June 2010

What Was I Thinking!

In my last blog post, I likened mustachioed Twins starting pitcher Carl Pavano to a short, stout little plumber.  What was I thinking!  The plumber’s goofy brother is a MUCH better doppelganger (!):

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A Solid Nine

1662593145_d329719b43.jpgThis afternoon, the Twins rapped out 9 hits (two apiece from Morneau, Kubel, & Cuddyer) against the Tigers, while Kevin Slowey followed Blackie’s example and turned in his first quality start in ages, beating the Tigres 5-1 and pushing them just a bit further back in the AL Central standings.

The thing I wanted to comment on today, though, is the kind of lineup the Twins will be able to put on the field everyday once JJ Hardy gets back from his injury (likely this weekend):

1. Denard Span, CF

2. Orlando Hudson, 2B

3. Joe Mauer, C

4. Justin Morneau, 1B

5. Michael Cuddyer, 3B

6. Jason Kubel, RF

7. Delmon Young, LF

8. Jim Thome, DH

9. JJ Hardy, SS

Wow…Thome batting eigth?!  Of course, the two concerns are Cuddy’s defense at third and Thome’s status as everyday player (even at DH), but if those things pan out, that lineup could be as deadly as any order this side of the Yankees in the American League.  Plus, Gardy could (and would) bring Nick Punto off the bench as a defensive sub at practically any infield position late in the game.

I know that the Twins have always been a streaky bunch of hitters the last few years, with Young, Cuddyer, and Morneau (although perhaps not his ’10 form) prone to terrible dry spells, but that is where the depth comes in.  When guys 1-9 can provide big hits, it would take every single one of them in a slump to slow production.

Notes:

-It was nice to see Slowey strike a few guys out today.  Whereas Blackburn needs the ball to dive to get outs, Slowey needs to have his perfect control, which will lead to some K’s in big spots.

Preview (43-35, 1st, 1.5 GA DET): Jeff Niemann (6-2, 2.72) vs. Carl Pavano (9-6, 3.33). Man, if Pavano was any shorter, he’d be the spitting image of this guy:

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Three Times…A Charm

Tigers_Twins_Baseball_sff_179444_game.jpgAfter the Twins jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the first inning against the Tigers tonight, then just as quickly fell behind 3-2, it looked like perhaps another one of “those” nights would transpire.

However, Blackburn settled down nicely (not spectacular, but enough to give him another turn in the rotation for sure), and let the batters take over.

The obvious player of the game was Denard Span, who tripled three times (tying a club record held by Ken Landreaux in 1980), drive in five runs, and scored twice to kick-start an offense that, by all means, needed a little jolt to the backside.

Joe Mauer and Michael Cuddyer also picked up clutch hits to break out of some batting doldrums, while Jim Thome hit career home run #572, putting him within one of Harmon Killebrew (I wonder if the Killer will be at the park tomorrow afternoon?!), en route to an eventual 11-4 victory that moved the Twins back into first place.

Notes:

-That outfield wall may not have too many balls fly over it at Target Field, but it sure gives fielders (especially towards that right-center area) fits with all those angles jutting out.  First Thome hits a three-bagger, than Span does him two better in a single game!

Preview (42-35, 1st, 0.5 GA DET): Andrew Oliver (0-1, 3.00) vs. Kevin Slowey (7-5, 4.79). Hopefully Slowey can make like his rotation buddy Blackburn and give us another quality start to retain first place.

Top Dog No More

Tigers_Twins_Baseball_sff_179244_game.jpgWith the way the Twins had been playing of late, this day seemed inevitable. I was hoping that a little hometown magic would boost the spirits and lead to a victory, but even that proved not enough tonight as the Twins were beaten (and vaulted in the standings) by the Detroit Tigers.

Though we finally got some clutch hits tonight, our pitching could not silence the Tigers’ bats long enough for us to stay in the game.  Liriano got roughed up early (4 runs in the first inning), then settled down nicely, but once the ‘pen was called in the Tigers kept scoring just enough runs to stay ahead of us.

It’s not the end of the world, I know, but after reigning at the top of the division for nearly two whole months, it actually starts to feel as if you belong there.

Notes:

-I really feel bad for Tigers reliever Joel Zumaya…

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I don’t think I’ve ever seen a guy on a baseball field in such pain.  With his history of arm problems, it could very well be that he never throws another pitch again (if the pain matches the severity of the injury).  You never like to see a top talent get hurt, even if he plays for your rival.

-Jim Thome hitting a triple?  Yep.  Took a million-to-one bounce of the edge of the scoreboard…and Thome came up spades.  Only guys funnier legging one out were Mike Redmond and Matthew LeCroy.

