Home runs continue to be a problem for Josh Tomlin. It’s not surprising given his style of pitching and we’ve documented it time after time. The question is, how long can the Indians continue to count on Tomlin before his propensity for giving up the long ball becomes a legitimate concern? It’s one thing to pitch to contact, but that strategy is based on the assumption that said contact routinely means balls sent into the stands. It’s only getting worse too; this is the third year in the row in which Tomlin’s HR/9 and HR/fly ball rates have increased. How much longer can the Indians continue to play with fire?
As for the Twins, they appear to have found a diamond in the rough with Scott Diamond. He’s been one of their most reliable starting pitchers despite striking out only 4 batters per 9 innings. His secret appears to be a simple combination of not giving up walks and not giving up home runs. A batting average against of only .277 also helps. In addition, Diamond has gone 3-1 and averaging seven innings per start over his last five outings.
The 2012 season has been a series of ups and downs for Justin Masterson. In his last five starts, Masterson has gone 7 innings, 4.1 innings, 7 innings, 4.1 innings, and 7.1 innings. So which Masterson shows up on Saturday? If the dominating, lights-out version takes the mound the Indians are in great hands. If not, look out. Masterson could be knocked around the park by a Twins offense that has more power than people like to give them credit for.
Samuel Deduno is making his fourth career start in the Majors. So far the results have been okay. He’s allowed only seven runs but he’s not lasting very long (just over 5.1 innings per start). as he’s averaging 95 pitches per start. This can be attributed to a lack of control and command for the strike zone. All those 3-2 counts begin to add up after a while. This works out well because the Indians have been one of the best teams in baseball this year at working counts and forcing walks. If they can stay true to that and force Deduno to throw a lot of pitches early, they can be in the Twins’ bullpen by the fifth inning.
In Ubaldo Jimenez’s last start, he did everything he could over the course of six innings to preserve the lead and keep the Indians’ playoff dreams alive. He worked his way in and out of trouble and by the time he handed the game over to the bullpen he had a 2-0 lead. Unfortunately, Jimenez ended up with a no decision, but if not for his gutsy performance the Indians may not have been in a position win the game in the end. Going against a significantly weaker lineup in the Twins, Jimenez should be able to dominate. Then again, as we’ve come to learn, you should expect the unexpected with Ubaldo Jimenez.
But the frustration Tribe fans might have with Jimenez idoesn’t hold a candle to how Twins fans feel about Francisco Liriano. He once looked like the next great pitcher. In fact, he was so good that they felt confident enough to trade away free agent-to-be Johan Santana and name Liriano their new ace. Six years, a Tommy John surgery, and some confidence issues later, Liriano is a shell of his former self. With the exception of a few starts here and there, he rarely makes it through five innings or holds teams to fewer than five runs. It hasn’t been good. In fact it’s gotten to the point where many wonder if Liriano can even be salvaged at this point. Of course, he is a lefty, so be prepared to see him throw a gem on Sunday.