Results tagged ‘ Denard Span ’

Thoughts From The First Two Games

A few random thoughts from the first two games of the current Twins-Tigers series:

-Though going 16 innings and losing is bad enough for players and fans alike, I really can’t pin the blame on anyone in particular.  The Tiger bullpen was just throwing gas, and the Twins’ batters were (by and large) having decent at-bats.  They just couldn’t string enough hits together to get that elusive run across the plate.

-The Twins showed a little moxie today after Liriano gave up the big fly to Magglio Ordonez to give the pinstriped ones their short-lived lead.  In a game that needed to be won, the Twins came up with some clutch at-bats and were able to get the job done.  Now, we just need to take care of business tomorrow and things will be okay again.

-I never like to see a pitcher like Kevin Slowey go on the disabled list, but hopefully this will give him some time to either: A. get his wrist checked out, or B. get his mind right and back in that groove he had been in until a week or so ago.  Swarzak can probably fill in decently for Slowey, but we need Kevin back to his Brad Radke-esque form, where he can pitched deep into games and always give us a chance to win.

-I really think that Denard Span and Carlos Gomez need to stop fighting over outfield assists.  Eventually there is going to be a nasty train-wreck out there if they don’t get on the same page.  I think the problem is that both players, being center fielders by natural position, are used to calling off all other fielders (usually the CF’s perogative) to catch the ball.  However, Span is playing out in left alot recently, and in the back of his mind he probably knows that Gomez doesn’t take the best routes to balls but will scream for the catch anyway.

-Former Cubbie star Mark Grace was showing some serious love for the M&M boys today in the FOX TV broadcast.  Well-deserved, too, as they contributed to most of the scoring.  I look forward to watching them in the All-Star Game (which the roster for will be released tomorrow, by the way).

-Finally, today’s Fourth of July holiday also marks the 70th anniversary of Lou Gehrig giving what is now famously known as his ‘Luckiest Man” speech.  I know that the Iron Horse was second-banana to The Babe for so many years, but in that moment he showed what was truly in his heart all that time…kindness, gentleness, yet a competitive spirit that made him choked up over being taken out of a lineup when he was actually dying.  It still gives me goosebumps every time I see it.  Greatest first baseman of all-time?  Yes.  Is there really any other serious competition?!

-Of course, for a little lighter holiday fare, you could check out the annual SciFi Channel Twilight Zone marathon.  Still a creepy show all these years later!

Preview (42-40, 2nd, 0.5 GB CWS for 2nd): Rick Porcello (8-5, 3.90) vs. Nick Blackburn (6-4, 3.10).  Need to win this series…that is all.

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)

My All-Star Ballot (NL & AL)

2009-mlb-all-star-ballot1.jpgWhen I was younger, voting for the annual Midsummer Classic was more of a science to me than anything.  I would pore over the stats to try and determine who, categorically, was having the best season and vote for them above all other alliegences.  In recent years, however, I have come to take a different approach: Just vote for the guys who I want to see in the game (within reason, of course!).  Sure, the game actually “counts” now in terms of World Series home-field advantage, but at its core it still is really just a fantastic exhibition event that the fans love…the meaningfullness is only to keep the players interested.

That being said, here are what my current AL & NL All-Star ballots currently look like (barring any severe injuries or horrific slumps during the following month):

American League

C: Joe Mauer

1B: Justin Morneau

2B: Dustin Pedroia

3B: Evan Longoria

SS: Derek Jeter

OF: Carl Crawford, Ichiro Suzuki, Denard Span (Write-In)

National League

C: Brian McCann

1B: Albert Pujols

2B: Chase Utley

3B: Ryan Zimmerman

SS: Jose Reyes

OF: Ryan Braun, Raul Ibanez, Justin Upton

Also, if I had to pick the starting pitchers for each team right now, I would go with Roy “Doc” Halladay for the Americans and Johan Santana for the Nationals.

