Results tagged ‘ Denard Span ’

Remembering ’11


Although the 2011 season did not end well for the Minnesota Twins (the understatement of the year, to be sure), it is still another baseball season in the books, full of ups and downs and memorable moments along the way. This post list those moments that I remember…

-On my couch, hot dogs and brats in hand, to watch Opening Day…and then seeing the Twins out of it in Toronto before it even began, really.  Should have known something from Day One, I guess.

-Getting all excited about Nishioka, then seeing the Yankees take him out early and him become a basket case late.

-Liriano’s May no-no against the White Sox.  Probably the most unimpressive no hitter I’ve ever seen, but still a special night.

-The mid-June surge that saw Ben Revere and Alexi Casilla ignite the team.

-Watching at Target Field as Matt Capps blew ANOTHER save against the Brew Crew.

-Walking on the hallowed “Field of Dreams” in Iowa as part of a baseball-themed vacation.

-Seeing the Twins play the White Sox at The Cell as part of said vacation.

-Attending (at one point in early July) four games in the span of five days.

-The terrible months of August & September which, towards the end, even tested my patience in sitting through an entire error-ridden, pitching-splintered game.

And then, of course, there was perhaps the most meaningless season finale in Twins history.  Except, of course, that it wasn’t.  With John Gordon behind the microphone for the final time, the Twins rallied in the ninth for a walk-off win thanks to the bat of Trevor Plouffe and the legs of Denard Span.

Though, for sure, those last few months were trying and many times I just wished the season would mercifully come to a close, that final game really put things in perspective.  With each passing day without baseball (and especially when football comes to an end), all I’ll want is simply this, with my Minnesota Twins…

The Definition of Frustration

Twins_Orioles_Baseball_sff_212679_game.jpgThe picture says it all again tonight.

Preview (6-12, 5th, 1.0 GB CWS): Scott Baker (0-2, 4.50) vs. Jeremy Guthrie (1-2, 3.32)

Home

Athletics_Twins_Baseball_sff_210273_game.jpg

Joe Nathan coming home, indeed.  For the Twins’ 2011 Target Field opener, they pretty much sleepwlked through seven innings at the plate.  Luckily, Carl Pavano was dominating, setting down Oakland A after Oakland A.  Then, in the eighth, Danny Valencia’s infield single was followed by hits from three lefties (Kubel, Span, Mauer) to scratch two runs across.

As this was occuring on the field, Joe Nathan was quickly warming in the pen, anticipating his first Target Field save situation.  When those gates opened and “Stand up and Shout” played over the loudspeakers, it was clear that Mr. Nathan was “Home” at last.

For whatever reason, Joe Nathan is a favorite Twin of mine (just look at the name of this blog).  He’s easily the greatest closer the team has ever had, and there’s just something about a save situation that gets me pumped.  Besides Cuddy gunning a runner, Span slapping a triple, or Thome blasting off, there isn’t anything that will get me on my feet faster than a closer coming into a game to get those final three outs.

I also admire Nathan’s grit and determination.  He started off as a struggling SS with the Giants, then came over here with Liriano and Boof Bonser in the A.J. Pierzynski trade (thanks again, A.J.!) as a so-so reliever.  We gave him Eddie G’s closing role, and he never missed a beat.

If the weather holds out, I may be attending the game either today or Sunday, and I would like nothing more than to see Nathan return to domination in person!

Preview (3-4, T-4, 2.0 GB CLE): Gio Gonzalez (1-0, 1.29) vs. Nick Blackburn (1-0, 1.50).

What I Want To See On Opening Day…

What I want to see Friday night in Toronto…

-Denard Span having a 9-pitch at-bat and drawing a walk.

-Alexi Casilla getting through a whole game without a bonehead mistake of some kind (not holding my breath on this one)

-Nishioka lining a single to left/center/right and being halfway to first base before the ball leaves the infield.

-The M&M boys together in the lineup.

-Cuddyer gunning a ball in from RF.

-Danny Valencia just being himself…or cool.

-Pavano laboring through 7-8 innings and keeping us in the game.

-Jim Thome just swinging.  Seriously…even a whiff is epic with that guy.

And finally, what I’ve been waiting to here for over a year now…

If that song is playing, I’ll know a win is within reach!!

From The Land Of The Rising Sun…

4TWIN121910.jpgWith JJ Hardy gone to Baltimore and O-Dawg recently signing with San Diego, the Twins needed to make a splash to shore up their middle infield. It doesn’t get a whole lot splashier than this.

For the first time in team history, the Twins organization reached into the Nippon Professional baseball league of Japan to nab Tsuyoshi Nishioka.

Last year, Nishioka hit .346 to lead the Pacific League of Japan, and is expected to either play shortstop or second base on the 2011 Twins.

Of course, as we all well know, transitioning from “east to west” is never a sure prospect.  For every Ichiro Suzuki or Hideki Matsui, there are two Kaz Sasaki’s or Kaz Matsui’s.

I like this move, though, as (if this guy can hit even close to as good as he did in Japan), then he could be a great #2 hole hitter, or even light a little fire under Span for the leadoff spot battle.

