not a very good baserunner (duh), but he has to avoid getting tagged running to second on Kubel's double play. If Callaspo has to throw to second there's a chance Kubel beats the throw and Morneau scores from third.
  • The Royals bullpen looks timid. Other than Joakim Soria (who I hope we never see this year), they nibble at the zone a lot.
  • Once Hudson hit the home run in the seventh inning, I knew we could go to our comfort zone, Guerrier - Rauch to end it.
  • David DeJesus may not have liked the strike three call to end the game, but it was a strike. About 10 inches closer than the strike three call against Hardy in the eighth. Seriously, the FSN pitch location nearly had that pitch outside of the box altogether...even pitches that bounce in front of home plate are within the box.