Wetmore: 5 thoughts after yet another big inning dooms Phil Hughes
Get the 1500 ESPN SportsWire delivered to your inbox daily, and keep up with all the news in Twin Cities Sports
MINNEAPOLIS - The Twins lost the first game of the series to the Toronto Blue Jays, and the trouble began when starting pitcher Phi Hughes couldn't get an out in the sixth inning. Hughes had mostly cruised through five innings with seven strikeouts, but that came to a screeching halt in the sixth inning, when he allowed the first four batters to reach on base hits before Hughes was lifted.
Major League Baseball honored Jackie Robinson on Tuesday, with every player wearing his retired No. 42.
Here are 5 thoughts I had from Tuesday's game:
Feel free 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. Pedro Florimon entered Tuesday's game slugging 0.67. After his second-inning triple, his slugging percentage rose to .161. He had just 28 plate appearances before the game, so that's playing with numbers a bit. Still.
2. Joe Mauer had an RBI single and struck out three times Tuesday. The last time Mauer struck out three times in one game was July 4, 2013, a 9-5 loss to the Yankees. It's a rarity.
3. I'm already tired of the way managers handle questionable calls they might consider challenging. I like the spirit of replay--eradicating obviously bad calls. I like that baseball finally is jumping in and trying to correct situations like Armando Galarraga's almost perfect game. I recognize the new replay system won't be perfect from the onset and that the league likely will work to correct the flaws.
And yet it's maddening, when there's a questionable call, to see a manager amble out of the dugout and slowly approach the umpire in question. You can just hear the conversation playing out in your head.
'Hey, I'll be honest, that was a pretty close call and I couldn't see it in real time. But it was close enough that we might challenge it and I'm truthfully just stalling until our video guy can relay the signal to our dugout. So if you'd be so kind as to--what's that, bench coach? He was safe?'
'OK, thanks, blue. We're good.'
And then the walk back to the dugout. It's an irritating byproduct of the current system.
3(b). Solution? Time limit for managers' conversations with umpires.
4. Phil Hughes' 7 strikeouts, 1 walk is a good sign for Twins fans. The rest of his line was not so great, but Hughes might be the pitcher you're watching the closest in that category. When Hughes struggles, one of the root causes is his inability to miss bats. Hughes allows batters to extend plate appearances by fouling off two-strike pitches. His final four strikeouts were called third strikes so the 7 K's are not exclusively a product of missing bats.
His three swinging strikeouts came on four-seam fastballs. Two of his called third strikes were on fastballs, one on a curve that froze Dioner Navarro (who was batting left-handed). The seventh strikeout was categorized a slider by pitch f/x, but I believe it was a cutter.
5. At some point, searching Hughes' starts for silver linings won't cut it.
His line: 5+ innings, 8 hits, 4 earned runs. If you're the Twins, you want to see Hughes get deeper into games and avoid the wall he hit Tuesday. After completing five innings, Hughes failed to get an out in the sixth inning, as four batters reached on hits before Hughes was lifted. He said he wasn't fatigued, but simply lost his ability to locate pitches in the sixth inning.
"So far on the year: three starts, three bad innings it seems like," Hughes said. "My stuff was pretty good, I was locating pretty well...and then, couldn't do the same in the sixth [inning] there."
When he's at his best, he works off his fastball and can use the curveball to change a hitters' eye level. Like most fastball pitchers, he relies heavily on his ability to command his fastball.
What'd you think of your curve ball, Phil?
"It was OK. I had a little [finger] nail issue later in the game, so I went away from that. Early on it was OK at times and not so great at other times."