Box score here. Game story here.
Before I get into Brendan Harris (above), a couple pitching notes.
This was the fourth time this season that Nick Blackburn failed to record even one strikeout in a start. He had one good outing doing that (May 9, seven shutout innings against Baltimore) and now three lousy ones. All told, in his zero-strikeout starts, he has allowed 15 runs in 22.6 innings — ERA of 5.96. I'm going to guess that's actually a pretty low ERA for games cherry-picked for a compete lack of domination.
Then there's Ron Mahay, who was broken out of his LOOGY role and asked to pitch a full inning. It didn't go well— two runs allowed — and his ERA in his last four outings has gone from perfection (0.00) to 6.73. That reflects nine earned runs in 3.3 IP.
He's still dominating lefties (.390 OPS) but the righties are killing him. He's definitely fallen behind both Brian Duensing and Jose Mijares in the bullpen pecking order.
As I surmised Tuesday morning, Harris got the start against Jason Vargas. The result was another 0-fer. He's now hitting .163. He can't be that bad, but he didn't have a well-struck ball, even with all four at-bats coming against lefties. I wonder if he'll start against Cliff Lee tonight, or if Matt Tolbert will get the call.
But what really struck me came before the game, when the lineup had Nick Punto playing second and Harris third.
Remember: Ron Gardenhire doesn't like moving his regulars from one position to another. He has resisted moving Punto off third base this year; when J.J. Hardy was out, Gardenhire played other infielders at short — Harris, Alexi Castilla, Trevor Plouffe— but not Punto. On Monday, he put Michael Cuddyer at second and left Punto at third, even though second base is the more important defensive spot and even though Cuddyer has spent more time in his career at third base than at second.
But on Tuesday, there was Punto at second and Harris at third. Which tells me a lot about how Gardenhire rates Harris as a second baseman. He'd rather play an outfielder there.
Harris did make a couple of nice plays at third base.
The dirt flying off the ball in the above photo reminds me of the stories told of Honus Wagner, the greatest shortstop ever, who had huge hands and was said to scoop up infield dirt along with the ball and fling the whole mess at the first baseman. This might be the only time Harris is compared to Wagner.