Results tagged ‘ Jason Kubel ’

Keep On Rollin’ (And A R.I.P.)

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The Twins finished up the Interleague Portion of their season today, beating the Cardinals 6-2 behind a strong start from Francisco Liriano and some big hits from Justin Morneau and Jason Kubel.

Looking back, the Twins (once again) really enjoyed this month of NL play, as (just recently) we were one Nick Blackburn gaffe and two Albert Pujols swings away from sweeping both the Brewers and Cardinals ON THE ROAD.  The Twins haven’t played that well in an opposing ballpark since guys like Mientkiewicz, Rivas, and Guzman were still lurking around!

Now, though, the test will be whether or not the Twins can parlay this Interleague success back over to the AL.  Luckily, the road doesn’t get much easier than in Kansas City, our opponent tomorrow night.

Preview (39-38, 2nd, 4.0 GB DET): Nick Blackburn (6-3, 3.11) vs. Luke Hochevar (2-3, 5.87). The Royals have nothing without Zack Grienke, and we don’t draw him…sweet.

By the way, this guy died today…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nkuReA-AGa8

Unbelievable.  Celebs (Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson, Mays) are dying at an incredible rate these days.

Unfortunately, this just means that this guy…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJEKqI1e714

…is now the “king” of infomercials. Sad.

Can’t Hit? No Matter

5a6848c5-90c1-47c5-a0ce-44cee65f0a09.jpgIf one thing has become crystal clear during the 2009 Interleague Play schedule, besides the fact that the Twins can win on the road when playing the NL, it is that starting pitcher Glen Perkins cannot hit.  He goes up to the plate, takes a few feeble waves, and (in nearly every occasion past, present, or future) goes back to prepare for the next inning on the mound.

That didn’t matter tonight, however, as Perkins was brilliant for seven innings, holding the Cardinals to just four hits and one earned run.  He didn’t strike many batters out (3), but nobody really hit anything hard off of him, either.  The bullpen then shut the door from that point.  Guerrier struggled a bit in the eighth, but with one out Gardy summoned Jose Mijares, who proceeded to throw one pitch, get the double play, and get back in the dugout.

The offense left a few men on base again tonight, but two-hit games from Kubel and Cuddyer proved to be enough.

Perhaps the most telling stat, though, is that Albert Pujols was just 1-4 on the night, and whiffed against Joe Nathan in the final frame.

Notes:

-At one point, a camera showed former Twin Dennys Reyes warming up in the bullpen.  My first thought was, “Geesh, that’s the ugliest guy I’ve ever seen”…

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But then, Ryan Franklin was brought in for the top of the ninth…

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I rest my case.

Preview (38-37, 2nd, 4.0 GB DET): Kevin Slowey (10-2, 4.04) vs. Todd Wellemeyer (6-7, 5.53). Though still a bit of a long-shot, Slowey might just be pitching himself into All-Star consideration.  He doesn’t have the dominating ERA, but a win tomorrow would give him the AL-lead in that category.  Of course, I remember a year or two ago that Kyle Lohse (for the Cards) was something like 12-2 at the break with a similar ERA and didn’t make the Midsummer Classic.  However, if a few guys picked by the managers fall ill or have other conflicts, you just never know.

One Profane Man

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Yesterday afternoon, the Twins and Red Sox hooked up for a pretty intense duel, with the Sox coming out on top 3-1.  Things really got interesting in the seventh inning, for both clubs:

Top: With the Sox batting, a close play at the plate from Kubel (a great throw) to Redmond was called “safe” for the Sox when replays seemed to show that he was actually out.  Redmond popped up and did his best “Yogi Berra after Jackie Robinson steals home” impersonation.  He was immediately run from the game (which hurt the Twins by losing the DH and thus not pinch hitting for Matt Tolbert in the game’s key moment an inning later) and closely followed by manager Ron Gardenhire.

Bottom: Up until the seventh inning, Josh Beckett had been absolutely mowing down the Twins’ batters (besides the one Joe Crede bomb).  Yet, throughout the game I noticed that he was incredibly angry and often (even after a 1-2-3 inning) would stomp off the mound uttering terrible profanities.  I never really got the feeling that he was being squeezed at the plate, but obviously he thought differently.  Thus, in the seventh, a very close pitch was called a ball and Beckett immediately told the umpire that he could “go have carnal relations with himself” (to put it nicely).  Boy, was Beckett ever hot, almost throwing a temper tantrum right on the mound!  Within minutes, both Jason Varitek and Terry Francona were joining Gardy and Red Dog in the bowels of the Dome.  Why Beckett didn’t get the old heave-ho as well is completely beyond me.  Personally, I lost some respect for him for that little tirade.  I have rarely seen a pitcher get so angry out on the mound (especially when dominating the opposing team) and it makes Beckett seem like just a hot-headed jerk who happens to have some nasty stuff.

