Results tagged ‘ Jesse Crain ’

Crain-wreck

mlb-twins-orioles.jpgWow…Jesse Crain a White Sock!  My thoughts about one of the most polarizing figures in the Twins bullpen since 2004:

If you have read this blog the last few years (or even just scanning through would probably do the trick), you’ll know the emnity I have towards Crain runs quite deep.  I always thought he vultured his way (via an extraordinary ’04 campaign where he picked up a remarkable amount of late-inning W’s) into good standings with Ron Gardenhire to begin with.  Plus, I’ve never seen a reliever with quite the knack for giving up the same-winning hit.  I won’t do this right now (all Crain’s wrongs litter other posts of mine), but I could name multiple, multiple times where he came in a blew a game.  Had we released him halfway through last season, I would have been shouting on high:

 

However, in the last few months of 2010, a strange thing happened: Crain became absolutely unhittable.  As much as I hated to admit it, I actually WANTED to see him come into games in the later innings, as Guerrier was faltering and the rest of the pen couldn’t find their backside with thier collective arms.  Crain himself credited the change to a new type of snappy curveball he began throwing, but whatever the case he was “the man” for awhile.

That being said, I’m still glad to see that he’s moving on, as I have a troubling feeling (well, not so troubling anymore not that he’s a Pale Hose, I guess) that the old “Crain-wreck” is bound to crop up again in the near future (hopefully against us!).  Now that Bobby Jenks is out of Chicago, maybe the Twins can start a new tradition of owning a certain White Sox reliever…Crain!

The Franchise


francisco-liriano-versus-tigers.jpg“It’s the franchise, boy, I’m shining now…”

In 2006, the Minnesota Twins were supposed to have the lethal 1-2 combination of savvy vet Johan Santana and unhittable rookie Francisco Liriano leading them deep into the playoffs.  That is, until Frankie’s arm popped one too many times, and old Tommy John reared his ugly head.

After losing all of 2007 and most of 2008, last year was a lost one for the Cisco Kid, as he struggled mightily with control, his delivery, and his velocity.  Good thing that is now in the past, as “The Franchise” is now living up to the billing.

His stat line tonight might not have been all that sparkly (6 IP, 3 ER), but he did strike out seven batters (including Manny Ramirez twice) and pretty much dominated until he ran out of gas a little early due to an extended opening inning.  He was hitting 97 mph on Chicago’s radar gun, had the biting slider, and even a nice assortment of changeups to really keep the batsmen shifting.

Amazingly enough, that wasn’t even the pitching performance of the game, as that “award” goes to Jesse Crain for striking out Paul Konerko and Manny Ramirez with likely the game on the line in the seventh inning.  While I may not take back ALL the things I’ve said about Crain on this blog, I will say that he has undergone perhaps the most remarkable in-season turnaround of any reliever I’ve ever seen.  He’s absolutely unhittable right now, and is mopping up all of Guerrier’s and Rauch’s messes.

I was very surprised by the lack of pizazz shown by the Chicago crowd tonight.  With Ramirez up and the bases loaded in the seventh, the fans never really even got on their feet or made any noise (except, of course, to boo Manny rigorously as he returned to the dugout).  Then, when Alex Rios misplayed a ball in center field that allowed three runs to score and effectively clinched a Twins victory, I thought the Chi-Sox fans were practicing a fire drill the way they were heading for the exits.

I would like to believe that, if the roles had been reversed, Twins fans at Target Field would have been on their feet in those crucial situations and not leaving until that 27th out.

Preview (86-58, 1st, 7.0 GA CWS, Magic #: 12): Brian Duensing (8-2, 2.02) vs. Gavin Floyd (10-12, 3.91)

Re-Capping Matt

x610.jpgThe Minnesota Twins have had new closer Matt Capps for about a month now, and so I think it’s time to evaluate his performance so far. Here are the raw stats:

13 G, 13 IP, 6 SV, 2.08 ERA

What I like about Capps is that he seems to have the raw “stuff” to get people out.  He has a live fastball, and a decent assortment of breaking pitches to keep opposing batters off-balance.

However, there is a troubling sign that makes the new closer a bit too much like the old one for my tastes…

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For all his velocity, Capps is a “pitch to contact” type of closer.  Those kind of guys make me nervous, especially in the playoffs when “contact” usually is the equivalent of “base hit”.  Now don’t get me wrong…I think that Capps is better suited for the role than Rauch, who didn’t have the live fastball or control of the nasty curve to ever dominate the final inning.  However, on a scale of “Guardado-Aguilera-Nathan”, I think Capps falls somewhere between Eddie & Aggie.