“Getaway” Gardy

e9264050-de1e-40e2-9189-8b4ecf8f5c4e.jpgTruth be told, I think that Ron Gardenhire is a good manager for the Minnesota Twins.  For a team that is always developing young players because we don’t have enough money to spend on the big boys, Gardy also seems to have the right touch to bring the young guys along in the best possible manner.  He may play favorites (Nick Punto, Jesse Crain) and once you get in his doghouse (Delmon Young) it’s tough to get back in the main living quarters, but all in all he seems like a good guy who works hard and demands the same of his team.

That being said, there are some days that I just want to hate on him…and today is one of those days.  As is his custom, Gardy put out his “Getaway” lineup featuring a stretch of batters that included Brian Buscher, Young, Mike Redmond, Punto, Carlos Gomez, and Matt Tolbert.  Joe Crede (hit by pitch the day before), Joe Mauer (general day off), and Denard Span (flu-like symptoms) were all out of the lineup.  While I agree with the Span “benching”, why were BOTH Crede and Jo-Mo on the bench at the same time against arguably the best team in the American League right now?!  The Red Sox trot out the likes of Ellsbury, Pedroia, Bay, Youkilis, and Lowell, while the Twins counter with that above quintet of guys who will make more outs than hits and inspire little confidence.

I guess it just really hit home to me after Mauer hit the home run in the bottom of the ninth off Papelbon, thinking “what would have happened if Mauer (and Crede) had been in the lineup all game long?”.  Mauer would have probably gotten a couple of hits (he is so locked in right now), while Crede wouldn’t have let three balls by him in one inning (yes, they were tough plays, but Crede may have made them).

When playing the BoSox, one has to expect that many runs will need to be scored to win the contest, and Gardy just didn’t put out a viable lineup today to do that.  Of course, he can probably justify every move, and perhaps be correct in the long run, but I still just want to pout for awhile anyway at a loss that could have been a whole lot different.

Preview (22-24, 3rd, 4.5 GB DET): Jon Lester (3-4, 5.91) vs. Nick Blackburn (3-2, 3.83). Blackie has been carrying the pitching staff as of late, and I look for that streak to continue.

Must Be A Horrible Feeling

03f39244-686b-4ea0-9ecf-05c296c9732d.jpgFor almost a decade, the Minnesota Twins have laid a claim to having the best control coming from a starting pitching staff.  While other staffs may have “that one guy” who can throw gas but can’t find home plate with any frequency, the Twins consistently pound the zone and, while giving up a high frequency of home runs, also get a lot of outs.

Thus, the struggles from Scott Baker in the early innings of tonight’s 6-2 loss against the Chicago White Sox were almost painful to watch.  For whatever reason, Baker could not command any of his pitches and made catcher Mike Redmond look like a human pin-ball with the way he was reaching to-and-fro and blocking pitches behind the plate.  I actually started to feel bad for Baker during those second and third innings, as it was clear that he just couldn’t control any of his pitches.

After that horrific second inning, Baker came into the dugout and was given an earful from pitching coach Rick Anderson, who looked as if steam were about to come out of his ears.  Though Twins announcer Bert Blyleven defended Anderson and liked the fiery persona, I don’t know what good it did and whether it was called for.  I mean, if Scott Baker wanted to control his pitches, he would have…it’s as simple as that.  Anderson can stew all he wants, but it still comes down to Baker hitting his spots.

Considering that Scotty-boy has had troubles locating pitches all season so far, I hope that he doesn’t have some sort of mental block (sort of like the Rick Ankiel syndrome).  Of course, it could also just be the typical Scott Baker “off” season that has plagued him his entire career.  Baker has never pitched 200 innings in an entire season, nor has he had too really impressive years in a row.

Notes:

-Ozzie Guillen is a joke (as if that is new knowledge, I know).  A Pale Hose batter (Podsednik, I believe) bunts the ball down the first base line, the ball looks like it hits him, yet no call is made.  Ron Gardenhire comes out to argue the play, and the home plate umpire decides to call a “conference meeting” and the play is overturned.  Why, then, does Ozzie need to trot out and give the umps an earful?  The umps would not have changed the call unless “indisputable visual evidence” (to steal an NFL phrase) was utilized, in this case one of the other umps seeing the ball hit the batter.  I don’t like managers who argue just for the sake of getting steamed up, and that is EXACTLY what Guillen was doing.  Just sit down and shut up.

