Results tagged ‘ Indians ’

Keep Holding On

Shame on me for turning over to Monday Night Football.  I’ll be there for the duration tomorrow night.  The Twins keep hanging in there.

Preview (72-72, 2nd, 5.5 GB DET): Fausto Carmona (3-10, 6.48) vs. Scott Baker (13-8, 4.33)

Never Gonna Give You Up

(Okay Family Guy fans, have your laugh now…out of your system?!)

You know, I almost started this post by talking about how my expectations for the Twins have changed and how we should start watching them purely “for love of the game” and not expect them to be in any sort of pennant race. But then, I got to thinking about those poor fans in Pittsburgh, Kansas City, and a few other cities around the MLB circuit that haven’t had anything break right over the past decade (or more) and would love to be competing in any race of any kind right now. Do I think the Twins will win the AL Central? No. Especially not after those two horrible series’ against KC and Cleveland, teams that supposedly give us the advantage over Chicago the Detroit down the stretch. But do we still have a chance? However slim, yes we do, and that is the way I look at it (or at least am trying to, anyway).

I think that the past three seasons (’07-’09) have proven that only so many things can break right for a small-market organization. In the early part of this decade, the Twins were reborn as a competitive team thanks to a lot of young talent peaking at the same time. A few years later (’05-’06) the team was still able to contend because of our ability to make steals of trades and keep calling up effective players from the minor leagues. The last three years, though, has seen a complete reversal. The farm system is beginning to get tapped out (they may still be decent, but not like the talent of years ago), and the trades (Bartlett/Garza for Young) haven’t been going our way. Plus, the terrible economics of a no-salary cap sporting structure forced the Twins to lose guys like Torii Hunter and Johan Santana, keystones of the franchise.

That being said, the Twins still have a pretty good nucleus of young talent (Mauer, Morneau, Kubel) that can win in the future, but the trick will be keeping them together. One would hope that Mauer (the biggest fish who needs to be landed and mounted behind home plate) can see that and will elect to stay with his hometown team, but nothing is guaranteed in this game.

Thus, the Twins’ goal for the last month and a half of this season is to be as competitive as possible to show our young talent that this is a team that can seriously compete again in the future. That starts tonight against Texas, who is currently leading the AL Wild Card standings and thus will be a tough team to beat on the road. However, if there is one thing I never underestimate about a Ron Gardenhire-coached team, it is their ability to come back in the face of severe adversity. Just when you think this is about to happen…

…the Twins will do something crazy like sweep the Rangers and get back in the thick of things.

Preview (56-61, 3rd, 3.5 GB CWS): Francisco Liriano (5-11, 5.39) vs. Tommy Hunter (5-2, 2.26).

Laying Down The LAW(rie)

Lawrie.jpgAlthough I did enjoy watching the Twins hold the lead against the Indians last night, the premiere baseball excitement came from the Women’s College Softball World Series Championship on ESPN.

My Dad got me into watching the games a few days ago, and they really are very exciting.  One playoff game was decided by a walk-off grand slam, while another came down to a freshman (Jazlyn Lunceford) pinch hitting for a senior and team captain (Brittany Rogers) and hitting a granny!

However, the entire tournament was really dominated by Washington Huskie pitcher Danielle Lawrie.  She was the PAC-10 player of the year in 2009 and, at least during the playoffs, pitched every inning of every game (one going 15 innings!) for her team.  Although she had a few off innings, most times she was absolutely unhittable.  During the final game, where the Florida Gators needed to beat WASH to force a deciding game three, Lawrie and her Huskies were clinging to a slight 3-2 and Lawrie was struggling.  Once the fifth inning dawned, though, Lawrie came out to the mound with a look of determination that I don’t think I have ever seen from a baseball player of any kind, major leagues or otherwise.  From that point on she completely dominated the Gators’ bats and, pretty obviously, was named MVP of the World Series.

The amazing thing is, Lawrie is just a junior, so you can bet that she will have the Huskies back in the hunt next year as well.  I will be watching!

Twins Preview (26-27, 2nd, 3.5 GB DET): Cliff Lee (2-6, 3.16) vs. Anthony Swarzak (1-1, 2.08).  As beat up as the Indians are right now, I have to give Swarzak the nod in this one.  Of course, Lee could always (as a southpaw) pull a complete game shutout out of his hat against our bats.

Road Woes

road.jpgThough playing in the friendly confines of the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome tonight against the Cleveland Indians, where the Twins are 19-11 so far this year, inevitably the team will have to hit the road again soon, where they are 6-16.

My question is: Why??????????????????????????????????????

