Results tagged ‘ Brewers ’

The Big Guy Gets One, But The Twins Hang On

210e5591-087a-4a51-9bfb-f9305ed4afa2.jpgTry as he might, the Big Vegetarian was not able to power the Brewers past the Twins today…though he certainly tried, by launching an absolute bomb off Scott Baker in the sixth inning.  Have the Twins played a series against Milwaukee since Prince joined the team where he HASN’T hit at least one home run?!

It was a decent win for the Twins this afternoon, but one that could have been improved upon mightily.  On the offensive side, there are still way too many runners being left on base.  The Twins got four across the plate in the first six innings today, but that total could have been much higher.  It was nice to see Denard Span back in the leadoff spot, as I think he may have the best batting eye on the entire team (Joe Mauer included).

Pitching-wise, Baker was brilliant for five innings, then (as so often happens with him) gave up a few big bombs in the sixth.  Really, Baker’s inability to pitch deep into games is the biggest factor in his never moving into that “next level” as an ace-type pitcher.  Either he throws too many pitches and wears himself out, or he cruises along and then absolutely hits a wall in the middle innings.

All things considered, though, it was nice to take two of three from the Brew Crew on the road.  Losing the sweep (especially in the fashion it happened) was heartbreaking, but for a team that just tries to avoid getting swept when batting first, it’s okay.

Notes:

-I don’t care what people say, Miller Park’s Sausage Races are one of the funnier pre-game activities in all of baseball.  Nothing the Twins do even comes close to that.  Maybe next year I’ll have to get back to one of these “rivalry” games, as I have an Aunt who lives right down in the area.  I suppose next year, though, the buzz will be for Brewers fans to cross the border and see Target Field.  However, going the other way at least one will be guaranteed a baseball game, something you won’t be able to say here in Minny.

Preview (37-37, 2nd, 5.0 GB DET): Glen Perkins (2-4, 5.10) vs. Adam Wainwright (8-4, 3.58)

Take It Away, George…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4SnUij-8nnc&feature=related

Maybe more tomorrow…still too angry to write with a clear head.

Preview (36-37, 2nd, 5.0 GB DET): Scott Baker (4-6, 5.22) vs. Mike Burns (0-0, 0.00)

A Decent (If Lucky) Start To The Road Trip

ad532242-5af8-48be-a9bb-47958d2d7a54.jpgIf you missed the first three innings of tonight’s Twins-Brewers contest at Miller Park, you were pretty much out of luck action wise.  The Twins put seven runs up on the board in those three frames, with Carlos Gomez getting a hit in each!

The bad news is that Liriano stunk once again, allowing three runs over five innings but walking guys all over the park, giving up deep flys, and then getting a lucky strikeout to end an inning.  He was essentially in trouble all night, yet ended up getting the win.

However, the bullpen (Dickey-Guerrier-Nathan) was able to take care of the latter four innings in perfect fashion, something that cannot be underestimated by the Twins pen on the road against a decent team.  I always love it when Nathan completely blows away the side in the ninth, and that is EXACTLY what happened tonight.

About the only thing that made the game less enjoyable was that my FSN North station was crap for the entire game.  It would skip, jerk, and blank out at intervals just enough to be maddening.  Did anyone else have this problem?  I hope it doesn’t continue into tomorrow.

Notes:

-You know, Joe Crede has got to be one of the most productive .230 hitters I have ever seen.  I don’t know how a guy with a batting average that low that provides so much offense when in the lineup.  He must never hit any singles, just extra-base knocks.

-I guess that before Luis Ayala was designated for assignment yesterday, he complained to Gardy about his role in the pen, as he thought he should (and was brought onto the team) to be the primary setup man.  Basically, that tells me why he didn’t last very long here in Minny, what with our general preference for team-first kind of guys.  Nobody gets a free ride around here.  He made have had one decent season in the National League, but when transferring to a different organization you have to prove yourself all over again.  The only thing he proved is that he could give up deep gopher balls with men on base.

-Also, as if this needs to be prefaced, Delmon Young made himself look silly out in left field tonight.  He had one nice running catch, but later on he misplayed a carom so badly that he fell down on the completely opposite direction of the ball.  Would have been quite funny if not for the fact that Young is getting a reputation for that sort of clumsiness.

