July 2009

House of Horrors

When the White Sox come into the Metrodome, do you think that songs like that are running through their brain?!   Amazingly, after looking like a glorified Double-A squad against the Yankees, the Twins were able to put together a strong effort and inch back towards that runner-up slot in the AL Central.

Of course, in the first inning it helped when Chicago starter turned the game into the rough equivalent of one of these:

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Danks walked the first four batters of the game and a big hit from Jason Kubel gave the Twins an early lead. Of course, since nothing is easy with this year’s bunch, the White Sox kept pecking away at the defecit until finally tying it in the sixth inning (only a tremendous leaping catch from Michael Cuddyer at the base of the baggie prevented the Sox from taking a lead). I was a bit nervous at this point, but Blackie was still pitching well and the pen did their job the rest of the way. This should come as no surprise, but this guy…
18797011-0959-4c36-9373-16a644e0f41e.jpg…got the big two out hit in the seventh inning that put the Twins in front, while a perfect squeeze bunt from Carlos Gomez an inning later scored Matt Tolbert (pinch running for Kubel after his third hit of the game) with a big insurance run that allowed Joe Nathan to do his thing in the ninth:
6ef10c34-51ee-4b12-b659-4ad5586ceccf.jpgPreview (44-43, 3rd, 0.5 GB CWS): Gavin Floyd (6-6, 4.33) vs. Glen Perkins (4-4, 4.38). Ozzie Guillen juggled his rotation to have his Big Three horses face the Twins this weekend. That went well (at least so far).

Emperors And Idiots

EmporerIdiots_Large.jpgJust recently, I finished reading Mike Vaccaro’s book entitled “Emperors and Idiots” and had fun re-living the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry of 2003 and 2004 (as well as down throughout the years).  However, after watching the Twins get swept (once again) by the Yankees this past week, I think that title could very well ring true to the contests between these two teams as well.  Basically, the Yankees are the emperors, and they make the Twins look like idiots.

Each of the three games of this most recent series was, in its own right, a little slice of why the Yankees thump the Twins so bad each and every game.  First, was the big blowout where the Yankees just teed-off on Scott Baker.  Second, was the Twins’ bats running into the buzzsaw that is A.J. Burnett (I almost titled this post “Why do guys named A.J. always haunt the Twins?”) while we throw Anthony Swarzak in against the most powerful lineup in the game.  Finally, Thursday’s matinee was just that kind of game where the Twins kept battling for all nine innings, but the Yankees always had an answer with their bats.

To put it bluntly, the Yankees make us look like a minor league outfit for one primary reason: our pitching isn’t good enough to stop their tremendous hitting.  Unless Nick Blackburn were to take the mound, there would be no starter-starter combination that would favor the Twins.  Baker is too inconsistent, Liriano is Liriano, Swarzak’s just a kid, and Perkins is erratic.

All told, the series can be summed up in two pictures:

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d56283f4-f836-4067-ad83-bd83f9ee915f.jpgPreview (43-43, 3rd, 1.5 GB CWS): John Danks (7-6, 3.76) vs. Nick Blackburn (7-4, 2.94). Coming into the Yankees series, the Twins were in second place and nipping at Detroit’s heels.  Now they are in third place and looking up at the Pale Hose as well.  A “statement series” before the All-Star break would be nice, as would the bump in the standings.

Payback

 

you_got_owned_yel.gif The last time the Twins and Yankees met, earlier this season in mid-May at Yankee Stadium, the Twins got owned, plain and simple.  We played tough in every game, yet the Yanks always found a way to come back and beat us in the late or extra innings.

However, things have always been a bit different at the Metrodome (save for the ’03 and ’04 ALDS series’) for the Yankees.  While they haven’t exactly struggled at the park, they also haven’t come in too many times and waltzed all over us, either.  If the Twins are on their “A” game, they can compete with anybody, but the difficult part is doing it for all nine innings against the Bronx Bombers.  With other teams you can have easy outs or innings, but against New York it is easy for things to spiral out of control at any time, what with the cavalcade of hitters they send up to the plate one after another (no Buscher-Punto-Gomez combination in that lineup).

As you can probably tell, I’m pumped for tonight’s contest.  Maybe we’ll even see some of this…

Mean?  Yeah.  Deserved?  Absolutely!

Preview (43-40, 2nd, 1.5 GB DET): C.C. Sabathia (7-5, 3.85) vs. Scott Baker (6-6, 4.99). All things considered, there really couldn’t be a more fitting way for this series to begin.  Baker is, rather mysteriously, a historic Yankee killer, while the Twins will be reacquainted with old nemesis C.C., who either owns us or gets rattled in the early innings.

Thoughts From The First Two Games

A few random thoughts from the first two games of the current Twins-Tigers series:

-Though going 16 innings and losing is bad enough for players and fans alike, I really can’t pin the blame on anyone in particular.  The Tiger bullpen was just throwing gas, and the Twins’ batters were (by and large) having decent at-bats.  They just couldn’t string enough hits together to get that elusive run across the plate.

-The Twins showed a little moxie today after Liriano gave up the big fly to Magglio Ordonez to give the pinstriped ones their short-lived lead.  In a game that needed to be won, the Twins came up with some clutch at-bats and were able to get the job done.  Now, we just need to take care of business tomorrow and things will be okay again.

