July 2008

In The Big Inning…

Black.jpgToday’s game was not on TV, but I listened to a good portion of it on the radio.  First and foremost, Nick Blackburn deserves a lion’s share of the credit, holding an incredible Tiger lineup to just three hits over seven innings before Jesse Crain and Boof Bonser closed out the shutout.  Blackie had been a little shaky as of late, so it was nice to see him bounce back with a great start today.

The Twins’ offense won the game in the third inning, when they scored five runs on six hits and one Tiger error.  Strangely enough, every run that inning was scored on a single…it was like a carousel of runners!

The top offensive contributors for the Twins were Delmon Young (3-4, 1 R, 1 RBI), Carlos Gomez (3-5, 1 R), and Joe Mauer (2-4, 1 R, 2 RBI).

Thus, despite losing the first game of this series, the Twins were able to battle back for the series win.  It has been awhile since the Twins have lost a series!  The Tigers came into the Dome essentially the hottest team in baseball, and we cooled them off pretty quick.

Preview (47-38, 2nd, 2.0 GB CWS (will change 0.5 after tonight’s CWS game)): Livan Hernandez (8-5, 5.22) vs. Paul Byrd (3-9, 5.26).  After Thursday’s off day, the Twins welcome Cleveland to the Dome over the Fourth of July weekend.  I will be out of town for the holiday, thus may not be able to comment on this blog until after the series.  Go Twins!!

The Bunny Hop

GomezCasilla.jpgIn the bottom of the fifth inning, when Alexi Casilla doubled and sent Denard Span and Carlos Gomez flying around the bases, Twins TV announcer Dick Bremer proclaimed that the “Rabbits” had struck again.  Of course, he was referring to the Span-Gomez-Casilla combination in the batting order.  On a night of numerous wasted opportunities, the “Rabbits” were the reason why the Twins were able to even the series with Detroit.

The game, however, actually started out quite un-rabbit like, with Craig Monroe homering to deep centerfield to give the Twins a 3-1 lead.  Throughout the game, though, the Tigers were tormented by the speedsters, who went a combined 6-9 with four walks, two stolen bases, three runs, and one RBI.  If not for some bad luck and a mental blunder, the rabbits might still be scampering around the bases.

Of course, in order for the speed game to be effective, the pitching needs to be stable, which it was again tonight.  Baker turned in a quality start (6 IP, 3 ER), while the Bass-Reyes-Nathan combo held the lead against a tough Detroit offense.  The way Nathan is closing out games, he could very well be asked to close out the All-Star game if the need arises.

Finally, why can’t Denard Span be a shortstop or something?!  His presence in the ninth hole brings an interesting element to the lineup that will be sorely missed when Cuddyer returns in a few weeks.

Preview (46-38, 2nd, 2.5 GB CWS): Nick Blackburn (6-4, 4.05) vs. Eddie Bonine (2-0, 3.98).  A series win in tomorrow’s afternoon contest would be a big boost, as the Tigers are tough to hold in check for three games.  Bonine is very green, and facing his first AL team after three interleague starts, so the Twins should be able to whizz together a few runs.  If Blackie can stay out of the big innings, we will have a series win.

A Rare Bullpen Misfire

Glenn.jpgLast night, the Detroit Tigers showed why they are a force to be reckoned with in the coming months:

Throughout the first six innings, the Twins got great pitching from starter Glen Perkins (6.1 IP, 2 ER), as well as scored four times by using their speed-ball type of play.  Then, as the game was handed to the bullpen, everything started to unravel, with the Tigers scoring twice in both the seventh and eighth innings for the eventual 5-4 victory.

I could now spend a bunch of time analyzing exactly how the game fell apart, but I don’t think it would be worthwhile.  Plain and simple, the bullpen just couldn’t hold the lead.  The Twins normally have a very solid bullpen, so I think the never-ending Tigers lineup just flat-out beat us last night.  The Twins have always had problems against deep, power-hitting lineups (remember the ’03-’04 Yankees playoff series’?), and that pattern continued last night.  I’m just glad that the Twins were competitive against the Tigers, not getting blown out as so often happens when running into those bats.  The starting pitching was solid, the bats were alive, and a ninth inning rally nearly led to a tie ballgame.  What more can you ask for?

Quick comments:

-Ron Gardenhire was ejected from the game…I’ll give you three guesses why.  Yes, it was because the umpire warned both benches.  It started in the first inning when Perkins threw a ball inside that hit Miguel Cabrera, who was batting third.  To me, the pitch looked completely unintentional, but obviously Jim Leyland and his Tigers did not see it that way.  The next time Joe Mauer came up (the Twins’ third batter), the first pitch went behind him.  The second pitch was way in, and it was clear that the Tigers wanted to plunk him.  After a long look in from Mauer, the ump warned both benches and Gardy might as well have went to the clubhouse right then.  I completely agree with him, though.  By warning the benches, the ump creates a situation where pitchers are now afraid to pitch inside, for fear of accidentally plunking a guy and getting tossed.  If the ump deemed the Mauer at-bat to be intentional malice, then the Tiger pitcher should be tossed right then and there.

-Denard Span is a major-league player.  He would have a starting spot locked up on nearly any other major league club, but he only gets a chance on the Twins when another outfielder gets hurt.  Complicating matters is that the Young-Gomez-Cuddyer outfield combination doesn’t project to be tampered with anytime soon, while Kubel (now the “full-time” DH) also plays OF on occasion.  Any way you slice it, Span will be squeezed out of a job when Cuddy comes back.  Span could, however, be used as major trade bait in the future (or even at the All-Star break).

Preview (45-38, 2nd, 2.5 GB CWS): Scott Baker (4-2, 3.57) vs. Nate Robertson (6-6, 5.23).  For some reason, I have a bad feeling about this matchup, what with Robertson being a lefty.  I think that Baker’s pitching will decide the game, as he may have to be near-perfect to get the win.

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