Monday, July 21, 2008

No Break For Baker

Fortunately, it doesn't seem that the four-day hiatus provided by the All-Star break has done much to slow down the Twins and their winning ways. They picked up a series victory against the Rangers at the Dome this weekend, scoring easy victories on Friday and Saturday night before dropping a tough one on Sunday afternoon. While yesterday's loss was obviously the low point of a strong series in that the Twins missed their chance at a sweep, it did feature a brilliant outing from Scott Baker, and that's what I'd like to touch on in today's post.

Baker took a perfect game into the sixth inning, retiring the first 17 batters he faced before rookie catcher Taylor Teagarden hit a liner just over the wall in center field to simultaneously break up the perfect game and the shut-out (and ultimately stick Baker with an excruciating loss as the Twins fell 1-0). Overall, Baker allowed only two hits and one walk while striking out eight over eight innings of work. He's been on quite a run lately; two starts ago he blanked the Red Sox for seven innings, and in his last start before the break he held the Tigers to two runs through seven innings before giving up a two-run homer early in the eighth. That Baker is pitching deep into games with effective results is encouraging, and what is more encouraging is that over these past three starts he's done so against arguably the three best offenses in the American League.

Baker now owns a 3.26 ERA and 1.09 WHIP with a 76-to-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 91 innings this season. Meanwhile, in New York, Johan Santana has posted a 3.10 ERA and 1.22 WHIP with a 116-to-38 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 130 2/3 innings. Certainly, Baker is no Santana, but he has been filling the role of team ace better than almost anyone could have realistically expected.