Are the pillows at the hotel not fluffed up enough?

Are the players just suffering from a mental block?

Does Gardy and his coaching crew need to try something different to motivate his players on the road?

Is having “last ups” really that important?

Heck, if the Twins can’t compete at Tropicana Field, the closest thing to the Dome there is in the AL right now, then what chance do we have to go into, say, Boston or Anaheim and pick up even a single victory.

Does anyone have any thoughts about this?  I just don’t get it.  At the Dome, the pitchers (even Liriano) look terrific and the bats get the job done on a nightly basis.  Yet, have us bat in the top of innings and we look like “Hitless Wonders” and our pitchers get clobbered.

I mean, it’s still baseball, isn’t it?  The same dimensions, same batters, same pitchers, same basic strategies…yet a huge disparity exists.

Preview (25-27, 3rd, 4.5 GB DET): David Huff (0-1, 10.97) vs. Kevin Slowey (7-1, 4.11).  A few more quality starts and the Slow-dog may start to garner some All-Star recognition.

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.

Muscled Out Of The Jake

Pronk.jpgWith the Minnesota Twins fighting for a playoff berth in the final few weeks of this season, a visit to Cleveland to face the lowly Indians seemed to be a blessing.  Three days later, it has turned into a curse.

Last night (Tuesday), the Twins fell behind 8-1 when the Indians uncharacteristically pounded Francisco Liriano.  However, thanks to the great pitching of Boof Bonser (quite a phrase there, eh?!), the Twins mounted a furious comeback and eventually took the lead 9-8.  Of course, in typical Twins fashion of late, reliever Eddie Guardado gave up a dinger to Grady Sizemore to tie the contest, then Joe Nathan surrendered a three-run bomb to Victor Martinez for the walk-off Indian victory.

Tonight, the Indians again out-muscled the Twins.  After Minnesota took a 2-0 lead in the early innings (partially due to a homer of our own, from Carlos Gomez), both Jhonny Peralta and Travis “Pronk” Hafner homered off Baker in the fourth inning to tie the score.

The Tribe took a brief lead in the fifth when Shin-Soo Choo doubled in a run, but Morneau’s sacrifice out tied things up in the seventh.

In the bottom of the seventh, with a runner on third and two outs, Ron Gardenhire removed Jose Mijares from the game and summoned the beleaguered Matt Guerrier, whose ERA is now hovering dangerously close to the 5.00 mark.  Guerrier promptly gave up one double, then another, to give the Indians a 6-4 that they would not relinquish.

Thus, the brooms came out in Cleveland.

Notes:

-The most pertinent comment coming out of this game is why in the world did Gardy take Jose Mijares out of the game in favor of the seemingly lost Guerrier?!  Mijares had been setting down the Cleveland batters pretty easily, and the only reason a runner was on third was because of mistake from Joe Mauer (throw to second) and Denard Span (ball trickled by him).  Add to that Guerrier’s terrible second half and it really makes me scratch my head.

-Does anyone really want to win the AL Central?!  Over the past month, each team (Twins and White Sox) in contention for the crown have played terribly spotty baseball, with chances to bury the competitor nearly ever week.  Unfortunately, the Twins have been a bit worse and thus are still in second place.

Preview (82-70, 2nd, 2.5 GB CWS): Glen Perkins (12-4, 4.40) vs. James Shields (13-8, 3.50).  In years past, a trip to Tropicana Field (is that still even what it is called?!) was a vacation.  This year, with the Rays fighting tooth and nail with the Red Sox for the AL East title, it will be anything but.  The Twins’ job over this four-game series is to absolutely not lose any ground on the White Sox, while realistically they need to gain a game on the Pale Hose to give themselves more than a prayer.  The good news: Scott Kazmir is the only lefty the Twins’ bats will have to face in the series.  Also, playing in their dumpy dome might recollect some of our own home field advantage!

Lucky The White Sox Lost

STifled.jpgAs the above picture very adeptly shows, the Twins’ batsmen were a bit out of focus tonight against Indians rookie Scott Lewis, scoring just one run in the ninth inning.

In typical Twins fashion as of late, when the starting pitcher (Kevin Slowey: 6 IP, 3 ER) turned in a quality start and the bullpen (two perfect innings) did its job, the offense was mysteriously shut down by a left-handed hurler, and a green rookie at that.  Besides a 3-3 performance from Delmon Young (raising her average to .289 on the season), the Twins collected just two hits (including the Mauer home run in the ninth) the entire game.