Thus, it is very interesting that the Twins just traded for Angels closer Brian Fuentes:

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The “official word” is that Fuentes will be used primarily as a setup man to Capps, but Gardy also made the interesting comment that Fuentes could be used in “certain save situations”.  I like that reasoning, as it shows me that Gardy understands that Capps isn’t Rivera or Papelbon and thus wants to consider all his options.

Perhaps the best thing that could come out of all of this is that it gives the Twins some bullpen depth, something that always seems to be lacking (on any club, really).  Guys like Crain and Guerrier can’t always shoulder the load, the biggest case in point being Matty G., as we may have already burned him out from years of overuse. 

Their Own Medicine

Athletics_Twins_Baseball_sff_188151_game.jpgThis weekend series against the Oakland A’s was billed with the young, very talented Oakland starting staff potentially shutting down the Twins’ bats.  Instead, we beat them at their own game:

-On Friday, Pavano got hit around quite a bit, but still managed to pitch into the seventh inning and get the win.

-Saturday saw Brian Duensing completely mow down the A’s to the tune of nine innings and three hits.

-Kevin Slowey then pitched seven no-hit innings against Oakland on Sunday, only to be removed from the game due to pitch count issues.

Now, the Pale Hose come to our house.  We can really put a dent in Guillen’s crew by just doing what we do best…winning the series.

Notes:

-I completely understand Gardy taking out Slowey after that seventh inning, as he has been struggling with elbow tendonitis of late.  However, it took even more (insert term loosely related to “guts” here) from Gardy to put in Rauch with a no-hitter on the line.  Didn’t you just know he would blow it…and he did?!  For the first time in my life, I was actually hoping to see Crain jog in from the ‘pen.

Preview (68-50, 1st, 3.0 GA CWS): John Danks (12-8, 3.19) vs. Scott Baker (10-9, 4.76)

Two Model Franchises (And Managers)

Twins_Rays_Baseball_sff_186220_game.jpgTonight’s marathon Twins-Rays game featured two of the most solid franchises in the American League duking it out deep into extra innings.

For “starters”, David Price (7 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 7 K) and Scott Baker (8 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 7 K) matched each other hurl for hurl, with only an early Jason Repko double (driving in Danny Valencia) lighting up the scoreboard whatsoever.

Unsettlingly, though, Matt Capps came in for the save situation and promptly blew it, allowing the tying run to score on a Dan Johnson single.

From that point on, it was a battle of the bullpens, with the Twins holding the slight edge and thus the 2-1 victory:

Tampa: 4 IP, 3 H, 1 ER (all from Lance Cormier)

Minnesota: 4 IP, 0 H, 0 ER (Crain, Mijares, Guerrier)

In a game featuring such quality managers as Joe Maddon and Ron Gardenhire, what can you expect?!

Notes:

-It was nice to see Guerrier redeem himself after last night.  This is a guy who doesn’t have the most talent in the world, but relies instead on location and pitch movement.  Really strong performance tonight.

-Capps had better buy Baker a nice dinner sometime this week.

-Delmon Young finally got the big hit against his former club!  Hopefully that will break him out of his little mini-funk.

Preview (60-48, 2nd, 1.5 GB CWS): Kevin Slowey (10-5, 4.44) vs. Wade Davis (9-9, 4.21).

When Delmon Ain’t Happy, Ain’t Nobody Happy

Twins_Rays_Baseball_sff_185986_game.jpgOne of the startling (but in a good way) characteristics of the 2009 Minnesota Twins has been their ability to overcome injury adversity and play on despite extended DL trips for three starters (Orlando Hudson, Nick Punto, and Justin Morneau) and a beat-up Joe Mauer.  Guys like Delmon Young, Michael Cuddyer, Alexi Casilla, Drew Butera, and Danny Valencia have found their niches over the past few months.

However, if the first two games dropped in Tropicana tell us anything (besides the fact that the Rays are fast and shouldn’t be walked, respectively), it is that Delmon Young is the key to everything right now (at least with Morneau still on the sidelines).  So far against Rays pitching, Delmon is 1-9.  Without him spraying the ball everywhere, the Twins just don’t have enough lineup depth to keep mounting rallies when needed.

Thus, against good teams that we can’t just clobber, we all too often send a bullpen full of late-inning collapsers (Guerrier, Crain, Mijares) into the game at the most pressure-filled situations.  Unless the splits/matchups go exactly our way, bad things are almost bound to happen.

I’m not saying that the pen is altogether rotten, but put it this way…right now I have as much confidence in Jesse Crain as in anyone else that comes out of those swinging doors, and anybody who has read my blog in the past knows how difficult it is for me to even CONSIDER that statement.

Notes:

-Another good start for Duensing (just one mistake that happened to be hammered by Sean Rodriguez), but still too many walks, which only serve to raise the pitch count and tack on runs that shouldn’t ever materialize.