Preview (36-36, 2nd, 4.0 GB DET): Nick Blackburn (6-2, 3.09) vs. Braden Looper (5-4, 5.21).

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.

We Are Family (Minus One)

koskie.jpgI was saddened to hear yesterday that former Twin, Blue Jay, and Brewer Corey Koskie announced his retirement from professional baseball.  As Twins fans, how can we not respect the tenacity that Koskie showed for the game of baseball, as he was one of those guys without much raw talent that needed every ounce of skill in his body to hit .280, 20 HR, and play fabulous defense at the hot corner.  Sadly, however, his strange concussion-like malady has now forced him to leave the game he loves.  Though even he admitted he could probably play through the discomfort, he did not want to put himself through another rough year or two, and with young children growing up at home I don’t know how you can blame him for that.

During my time as a writer for the University Register at the University of Minnesota, Morris, I penned an article about Koskie (and other former Twins) that I thought would be appropriate to share on this blog.  Just remember that the article is a wee bit dated (written just in advance of the start of the ’07 season), but the basic principles of the piece still hold true:

Over the last seven seasons, the Minnesota Twins have become a perennial powerhouse in the American League.  Yet, besides a winning product on the field, the Twins have created a family-type atmosphere that makes them so endearing and fun to watch.  While many baseball teams disperse their own separate ways the minute a game is completed (i.e. the New York Yankees), the Twins stick together, evidenced by the roommate pairing of Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau last season.  Journeyman players who have wandered the major leagues or young rookies fresh from the bush leagues can be considered “part of the family” once assigned a Twins uniform.  However, in order to stay competitive in baseball’s current economy, many a fine Twins “family member” has needed to be disowned.  In almost all cases, leaving the Twins’ family produced disastrous results…

Christian Guzman–Endeared himself to Twins fans in 2001 with his unusual goatee and that “bionic sound” he made while scampering to third base with another triple.  Since leaving the Twins after 2004, Guzy batted .219 for the Washington Nationals in 2005 and missed the entire ’06 season due to shoulder surgery.

Matt Lawton–Lawton was the most talented Twins outfielder during the doldrums of the late 1990s.  Never sniffed .300 after leaving the Twins via a trade in ’01 and was busted for steroids with the Yankees in 2005.

A.J. Pierzynski–You know the fan who gets a few beers in him and annoys the heck out of his entire section?  A.J. Pierzynski was that guy’s hero.  Pierzynski is still a quality catcher for the Chisox, but his trade brought the Twins Francisco Liriano, Joe Nathan, and Boof Bonser.

Luis Rivas–A mainstay (admittedly if only because of a lack of depth) at the second base position from 2001-2004 and often single-handedly defeated the Kansas City Royals.  Could not make the Tampa Bay Devils Rays roster in 2006, one year after the Twins released him.

David Ortiz–The one who got away.  The gregarious “Big Papi” was a fan-favorite in 2001-2002, but also quite injury-prone, leading to his departure.  Ortiz latched on with Boston and is now arguably major league baseball’s biggest superstar.

Doug Mientkiewicz–Led the Twins’ surge to prominence in 2001, but is now best remembered for stealing a baseball, not hitting or catching one.

Eric Milton–A solid, if not spectacular, starting pitcher for the Twins who pitched a no-hitter in 1999.  Now regularly leads the NL in home runs allowed.

Joe Mays–Highly-touted Twins prospect who, after one great season (2001) fizzled out.  Was recently cut from LA Dodgers training camp.

Jacque Jones–Teamed with Torii Hunter to create the “Soul Patrol” outfield but could not be afforded after 2005.  Last year, Jacque was a steady contributor (.285, 27 home runs) for the Chicago Cubs.

LaTroy Hawkins–After first succeeding (then failing miserably) as a closer, “Hawk” became a premier middle reliever before pricing himself out of a Twins uniform.  Hasn’t been nearly as dominant since leaving Minnesota (4.48 ERA in 60 innings for the Orioles last season) and still collapses in pressure situations.

