April 2009

Tragedy In L.A.

Adenhart.jpgThough the Twins and Mariners played the final tilt of their four-game series yesterday (Jarrod Washburn out-dueled Glen Perkins for a 2-0 win as the Twins’ bats went silent), I think that all games yesterday were played with a heavy heart due to the sudden passing of Nick Adenhart.

For the past few years, Adenhart had been a prized young prospect in the Los Angeles Angels’ farm system.  He came up for a “cup of coffee” during the 2008 season and earned what turned out to be his only major league victory.

This year, after making the Angels out of spring training, Adenhart pitched six innings of shutout ball against the Oakland Athletics on April 8th.  Just hours later, he was killed when a minivan (which we now know was manned by a drunk driver who fled on foot after the accident but was later apprehended) ran a red light and smashed into the vehicle he was riding in.  Two of the other passengers were pronounced dead at the scene of the collision, while Adenhart was taken to a local hospital but died due to his internal injuries.

A terrible tragedy like this just makes me think how fleeting this thing we call “life” can really be.  I mean, Adenhart was only 22 years of age…one year younger than myself.  From a Twins perspective, I can’t imagine how the team would react if, say, a guy like Slowey, Blackburn, or Perkins was taken from us in a similar fashion.

The Angels cancelled their regularly scheduled contest yesterday, but will resume play tonight, presumably with very heavy hearts and conflicting emotions.  Knowing Mike Scoscia, Torii Hunter, and that Angels crew, though, they will do their best to honor the memory of Nick Adenhart.

Preview (2-2, 2nd, 0.5 GB KCR): R.A. Dickey (0-0, 0.00 ERA) at Jose Contreras (0-0, 0.00 ERA). The Twins’ starter tonight will feature a knuckleball, something I haven’t seen from a Twin in, well, as long as I have been following the team.

Same Score, Different Path

SilvaWipe.jpgAfter that thrilling 6-5 victory on Tuesday night, the Twins also took tonight’s contest with Seattle by the same score.  However, they did it in much different fashion:

Though Carlos Silva lost 35 pounds over the offseason, he still looked like the same guy that got pounded last year, as Justin Morneau pounded an upper-deck moonshot to right field in the first inning to give the Twins a 2-0 lead.

Yet, Twins starter Kevin Slowey was also bit by the home run bug, giving up a two-run shot to Russell Branyon in the second inning to even the score.

So, given a reprieve, Silva began anew in the second frame…only to this time see Denard Span crank a home run to right to again give the Twins a 4-2 lead.

At that point it looked for all the world like the Twins might just run away with this one, but the Mariners (as they often do against the Twins) stormed back against Slowey in the top of the fourth with three runs (including a homer from Jose Lopez and one run scored on a very wild Slowey offering) to take a 5-4 lead.

Of course, Seattle skipper Dan Wakamatsu then made the mistake of the night (!)…letting Silva saddle up again for the fifth inning, where back-to-back doubles from Morneau and Kubel gave Minnesota a 6-5 lead we would not relinquish, as the combination of Craig Breslow, Jesse Crain, and Joe Nathan (in dominating fashion) held the M’s scoreless for the duration.

Notes:

-In very un-Twinlike fashion, a batter struck out three times for the third consecutive night.  First it was Cuddyer, then Jose Morales, and tonight’s victim was Joe Crede.  Actually, pretty much all Twins batters are piling up the K’s right now…let’s hope their just getting them out of their systems early!

-Though Slowey didn’t pitch particularly well (6 IP, 5 ER), he did come away with the win, and I’ll think he’ll be just fine in the coming weeks and months.  Perhaps it was just nerves tonight, but he left some balls up that the Seattle bats took advantage of.  At times, though, Slowey seemed to be in complete control.

Preview (2-1, 1st, 0.5 GA CWS and KCR): Jarrod Washburn (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Glen Perkins (0-0, 0.00 ERA). Another lefty for the Twins to decipher in Washburn…that often leads to trouble  Hopeful Seattle has the same problem with Perk. 

