Results tagged ‘ AL Central ’

Holding Serve

8315043e-c72e-4ca1-aa69-2191e65fac6d.jpgWell, the Twins managed to stick a fork in the White Sox for the second time this season, although this time I’m actually hoping they rise from that grave and put a beat-down on the Tigers this weekend.

It wasn’t pretty last night, but the Twins hung on for the Pale Hose sweep at The Cell and kept themselves in the thick of the AL Central race.

Basically, after today, the AL Central race will be down to four teams: Kansas City, Chicago, Minnesota, and Chicago.  Two are spoilers, while two are trying to reach the promised land.  Here are the remaining schedules for both the Twins and Tigers:

DET: 1 @ CLE, 3 @ CWS, 4 vs. MN, 3 vs. CWS

MN: 3 @ KC, 4 @ DET, 3 vs. KC

You know, for a team that hasn’t seriously competed for the division in quite awhile (the 2003 fade aside), the Royals have been in the thick of playoffs races almost every year.  In 2006 they helped the Twins overtake the Tigers on the final day of the season, while last year they forced the Twins to play a 163rd game that we would eventually lose.  It will be no different this year.  Both Detroit and Minnesota are talented enough to beat the boys from Kauffman Stadium, but the question is who will feel the pressure the most?

If I had to guess, I will say that the Twins will come into the big Detroit series about the same as where we are right now…2.5 GB, give or take 0.5.  That is, of course, unless KC plays spoiler again…

Preview (79-73, 2nd, 2.5 GB DET): Carl Pavano (12-11, 4.82) vs. Robinson Tejada (4-1, 2.94). Are you sure we can’t just skip Pavano and pitch him twice in the Detroit series?!  Maybe Rick Anderson can rig up a pair of glasses for him that turn the Royal batters into Tigers.

Matchups, Matchups

a89afc92-b2c3-485b-9648-a895602e3764.jpgWith just twelve games remaining on the 2009 regular season schedule for the Minnesota Twins, we are right back in the thick of things in the AL Central division race. It seems like every pitcher in the starting rotation (while underachieving terribly at one point or another over the course of the season) now has their defined “role” in the remaining tilts:

-Blackie’s job was to beat the White Sox, which he did with ease tonight. The Pale Hose (well, sans Thome at least) cannot solve Blackburn to save their lives.

-Carl Pavano was brought in to beat the Tigers, and he has done so succesfully so far (I’m sure he’s lined up for another start against them next week).

-Then, it is just up to Scott Baker to dominate the Royals (a very important feat with the KC boys creaming everyone these days).

I guess you also have to include Brian Duensing, whose job it is to continue pitching well against whomever he is thrown against!

Notes: A scary moment for Denard Span tonight, as he got hit right in the back of the helmet…

SpanDown.jpg

The report on (aside from Joe Mauer) the guy I consider to be our team MVP this year came back good and he’s officially listed as “day-to-day” (of course, as Bert Blyleven would say, “aren’t we all”?).  I’m sure he’ll get the night off tomorrow (unless he’s 100%) and then hopefully be back for Wednesday’s contest.

Preview (77-73, 2nd, 2.5 GB DET): Jeff Manship (0-1, 5.31) vs. John Danks (12-9, 3.59).

I Know The Feeling

9f801e53-3c06-46e2-a588-1e8d3f25b85d.jpgStory #1: During the summer of 2004, my Dad and I coached a Little League baseball team that reminds me a lot of the 2009 Minnesota Twins. We had one really good pitcher (Zane Stratton to Nick Blackburn) and a few guys who could hit, but other than that not much (we played decent D, again like the current Twins). We always had a chance against other similar-ranked teams, but against teams that had more talent we had to do everything perfect. One errant throw (and this was Little League, so imagine that!), a few costly outs from our big bats, or a couple of meatballs from our ace would immediately and automatically doom us to defeat.

Story #2: The next year, 2005, brought another Little League team with even worse results.  We couldn’t pitch, couldn’t hit, and could only basically field the ball (nothing spectacular).  On one dreary Minnesota night, however, our team was taking on the best team in the league and beating them by 7-8 runs.  For whatever reason (luck, primarily) everything was going right for them and wrong for us.  Yet, with an obvious thunderstorm fast approaching, our team ran out of pitchers (i.e. our “ace” was done).  With all the parents and grandparents starting to pack up the fort and get the umbrellas out in anticipation of the game being called, all we had to do was get three outs.  My memory of those next 5-10 minutes is a bit hazy, but I’m not quite sure we even got one of those.  The other team batted around twice, our guys didn’t catch/field the ball on defense, and at the exact second the game-winning run crossed the plate for the opponent, the clouds opened up and it began to pour.  It was almost like a message from God that we weren’t supposed to win that game.

On a macro-level, the Twins are very much like the team from Story #1.  We can compete with our equals, but (unless absolutely everything breaks right) we get squashed by our superiors (Anaheim and New York, primarily).

On a micro-level, though, as in tonight, the Twins are a lot like that sorry 2005 Little League team…struggling to do anything consistantly right and, at the same time, getting all the bad breaks.

I’m sad to have to say this, but for the first time all season I can definitively say that, barring a miracle, the Twins will not win the AL Central this season.  Will I still be tuning in and rooting for them down the stretch?  Yes.  But realistically, this team is a mess and cannot be fixed in the short time until October.