-I never like to see a pitcher like Kevin Slowey go on the disabled list, but hopefully this will give him some time to either: A. get his wrist checked out, or B. get his mind right and back in that groove he had been in until a week or so ago.  Swarzak can probably fill in decently for Slowey, but we need Kevin back to his Brad Radke-esque form, where he can pitched deep into games and always give us a chance to win.

-I really think that Denard Span and Carlos Gomez need to stop fighting over outfield assists.  Eventually there is going to be a nasty train-wreck out there if they don’t get on the same page.  I think the problem is that both players, being center fielders by natural position, are used to calling off all other fielders (usually the CF’s perogative) to catch the ball.  However, Span is playing out in left alot recently, and in the back of his mind he probably knows that Gomez doesn’t take the best routes to balls but will scream for the catch anyway.

-Former Cubbie star Mark Grace was showing some serious love for the M&M boys today in the FOX TV broadcast.  Well-deserved, too, as they contributed to most of the scoring.  I look forward to watching them in the All-Star Game (which the roster for will be released tomorrow, by the way).

-Finally, today’s Fourth of July holiday also marks the 70th anniversary of Lou Gehrig giving what is now famously known as his ‘Luckiest Man” speech.  I know that the Iron Horse was second-banana to The Babe for so many years, but in that moment he showed what was truly in his heart all that time…kindness, gentleness, yet a competitive spirit that made him choked up over being taken out of a lineup when he was actually dying.  It still gives me goosebumps every time I see it.  Greatest first baseman of all-time?  Yes.  Is there really any other serious competition?!

-Of course, for a little lighter holiday fare, you could check out the annual SciFi Channel Twilight Zone marathon.  Still a creepy show all these years later!

Preview (42-40, 2nd, 0.5 GB CWS for 2nd): Rick Porcello (8-5, 3.90) vs. Nick Blackburn (6-4, 3.10).  Need to win this series…that is all.

Ahh…That’s More Like It

0a73eba9-a8e1-4b2e-a682-ed05d0226bf8.jpgUp until just recently, the Minnesota Twins had owned the Kansas City Royals.  During the “division title years” earlier this decade, the Twins would routinely come into KC and get fat both at the plate and on the mound.  Recently (the past few seasons), though, the Royals have morphed into one of our toughest divisional opponents.  Though perennial cellar-dwellers (although I won’t gloat too much, as I, having grown up in the 1990s with Twins Baseball, know what that is like), the Royals seem to bring their A-game when the Twins come to town.  The first two games of this series only served to continue that trend, with the Twins and Royals playing each other very tough, right down to the wire.

That being said, today the Royals reverted back to their old ways and gave the Twins a much-needed victory.  Glen Perkins was by no means perfect (allowing 10 hits over seven innings), but the Royals could only muster a measly one run for all their efforts.  More daunting, though, were the defensive miscues, such as a ball that went right through the wickets of second baseman Callaspo, and a ball lost in the sun by Willie Bloomquist.  John Bale walking in a run even put a cap on things.  For a time, and had the Twins not needed a win so badly I would have felt worse, I felt bad for the boys in royal blue, as this kind of play just seems to be their kind of lot in life.  I know how difficult it is to compete in today’s game without a large payroll, and the Royals continue to get bit time and time again.  Whenever a guy gets good (Johnny Damon, Carlos Beltran, etc.) he gets shipped somewhere else, or else a player that once looked great suddenly falters and is gone within a year or two (too many to count).

The Twins were actually really lucky back in the early 2000s to have the nucleus (Santana, Hunter, Jones, Koskie, Dougie Baseball, Guzman, etc.) come together so quickly.  The Royals have not been so lucky, instead reduced to playing “payroll roulette” and hoping the hit the jackpot.  Were it not for the fact that the Twins need to make a living by beating them, I would love to see the Royals develop into a competitive franchise once again.

Preview (41-39, T-2nd w/CWS, 3.0 GB DET): Lucas French (0-0, 0.00) vs. Kevin Slowey (10-3, 4.41).  The fact that the Tigers, playing in perhaps the most important series of their season so far (as are the Twins), are sending a guy making his major league debut to the Metrodome mound tells you something about where they are right now pitching-wise.  Hopefully the Twins can take advantage of it.

One Man Show

6421c48a-b99e-42ae-a2d8-48d44e134bc1.jpgBack in their hey-day, the Three Stooges used a gag in one of their infamous shorts where Curly and Larry create the “Two Man Quartet“, much to the dismay of Moe (2:22 in the clip).

Tonight, the Minnesota Twins used a similar approach to beat the Kansas City Royals.  A dinger from Justin Morneau (into the waterfalls!) and a run-scored from Joe Mauer provided the only offense of the game.  The M&M Boys strike again!

Scott Baker did just enough (i.e. got lucky) to survive through five innings and a buttload of pitches, but was picked up nice by a very strong outing from newcomer Bobby Keppel.  You mean we kept him the minors while Ayala and Crain stunk up the joint for months…grrr.

A strong showing?  By no means.  We should pound KC…we didn’t.  Baker should breeze through their lineup…he struggled.  Yet, a win is a win and keeps us in the same spot we were last night: On the cusp of contention, on the brink of utter failure.

Preview (40-39, T-2 w/CWS, 4.0 GB DET): Glen Perkins (3-4, 4.70) vs. Gil Meche (4-7, 4.27). With a big Detroit showdown looming this weekend, the Twins don’t want to fall any further behind in the “division race” (a.k.a. who sucks the least down the stretch).

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