Wetmore: 5 thoughts, 2 Suzuki shortcomings, and why Pinto should play
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins lost a tight ballgame Wednesday as the team continues to struggle to score runs. They lost 1-0 to the Texas Rangers, when Jared Burton gave up the only run of the game in the seventh inning.
Joe Mauer went 0-for-4 and twice failed to drive in a runner from second base. In a one-run game, that stands out more than it otherwise would.
This column presents 5 thoughts from Wednesday's game.
As always, feel free to ask any questions or make any observations in the comments. If you have a unique baseball observation during a game, feel free to share it with me on Twitter (@DerekWetmore).
1. Kyle Gibson struck out four batters Wednesday. His most important punchout ended the second inning and stranded runners on second and third in a scoreless game. Gibson retired Adrian Beltre and struck out Alex Rios, but a single and a double gave the Rangers their first scoring threat.
Gibson fell behind Robinson Chirinos, 2-0, and got a called strike, all with his two-seam fastball. He unleashed two more two-seamers and got Chirinos to swing and miss at each to get out of trouble.
Gibson has said after previous starts that the walks were bothering him. He entered this start averaging 3.6 walks per nine innings and just 4.5 strikeouts. His second consecutive start without walking a batter, then, constitutes progress. He's got a ways to go to catch teammate Phil Hughes, who actually might be allergic to walking batters.
2. Kurt Suzuki started at catcher despite awful career numbers against Joe Saunders. I don't ordinarily cite career performance numbers between a batter and pitcher because they're almost always statistical noise. (If a batter is 2-for-11 in his career, does that tell you anything meaningful?) But in this case, Suzuki's career batting line was striking. He had two hits in 33 plate appearances against the lefty Saunders. One of those hits was a solo home run, which manager Ron Gardenhire was quick to point out when asked before Wednesday's game about the decision to start Suzuki.
Suzuki began lobbying for the start Tuesday night, Gardenhire said, because Suzuki was aware of his career numbers against the lefty. And the manager likes to pair the veteran Suzuki with the relatively inexperienced Gibson. With a day game Thursday and Sam Deduno scheduled to make the start, Josmil Pinto will start at catcher. Before a recent game at Target Field, Gardenhire even joked that Suzuki is "afraid" of catching Deduno because of his erratic control.
Suzuki struck out and flew out against Saunders. He was 0-for-3 with a walk Wednesday.
3. Josmil Pinto should be getting more plate appearances than he has in the past two weeks (even factoring in five National League games). Gardenhire said he has every intention of getting more plate appearances for Pinto, who is one of the better hitters on the Twins. He'll catch Deduno on Thursday. But it's questionable not having him in the lineup more often this season, given his apparent ability at the plate and the necessity to find out how good a hitter he can be in the Major Leagues.
4. Suzuki threw out Luis Sardinas attempting to steal second base in the fifth inning. Suzuki hasn't been good throwing out potential base runners this season. Sardinas is the fourth runner Suzuki has thrown out this season in 22 attempts, after Alex Rios and Leonys Martin each stole a base Wedesday off Suzuki and Gibson. That means runners successful steal nearly 82 percent of the time with Suzuki behind the plate. Part of that is on Suzuki, but the time it takes a pitcher to deliver to the plate is an important part of the equation, too. As is how close to a base a pitcher holds a runner.
Suzuki entered Wednesday's game third-worst among qualified catchers at throwing out runners, slightly behind Carlos Ruiz and Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Here are the stolen base percentages and caught stealing percentages of the qualifed MLB catchers this season entering Wednesday:
*Among qualified catchers. Total caught stealing percentage and stolen base percentage numbers were used to calculate the aggregate league percentages. Those numbers reflect only qualfied catchers.
5. Aaron Hicks was scratched from the starting lineup after he said his back stiffened up during batting practice. Hicks said he's unsure if he'll be able to play in Thursday's day game. The discomfort is on the lower left side of his back, he said. He had a similar pain while playing in A-ball, which took a couple days to get over.
Danny Santana was told during batting practice that he'd be starting in center field and batting ninth, in Hicks' place.
Sam Fuld saw a concussion specialist in Pittsburgh and the Twins are expecting to have those results Thursday.
Yes, it's an unfortunate string of injuries for the Twins. The organization as whole, however, looks mighty thin at Major League-ready center field options.