Results tagged ‘ Athletics ’

Bye, Bye, Breslow

610x.jpgYesterday, the Twins announced that they had placed relief pitcher Craig Breslow on waivers and he was claimed by the Oakland Athletics.  In his place, the Twins brought up Anthony Swarzak…

AnthonySwarzak.jpg

…who will make the start on Saturday against the Brewers in place of Glen Perkins.

One down, two (Crain and Ayala) to go!

Preview (18-23, 3rd, 5.5 GB DET): Nick Blackburn (2-2, 4.38) vs. Bartolo Colon (2-3, 4.21). This season is on the brink of spiraling out of control before the end of May.  Blackburn needes to turn in a quality outing and have the pen back him up.

Tragedy In L.A.

Adenhart.jpgThough the Twins and Mariners played the final tilt of their four-game series yesterday (Jarrod Washburn out-dueled Glen Perkins for a 2-0 win as the Twins’ bats went silent), I think that all games yesterday were played with a heavy heart due to the sudden passing of Nick Adenhart.

For the past few years, Adenhart had been a prized young prospect in the Los Angeles Angels’ farm system.  He came up for a “cup of coffee” during the 2008 season and earned what turned out to be his only major league victory.

This year, after making the Angels out of spring training, Adenhart pitched six innings of shutout ball against the Oakland Athletics on April 8th.  Just hours later, he was killed when a minivan (which we now know was manned by a drunk driver who fled on foot after the accident but was later apprehended) ran a red light and smashed into the vehicle he was riding in.  Two of the other passengers were pronounced dead at the scene of the collision, while Adenhart was taken to a local hospital but died due to his internal injuries.

A terrible tragedy like this just makes me think how fleeting this thing we call “life” can really be.  I mean, Adenhart was only 22 years of age…one year younger than myself.  From a Twins perspective, I can’t imagine how the team would react if, say, a guy like Slowey, Blackburn, or Perkins was taken from us in a similar fashion.

The Angels cancelled their regularly scheduled contest yesterday, but will resume play tonight, presumably with very heavy hearts and conflicting emotions.  Knowing Mike Scoscia, Torii Hunter, and that Angels crew, though, they will do their best to honor the memory of Nick Adenhart.

Preview (2-2, 2nd, 0.5 GB KCR): R.A. Dickey (0-0, 0.00 ERA) at Jose Contreras (0-0, 0.00 ERA). The Twins’ starter tonight will feature a knuckleball, something I haven’t seen from a Twin in, well, as long as I have been following the team.

MLB Predictions: 2009

1908Cubs.jpgEach year, usually after receiving the Sports Illustrated Baseball Preview issue, I make a complete set of MLB picks.  It’s always fun to look back at them and see how right/wrong (wrong far outnumbering the right!) I was at the end of the season.  Here they are for ’09:

AL East:

Boston

Tampa Bay (Wild Card)

New York

Toronto

Baltimore

AL Central:

Minnesota

Chicago

Kansas City

Cleveland

Detroit

AL West:

Los Angeles

Texas

Seattle

Oakland

NL East:

Philadelphia

New York (Wild Card)

Florida

Atlanta

Washington

NL Central:

Chicago

Milwaukee

St. Louis

Cincinnati

Houston

Pittsburgh

NL West:

Los Angeles

Arizona

San Francisco

Colorado

San Diego

AL Champion: Boston

NL Champion: Chicago

World Series Champion: Chicago

So, after 100 long seasons of waiting, I think this is the year that the Cubbies will finally win the big one.  I just think that their pitching is too good not to make a deep playoff run.

A Few More Free Agent Signings

jason_giambi2.jpgThree new free-agent signings this week I wanted to comment on…

1. Jason Giambi is going back to the Oakland A’s.  After spending a bunch of years with the Yankees, the big man is going back to his roots.  I’ll never forget that Sports Illustrated cover (pictured above) showing the grease-ball Giambi and thinking “whoa…this guy is crazy”.  I became very jaded towards Giambi when his name kept popping up in the steroid scandals of the past decade, but I now have much more respect for him, as he is the ONLY player I can think of who has come clean.

