After the 2008 season, three young pitchers stepped forward for the Twins to start the healing process after the departure of Johan Santana. Scott Baker then 26 finished the year 11-4 with a 3.45 ERA, 24 year old Kevin Slowey went 12-11 with a 3.99 ERA and Fransisco Liriano returned from Tommy John surgery to throw 76 innings with a 3.91 ERA at the majors. Going into 2009, these three were set to front the new brand of Twins pitching to take to the post season. It did not go as planned. Baker (who was slotted for opening day) began the year on the DL with shoulder pain and proceeded to have a terrible April. He was able to bounce back by pitching 200 innings and had 15 wins but still had a 4.27 ERA. Kevin Slowey started hot going 10-3 but was struck by a ball in the wrist and lost velocity and control and would eventually be placed on the DL for the year. After 90 innings Slowey had a 4.86 ERA and his record seemed to hide how bad he really was. As for Liriano he was down right terrible. 5-13 with a 5.80 ERA. In spite of these three the Twins still some how won the division. However none of the 3 started in the playoffs. Baker started game 163 to get in the playoffs, Liriano was demoted to the pen and Slowey was recovering from wrist surgery.
2010 was new beginnings for these three and they have made the most of it. The Twins took 2 of 3 games from Indians this week, giving them an 11-5 record and the best start in franchise history. First time the Twins have won the first 5 series to start a season. Pitching is what won the series for the Twins. Kevin Slowey dominated game 1 going 8 innings giving up 1 run and striking out 9. Fransisco Liriano also went 8 innings shutting out the Tribe and racking up 6 K. Scott Baker had a solid 5 innings but got shelled in the 6th by Cleveland giving up 10 hits and 6 runs in 5.2 innings. This was kind of expected considering that Cleveland was held to just 1 run in the previous 18 innings against Twins pitching. The Twins missed out on their third opportunity to sweep a division opponent however it is still the fact that they have taken 5 straight series.
Kevin Slowey and Fransisco Liriano: as mentioned, combined for 16 innings they gave up 1 run walked 2 and combined to strikeout 15 guys. Kevin Slowey was so good that I did not even notice his stat line until the 5th inning because he was working so fast. Liriano never threw more then 15 pitching in an inning and the one time he got in trouble he forced an inning ending double play with the bases loaded.
Jason Kubel: needs a hug and day off. Kubel went 0 for the series with 7 strikeouts and is now hitting below .200 on the year. This is not a lefty/righty split thing. He is hitting left handed hitters .300 and right handers .176. Basically means he is just slumping and needs to get out of it.
Scott Baker: gave up a 3 fluke doubles to start game that literally hit the chalk to start the game. But the 6th inning was no fluke. He got hit hard, and a final stat line of 10 hits and 6 runs ran his ERA from 3.38 to 4.81 on the season. Just a few positive notes, Baker's ERA was close to 10 through 4 starts last year. He did not have 2 wins until May 24th. He did not get his ERA below 5 until June 30th. He has done all those things set on April 22nd. So it could be worse.
Hitting: The Twins offense may be in somewhat of a slump, even though they are getting on base at a better pace then the Yankees, but Thursday was no slump. Mitch Talbot looked extremely good. To be honest he is a prototypical Rick Anderson type pitcher. He pounded the strike zone early and even pitched well with 3 ball counts. His change up was very good and I was very impressed. The only hard hit ball off Talbot was a Justin Morneau RBI double, that may should not have been because Andy Marte dropped a lazy fly out that should have never gave Morneau and opportunity to hit in the inning.
Whats next: The Twins end their first Target Field home stand with a 6-3 record and now head to Kansas City, Detroit and these same Indians. Carl Pavano will look to bounce back from a dreadful start against the Royals. Nick Blackburn was pushed back a day because of forearm and elbow pain. He has not looked good at all in 2010 giving up 6 home runs already. Luckily the Twins will not have to see Zack Grienke. But the game to look forward to next week will be Tuesday night as Fransisco Liriano will get his big test against Justin Verlander.
Friday 7:10 CT: Carl Pavano (2-1, 4.96 ERA) vs Gil Meche (0-1 11.57 ERA)
Saturday 6:10 CT: Nick Blackburn (1-1 6.05 ERA) vs Luke Hochevar (1-1, 2.89 ERA)
Sunday: 12:10 CT: Kevin Slowey (2-1, 2.45 ERA) vs Brian Bannister (0-1 4.58 ERA)