Preview (41-35, 2nd, 0.5 GB DET): Armando Galaragga (3-1, 3.68) vs. Nick Blackburn (6-5, 6.10).  Just typing “GB” instead of “GA” gives me flashbacks to 2009.  Ugh.  Tomorrow it’s Mr (Almost) Perfect vs. Mr. (Almost) Pathetic.

Road Trip: Miller Park

Wisconsin%20Fishing%20Map.gifThis past week, a few family members and I took a road trip to the great state of Wisconsin to see the Twins play the Milwaukee Brewers. Having other relatives that live in the area, I had made the trip twice before, but not since 2005.

Now, earlier this year I had made the claim that Miller Park was a better stadium than Target Field, so throughout the entire two-game trip I was making some mental notes to compare both stadiums.  Here is what I came up with:

I think everyone can agree that the Brew Crew have the weather advantage, what with the retractable roof.  However, in terms of pure ballpark asthetics, it comes down to two things…inside & outside.

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When driving up to Miller Park via the massive parking lot, the entire structure looks much more magistic than Target Field, which is hidden away behind multiple buildings and structures, to the point where one never seems to get a clear look at the entire edifice…

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On the inside, however, there is absolutely no comparison…

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Miller Park is nice, but (visually-speaking) it as an aura of “plainess” to it.  The outfield wall is a traditional padded fence, filled with artificial structures and a few just plain eyesores around the outfield.  Plus, while there may be open sky when the roof is untouched, the sky is the only view you will be getting from your seat, as the infrastructure for the roof itself blocks out any views of the city of Milwaukee.

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By comparison, Target Field is a visual treat, what with the limestone walls, live flowers, and pine trees surrounding the outfield wall. The HD scoreboard makes Miller Park’s board look like that TV in your basement that’s been sitting around for 20 years versus your new flat screen in the living room. Plus, the view of downtown Minneapolis seems to stretch for miles and is quite spectacular.

Of course, one cannot wholly blame the Brewers for these shortcomings, as I doubt an HD scoreboard could have been constructed back in 2001, but it is nice to know that (for once) a Minnesota sports team is on the cutting edge of stadium design, not the other way around.

U-Turn

uturn%20sign.jpgHeading into the top of the ninth inning of Saturday’s game against the the Phillies, it looked as if the Twins were headed for a sweep at the hands of the defending NL champs.  But then, less than 24 hours later, the Twins had taken two of three from the Phils and salvaged what looked to be a disaster.

Thome, Mauer, Butera, and Young provided the late-inning offense in the thrilling Saturday comeback (featuring a blown save by Jon Rauch that prolonged the game even further), while Carl Pavano out-pitched Roy Halladay (Yankee fans, I bet you never thought you’d read that sentence!) on Sunday.

Now, on to the city of Brats & Beer!

Preview (40-29, 1st, 1.5 GA DET): Scott Baker (6-5, 4.41) vs. Chris Narveson (5-4, 5.79).

Geesh, Blackie

20081001_blackburn_33.jpgWell, I wanted to get in a blog posting before heading up north for the weekend, but I wish it were under better circumstances.

Let’s just say this: If anyone thought that Jesse Crain would be headed to the batters box in the second inning, please raise your hand.  Didn’t think so.

As I type this right now, Nick Blackburn was absolutely terrible against the Phillies, allowing 8 runs in one and two thirds innings of “work”.  Chase Utley and Ryan Howard provided most of the damage with moon-shot home runs.

I know it’s way too early to panic, but I wish the starters on this team would be a little more consistant.  I have to give them credit for staying healthy, but you just can’t count on Blackie, Slowey, or even Baker, for that matter, to give you a good outing every five days.  It’s just that the Tigers are breathing down our necks.

Saturday: Kevin Slowey (7-4, 3.84) vs. Cole Hamels (6-5, 3.74)

Sunday: Carl Pavano (7-6, 3.92) vs. Roy Halladay (8-5, 2.36). Gulp

Two Good Teams

This past weekend, the Minnesota Twins and Atlanta Braves (both leaders of their respective divisions) played some hard-fought games that brought to mind another series between each club that you might remember:

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On Friday night, Francisco Liriano and Tim Hudson locked horns in an epic pitchers duel (I was at this one in person!).  Frankie struck out seven batters in a row at one point (tying a club record), and the Twins did Hudson in with one productive inning in the seventh.

For Saturday’s game, another pitching lockup commenced, this time with Nick Blackburn taking the hard-luck loss to Derek Lowe.

