The Jays dodge their opposition's ace for the third consecutive series...
... but there's still one matchup that worries me this weekend, and it's tonight's. 25-year-old sophomore righty Scott Baker has only made one start in the majors this year, but it was a good one. Like his opponent tonight, Jesse Litsch, Baker pitched into the ninth in winning his 2007 major-league debut, a 5-2 defeat of Dave Bush and the Brewers at Miller Park. Baker is a sinker-slider pitcher who had an amazing 41:4 K/BB ratio in 41.1 innings in Rochester with a groundball rate in the high 40s. His sinker supposedly forgets how to sink when major-league jitters get into him: he gave up 17 homers in 83.1 innings last year as a rookie. That wasn't the case in Milwaukee, where Baker surrendered J.J. Hardy's 14th Yahtzee of the year on a belt-high meatball on his second pitch of the game and then proceeded to let no more than 5 of the next 30 hitters reach base. Baker can miss bats: he struck out 16.4% of hitters with a 3.88 K/BB ratio in the majors last year, and was hurt as much by his .359 BABIP against as he was by the homer issues. I think he's a keeper. Litsch will be in tough.
Saturday starter Ramon Ortiz is pitching for his fourth team in four years. He doesn't really do anything well - he hovers around the Michalak line and won't altogether kill himself with walks, but he's not a groundball pitcher at all and he certainly isn't overpowering. In 2002, he rode a .247 BABIP to a 3.77 ERA, a 15-9 record and a steady stream of one-year, $3-million contracts from teams desperate for experience in their 5th rotation slot as long as he wants 'em. Ortiz brings a moving fastball (probably his best pitch), a slider and a change to the table. He has a 11.76 ERA in his last four starts.
After two matchups of reasonably similar pitchers, Sunday's game features a huge clash of styles. Carlos Silva gets the privilege of facing Blackjack Burnett. Everyone knows how Silva rolls. Lots of low-90s sinking fastballs in the strike zone, strikeouts be damned, hit 'em where they ain't if you can. He also throws a slider, curve and change, and his favorite strikeout pitch is probably the slider, but those are mostly just for decoration. There's about a 4 in 5 chance you're getting a fastball no matter what the count is. Silva suffered from Towers syndrome last year, as his walk rate regressed toward the mean and his homer rate doubled. Nobody can really survive that. Silva's 2005 remains one of the most amazing seasons of this decade: 9.5% strikeouts, 1.2% (!!!) walks, 7 innings a start and a sparkling 3.44 ERA. He faced 749 hitters and walked nine of them. That's just freakish. Silva has never struck out 10% of hitters in a full season. He's on pace to do that this year, but it's very early. For comparison's sake, Burnett hasn't failed to strike out 20% since 2001.
The Twins' bullpen is a bit banged up. When compared to the Jays' situation, the Twins are in no position to complain - Joe Nathan, Juan Rincon and Patrick Neshek are humming along as usual. But Jesse Crain is out for the year with a torn rotator cuff and torn labrum, and lefty ace Dennys Reyes is on the 15-day DL with shoulder inflammation. In their place the Twins have summoned three completely uninitiated reinforcements from AAA: righty Julio De Paula and lefties Carmen Cali and Jason Miller. With Reyes and Crain down, Matt Guerrier has been presented with more innings and more leverage than he's ever seen before, and he's handling both with flying colors.
With Joe Mauer sidelined by a quad injury, the power on this team is... concentrated. This year, Justin Morneau, Torii Hunter and Mike Cuddyer have combined for precisely 7.5 times as many major-league homers as the other 10 hitters on the active roster combined. Fortunately for the Twins, they get their catcher back next week.
In 1226 major-league PA, Jason Tyner has never homered. In his career he is slugging .315, with .045 isolated power. John McDonald (.346, .069) is fully qualified to laugh at both of those numbers.
Shortstop Jason Bartlett underwent an MRI exam yesterday on his neck and shoulder, passed, and is unlikely to head to the DL. He's been experiencing odd pains off and on all season: "I saw a chiropractor before spring training, and she mentioned there might be some whiplash symptoms. The neck thing has been lingering, and I wonder if it's making the other thing sore." He'll probably return at some point this series.
The Credit Section: Batted-ball and Leverage Index are available at Fangraphs. K% and BB% are strikeouts and walks as a percentage of plate appearances; GB% is groundballs as a percentage of balls in play. Minor-league stats are from Minor League Splits. Everything else, most notably the AL average statistics, is available at The Hardball Times.