On the ESPN commercials, Albert Pujols is depicted as being a “machine”…
However, with due respect to Phat Albert, I consider Ichiro Suzuki to be more machine-like. Just last week, Ichiro recorded his tenth consecutive season of 200+ hits, tying him with Pete Rose and putting him ahead of one Tyrus Raymond Cobb.
If Ichiro were to retire after this seasons, I would vote him into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot. Even though he’s only been around in the American game for 10 years, he’s done enough to ensure a place in Cooperstown. I’ve enjoyed watching him play every year since 2001, and I think he really gave baseball a shot in the arm with his exciting play after a bogged-down steroids era of waiting for the three-run homer.
After securing the AL Central division crown with a sweep of the Cleveland Indians, the Detroit Tigers returned the favor by taking three straight from us at Comerica. Here’s two reasons why I’m not concerned:
1. The Tigers are us good in their home park as we are at ours. If they could win at all on the road, we’d still be battling them in meaningful games.
2. In 1987, after clinching the AL West, the Twins proceeded to lose the final 5 games of the regular season before doing their damage again in the playoffs.
Of course, having home field advantage in a potential second-round playoff series would be nice, but not at the expense of tired arms or worn-down bodies.
Preview (92-63, 1st, 9.5 GA CWS): Kevin Slowey (13-6, 4.18) vs. Kyle Davies (8-11, 5.05)
More to come later, by for now just enjoy the “magic”!
Technically, Brian Duensing is no longer considered a “fireman” now that he is a starter. However, he threw enough water on Chicago hot situations tonight to qualify for the title.
The Twins kept up their hot hitting since flying into the Windy City, but if not for some jam-escaping abilites inning after inning from Duensing, it might not have been enough. Like Francisco Liriano a night before, Big-Game Brian had good stuff and used it at the most opportune times in the Twins’ 9-3 win over the ChiSox that further drives home the nail in Ozzie Guillen’s team’s chances of making a late-season push.
-Delmon Young picked up his 100th RBI of the season. A little over a year ago, Twins fans wanted to run him out of town. Now, we put up with his bumbling, stumbling defense for all those driven in runs.
Preview (87-58, 1st, 8.0 GA CWS, Magic #: 10): Carl Pavano (16-11, 3.47) vs. Mark Buerhle (12-10, 3.99)
“It’s the franchise, boy, I’m shining now…”
In 2006, the Minnesota Twins were supposed to have the lethal 1-2 combination of savvy vet Johan Santana and unhittable rookie Francisco Liriano leading them deep into the playoffs. That is, until Frankie’s arm popped one too many times, and old Tommy John reared his ugly head.
After losing all of 2007 and most of 2008, last year was a lost one for the Cisco Kid, as he struggled mightily with control, his delivery, and his velocity. Good thing that is now in the past, as “The Franchise” is now living up to the billing.
His stat line tonight might not have been all that sparkly (6 IP, 3 ER), but he did strike out seven batters (including Manny Ramirez twice) and pretty much dominated until he ran out of gas a little early due to an extended opening inning. He was hitting 97 mph on Chicago’s radar gun, had the biting slider, and even a nice assortment of changeups to really keep the batsmen shifting.
Amazingly enough, that wasn’t even the pitching performance of the game, as that “award” goes to Jesse Crain for striking out Paul Konerko and Manny Ramirez with likely the game on the line in the seventh inning. While I may not take back ALL the things I’ve said about Crain on this blog, I will say that he has undergone perhaps the most remarkable in-season turnaround of any reliever I’ve ever seen. He’s absolutely unhittable right now, and is mopping up all of Guerrier’s and Rauch’s messes.
I was very surprised by the lack of pizazz shown by the Chicago crowd tonight. With Ramirez up and the bases loaded in the seventh, the fans never really even got on their feet or made any noise (except, of course, to boo Manny rigorously as he returned to the dugout). Then, when Alex Rios misplayed a ball in center field that allowed three runs to score and effectively clinched a Twins victory, I thought the Chi-Sox fans were practicing a fire drill the way they were heading for the exits.
I would like to believe that, if the roles had been reversed, Twins fans at Target Field would have been on their feet in those crucial situations and not leaving until that 27th out.
Preview (86-58, 1st, 7.0 GA CWS, Magic #: 12): Brian Duensing (8-2, 2.02) vs. Gavin Floyd (10-12, 3.91)
It wasn’t pretty, but the Twins were able to “git ‘er done” this weekend against the Indians. It took us over 18 innings to get the first run of the series, and we scored in only two innings the entire series, but still managed to take the series thanks to some great starting pitching
Now, the last series against the White Sox looms at the Cell starting Tuesday. We can effectively put them away by winning the series, or they (a very streaky team to begin with) can gain momentum.
-Unbelievable…we’re only two games behind the Yankees for best record in the American League, and thus locking up home field advantage for the playoffs. With the amount of times the Yanks and Rays still play each other down the stretch, if the Twins keep putting up “W’s” we could sneak through as the #1 seed!
Preview (85-58, 1st, 6.0 GA CWS): Francisco Liriano (13-7, 3.24) vs. John Danks (13-10, 3.54).
I just wanted to note on this blog that Trevor Hoffman recorded his 600th major league save a few days ago, becoming the first player ever to achieve such a number. He struggled mightily (even being replaced in the role for a large portion of the season in Milwaukee) to achieve the milestone, but I’m glad he finally got there.
With all the lavish attention thrown towards Mariano Rivera as the “greatest closer of all-time”, please don’t forget about Hoffman. He never got the postseason “proving ground” opportunities like Mo did, but over the long haul he’s been just as good. He’s slowed down a bit the last few years, but during his prime in San Diego he was as close to a sure thing as existed.
Man, all this talk of closers makes me want to hear these chords ripping through Target Field for the first time (hopefully next season!):
If the playoffs were to start right now, the Twins would go against the Rays and could trot out Francisco Liriano, Carl Pavano, and Brian Duensing in the first three games. After Duensing’s domination of the Royals last night, I like those odds.
A starting pitcher SHOULD dominate the paltry KC Royals offerings, and that is exactly what Duensing did. It may have been the most impressive pitching performance of the season, considering the fact that KC (despite scratching out one weak run) really had no chance against Brian all night long.
Big hits from Tolbert and Span provided the offense against Zack Greinke, who the Twins have now bested four times this season.
I’ll be rooting on my Minnesota Vikings tonight while the Twins hope a plane to Cleveland, but also be keeping my eye on the White Sox game, as a loss could put them a full six games back in the division race!
Preview (83-57, 1st, 5.5 GA CWS): Carl Pavano (16-10, 3.52) vs. Fausto Carmona (11-14, 4.05)
Another one of those games where the Royals pretty much hand us a win and all we have to do is take it from them.
However, in the midst of a 10-3 drubbing, Jim Thome continued to amaze:
Once again, a mighty hack from Big Thome produced a deep bomb over the right field bleachers and bouncing around out on the pavilion. This one (#586) tied him with Frank Robinson on the all-time list.
As long as his back holds out down the stretch and through the (hopefully!) playoffs, he could be just the bat we have been looking for against the likes of the Yankees or Rays (no more Brian Buscher coming off the bench in key playoff spots).
-Ben Revere makes his major league debut. Exciting player who could help in the field and on the bases down the stretch.
-Very intriguing to see Pat Neshek back on the mound. He struggled tonight, but if he can get right he could be a deadly weapon in the pennant race.
Preview (82-57, 1st, 4.5 GA CWS): Zack Grienke (8-11, 3.87) vs. Brian Duensing (7-2, 2.09)