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Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Persistence Of Napoli: Angels 6, Twins 3

Mike Napoli's opposite-field, line-drive, three-run homer was the difference in this one, with all but one of the game's nine runs being driven home by the longball; Robb Quinlan laid a two-run shot over the centerfield wall in the second to give the Angels an early lead, and Jeff Mathis planted a solo shot in the fifth. Catchers or mainly catchers (Napoli DH'd) drove in all but two of the game's nine runs.

Of some interest: only one Twins starter has an ERA+ over 100, Nick Blackburn. Their bullpen is loaded with nasty surprises like Joe Nathan (248 ERA+), Matt Guerrier (179 ERA+), and Jose Mujares (209 ERA+), but you see that getting the ball to them has been difficult this year. Francisco Liriano, coming off arm surgery in 2007, hasn't been much like his 2006 season in any year since, and you wonder why. Regardless of the reasons, Liriano gave up his sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth homers of the year. For a starter, that's pretty brutal, and it puts him only one out of the team "lead" in that dubious mark.

John Lackey, on the other hand, was mostly pretty danged good, only giving up a pair of solo homers to Joe Mauer in the fourth and sixth, and generally frustrating the Twins; despite getting the odd single or walk here and there, they never really got close to scratching him good and hard.

That left the Angels bringing up Kevin Jepsen to finish the game after John Lackey got past the century mark on the pitch counter with two outs in the eighth. Amazingly, he posted one of the strongest performances I can recall from him, striking out the side in the ninth, but giving up a run on Justin Morneau's infield single Jepson couldn't quite field cleanly, eventually followed by a Brian Buscher line drive single that drove him home once Morneau had taken second on defensive indifference. There's some potential there.

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