A peek at peak form

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 30, 2011 - 6:42 AM

Those accustomed to seeing Scott Baker hit his stride after the All-Star break saw signs that he is peaking way ahead of schedule.

Scott Baker has been the Twins' best pitcher this season by a wide margin, so the team must hope his calendar isn't confused.

The righthander usually does his finest work after the All-Star break.

Baker continued his impressive first half Wednesday, piling up nine strikeouts and only one walk in 7 1/3 innings, as the Twins hung on to defeat the Dodgers 1-0 at Target Field.

"It's probably the best I've seen him throw," said Joe Mauer, who first caught Baker in 2005. "He's always had a great fastball, kind of sneaky, but he's throwing his curveball and his changeup real well, so it's great to see him put it all together."

Baker is 6-5 with a 3.15 ERA, and the record would look better if the bullpen hadn't blown late-inning leads in five of his starts. He has 101 strikeouts, 40 more than any other Twins pitcher.

This is what the Twins envisioned when they gave him his four-year, $15.25 million contract in March 2009. Baker entered the All-Star break that year at 7-7 with a 5.42 ERA, but went 8-2 with a 3.28 ERA after the break.

Last year, Baker had a similar midseason turnaround, going 5-1 with a 3.82 ERA after the break, but he had bone chips in his right elbow and was limited to 11 second-half starts. He had arthroscopic surgery right after the postseason, and now his elbow feels like new.

"That's huge," Baker said. "I had a couple of cortisone injections last year. Those make you feel pretty good for a little while, but those are obviously just temporary fixes, just treating the symptoms instead of the problem."

A healthy arm has helped Baker add finish to his pitches. As Nick Blackburn saw in Monday's 15-0 loss, the Dodgers can be aggressive early in the count, especially against fastballs.

Baker faced 29 batters and started 15 of them with sliders or changeups.

"Joe [Mauer] did a great job, getting me to throw my offspeed pitches," Baker said.

The Twins gave Baker a first-inning lead when Ben Revere hit a leadoff triple, scoring on Tsuyoshi Nishioka's slow bouncer to pitcher Rubby De La Rosa. The hard-throwing Los Angeles rookie stymied the Twins after that, so Baker had to be sharp, and he was.

Baker threw a career-high 119 pitches (87 for strikes) before Glen Perkins came on for two big strikeouts -- against Dodgers stars Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp -- to end the eighth inning. Matt Capps pitched the ninth for his 13th save in 18 chances.

Baker was at 108 pitches when the Twins sent him back for the eighth inning.

"He kind of talked us into it," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He really wanted to go back out, said he felt great."

Gardenhire said it helped knowing Baker would get an extra day of rest before his next start because of Thursday's off day. But it's another sign Baker is feeling strong as he approaches his 30th birthday (Sept. 19).

Baker is 3-1 with a 1.45 ERA in his past four starts.

"Whatever he's doing, I hope he keeps on doing it," Mauer said.

Joe Christensen • jchristensen@startribune.com

  • related content

  • Revere leads charge in victories

    Thursday June 30, 2011

    Ben Revere led the charge this week, as the Twins bounced back from Monday's 15-0 debacle to win their final two games against the Dodgers.

  • Photo gallery: Twins 1, Dodgers 0

    Wednesday June 29, 2011

    Twins take the series from the Dodgers.

  • Hartman: Chiba Lotte exec says Nishioka must relax

    Thursday June 30, 2011

    The president of Tsuyoshi Nishioka's team in Japan was here to deliver the Twins infielder a championship ring.

  • Twins-L.A. Dodgers game recap

    Thursday June 30, 2011

    He held the Dodgers to six hits in 71/3 innings, with one walk and nine strikeouts.

  • Twins in 1-0 games

    Thursday June 30, 2011

    The calendar hasn't hit July yet, but already, the Twins have played seven 1-0 games this season; Wednesday's game was their fifth 1-0 victory. A look at those five victories:

  • Scott Baker

  • Minnesota Twins Joe Mauer was tagged out as he tried to take 3rd base.