2. Trevor Hoffman signed with the Milwaukee Brewers.  Hoffman is a no-brainer first ballot Hall of Famer, but he may be on the down-slope of his career.  By and large he’s still a pretty good closer, but he is beginning to fail a bit too often in those pressure-packed situations.

3. John Smoltz is now a member of the Boston Red Sox.  If healthy, Smoltz can dominate a game basically wherever you put him (starter, reliever, closer, etc.).  Of course, keeping him healthy is another matter entirely…

Sweet Swingin’

Sweet Swing.jpgLooking to salvage a split with the Oakland A’s on the road, the Twins’ bats came out swinging on Sunday and didn’t spot for pretty much the whole game.

When a team wins a game 12-4, it takes too long to review all the individual highlights (!), so suffice it to say that Justin Morneau (2-5, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 1 R), Nick Punto (2-4, 2 R), Alexi Casilla (2-4, 3 RBI, 2 R), and Brian Buscher (2-4, 1 RBI, 1 R) led the attack, which featured a five-run sixth inning.

On the defensive side, Scott Baker finally picked up his eighth win of the season by going six innings and allowing just one earned run.  Then, despite a large hiccup from Eddie Guardado, Breslow and Bonser turned in nice outings from the pen.

Notes:

-After splitting with the A’s, the Twins could still salvage this road trip if they can take two of three from the Blue Jays in Toronto in a series starting Tuesday night.  However, the Jays have been playing some inspired play these days (they have almost caught the Yankees in the AL East standings), so the games will be tough.

Preview (77-60, 2nd, 0.5 GB CWS): Glen Perkins (12-3, 3.96) vs. David Purcey (2-5, 5.53). The Twins don’t have to face Toronto’s Roy “Doc” Halladay in this series, so count your blessings for that!

Wasting Liriano

Wasted.jpgLast night, with a chance to move into first place in the AL Central division, the Twins got a fantastic start from kid phenom Francisco Liriano (7 IP, 1 ER).  Yet, as has become so typical on the road for the Twins this season, somehow the game slipped away again in the later innings.

Heading into the bottom of the ninth, the Twins were up 2-1 thanks to a Denard Span two-run homer in the fifth.  After the wonderful Cisco Kid outing, followed by a perfect inning from Matt Guerrier, I was confident that Joe Nathan (as usual) would be able to close the door.  Yet, something strange happened…Nathan lost control of his pitches.  Bobby Crosby singled to left, Emil Brown was hit by a pitch, and then Ryan Sweeney laid down a sacrifice…which ended up closing the game.

Nathan picked up the sacrifice and, realizing he had no play at first base, wheeled and fired to third, where the ball got by Brendan Harris and rolled all the way down the line, allowing the tying and winning runs to score.  Replay showed that the ball bounced off Harris’s glove, but the throw WAS off line, so the responsibility is shared.  Officially, Nathan was given a throwing error.

Game Over.

Notes:

-Give Nathan a mulligan on this one, as he is normally dominant.

-One thing I can’t understand about the official scoring in that ninth inning: Nathan put both runners on, and they scored on his error, yet he is not charged with any earned runs.  Doesn’t that strike anyone as odd?!

Preview: (76-60, 2nd, 0.5 GB CWS): Scott Baker (7-4, 3.75) vs. Greg Smith (6-13, 3.90). A spilt can still salvage this series and (perhaps) move the Twins into first place!

Getting Their Smiles Back

Smile.jpgAfter getting the series with the Oakland A’s off on the wrong foot on Thursday night, the Twins turned the tables last night to the tune of a 12-2, pounding out 20 hits and knocking Oakland starter Meyer out of the game in the second inning by tagging him for six runs.

Starring offensively for the Twins (although everyone in the starting lineup besides Nick Punto recorded at least one hit) were Joe Mauer (5-6, 4 RBI, 1 R), Justin Morneau (4-5, 1 RBI, 2 R), Jason Kubel (2-4, 2 RBI 1 R), and Alexi Casilla (3-5, 1 RBI, 2 R).  There were no Twins home runs in the contest, but Morneau collected two doubles while Mauer and Kubel had one apiece.