All in all, though, a sweep with the Sox isn’t the end of the world by any means.  The real test now will be going into Tampa Bay and trying to play just as tough.  Much like last year, the Twins won’t become a legit contender unless they can even just play below-average (not God-awful) ball on the road.

Notes:

-Joe Crede is coming around.  His defense alone is darn near enough to keep him in the lineup every game, especially considering the struggles of Brian Buscher, while his bat is showing good pop.

-Glen Perkins may not have a job when he gets healthy.  Anthony Swarzak has been VERY impressive in both his starts in the majors so far.

Preview (24-25, 2nd, 3.5 GB DET): Scott Baker (2-5, 6.32) vs. James Shields (3-4, 3.63).

“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…

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…”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..

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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…

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…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…

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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.

A Few Of My Favorite Things…

With the Twins set to take on the Seattle Mariners later tonight, I just wanted to share a few of the things I am looking forward to this season…

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-Denard Span working the count, fouling off pitches, then doing this… http://minnesota.twins.mlb.com/media/video.jsp?mid=200809253550680&c_id=min …(yeah, I know it’s like the fifth time I’ve posted that clip on this blog…but why not?!)

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-Jason Kubel striding up to the plate with strains of this blaring… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K47W0UTq_9o …then doing this… http://minnesota.twins.mlb.com/media/video.jsp?mid=200809233534868&c_id=min

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-Kevin Slowey tapping into the ghost of Brad Radke (http://minnesota.twins.mlb.com/media/video.jsp?mid=200808203336972&c_id=min)

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-Michael Cuddyer doing this… http://minnesota.twins.mlb.com/media/player/mp_tpl_3_1.jsp?w_id=516187&w=2006/open/tp/archive09/090706_detmin_cuddyer_throw_tp_350.wmv&pid=mlb_tp&gid=2006/09/07/detmlb-minmlb-1&mid=200609071651571&cid=mlb&fid=mlb_tp350&v=2

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-And finally, the Nathanator trotting in from the pen to this… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jaz-KmTid3U …and ending the game like this… http://minnesota.twins.mlb.com/media/video.jsp?mid=200808123294553&c_id=min

Opening Day Preview: Felix Hernandez (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Francisco Liriano (0-0, 0.00 ERA).  “King Felix” can be dominating, but so can Cisco.  However, Liriano also needs to calm himself and not walk six guys through four innings or something like that.  I can see the Twins losing this game, but anything can happen at the Dome!!

3 Up…or 3 Down?

andersoncallingbullpen-739405.jpgI will be very busy in the upcoming days leading up to the Minnesota Twins’ Opening Day on April 6th, so I just wanted to post a few season-preview thoughts before the regular season campaign kicks off.

The way I see it, there are three areas in which the Twins need to excel this season in order to win the division crown.  In all honesty, these areas are pretty much the same for all other teams as well, but the Twins have their own unique challenges:

1. First, the starting pitching quintet of Scott Baker, Francisco Liriano, Kevin Slowey, Nick Blackburn, and Glen Perkins needs to continue to keep the team in games.  This is the most important cog in the machine, as if the quality starts keep pouring in the Twins will at the very least compete no matter how bad the bullpen or offense stinks.  The old baseball adage that “good pitching beats good hitting” holds as true now as it always has.  I mean, if say Johan Santana faced no one but Ichiro Suzuki all season long, the very best that Ichiro could do is get a hit four times in every ten at-bats.  Thus, the starting rotation is the anchor of every staff, and the Twins’ staff is still a bit of a question mark:

Baker: Has ace-type repertoire but struggles to pitch into the later innings.  Is usually up around 100 pitches by the fifth inning or so, putting a strain on the bullpen.

Cisco: Could dominate, could fall apart due to control issues.

Slowey: This is the guy I think is poised for a huge season.  He is essentially the second coming of Brad Radke, only with a better assortment of pitches.  Just needs to work on limiting damaging situations, as they tend to snow-ball on him pretty quick.

Blackie: As a play-to-contact, ground ball sort of pitcher, Blackburn walks the fine line between Carlos Silva and Jack Morris.  On some days he can be the most frustrating guy in the world to drive the ball off of, while on other days he gets lit up.

Perkins: The great unknown.  Was very up-and-down last season…showed flashes of both excellence and utter failure.

So, the extent to which that rotation comes together is the biggest factor in how the Twins will finish in the standings in 2009.

2. The bullpen, however, isn’t far behind.  Whereas I am confident that the starting five can find a way to hold up their end of the bargain, I’m not nearly as sold on the bullpen, which looks to include:

Joe Nathan: The only sure-bet of the bunch.  Will blow a few (who doesn’t…well, besides Brad Lidge last year), but let’s just say that a “down” year would be an ERA over 2.00.