17 Drab Innings…Then A Walkabout

Though I was a bit crushed that I had to work at night on the day of the Twins’ home opener against the Seattle Mariners, I taped the game and watched it later in the evening.  Gee, that was worth it.  First, this guy…

Felix.jpg

…”King” Felix Hernandez, completely shuts down our bats.  Even in the sparse situations we scraped together that could have produced runs, Felix would always get out of the jam either via a strike out (usually Michael Cuddyer, who whiffed three times) or a double play (Justin Morneau).  This was especially frustrating due to the fact that it wasted a pretty decent effort from our mound man..

DingerCisco.jpg

Sure, Francisco Liriano gave up three dingers, but one came after a glaring error from Alexi Casilla.  All told, he pitched very well and just didn’t get any offensive support.

So, I went to bed hoping that the next day’s matchup (which I would be watching on TV…or so I thought) would produce a much better result.  The next morning, however, I was informed that my grandparents (who live in the Metro area suberbs…Fridley, to be exact) had received four free tickets from a Target store promotion and were wondering if my brother and I wanted to go with them?!  Stupid question, as we headed out the door right away!

Game #2 of 162 proved to be much more exciting than the previous one…and perhaps the next 160!  Of course, it didn’t start out so great, as our guy…

BlackieSeattle.jpg

…Nick Blackburn found himself down 4-0 after just four innings.  RBI hits from Denard Span and Cuddyer (he was basically either whiffing badly or driving in runs all game) brought the Twins to within one run for the middle innings, but Luis Ayala surrendered another Mariner run in the top of the ninth.  Thus, new Seattle closer Brandon Morrow was summoned to the Dome mound with a 5-3.  That’s when things started to get interesting:

Morrow got two quick outs in Joe Crede and Delmon Young, but Carlos Gomez put together a surprisingly good at-bat (he would have K’d on four pitches last season in that spot) and drew a walk.  Jason Kubel was called on to pinch-hit for Jose Morales (who had struck out in all three previous at-bats), and Kubel used patience to his advantage to coax another base-on-balls.

Then, with the Jumbotron at the Dome flashing the “Walks Will Haunt” graphic, Morrow walked a third straight batter (Brian Buscher) and was pulled in favor of Miguel Batista.  By this time the lineup had turned over again, so Span The Man stepped in and hit a high chopper that Adrian Beltre couldn’t will down into his glove fast enough, making the score 5-4.

This brought Alexi Casilla to the plate, and my flashback started…the last time I was at the Metrodome, Lexi singled to center field with the bases loaded against the Chicago White Sox to complete the late-season sweep.  This time, Casilla again ripped the first pitch he saw into center, plating both the tying and winning runs…

BuscherWin.jpg

 

Though this wasn’t the greatest run-differential the Twins have ever come back from, it still has to go down in team history as one of the great late-inning victories due to the fact that all the action transpired with two outs.  When Buscher slide across the plate and was mobbed by his teammates, what was left of the 23,700 announced crowd was in a bedlam!

Man, I think I need to starting getting to more of these games…whenever I’m there, something crazy seems to happen.

Preview (1-1, 2nd, 0.5 GB CWS): Kevin Slowey (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Carlos Silva (0-0, 0.00).  Though Silva is gone from “Fatboy” to “Slim” over the off-season, he still lives and dies by the sinker.  If “on” he can be maddening.  If not, he WILL get pounded.

A Few Of My Favorite Things…

With the Twins set to take on the Seattle Mariners later tonight, I just wanted to share a few of the things I am looking forward to this season…

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-Denard Span working the count, fouling off pitches, then doing this… http://minnesota.twins.mlb.com/media/video.jsp?mid=200809253550680&c_id=min …(yeah, I know it’s like the fifth time I’ve posted that clip on this blog…but why not?!)