Yet, in the middle of that offensive onslaught, one must not overlook the quality pitching performance of starter Kevin Slowey, who went six innings (and could have gone more if not for a long top of the seventh), allowing two earned runs and striking out ten.  Craig Breslow also didn’t disappoint in his mop-up appearance, picking up a three-inning save (the first of his career).

Notes:

-Slowey sure seems to have found his strikeout groove as of late.  Right now, if I had to pick a “playoff rotation order” (yeah, I know, that’s dangerous to do in August, but what the heck) I would go Baker, Liriano, Slowey, Perkins, and then Blackburn.

-Also, a word to all the “Negative Nancies” out there…settle down!  A few days ago, when the Twins dropped to a “full” two games behind the White Sox, I talked with many people who had written the Twins off, including even the Sportscenter guys judging from the way they talked about Minnesota.  Now, we are 0.5 games behind the Sox and everyone is jumping back on the bandwagon.  If being a Twins fan has taught you anything over the past decade (especially 2003 and 2006), it would have to be to never give up on our boys of summer until they are mathematically eliminated.

Preview (76-59, 2nd, 0.5 GB CWS): Francisco Liriano (4-3, 3.83) vs. Dallas Braden (4-3, 4.13). It’s the same old, same old for Cisco: low walk total + low general pitch count = victory.

Paper Crain

silent2.jpg

As the photo in this blog post indicates, there is a lot of head-scratching going on right now on the Twins’ current road trip.  Last night, the Twins (again) could not muster any offense, yet the pitching kept the game within reach until the final inning.

The A’s got on the board first in the fourth inning by grounding into a double play to score a run, but the Twins came back in the sixth with a Justin Morneau sacrifice fly to knot the score at one.

As has been so common throughout this road trip, however, the A’s came right back with a run of their own in the bottom of the sixth.  Fortunately, Nick Punto’s clutch single scored Delmon Young in the seventh for another (2-2) tie.

As the Twins were barely scraping enough runs across the plate to get by, the pitchers were doing an excellent job of styming the A’s.  Starter Blackburn allowed two earned runs in five and two third innings, while both Reyes and Bonser pitching scoreless innings of their own.

In the bottom of the ninth, however, it all came crashing down.  Craig Breslow came in from the pen to begin the inning, promptly gave up a single, then left after a successful sacrifice.  Crain was then brought into the game and, after issuing a walk, threw a meatball to Kurt Suzuki that Ichiro’s namesake hit to deep left center to score the game-winning run.

Notes:

-Basically, everything that COULD go wrong DID go wrong last night.  The offense couldn’t generate any production, the starting pitching didn’t last long enough to give the bullpen a fair shake, and Crain again folded in a pressure situation.  Only the defense was sparkling, with Alexi Casilla turning in a #1 Web Gem with his glove-flip to Nick Punto to start a double play.

-Also, I realize that I have really been ripping on Crain a lot throughout the relatively short life of this blog, so I would like to take a moment to explain exactly why I think he is the most overrated pitcher in the Twins’ bullpen.  There really are two things that I dislike about Crain: First, he often struggles with his control, being unable to hit his spots.  Second, as a result of that shoddy control, he often turns to just throwing the ball right over the plate in order to get strikes.  Now, if he had any movement on his ball whatsoever (like, say, Joe Nathan), he could get away with this, but most of the time the ball comes in on a line and the batters cream it.  Sure, he can throw in the mid-90s velocity, but with that straight ball the higher velocity only means that the ball will be hit harder when the batter connects (which is becoming more and more frequent these days).

-Rant on Crain aside, the offense lost the game last night.  Too many 1-2-3 innings where the Oakland starting pitcher hardly had to work at all, unlike the A’s offense, which battled Blackie tooth and nail seemingly every at-bat.

Preview (75-59, 2nd, 1.5 GB CWS): Kevin Slowey (10-8, 3.74) vs. Dan Meyer (0-2, 5.95). Despite his southpaw status, Meyer should be prone to allowing some runs IF the Twins can capitalize on him.  Slowey, like Perkins, has been giving us quality starts lately.

