Why We Lost, Theory #1: We Beat Ourselves
Now that a bit of time has passed and my initial reaction to the ALDS sweep has lessened a bit, I wanted to take a look back and see why the Twins got the broom. Here is one theory, with another to follow in a later post:
We beat ourselves. Plain and simple. No B.S., no excuses. Each and every game the Twins gave their all against a very tough Yankee ballclub, yet there was one key collapse and enough mistakes to go around that the only entity to blame for the sweep is staring us in the mirror.
Game 1: As expected, young starter Brian Duensing had trouble containing the big bats of the Yankees, and C.C. Sabathia was mowing us down like a shiny new Briggs & Stratton. However, in the middle innings, the Twins were just down by a pair of runs and manager Ron Gardenhire decided to go to the bullpen in a key situation to retire Hideki Matsui. Twins fans expected Ron Mahay, but instead Francisco Liriano trotted into the game. My reaction: OMFG. Matsui poked one into the seats and the Yanks never looked back. Poor managing, plain and simple.
Game 2: Too many mistakes to count, really. First was the now-infamous rounding of the base from Carlos Gomez (him being in the lineup in the first place could also be viewed as another Gardy Gaffe), where he allowed himself to be tagged out before Delmon Young could cross home plate and thus erasing a potential early lead and key run for the Twins.
Next, was the complete and utter implosion of closer Joe Nathan. Way too many times down the stretch of the regular season (and in this game, obviously), Joe would come into games with no life on his fastball, the pitch that sets up his nasty breaking stuff. Thus, he would be forced to throw the breaking stuff (which rarely gets over the plate) early and, when the patient Yankee hitters would lay off, he would then have to groove a fastball, exactly what happened to A-Rod.
The thing that sticks in my (and Gardy’s, I bet) craw the most, though, was the debacle when the Twins loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the eleventh inning. Both Gomez and Delmon Young proceeded to swing at the first pitch of each at-bat (proving that they still just don’t “get it”, yet) and record outs en route to no runs coming in at all. I bet that Gardy could have wrung their necks at that point. Thus, the walk-off from Mark Teixera was all but imminent (if we can’t score with the bases loaded and no outs, when would we ever?).
Game Three: The Nick Punto baserunning blunder was the deflation-point of this game, as Punto got a little too excited when he heard the roar of the crowd and decided to round third with his head down at full speed, completely ignoring (well, not even seeing, actually) the “stop” sign that was clearly given from Scotty Ullger. Jeter snagged Span’s bouncing up the middle and easily doubled Little Nicky off. The Yankees then went on to dominate us (especially our bullpen once again) in the later innings.
Not only were those blunders quite apparent, but also present was the fact that the Twins left about a week’s worth of runners on base throughout the entire series. Basically, we rarely got the big hit, and when we finally did we found some way to screw it up. Kubel, Cuddyer, and Young (the hot hitters who propelled us to the AL Central crown) were downright atrocious in nearly every at-bat.
So, grouse all you want about a botched fair-foul call that went the Yanks’ way or the fact that their payroll triples ours, but the sad truth may be that we lost this one all by ourselves.