-Sean Henn made his Twins debut tonight…and now has a 13.50 season ERA.  Will this ever end?

-Seriously Gardy…walking Paul Konerko to GET Jim Thome to the plate?  I don’t care if Carl Hubbell or Steve Carlton suddenly descended from the sky to take the mound for the Twins, I don’t put guys on for the greatest Twins Killer in history (with respect to Griffey Jr. and A-Rod).

-Finally, I don’t like to complain about the announcing a whole lot, but Bert: When Span bunts the ball unsuccessfully with the infield playing way back, he loses the “element” of surprise, not the “ultimate” of surprise.  I only say this because I have heard it before.

Preview (18-22, 3rd, 4.5 GB DET): Francisco Liriano (2-4, 5.21) vs. John Danks (2-3, 4.82).

The Next Timo Perez?

1twin0629gomez.jpgOne of the surprises of the 2009 Minnesota Twins’ season so far has been the reduced playing time of Carlos Gomez.  Whereas last year Gomez seem to be the catalyst of the batting order more times than not, this year he starts about one in every four games or so.  Conspiracy theorists like to point out that perhaps Delmon Young is “stealing” Go-Go’s playing time to maximize his trade potential come mid-season, but I think the fact of the matter is that Young can keep his batting average above .250, while Gomez cannot.

Right now, Gomez (while improving defensively…he is taking much better routes to balls and I haven’t seen him overrun a grounder yet) is completely lost at the plate.  He takes swings that often embarrassing and his pretty much a goner if the pitcher ever gets two strikes on him.

I hope I am wrong in this parallel, but currently Carlos Gomez is falling into the pattern of another young, exciting player who never lived up to his potential:

wsperez.jpg

During the late 1990s, with the Twins a perenniel cellar-dweller, I jumped on the bandwagon of the New York Mets, partly because I hated their chief rival the Atlanta Braves and partly because I just wanted to cheer for someone in the playoffs!  Thus, during the 2000 playoffs, I remember watching young Timo Perez make a tremendous impact for the Mets.  Timo only played about 20 games for the Mets that entire ’00 season, but he made a big enough impact with his torrid September play that he made the playoff roster.  For that one month and during most of the postseason, Timo was the catalyst for the entire Mets’ lineup, whether it was getting on base, stealing them, or hitting line drives all over the field.  Unfortunately, Perez is probably best remembered for his baserunner blunder that may have cost the Mets a game in the 2000 “Subway” World Series with the Yankees, but he was the kind of player that seemed to have a bright future in New York.

However, a telling sign was the two hits that Perez collected the ENTIRE World Series.  Thus, it was obviously that pitchers were finally figuring out how to get him out, and it was time for him to make the most crucial adjustment that a batter ever makes (that first one after pitchers find a weakness).  He never did.  He played a few more seasons with the Mets (one decent), then became a journeyman, popping up in Chicago with the Pale Hose most recently, I believe.  However, he was never able to regain that flash of talent he showed late in the 2000 season.

Like I said, I hope this isn’t true, but right now Gomez is following that same path.  Gomez single-handedly won games for the Twins early last season, but by the end of said season he had been replaced by Denard Span as leadoff hitter and was striking out at an enormous rate.  The pitchers finally figured him out, much like they did to Timo Perez, and he has yet (as far as I can see) to make the adjustment to start getting hits again.

The ray of hope I see for Gomez, though, is that he really hasn’t gotten enough playing time yet this season to show his current talent level.  Whereas Timo Perez got many years to try and recapture that once-attained talent, Gomez has primarily been riding the pine in his second season as a Twin.  It is a sticky situation, as the Twins like Cuddyer and Span in the lineup but also have high hopes (and Garza/Bartlett) invested in him.  It will be interesting to see how the entire situation pans out.