Throwing Back The Bass

Bass.jpgAfter Wednesday’s afternoon game against the A’s, the Twins announced that Alexi Casilla would be recalled from the DL and Brian Bass would be sent down to Triple-A.  Perhaps the effectiveness of the bullpen on that day was a part of that decision:

Despite allowing an unearned run (Nick Punto (rare) error) in the first inning, Francisco Liriano pitched five innings on Wednesday and did not allow an earned run.  The problem: he was over the “magical” 100 pitch mark (geez, I sound like Bert Blyleven now!) and thus pulled from the game.  This was not a good sign, as the Twins’ bullpen seemed to just be recovering from a rough stretch and now they would be used again in long relief.

However, the pen was up to the challenge on this day.  Boof pitched two impressive innings, while Jesse Crain recorded perhaps the most important outs of the game in the eighth inning with A’s clogging the bases.  Joe Nathan picked up his 34th save of the year and lowered his ERA to an even 1.00.  The good: The bullpen pitched four EFFECTIVE innings.  The bad: The bullpen pitched FOUR effective innings, thus needing another pick-me-up from Baker tomorrow night.

Offensively on Wednesday, the Twins were held mostly in check but for Mike Redmond (2-4, 2 RBI) and Justin Morneau (1-3, 1 RBI).  Yet, thanks to the solid bullpen, that was all that was needed.

Notes:

-Do I agree with Bass being sent down?  Not exactly…at least from a pure performance perspective.  Taking into consideration the entire season, I’d say that Bass has pitched better than Bonser overall.  Yet, there must be monetary reasons (like, the Twins don’t want to dump his larger salary) why the Boofster still commands a bullpen chair.

-Liriano still needs to work on not giving up so many walks.  Were it not for those on Wednesday, he would have likely pitched into the sixth or even seventh inning.  A better hitting team (if he ever faces one!) will eventually make him pay for those free passes.

-The Twins have won their past 11 home series.  Wow!  If we can hang in the race over the long road quest, those home games against the ChiSox are looking pretty good.

Preview (72-54, 2nd, 1.0 GB CWS): Scott Baker (7-3, 3.91) vs. John Lackey (10-2, 3.22).  Traditionally, Lackey has been hard on Twins’ bats.  Beating him could be a big boost in terms of road morale right from the get-go.

Hit Parade

Hit Parade.jpgDespite letting the Oakland A’s get on the board first tonight, the Twins controlled the rest of the game with authority, belting out 16 hits en route to a 13-2 victory.  Leading the offensive charge were Justin Morneau (3-4, 1 RBI, 3 R), Brian Buscher (3-4, HR, 5 RBI, 2 R), Randy Ruiz (2-4, 2 RBI, 2 R), and Brendan Harris (2-3, 2 RBI, 1 R).  Denard Span added an RBI triple, while Carlos Gomez crushed a deep shot over the left field fence.  Besides a pinch hit appearance from Mike Lamb, in which he drew a walk, every single Twins batter had at least one hit tonight.

Of course, one cannot discount the pitching performance of Kevin Slowey (7 IP, 1 ER, 5 H, career-high 12 Ks), as he was able to give the pen at least one day of rest.  As I said in a previous post, if the Twins keeping getting qualities starts like what Slowey contributed tonight, they will be my favorite to win the division come October.

There’s not much strategy to debate in such a blowout game, but I picked up on an interesting comment today from the TV announcers that I thought was very pertinent to the current batting order: the importance of the lead-off guy.  Although Gomez gave the Twins a spark out of that spot early in the season, his over-eagerness and thus susceptibility to striking out have dropped him down to ninth.  Those struggles corresponded to the Twins struggling on offense until Span (a much more patient hitter) was installed in the #1 spot.  Interestingly enough, the Twins had the same thing happen in 2003…they struggled the entire first half until they traded for Toronto’s Shannon Stewart, who brought many more quality at-bats into the fold and propelled the struggling team into the postseason.  What I also like about Span is his ability to drive the ball when necessary…not only can he beat out a bunt, but he can also crank the ball into the right field gap or seats.  It takes a special player to possess all those skills, and perhaps Span is at that level already.

Preview (71-54, 2nd, 1.0 GB CWS): Francisco Liriano (3-3, 4.97) vs. Dallas Braden (3-2, 4.50). After Monday’s frustration, the Twins now have put themselves in good position (what with Cisco toeing the rubber) to take the series and go into the long road trip on a positive note.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.