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Game 62: Braves @ Twins

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First Pitch: 6:10 PM CDT
TV: Fox Sports North
Radio: Twins Radio Network

Know Thine Enemy: Talking Chop


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2010 - Nick Blackburn 6-3 11 11 1 0 0 0 67.1 93 40 39 9 14 17 5.21 1.59

The biggest difference between Blackburn this season and Blackburn v. 2009 is that his complimentary pitches aren't working. He's still getting ground balls, but the sinking fastball, curve and changeup are all less effective so far this season. As a result hitters are making contact on 97% of pitches in the strike zone, and that's not good news for a guy who is only striking out 2 hitters a game. Tops.

It's no secret that Nick has always lived and died on the extreme margins of his peripherals. This season those peripherals aren't playing ball, or maybe he's just had a little bad luck (17.8% line drive rate, .327 BABIP), or maybe luck has caught up with him to this point. Tonight his defense will have to make two or three solid plays and convert outs that normally wouldn't be converted, because that could be the difference between the Braves scoring two in seven innings, or six in five innings.


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2010 - Derek Lowe 8-5 13 13 0 0 0 0 75.0 77 44 42 6 32 44 5.04 1.45

Lowe hasn't been pitching well this season either, although it's for slightly different reasons and while facing National League lineups. In spite of getting to face pitchers on a regular basis, his strikeout totals aren't too impressive, and he's not exactly stingy with the free passes. He's also stranded a below-average 65% of base runners, which somewhat negates his adequate .298 BABIP.

At his best, Lowe's fastball-slider combination helped him be an effective pitcher even when he started losing the ability to be a strikeout threat. This year that slider is his worst pitch, and since moving to the National League he's never thrown it as rarely as he has this season (just 12.9% of total pitches). Instead he's throwing his changeup, totaling just 13.6% of pitches, but that's three times as many offspeed pitches as he's thrown the last two years. And, inspite of it not being the pitch it used to be, Lowe continues to throw his high-80s fastball more than 70% of the time.

He can be crafty, and still generate a few swings and misses over the course of a game. If the Twins want to beat Lowe, they'll have to take him out of his game by being patient and working the count, and forcing him to throw strikes. Just like Blackburn, if Lowe is forced to go over the plate it could be a short night for him.