Eddie Guardado–”Everyday Eddie” earned his nickname as a middle reliever, but transformed himself into a reliable (if not spectacular) closer.  Recently, Eddie has become anything but reliable due to chronic left elbow problems.

Yet, there is one player who has fallen on especially hard times after leaving the Twins family.  The name noticeably absent from this nostalgic list is Corey Koskie.  In 2001, Koskie banded together with Torii Hunter, Jacque Jones, and Doug Mientkiewicz in order to bring winning baseball back to Minnesota, much like Kent Hrbek, Gary Gaetti, Tom Brunansky, and Kirby Puckett did in the early 1980s.

Koskie debuted with the Twins organization in 1999 where, at third base and right field, he made an immediate splash (.310 batting average) on a punchless team.  However, Koskie struggled mightily with his third base defense, not exhibiting enough quickness or range to play the position.  Yet, on a team where playoff aspirations were nonexistent, Koskie was given the time necessary to develop his fielding skills, eventually molding himself into a perennial Gold Glove candidate, with his diving stops and on-target throws (even if he did have to occasionally bounce them off the old Metrodome turf) becoming commonplace.

After being a key contributor to the Twins’ playoff teams of 2002-2004, Koskie was courted by a number of teams who coveted the slick-fielding, decent power/average third baseman.  Though pursued by the Twins, Koskie was ultimately signed by the Toronto Blue Jays of his native Canada.  Before leaving Minnesota, in a gesture demonstrating his appreciation of the Twins’ organization and fans, Koskie took out full-page ads in both the Pioneer Press and Star Tribune expressing his gratitude for being allowed to thrive in Minnesota.

After a disappointing and injury-riddled season in Toronto, Koskie again changed teams, this time heading to Milwaukee.  With a fast start to 2006, Koskie seemed to be getting his career back on track until disaster struck on July 5.  While chasing a pop-up at Miller Park, Koskie overran the ball, had to bend backwards, and ended up falling to the ground, his neck whip-lashing before impact.  While the incident did not seem overly violent, Koskie’s next at-bat was like something out of the fifth dimension of the Twilight Zone, complete with images coming in and out of focus and spells of dizziness.

Since that day, Koskie has not played an inning of baseball for the Brewers.  A week after the concussion, Koskie tried returning to the Brewers’ lineup, but was overcome by dizziness, fatigue, and nausea, requiring him to leave the field once again.  After visiting a neuropsychologist, Koskie was diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome from his fall.  For the rest of that season, Koskie could only work out in small increments without the symptoms returning.  His head injury even affected his family life, as watching his son’s hockey games became impossible due to the bright lights giving him terrible headaches. 

As for 2007 season begins, Koskie has begun rehabilitating both mind and body at his home in Minnesota, hoping to rejoin his team at the earliest possible date.  Though post-concussion symptoms can last for years, Koskie seems to be on track to the major leagues again, as evidence by rising scores on the reaction-time and cognitive ability tests he regularly undergoes.  According to Koskie himself (in an interview with the Star Tribune’s Patrick Reusse), “I’m going to play again.  I’m sure of that.  If I wasn’t, I would have a lot more depression to deal with.”

In 1982, a promising young outfielder named Jim Eisenreich debuted with the Minnesota Twins.  After suffering several mystifying seizures at his left field post, Eisenreich was diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome, putting his major league career in serious jeopardy.  However, after three years of undergoing treatment, Eisenreich returned to the major leagues.  In 1993 he helped the Philadelphia Phillies to the National League Championship by batting .318.  In 1996 he hit .361 with the Phillies, and ’97 brought him a World Series championship with the Florida Marlins.  Hopefully, Corey Koskie can do much of the same.

 

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…

Another Hilarous Winter Meetings

Each time around the major league baseball winter meetings, there seems to be a rather hilarious article “hot off the wire” detailing the “big signing” of the Minnesota Twins in the wake of the really big boys already changing hands.  This year didn’t fail to disappoint…

KRodYanks.jpg

First, record-setting closer Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez moved from the Angels to the Mets by signing a three-year, $37 million deal.  With Billy Wagner rehabbing an injury and perhaps on the downslope of his career anyway, the Mets figured they needed a dominant closer and thus went out and got the best.

cc-sabathia.jpg

Then, just a few days later, C.C. Sabathia moved from the Brewers to the Yankees (who else, really?!) for seven years and $161 million, the largest contract ever for a pitcher.  The bad news: He really could stabilize the Yanks’ starting rotation.  The good news: We (the Twins) may only have to face him 1-2 a season TOPS…hooray!!