Notes:

p1_pavano.jpg

We “nabbed” Carl Pavano today. Gee whiz, what a move. He’s been just as bad as any of our current starters so far this season. In all honesty, sending down R.A. Dickey was probably a more important move than getting Pavano.

Preview (53-56, 3rd, 2.5 GB CWS): Carl Pavano (9-8, 5.37) vs. Justin Verlander (12-5, 3.29).

Halo(s)

Well, after playing the “Halos” on two consecutive weekends, one thing has become abundantly clear to me…the Twins are absolutely no match for them. Every single time we play them, I fully expect to lose, and get swept in the series at that. The Twins are completely out of their league and would go down just as weekly in a playoff series.

In fact, I will go far enough out on a limb to say that, assuming Torii Hunter returns to health, I consider the Angels to be the favorite to win the whole thing this year. After winning the World Series in 2002 (and beating the Twins in the ALCS to get there…!@#$ rally monkey!), Anaheim has been right in the thick of things every season. However, they always seem to get beat by Boston (or someone else) in the Divisional Series round. What I see different about this season’s team, though, is that 1-9 they can completely dominate an opposing pitcher just by being pests. Whereas in other years they could terrorize only the mediocre pitchers (and thus get beat by the big guns in the big time), this year they have all the bullets locked and loaded. I mean, who has ever heard of this guy…

76ad65c5-0049-4277-b75c-2be41c2fc75b.jpg…until just recently?! Earlier today, he (Kendry Morales) hit two three-run home runs to sink the Twins. Look at it this way…

The three weakest players in the Angels’ lineup today were Gary Matthews, Jeff Mathis, and Sean Rodriguez (who still homered to boot!).  Once Hunter and Vlad Guerrero are back, Matthews and Rodriguez will be back to the bench (where they can probably be the most useful), and I consider Mike Napoli to be a better catcher than Mathis anyway.  Thus, they have a lineup not unlike the 1998 Yankees…work the count, foul off pitches, get to opposing teams’ pen and sink them.

Add that to the great D that Mike Scosia always preaches, as well as a solid pitching corps, and I don’t see who can stop the Halos this season.

Preview (52-53, 3rd, 1.5 GB CWS): Scott Baker (8-7, 4.86) vs. David Huff (5-5, 6.39). The Twins have the easiest schedule of all the AL Central division contenders I believe, and that starts now.  If we can’t go into Indian country and take the series, it might be a long September.

No No Na-Nathan?

Alright Gardy, please explain something to me…your team (and mine, ours, etc.) is playing in a game that, if won, will vault us into second place in the AL Central and only a game behind the leader. The bats (well, Punto, Young, and Casilla) did enough in the early innings to grab a lead, but the pitching (Liriano) faltered late. Thus, the game goes to extra innings and both bullpens are mowing guys down. In the bottom of the twelfth, though, Duensing (who had been mowing guys down the previous inning) gives up a relatively harmless single, then a sacrifice bunt. With Joe Nathan warmed up (or was, an inning or two previous) in the ‘pen, you amble out to the mound to presumably bring the best closer not nicknamed Mo into the game to shut the door, right? I mean, this is a crucial game. When chasing a team down the stretch, every single inning of every single game is critical (was that not a hard enough lesson learned last year?). Yet, this is (metaphorically speaking) what Nathan was doing during that fateful twelfth…
Nathan-Crossings.jpgInstead, Gardy calls knuckler R.A. Dickey from the pen. There are so many things wrong with this decision that I would probably overload the server if I were forced to list them all. About the only thing he DID do right was not throw a wild pitch. Of course, the only reason that happened was because his knuckler was so ineffective as to be laughable. Starting with the very first pitch he threw to Ian Kinsler, the Texas second baseman’s eyes looked like beach balls (as did the sphere, I would imagine) and he started taking some monstrous hacks, off which he would just miss or foul the ball straight back (i.e. he was on the ball). In all honesty, I don’t think I’ve ever been so sure of something in my life that Kinsler (or the next batter) was going to win the game. Unfortunately, that is EXACTLY what transpired…
3808eaef-c65c-48dc-874e-8245718e53bf.jpgUnless Nathan was considered “off limits” for last night’s game (and I doubt that, as he was warming up in the bullpen on at least one occasion), I can’t think of a single reason why he wasn’t brought in for that situation. I know Gardy likes to take the conservative approach, but that doesn’t fly in the heat of a pennant race. So what if we may need Nathan to close out a game tonight in Oakland…I would have MUCH rather taken my chances with him last night.

Notes: -The Twins signed Mark Grudzielanek to a minor league contract yesterday. They say he won’t be in baseball-ready shape for a month at least. I’m usually good for some trade-deadline satire involving the Twins (“locking up” guys like Punto when other teams pull off blockbusters), but this is just ridiculous.

Preview (47-45, 3rd, 0.5 GB CWS): Nick Blackburn (8-4, 3.06) vs. Gio Gonzalez (1-2, 6.29). The A’s stink, but they have a ton of lefty pitching…meaning more Delmon Young than fans should probably ever see.

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:

IMG_7270-medium.jpg

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).

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