  • Minnesota Twins' Ben Revere rounds second base with a lead-off triple...

  • TWINS 1, L.A. DODGERS 0

    Up next: Three-game series vs. Milwaukee, beginning 7:10 p.m. Friday • Target Field • TV: FSN (1500ESPN)

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions
Final123456789RHE
Minnesota000000000040
Detroit «00100002X340
@Ballpark Replay
Preview | Matchup | Lineup | Log | Wrap | Box
W:D.Price(15-12) L:K.Gibson(13-12) S:J.Nathan (35)
HR: MIN- None DET- I.Kinsler (17)

ADVERTISEMENT

San Francisco - WP: M. Bumgarner 8 FINAL
Pittsburgh - LP: E. Volquez 0
Minnesota 7:25 PM
Green Bay
Buffalo 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Chicago 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Cleveland 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
St. Louis 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Atlanta 10/5/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Tampa Bay 10/5/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Houston 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Dallas
Baltimore 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Pittsburgh 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Arizona 10/5/14 3:05 PM
Denver
Kansas City 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
NY Jets 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Diego
Cincinnati 10/5/14 7:30 PM
New England
Seattle 10/6/14 7:30 PM
Washington
Washington 1 FINAL
Buffalo 6
Carolina 3 FINAL
Columbus 6
Pittsburgh 2 FINAL
Detroit 0
Montreal 3 FINAL
Chicago 1
Arizona 2 FINAL
Edmonton 3
Fla Atlantic 6:00 PM
FIU
UCF 6:00 PM
Houston
Arizona 9:30 PM
(2) Oregon
Louisville 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Syracuse
San Diego St 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Fresno State
Utah State 10/3/14 9:15 PM
(18) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(12) Miss State
Ball State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Army
Iowa State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(21) Oklahoma State
Marshall 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Old Dominion
Southern Miss 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Middle Tennessee
(20) Ohio State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Maryland
Purdue 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Florida 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
SMU 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(22) East Carolina
Virginia Tech 10/4/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Eastern Mich 10/4/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Texas 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Indiana
Massachusetts 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Tulsa 10/4/14 2:00 PM
Colorado State
New Mexico 10/4/14 2:30 PM
TX-San Antonio
(3) Alabama 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(11) Ole Miss
(14) Stanford 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(9) Notre Dame
(17) Wisconsin 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Navy 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Air Force
(7) Baylor 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Texas
(4) Oklahoma 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(25) TCU
Wake Forest 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
NC State 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Clemson
Buffalo 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Bowling Green
Ohio U 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Central Mich
Oregon State 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Colorado
Vanderbilt 10/4/14 3:00 PM
(13) Georgia
Kansas 10/4/14 3:00 PM
West Virginia
Kent State 10/4/14 4:00 PM
Northern Ill
South Alabama 10/4/14 5:00 PM
Appalachian St
Texas-El Paso 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
(15) LSU 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(5) Auburn
UAB 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Ky
Texas Tech 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(23) Kansas State
Michigan 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rutgers
Hawaii 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rice
Toledo 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Mich
ULM 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Georgia State 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
Idaho 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Texas State
Memphis 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Arizona State 10/4/14 6:30 PM
(16) USC
So Carolina 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Kentucky
Pittsburgh 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Virginia
Miami-Florida 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Georgia Tech
(19) Nebraska 10/4/14 7:00 PM
(10) Michigan State
UNLV 10/4/14 7:00 PM
San Jose St
Ga Southern 10/4/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Utah 10/4/14 9:30 PM
(8) UCLA
Boise State 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Winnipeg 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Edmonton 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Hamilton 10/10/14 6:00 PM
Toronto
Ottawa 10/11/14 9:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Is Paul Molitor the best choice to manage Twins?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close