Player_profile_Jason_Kubel.jpg

-Jason Kubel striding up to the plate with strains of this blaring… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K47W0UTq_9o …then doing this… http://minnesota.twins.mlb.com/media/video.jsp?mid=200809233534868&c_id=min

Slowey_Kevin.jpg

-Kevin Slowey tapping into the ghost of Brad Radke (http://minnesota.twins.mlb.com/media/video.jsp?mid=200808203336972&c_id=min)

Cuddyer.jpg

-Michael Cuddyer doing this… http://minnesota.twins.mlb.com/media/player/mp_tpl_3_1.jsp?w_id=516187&w=2006/open/tp/archive09/090706_detmin_cuddyer_throw_tp_350.wmv&pid=mlb_tp&gid=2006/09/07/detmlb-minmlb-1&mid=200609071651571&cid=mlb&fid=mlb_tp350&v=2

Nathan.jpg

-And finally, the Nathanator trotting in from the pen to this… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jaz-KmTid3U …and ending the game like this… http://minnesota.twins.mlb.com/media/video.jsp?mid=200808123294553&c_id=min

Opening Day Preview: Felix Hernandez (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Francisco Liriano (0-0, 0.00 ERA).  “King Felix” can be dominating, but so can Cisco.  However, Liriano also needs to calm himself and not walk six guys through four innings or something like that.  I can see the Twins losing this game, but anything can happen at the Dome!!

MLB Predictions: 2009

1908Cubs.jpgEach year, usually after receiving the Sports Illustrated Baseball Preview issue, I make a complete set of MLB picks.  It’s always fun to look back at them and see how right/wrong (wrong far outnumbering the right!) I was at the end of the season.  Here they are for ’09:

AL East:

Boston

Tampa Bay (Wild Card)

New York

Toronto

Baltimore

AL Central:

Minnesota

Chicago

Kansas City

Cleveland

Detroit

AL West:

Los Angeles

Texas

Seattle

Oakland

NL East:

Philadelphia

New York (Wild Card)

Florida

Atlanta

Washington

NL Central:

Chicago

Milwaukee

St. Louis

Cincinnati

Houston

Pittsburgh

NL West:

Los Angeles

Arizona

San Francisco

Colorado

San Diego

AL Champion: Boston

NL Champion: Chicago

World Series Champion: Chicago

So, after 100 long seasons of waiting, I think this is the year that the Cubbies will finally win the big one.  I just think that their pitching is too good not to make a deep playoff run.

Baker Out, Liriano In

Minnesota+Twins+Photo+Day+Md46-hhYhewl.jpgThe Twins just announced today that Scott Baker will no longer be slated to pitch on Opening Day (Monday) due to some right shoulder tightness.  Francisco Liriano will move into the April 6 slot, followed by Nick Blackburn, Kevin Slowey, and Glen Perkins.  Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey will make a spot start for Baker, who will only miss one turn in the rotation.

This is probably nothing too serious, it’s just that all teams (more than I have ever seen) are being extremely cautious with their prized young pitchers.  I’ve never seen so many “ace” pitchers not starting on Opening Day in my life!  It should almost be re-named Opening Week!

Jose Morales

Morales.jpgThe last time Twins fans (besides those in Fort Myers this spring) saw Jose Morales, it was in the picture above.  Thought to be a capable back-up to Joe Mauer while coming up through the minor leagues, Morales was finally given an opportunity at the big leagues on September 8, 2007, when he started a game against the Chicago White Sox.  After going 3-3, Morales injured his ankle, left the game, ended up on the 60-day disabled list, and wasn’t heard from again until just recently, where he has been battling with Drew Butera to fill in for Mauer until Jo-Mo is ready to resume his everyday duties (whenever that may be).

Though the knock on the offensively-powered Morales has been his sloppy defense (Butera is the exact opposite, by contrast), he was chosen yesterday over Drew as the Twins’ second catcher pairing with Mike Redmond until Mauer gets his back healthy.

I don’t recall watching Morales in that late-2007 contest, so the first time he steps on the field in 2009 will be the first time I have ever seen him in action.  My guess is that he will catch whoever starts third (probably Kevin Slowey) for the Twins after two days of Redmond.

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