In the heart of the pennant race, these are the types of games that are depressing to lose.  However, the Pale Hose also fell to the Bombers, so we’re still hanging in their.  I was talking with my Dad (a big baseball fan like myself) about the Twins’ playoff hopes, and he was rather negative about the whole subject, thinking that even if the Twins DO make the playoffs they will make another early exit.  One thing I would like to remind him (and all of you), though, is that ANYTHING can happen in the playoffs…there is a reason why they call it the “second season”.  Just two years ago, the St. Louis Cardinals had the worst single-season record (83 wins) of any playoff team in history, but went on to win the World Series.  My point is that the past is thrown out the window in the playoffs, especially that short, five-game first round that has produced many upsets over the years.  We just need to GET IN!

Notes:

-To be honest, the most troubling sign I see from the Twins right now is the continued free-fall of reliever Matt Guerrier.  When Matty is on, the entire bullpen falls into their roles easier.  When Guerrier falters, the whole pen is stretch and becomes less effective.  Guerrier covered the loss of Neshek for the first half of the season, but now that hole is very apparent.

Preview (82-68, 2nd, 1.5 GB CWS): Francisco Liriano (5-3, 3.19) vs. Zach Jackson (0-3, 5.63).  Liriano will almost certainly handcuff the punchless Tribe tomorrow night, but Jackson is another lefty, so you never know how the offense will react.  It looks like a cake-walk, but how many times have I said that on this blog and have it blow up in my face?!  We’ll win if we can hit, let’s just leave it at that.

Staying Close

I was again out of town over the weekend and without Internet access, so here is my quick review of the Cleveland series:

Span.jpg

Game #1: The Fat Man pitched a complete game, but allowed five runs in the process in the 5-4 loss.  Carlos Gomez was carted off in the first inning after crashing into the center field wall, while a Justin Morneau home run in the ninth inning was not enough to complete a comeback.

Game #2: The whupping sticks came out against Cleveland starter Fausto Carmona.  Delmon Young collected three hits, as did Brian Buscher (who also homered and drove in five runs).  Scott Baker improved to 7-3 on the season thanks to all the run support.

Game #3: With the game tied 2-2 heading into the ninth inning, the Twins finally outlasted Jeremy Sowers, who had held them to two scratch runs in the previous eight innings.  Facing new Cleveland “closer” (kind of like Mike Trombley closing for the Twins in the late 90s!) Rafael Perez, Alexi Casilla hit a ground-rule double.  Then, favoring the lefty-lefty matchup, Cleveland skipper Eric Wedge let Perez pitch to Morneau.  Of course, the Big Canuck smacked a double to break the tie, and was later singled home by Jason Kubel for the 4-2 final score.

Some thoughts about the series:

-This series pretty much belonged to Denard Span.  At bat, he worked deep into counts and seemingly always got on base in some fashion.  In center field, he made numerous running or jumping (as pictured) catches that saved countless runs.  When Go-Go’s back is ready for action again, Gardy will have an interesting decision to make.  Things will even get murkier when Cuddyer returns.  My vote is for Gomez to be sent down and go with a Young, Span, Kubel outfield for now, than sub in Cuddyer when ready and have Kubel platoon at DH with Craig Monroe (a right-handed batter).  Gomez’s “slump” has turned into a trend.  He still has a very bright future, but pitchers have finally figured him out and he needs to make the adjustment, which hasn’t happened yet.  In the middle of a pennant race, patience with him his tough to stomach, as he strikes out so many times and makes himself look foolish on many occasions.

-I think it’s also time for the Fat Man to go.  Sure, he is a veteran presence, but he is clearly now finally showing his true statistical line.  Many people will point to the fact that he pitched a complete game on Friday night, but he also gave up five runs…that’s a 5.00 ERA (not very impressive in my book).  Time to call up the Cisco Kid and see what happens.  Perhaps Livan would be willing to go the pen for a while?  Doubtful, but in that case we would have to release him and take a chance on Liriano…a chance I am willing to take.

-Finally, I am always hopeful for a Twins victory when Scott Baker is on the mound, but he really needs to find a way to limit is pitch count before I will count him as a truly reliable starting pitcher.  He almost always has his good “stuff”, but that “stuff” often requires 100+ pitches in 5-6 innings and leads to many short starts.  Johan Santana had kind of the same problem, but he was usually able to find a way to pitch into the seventh inning.

Preview: (57-47, 2nd, 2.5 GB CWS): Kevin Slowey (6-7, 4.41) vs. Mark Buerhle (8-8, 3.56).  In under an hour, the Twins begin their most important series of the season to date…a four-game with the Chicago White Sox.  A win against notorious Twin-killer Buerhle would really boost confidence.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.