The Ace Was Wild

KazmirWild.jpgFrom the very first inning last night, it was clear that Scott Kazmir wasn’t going to have a good evening.  The Twins scored four runs in the opening frame without the benefit of a hard-hit ball, although Kazmir did uncork a wild pitch to allow the fourth run to cross the plate.

The rest of the evening wasn’t much better for Kazmir, as he allowed eight runs (six earned) in just four innings of work.

On the flip side, Nick Blackburn breezed through seven innings allowing just two earned runs while taming the Tampa Bay bats with his nasty sinker that produced grounder after grounder.

Offensively, the top-three-in-the-batting-order trio of Denard Span, Brendan Harris, and Justin Morneau all had three hits apiece.

Though the Rays are struggling, taking two of three from the defending AL champs is no small feat, as they still are a fundamentally sound ballclub.  Let’s hope that the momentum (and past history of beat-downs) continues with the Twins against Kansas City this weekend.

Preview (11-11, 4th, 0.5 GB CHI, DET, & KC): Sidney Ponson (0-3, 5.79) vs. Kevin Slowey (3-0, 4.44). Well, it’s nice to see that Ponson is enjoying a typical season.  Losing to him was, is, and always will be a complete organizational embarassment.

“Cycling” Back Up

KubelSalami.jpgI had to work until 10:00 tonight, so here was my Twins baseball experience:

I got into my car to head home and turned on the radio to hear that the Twins were down 9-4.  I was pretty frustrated and wondering who was blowing it this time (had I known it was Jesse Crain I probably would have driven into the ditch in anger!).  However, as I was driving home, the Twins began to rally in the bottom of the eighth inning on big RBI hits from Mike Redmond and Denard Span.  With two on and two out, Justin Morneau was intentionally walked so that the Angels could face Jason Kubel instead.  Big mistake, as on just the second pitch of the at-bat, Kubel launched a moonshot into the upper deck to give the Twins an 11-9 lead in another dramatic home-field comeback.  I’m glad I was pulling into my driveway at the time or I probably would have gotten into an accident with all the hollering I was doing (Kubel is my favorite Twins batter)!  Only moments later did I realize that the grand salami completed the cycle for Jason…pretty sweet!

Preview (5-7, 4th, 2.0 GB KCR): Darren Oliver (0-0, 2.45) vs. Kevin Slowey (1-0, 7.94).  A little more Dome magic, anyone?!

Same Score, Different Path

SilvaWipe.jpgAfter that thrilling 6-5 victory on Tuesday night, the Twins also took tonight’s contest with Seattle by the same score.  However, they did it in much different fashion:

Though Carlos Silva lost 35 pounds over the offseason, he still looked like the same guy that got pounded last year, as Justin Morneau pounded an upper-deck moonshot to right field in the first inning to give the Twins a 2-0 lead.

Yet, Twins starter Kevin Slowey was also bit by the home run bug, giving up a two-run shot to Russell Branyon in the second inning to even the score.

So, given a reprieve, Silva began anew in the second frame…only to this time see Denard Span crank a home run to right to again give the Twins a 4-2 lead.

At that point it looked for all the world like the Twins might just run away with this one, but the Mariners (as they often do against the Twins) stormed back against Slowey in the top of the fourth with three runs (including a homer from Jose Lopez and one run scored on a very wild Slowey offering) to take a 5-4 lead.

Of course, Seattle skipper Dan Wakamatsu then made the mistake of the night (!)…letting Silva saddle up again for the fifth inning, where back-to-back doubles from Morneau and Kubel gave Minnesota a 6-5 lead we would not relinquish, as the combination of Craig Breslow, Jesse Crain, and Joe Nathan (in dominating fashion) held the M’s scoreless for the duration.

Notes:

-In very un-Twinlike fashion, a batter struck out three times for the third consecutive night.  First it was Cuddyer, then Jose Morales, and tonight’s victim was Joe Crede.  Actually, pretty much all Twins batters are piling up the K’s right now…let’s hope their just getting them out of their systems early!