PuntoSigned.jpg

Finally, the inevitable “big move” came from the Minnesota Twins, as they announced the signing of “Little” Nick Punto to a two-year, $8.5 million contract.  Ooh, the cash is really flowing now!  Start printing those World Series tickets…”Little Nicky” is back.

In all honesty, though, Punto was actually a pretty good signing for the small-market Twins, as he is the best defenseman (at any position) in the league and, as long as he can keep his batting average above .260 or so, isn’t a huge drag on the lineup with the speed and bunting ability he brings to the table.

ALDS Predictions

AmericanLeagueLogo.jpgNow that the Chicago White Sox are the final entree into the AL playoffs (tear), here are my predictions for the ALDS:

Boston Red Sox vs. Anaheim Angels: I’ll take the Angels in four games for this series.  The Halos have easily been the best AL team the entire season, and have been resting up for October baseball for weeks.  True, the Red Sox have good pitching (Beckett, Daisuke, Lester), but lingering injuries are a big issue for them.  Personally, I’d take Lackey, Santana, and Saunders any day.  Offensively, the Sox know how to score runs, but who knows how they will react to a non-Manny Ramirez postseason (i.e. can Jason Bay or someone else step up in the clutch?).  Besides 2002, when they won the World Series, the Angels’ postseasons have been doomed by an inability to score runs.  That’s why guys like Gary Matthews Jr. and Torii Hunter were brought in, to pair with Vlad the Destroyer and a deep lineup that can beat you out of any slot.

Chicago White Sox vs. Tampa Bay Rays: Rays in four.  No, I don’t like the Rays just because their opponent is the sworn enemy of my Twins.  I just think that Chicago really isn’t that great of a team (I think I would have picked the Twins to lose to TB as well).  Both teams can pitch, but Tampa Bay’s offense is better built to score runs in the pitching-dominated postseason…Chicago’s sluggers will strike out too much.  The big factor in this series, though, is the first two games being played in Tampa, where the Rays have been nearly unbeatable.  This could easily be one of those series where the home team wins every game, but I think TB can pick one off in the Windy City to win earlier than that.

Playoff Notes:

-Philadelphia beat Milwaukee earlier today thanks to the strong pitching of Cole Hammels.  Of course, Mr. Automatic Win (C.C. Sabathia) is on the mound for the Brewers in Game Two, so this series will be even very soon. 

NLDS Predictions

NL_logo.jpgWith the Tigers losing to the White Sox today, the Pale Hose will now host “my” Twins tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. CT on TBS.  Nick Blackburn (11-10, 4.14) will oppose John Danks (11-9, 3.47).  On the season, Blackie is 2-2 with a 5.67 ERA against Chicago, while surprisingly the Twins have gone 1-1 (7.91) against Danks on the year in four of his starts.  With that huge game still not solidifying the AL playoffs, I would first like to comment on the matchups in the National League’s Division Series:

Brewers over Phillies in 5: Although Philly has the definite edge in pitching (what with Hamels, Myers, and Moyer) and probably the bullpen, Milwaukee has the great equalizer: C.C. Sabathia.  I think that the Brewer’s pitching will be good enough to win at least one game where C.C. isn’t on the mound, as their hitters are a resilient bunch.  Plus, I can see Brad Lidge again folding in postseason play.  That combined with two wins from Sabathia will push the Brew Crew into the NLCS.

Cubs over Dodgers in 3: The Cubs have Ryan Dempster, Carlos Zambrano, and Rich Harden scheduled to pitch the first three games of the series.  Game Over.  The Dodgers may win in Derek Lowe’s start, but I don’t think Chad Billingsley and Hiroki Kuroda (as good as they have been in September) can wade through the deep Cubs’ lineup.  A Dodger victory in this series would be one of the bigger ALDS upsets in recent memory.

Tomorrow, once the AL playoff matchups are set, I will preview them.  Go Twins!!

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