Jesse Crain: Pretty much the root of all frustration in the world. Was overhyped even when he was good, but does have a glimmer of hope in that now is arm is finally “back” after having surgery a while back.

Matt Guerrier: Will have to prove that last year’s collapse WAS just a fluke (or due to fatigue), not because batters just figured him out.

Craig Breslow: The lefty-lefty specialist.  Will likely do a good job, and is an upgrade over Dennis “Throw One WP And Leave The Game” Reyes.

Luis Ayala: Don’t know much about his guy, only that he came from the Nats (not a good sign) and struggled mightily last year.  Has potential…but so did Mike Fetters.

The final bullpen spot, thought to be filled by Jose Mijares until he came to camp looking like Hideki Irabu, is now up for grabs between newcomer Brian Duensing, Philip Humber (obtained in the Santana trade), and R.A. Dickey, a knuckleballer.

All in all, that is not a very impressive bunch.  Like I said, Nathan is solid, but getting to him will be the difficult part.  Someone is going to have to step up and become the eighth inning man that guys like LaTroy Hawkins and Juan Rincon were in the past.

3. Finally, I would like to quickly comment on the Twins’ offense.  Here is a sample lineup that the Twins could trot out on a semi-day basis:

Denard Span, Alexi Casilla, Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Joe Crede, Jason Kubel, Michael Cuddyer, Delmon Young, Nick Punto.

Essentially, it would likely be the best starting lineup the Twins have had in quite some time (plus Carlos Gomez off the bench).  However, I am very wary of predicting a high offensive turnout from this bunch, as it so rarely happens up here in MN.  It seems as if the Twins are much better at developing pitchers than hitters (perhaps due to the small-ball philosophy that reins hitters in instead of turning them loose?), so even a lineup that looks rock-solid can quickly turn gooey.  Actually, I think the biggest positive this season, as opposed to ’06 or ’08, is that no old fogeys are being counted on to produce.  The days of experimenting with guys like Tony Batista, Rondell White, Mike Lamb, and (cringe) even Bret Boone seem to be behind the Twins, with the lineup now given over completely to the young veterans and just youngsters period.

So there you have it…how the Twins perform in those three areas will go very far in determining their division standings come October.  Hopefully before the season begins I will post an article about my divisional predictions for MLB (if it ever stops snowing here to allow the mail through!).

“Kubel” Kahn and Hank The Blank

fantasy_a_jkubel_300.jpgWell, for those of you who thought that the Minnesota Twins had dropped off the face of the earth this offseason, just recently they announced a deal-in-principle with outfielder Jason Kubel.  It is a two-year contract, with salary figures not having been released yet.

For some reason, Jason Kubel is one of my favorite Twins players.  I just like the “all-or-nothing” approach he takes to hitting…either he hits the ball on the button, or he hits weak dribblers to the infield…there’s no in-between.  He also has the best “theme music” (played when he strides to the plate), the first few bars of Click Click Boom, of any MLB player.  I’m excited that Kubel is back!!

In other news, former Twin Henry Blanco signed a one-year contract with the San Diego Padres.  Man, that guy was ancient when he played with the Twins in 2004.  I guess he came highly recommended from former Padre Greg Maddux.

DH: (Finally) A Steady Presence

KubelReview.jpgSince the days of “Hot” Chili Davis in 1991, the Minnesota Twins have not had a steady designated hitter presence.  Guys like Brian “Buck” Buchanan and Matthew “Crazy Legs” LeCroy were tried for their powerful bats, but quickly discarded due to their inefficiencies pretty much everywhere else.  More often than not, a Nick Punto-caliber player was installed in the DH spot, matching up against such DH sluggers as Travis Hafner, Jim Thome, and Gary Sheffield.

In 2008, however, the Twins finally received some steady production from the DH spot in the person of Jason Kubel.  Playing roughly half (77) of his 141 games this season in the DH hole, Kubel batted .272 with 20 home runs and 78 RBI in 463 at-bats.  Although sharing time at DH with Craig Monroe early in the season (until Monroe played his way off the team with his .202 average), Kubel pretty much inherited the bulk of the DH duty the rest of the way.  Sure, Kubel is prone to stretches of ineffectiveness (usually stemming from a loss of confidence that a few days riding the pine will fix), but he also provided support for Mauer and Morneau when they weren’t on top of their game.

Of course, under manager Ron Gardenhire, the DH will likely never be taken over by a guy like David Ortiz, as Gardy likes to shuffle the lineup depending on the starting pitchers.  Hopefully in 2009, though, Kubel (while still getting spot starts in the outfield to keep his fielding up to snuff) will handle the DH privilege and handle it well.  Kubel was once the bluest-chip prospect in the entire Twins organization before injuring his knee in 2004, so I would love for him to finally realize that full potential that scouts once saw in him.

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