In the finale, Kevin Slowey came back down to earth after a series of outstanding starts, and the Twins effectively lost after the second inning (down 5-0).  Delmon Young did continue his hot hitting with a three-run bomb, though.

Notes:

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-It was nice to see the Twins organization recognize Bobby Cox before the opening game of the series (Cox has announced his retirement from managing effective at the end of this season).  He truly is a class act who will be sorely missed by Atlanta and all MLB.

-Boy, is Delmon ever on a tear!  Of course, he is also prone to those bone-dry stretches as well, so is it really necessary to re-hash the Garza/Bartlett for Young/Harris trade every time he goes on a streak?!

-We need to get healthy.  We may be able to beat some NL clubs (like the incoming Rockies) with the likes of Danny Valencia and Trevor Plouffe in the lineup, but we need O-Dawg and JJ back to compete with the big boys offensively.

Preview (36-27, 1st, 2.5 GA DET): Aaron Cook (2-3, 4.76) vs. Carl Pavano (6-6, 3.92).  Does Pavano ever get a no-decision?  I’m kidding…that’s actually a positive thing, as it means he’s pitching deep into games.

It’s A Long Road…

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 Since I started watching baseball back in 1996, there has been one constant to my Minnesota Twins universe: getting healthy on the Kansas City Royals.  Back in the late 90s, we would get many of our 60-70 wins per season by beating the boys in blue.  Since 2001, we have looked forward to their presence (whether here or at Kauffman Stadium doesn’t seem to make a difference) to fuel winning streaks and douse losing skids.

Tonight, the Twins once again outclassed the boys from KC, as Carl Pavano shut them down (8 IP, 2 ER) for most of the game, while Delmon Young continued to swing a healthy bat (HR #7) and the Twins banged out 10 hits en route to a 6-2 victory.

Seriously, and I would love to get some comments on this, why are the Royals still so bad?  Besides a extraordinary early-season streak in 2003 (followed by an equally tremendous fade, of course) that gave them an over-.500 record, the last time they were eclipsing that mark was in 1994 when the strike hit.  I just don’t understand how a team can be “rebuilding” for that long and still have plays like what happened tonight: a guy fails to touch second base while trying to turn a double play, and their left fielder let a ball sail over his head after seeming to have it measured.  This has been going on for far too long in KC, and I want to know why.  I kind of feel bad for the organization and fans (be careful what you wish for, I know), as I know the frustration of enduring “lean years”.  Thoughts from KC fans or others are welcome.

Preview (35-24, 1st, 4.5 GA DET): Bruce Chen (2-0, 2.95) vs. Scott Baker (5-4, 4.52). Bruce Chen?  Bruce Chen??!!  Never again will I complain about the Twins having any pitching “woes”.

Just In Case…

Royals_Twins_Baseball_sff_175619_game.jpgTonight, the Twins figured out Zack Grienke and got a superb outing from Kevin Slowey en route to a 7-3 victory over the still-hapless (especially on the road) KC Royals.

However, the entire baseball universe was ecplised today by the debut of young pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg of the Washington Nationals:

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Just in case he turns out to be the next Nolan Ryan, Roger Clemens, or Randy Johnson, I would be remiss not to mention this spectacular debut, so future generations (when they dig out my computer from all the rubble and power up MLBlogs!) could be privvy to his initial greatness.

Against the Pittsburgh Pirates tonight, Strasburg struck out 14 batters in seven innings, whiffing the last seven men he faced in the contest.  He gave up a two-run that only left the park because the velocity on the pitch was so nasty, but teammates Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn, and Josh Willingham also homered to get the young kid a victory.

I’ve been watching baseball for quite awhile now, but I’ve never seen anything like this: a youngster so thoroughly dominant at this (the infant) stage of his career.  Sure, it was only Pittsburgh, arguably the worst team in the majors this season, but he had them completely flummoxed.  It should be even more fun to watch him terrorize good hitters as his innaugural season progresses.

Notes:

-It was nice to hear from Joe Nathan (in the broadcast booth) tonight, as I really miss him and wish him all the best in his recovery from Tommy John Surgery.  He seems like a class act and all-around nice guy.

-The only bad news of the night: Orlando Hudson was put on the 15-day DL from lingering wrist soreness after last week’s collision with Denard Span.  Doesn’t sound like anything too serious, so hopefully some rest will allow it to clear itself up and not linger all season long.

Preview (34-24, 1st, 3.5 GA DET): Kyle Davies (4-4, 5.49) vs. Carl Pavano (5-6, 4.11)

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