Making ‘Em Sweat

Twins_Blue_Jays_Baseball__sff_180650_game.jpgLast night, the Minnesota Twins look for all the world to be headed to another disappointing loss on the road.  Down 5-2 after five innings, Carl Pavano was getting beat by the long ball and the bats weren’t doing much of anything (besides grounding to Lyle Overbay, that is).

However, that is when the bats started to heat up:

Twins_Blue_Jays_Baseball__sff_180610_game.jpg Not only did it take back-to-back jacks from Morneau and Kubel to jump back into the game, but big hits were also needed from Mauer (dinger), and doubles by Thome and Delmon Young (who finished the game 3-3) since the pen kept serving up the meatballs.

As much as everyone is worried about the Twins right now, I think that our hitting is what it is and we aren’t going to change anything.  If we continue to trot out a Span-O-Dawg-Mauer-Morneau-Cuddy-Kubes-Big D-Big Jim-JJ lineup, we’ll score runs:

 If it doesn’t, then we probably just don’t deserve to make the playoffs anyway, so why worry?  Thus, are biggest area of improvement will be pitching.  Cliff Lee would be huge, but enough so to mortage away guys like Wilson Ramos and Aaron Hicks?  At this point, I would have to say yes.  With that kind of potent lineup day in and day out, we may actually have a chance to take on the mighty Yanks in the playoffs this year (one always has to assume that the AL road to the World Series runs through the Big Apple), but not without a few pitchers to hold back their firepower.  Sending Lee, Liriano, and Pavano/Slowey/Baker/Blackie to the mound would give as at least a fair shake against their big bats, I think, though of course nothing is guaranteed.

Another key…more pictures like this:

Twins_Blue_Jays_Baseball__sff_180646_game.jpg

Notes:

-Too bad Delmon Young won’t win the Final Vote balloting, but Kevin Youkilis probably deserves it.  Just as long as Swish doesn’t make it…man I hate that guy!

Preview (45-38, 2nd, 0.5 GB DET): Kevin Slowey (8-5, 4.57) vs. Marc Rzepczynski (0-0, 0.00).  The Tigers needed some late-inning heroics to preserve their division lead last night, so let’s keep the pressure on.  I don’t want to be two games back heading into Comerica this weekend.

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:

super-mario.jpg

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.

Best Of The West?

Rangers_Twins_Baseball_sff_173980_game.jpgBefore this weekend series, the Texas Rangers were battling for first place in the AL West.  They still are, but now do so just two games over .500 thanks to a three-game sweep by the Twins.

Boy, so far this season is shaping up pretty much like last year (with one key difference):

-Twins beat up on the AL Central (same as ’09)

-Twins cannot touch the AL East (same as ’09)

-Twins beat up on the AL West (different from ’09 and the reason why we are considered a much better team this season).

This bodes well for the start of a rather lengthy west coast road swing starting on Monday in Seattle.

Notes:

-Scary moment at the end of Sunday night’s contest when Denard Span collided with Orlando Hudson on the final play of the game.  Both were a bit slow to get up, with Hudson taking a really long time to get to his feet and likely not playing for a day or so.  Don’t have any official word yet, but the loss of Hudson for any prolonged period would be a big blow to our infield configuration (Casilla playing every day is NOT something I am comfortable with).

Preview (30-20, 1st, 3.5 GA DET): Francisco Liriano (4-3, 3.17) vs. Doug Fister (3-2, 2.03)

Back In Business

twins-harris.jpgWell, after a few games against Baltimore (two losses and one win) in which the lineup didn’t exactly produce a bevy of runs, the bats came through today, albeit in the most unlikely of places.  Though Joe Mauer had a key hit towards the end of the game, it was the 8-2 slots in the order that did most (all!) of the damage…

Brendan Harris: 3-4, 2 R

Alexi Casilla: 2-4, 2 R, 1 RBI

Denard Span: 3-4, 2 R, 3 RBI

Nick Punto: 2-3, 2 RBI

This is nice to see from this club, as the 2006 season proved what magic can happen when both the big boppers and scrappy “piranhas” alternate in picking each other up.

Of course, it helped today that Nick Blackburn stymied the O’s bats for seven innings (what should happen when one faces that dead-end squad).  After missing his previous scheduled start due to a family emergency, it was nice to see Blackie turn in a great effort after struggling so in the month of April.

In other news, the reason for the week-long break from this blog was due to the fact that our family just completely the vast majority of a move from Fergus Falls, Minnesota (the town I had grown up in since Kindergarten) to Forest Lake, MN, a town about 30 miles or so north of the Metro area.  The negative: Uprooting an entire family (I’m currently living with my parents and multiple siblings).  The positive: Closer to Target Field!!

Preview (21-11, 1st, 3.5 GA DET): Freddy Garcia (1-2, 5.28) vs. Kevin Slowey (4-2, 4.93).  Off day Monday (I bet Mauer is relaxing at his cabin already!) before the rival ChiSox make their first trip to our new home turf.  Let’s home it is just as “accommodating” to them as the old place.

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