Don't look now, but the starting pitching is doing okay...
Scott Baker looked good last night. He allowed a two-run homer to Luke Scott in the fourth but otherwise kept Baltimore off the board with a little help from his defense: Denard Span made a highlight catch by settling under a deep fly ball off the bat of Scott in the second, with a well-timed leap at the wall robbing him of a home run.
Over their last four games, Twins starters have combined for 28 innings with just three runs allowed. That's a massive improvement, and with a strong start today we could make it one big improvement for everyone in the rotation.
Specifically, Baker peppered left-handed batters with fastballs, mixing in the occasional breaking balls and changeups. He and Joe Mauer obviously had a plan: attack with the fastball, be tactical with everything else. If it wasn't a fastball it was either low, outside or both. The plan worked, with Orioles hitters just 2-for-14 on balls in play against the fastball, 2-for-9 against the breaking stuff, and even the changeup had positive results: not a single changeup was put in play, even if the off-speed stuff was hit pretty hard.
But that was the story for Baker last night. He worked quickly, threw strikes, Baltimore helped him out by swinging even when they shouldn't, and most of the hard-hit balls found gloves.
The biggest star of the night though, in spite of Baker's performance, was Delmon Young. He's nigh on unstoppable right now, and after driving in the game's first run on a sacrifice fly in the first ran his RBI total for the game to three with a two-run homer in fifth. At the time it turned a 1-2 deficit into a 3-2 lead, and in the end it would be all the runs Minnesota required.
Last night was Delmon's second four-hit game of the year, his eighth multi-hit game in his last 11, and he now has 22 RBI in July alone. Remember when we used to talk about how Delmon compared with the game's left fielders, and how it wasn't necessarily positive even when Delmon was doing well for Delmon? Well, he's now hitting .325/.357/.525, and that .882 OPS is fourth in all of baseball among left fielders. He trails only Josh Hamilton (1.026), Matt Holiday (.916) and Brennan Boesch (.907).
Nice game last night, guys. Let's do it again. Notes, studs and duds after the jump.
- Have you heard of Danny Valencia? Three more hits last night, including a double and a big RBI. It was only his fourth double, and he doesn't have any other extra-base hits (yet), but he's batting .329 with a .386 on-base percentage.
- Jason Repko got the start in right field last night, with Cuddyer at first and Kubel at DH. It was a rough one as he struck out three times in five plate appearances, but he followed Valencia's double with a big one of his own.
- Speaking of the bottom of the order, J.J. Hardy nabbed another pair of hits. He's still stuck on three home runs and hasn't hit one since April 23, but he's batting .339/.361/.424 since his return from the disabled list. It's easy to score when the bottom of your order hits well.
- Matt Guerrier and Jon Rauch combined for scoreless eighth and ninth innings, respectively.
- Kubel wore the collar: 0-for-5, two strikeouts.
Delmon Young (4-for-4, HR, 3 RBI, R, .277 WPA)
Scott Baker (7 IP, 8 K, 1 BB, 4 H, 2 R, .167 WPA)
Danny Valencia (3-for-5, 2B, RBI, R, .136 WPA)
Jason Kubel (0-for-5, 2 K, -.161 WPA)
Joe Mauer (0-for-5, K, -.130 WPA)