-Woke up this morning, heard Brett Favre had texted his retirement to the Vikings, and thought “Well, the Twins had better be the bread-winners this sports season”.  Of course, that would mean I actually BELIEVE #4…

Preview (59-48, 2nd, 1.5 GB CWS): Scott Baker (9-9, 5.00) vs. David Price (14-5, 2.90).

Geesh, Blackie

20081001_blackburn_33.jpgWell, I wanted to get in a blog posting before heading up north for the weekend, but I wish it were under better circumstances.

Let’s just say this: If anyone thought that Jesse Crain would be headed to the batters box in the second inning, please raise your hand.  Didn’t think so.

As I type this right now, Nick Blackburn was absolutely terrible against the Phillies, allowing 8 runs in one and two thirds innings of “work”.  Chase Utley and Ryan Howard provided most of the damage with moon-shot home runs.

I know it’s way too early to panic, but I wish the starters on this team would be a little more consistant.  I have to give them credit for staying healthy, but you just can’t count on Blackie, Slowey, or even Baker, for that matter, to give you a good outing every five days.  It’s just that the Tigers are breathing down our necks.

Saturday: Kevin Slowey (7-4, 3.84) vs. Cole Hamels (6-5, 3.74)

Sunday: Carl Pavano (7-6, 3.92) vs. Roy Halladay (8-5, 2.36). Gulp

2001: A Twins Oddity

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Why the retro pics? Well, the last time the Twins defeated Andy Pettitte, the date was April 30, the year was 2001, Brad Radke pitched a complete game to run his record to 5-0, and Doug Mientkiewicz went 2-3 with a homer to up his average to .380 on the season.  Radke is now long since retired and Minty is a 35 year old glove/walk machine.  That should tell you all you need to know about today’s lopsided affair.

Basically, Pettitte shut us down once again, and while Liriano pitched well enough to keep us in the game, the bullpen finally imploded under the pressure in the late innings.  If old Andy can do this to us, I can only imagine what would have happened had we drew Sabathia in this series (would we even need to play the game?).

When will this miserable streak end?

Notes:

-Any thoughts as to why Jesse Crain still has a major league job?

Preview (22-14, 1.5 GB DET): Nick Blackburn (3-1, 4.76) vs. Sergio Mitre (0-1, 3.86).  Don’t so much care about the Yankee Curse in this one as just scraping out a win before the Tigers catch us again.

Based Loaded (Etc.)

Long ago, there was a game for the Nintendo Entertainment System that looked like this:

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Then came this…

bl2.jpg And then, finally…

bl3.jpg

If you were to add a few more sequels to that list, it would pretty much describe the Twins’ loss today against the Royals. I believe that we had six at-bats with the bases loaded in the game, and ended up with five runs (not bad, but not good enough, either). The positive take, of course, is that we had all those guys on base in the first base

Not helping matters was the fact that Carl Pavano didn’t have anything (Yankees fans are saying “tell us something we don’t know” right now). He got rocked in the third inning, then didn’t do much better in the fourth and was quickly removed.  The bullpen (until Crain, but more on that later) did a great job of keeping the Twins in the game after Pavano’s pounding, but those bases-loaded chances fell by the wayside one too many times to ever even the slate.

Notes:

-Well, the first Jesse Crain sighting (blowing a close game) has occurred.  Many more to come.

-Speaking of retro baseball video games, this is pretty cool:

 

Preview (9-4, 1st, 1.5 GA DET): Off Monday; Tuesday: Justin Masterson (0-1, 2.45) vs. Kevin Slowey (1-1, 3.48)

Pondering The Closer(s)

Well Twins fans, has it really come to this…the dreaded CBC (Closer By Committee).  My thoughts on the candidates:

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The safe choice. Matt Guerrier is a solid setup man, and would likely do a tidy job in the ninth as well.  The problem: He’s oh so valuable as that solid setup guy.  I’d only go to Matty if another candidate fails.

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Well, it’s clear from the picture that Jon Rauch would have the role if intimidation was the only factor.  He’s got a live fastball, but can’t always control it.  He’s the guy I would throw out there to begin with if Neshek isn’t ready.  Has previous closing experience in Washington, for what it’s worth.

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When we last saw Jose Mijares, the Yankees were walking off.  I would be really scared trusting this guy to the ninth inning in pretty much any situation.  He’s too much of a head-case and easily melts down (the worst character trait of a potential closer).

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The picture says it all for Jesse Crain.

Neshekcloser.jpg Of course, if Pat Neshek successfully shows he has come back from Tommy John surgery, this whole debate will be moot.  I mean, would you want that coming at you?  Every time he’s been healthy he’s dominated batters, so barring arm issues he should be the guy.

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