-Though Slowey didn’t pitch particularly well (6 IP, 5 ER), he did come away with the win, and I’ll think he’ll be just fine in the coming weeks and months.  Perhaps it was just nerves tonight, but he left some balls up that the Seattle bats took advantage of.  At times, though, Slowey seemed to be in complete control.

Preview (2-1, 1st, 0.5 GA CWS and KCR): Jarrod Washburn (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Glen Perkins (0-0, 0.00 ERA). Another lefty for the Twins to decipher in Washburn…that often leads to trouble  Hopeful Seattle has the same problem with Perk. 

17 Drab Innings…Then A Walkabout

Though I was a bit crushed that I had to work at night on the day of the Twins’ home opener against the Seattle Mariners, I taped the game and watched it later in the evening.  Gee, that was worth it.  First, this guy…

Felix.jpg

…”King” Felix Hernandez, completely shuts down our bats.  Even in the sparse situations we scraped together that could have produced runs, Felix would always get out of the jam either via a strike out (usually Michael Cuddyer, who whiffed three times) or a double play (Justin Morneau).  This was especially frustrating due to the fact that it wasted a pretty decent effort from our mound man..

DingerCisco.jpg

Sure, Francisco Liriano gave up three dingers, but one came after a glaring error from Alexi Casilla.  All told, he pitched very well and just didn’t get any offensive support.

So, I went to bed hoping that the next day’s matchup (which I would be watching on TV…or so I thought) would produce a much better result.  The next morning, however, I was informed that my grandparents (who live in the Metro area suberbs…Fridley, to be exact) had received four free tickets from a Target store promotion and were wondering if my brother and I wanted to go with them?!  Stupid question, as we headed out the door right away!

Game #2 of 162 proved to be much more exciting than the previous one…and perhaps the next 160!  Of course, it didn’t start out so great, as our guy…

BlackieSeattle.jpg

…Nick Blackburn found himself down 4-0 after just four innings.  RBI hits from Denard Span and Cuddyer (he was basically either whiffing badly or driving in runs all game) brought the Twins to within one run for the middle innings, but Luis Ayala surrendered another Mariner run in the top of the ninth.  Thus, new Seattle closer Brandon Morrow was summoned to the Dome mound with a 5-3.  That’s when things started to get interesting:

Morrow got two quick outs in Joe Crede and Delmon Young, but Carlos Gomez put together a surprisingly good at-bat (he would have K’d on four pitches last season in that spot) and drew a walk.  Jason Kubel was called on to pinch-hit for Jose Morales (who had struck out in all three previous at-bats), and Kubel used patience to his advantage to coax another base-on-balls.

Then, with the Jumbotron at the Dome flashing the “Walks Will Haunt” graphic, Morrow walked a third straight batter (Brian Buscher) and was pulled in favor of Miguel Batista.  By this time the lineup had turned over again, so Span The Man stepped in and hit a high chopper that Adrian Beltre couldn’t will down into his glove fast enough, making the score 5-4.

This brought Alexi Casilla to the plate, and my flashback started…the last time I was at the Metrodome, Lexi singled to center field with the bases loaded against the Chicago White Sox to complete the late-season sweep.  This time, Casilla again ripped the first pitch he saw into center, plating both the tying and winning runs…

BuscherWin.jpg

 

Though this wasn’t the greatest run-differential the Twins have ever come back from, it still has to go down in team history as one of the great late-inning victories due to the fact that all the action transpired with two outs.  When Buscher slide across the plate and was mobbed by his teammates, what was left of the 23,700 announced crowd was in a bedlam!

Man, I think I need to starting getting to more of these games…whenever I’m there, something crazy seems to happen.

Preview (1-1, 2nd, 0.5 GB CWS): Kevin Slowey (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Carlos Silva (0-0, 0.00).  Though Silva is gone from “Fatboy” to “Slim” over the off-season, he still lives and dies by the sinker.  If “on” he can be maddening.  If not, he WILL get pounded.

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