Red Sox v. Twins, 7:05 pm. It's another tip-top pitching matchup tonight as Twins righty Nick Blackburn (7-4, 3.78) faces lovable lefty Jon Lester (7-3, 3.21). Blackburn's got a tasty curveball and much better control than Lester (16 BB in 104.2 innings vs. 41 in 117.2 for Lestahh) but opponents are batting a pretty comfy .294 off him this year (.255 against Lester). It'll be interesting to see which of these two comes out on top tonight.
Incidentally, allow me (if I may) to indulge a small quibble with Ron Gardenhire's Twinkies. The kids are on a tear, it's true, but they're doing it with a lineup that's SEVERELY devoid of that most beloved of baseball goodies, The Home Run. Yes, these Twins are currently last in the AL in taters and second-to-last above only the godawful Giants in the Majors overall. This DESPITE hovering at 2nd in the AL Central, now a still-slim 1.5 games back of the White Sox (also despite, um, having a designated hitter, but whatever). Now, I'm not Jon Daniels, but it strikes me that the ability to hit home runs is a pretty important commodity for a team that wants to beat out its opponents in a competitive division. (This does not, of course, apply to a team like the 2007 Rockies, who managed to parlay a series of singles and stolen bases into a World Series appearance thanks to the tepid vat of baseball suckitude that is the NL West. GUHHH FIRE EVERYBODY INVOLVED AND BRING ME ANDRE ETHIER.) With supposed power hitters Joe Mauer and Delmon Young having combined for only 7 freaking homers so far this season, it should be abundantly clear to Ron Gardenhire, angry garden gnome though he may be, that HE NEEDS A BIG BAT. [Ed. note: yup, it matters. Sorry, boys!]
SO WHY IN THE HELL DOESN'T HE PLAY CRAIG MONROE MORE FREQUENTLY?!
Jason Kubel, the Twins' usual DH, has 12 homers on the season so far with a .793 OPS -- decent numbers for a DH. Monroe's .738 is lower, sure -- reason being that his OBP is a limbo-stick-at-Carnival low .289. Dude wouldn't take a walk if it offered him an ice cream cone and a free pony. He's got 38 Ks and only 14 walks in 138 at-bats so far this year. BUT, in those 138 at-bats (over 50 games, mind you, which indicates that a significant number of those game appearances were pinch appearances), he's got 8 home runs. An EXTREMELY conservative estimate of 500 at-bats for a typical major-league starter (barring injury, of course, so let's assume we're not talking about either the Mets' outfield or Nomar Garciaparra) puts this kid on pace for an almost 29-tater season. WHAT?! You'd have to be nuts (or an angry garden gnome, I guess) not to play this kid more frequently, especially when the supposed power hitter you sent a valuable up-and-coming arm packing to Tampa Bay for is failing to produce. So the guy's a little swingy at the plate. Big freaking deal. They still let Jeff Francouer play baseball, I hear -- and maybe risking a strikeout is worth the possibility of bumping up your power numbers a bit.
Ok now that I am done obsessing about the hitting stats of a team I could honestly give two shits about, let's move on...
Frivolous prop bet of the night: Ron Gardenhire is ejected from the game after losing his temper over... I don't know, Justin Morneau stubbing his toe on a passed ball. (Note that this isn't so much a prop bet as it is a personal wish, since Gardenhire losing it cracks me up to no end. He gets so RED and PUFFY. Hee!)
Serious prediction of the night: Really, though, if the umps tonight keep using whatever wacky 4-dimensional shape-shifting strike zone they were using to call Okajima's pitches last night, I bet we get treated to a classic Ron Gardenhire's Coachilicious Conniption(TM). Hooray!