Results tagged ‘ Joe Mauer ’

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).

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:

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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:

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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.

U-Turn

uturn%20sign.jpgHeading into the top of the ninth inning of Saturday’s game against the the Phillies, it looked as if the Twins were headed for a sweep at the hands of the defending NL champs.  But then, less than 24 hours later, the Twins had taken two of three from the Phils and salvaged what looked to be a disaster.

Thome, Mauer, Butera, and Young provided the late-inning offense in the thrilling Saturday comeback (featuring a blown save by Jon Rauch that prolonged the game even further), while Carl Pavano out-pitched Roy Halladay (Yankee fans, I bet you never thought you’d read that sentence!) on Sunday.

Now, on to the city of Brats & Beer!

Preview (40-29, 1st, 1.5 GA DET): Scott Baker (6-5, 4.41) vs. Chris Narveson (5-4, 5.79).

A Few More Feet

this_close_man.jpgI didn’t get to see much of tonight’s game, as I was watched LOST over at a friend’s house (I know, I know…priorities, right?).

When I picked things up, the Twins were down 5-2 going into the bottom of the eighth.  Mauer lined a single, then Morneau followed with a mammoth drive that, as John Gordon described it, was just a foot or so away from leaving the park and pulling the Twins to within one.  NO!!

The way I figure it, if we are losing to the White Sox in the late innings, I feel pretty good about my chances of tying things up if we are only down by one.  Why?  Because Ozzie Guillen will motion for this guy, Bobby Jenks…

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Talk about your overrated closers. He’s got a tremendous fastball, but nothing else, thus Twins hitters (having seen him so much) ALWAYS seem to hit him around.  True to form, Thome launched a double off him in the ninth in a scenario that may have played out much differently had it only been a one-run ballgame.  Ugh!

Slowey must have gotten roughed up in that fifth inning, but it was nice to see Alex Burnett and Co. keep the Twins in the game until the very end.  A pen like that can be dangerous to opponents you think they have the game won and go into coast mode, only to see us chip away at the lead.

Preview (21-12, 1st, 2.5 GA DET): John Danks (3-1, 1.98) vs. Carl Pavano (3-3, 3.43).  If Pavano gives us another solid outing tomorrow afternoon, we can’t waste it again, not with a tough East Coast stretch (New York, Toronto, Boston) coming up.

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.

Three-Deep

 

22e4851097a6cff91b862509d48fa665-getty-97630656jd002_minnesota_twi.jpgIf your favorite team loses on Opening Day, like the Twins did last night, it is easy (in the excitement of the moment) to make snap judgements based on the rest of the season. Basically, no one wants to start out 0-1. However, that is the great thing about the sport of baseball. You’re going to lose 60, win 60, and really it’s what you do with the other 42 that make the difference.

Tonight, the Twins had a nice bounce-back from that first-game loss on Monday night.

On the pitching side, Nick Blackburn successfully navigated (despite a Torii Hunter bomb) a very solid Angels lineup and, while not pitching deep into the game, kept the Twins in it and gave them a chance to win.

The offense came from homers by Mauer, Morneau, and newcomer J.J. Hardy on a blustery night in LA.  It was nice to see the lefty M&Ms tag a lefty pitcher for dingers.

This Angels club is still the class of the AL West (at least until they are seriously challenged), so getting out with a split would be a pretty successful series to open the year.  That would require a win tomorrow night…

Preview (1-1, 3rd, 0.5 GB CWS & DET): Carl Pavano (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Ervin Santana (0-0, 0.00 ERA).

Notes:

-Don’t really like the new road uniforms.  Makes the boys look too much like the Washington Nationals, if you ask me.

…One Joe Here To Say!

Well, Joe Mauer is going to have a lot more to smile about now…

Minnesota+Twins+v+Oakland+Athletics+43VL6gCkoNfl.jpg

…and so do we (the fans)!  Eight more years (nine, counting 2010) of arguably the most talented player in the major leagues right now.

Although crossing the 20% (of the total payroll) threshold has been suicide for many teams (just remember A-Rod going to Texas), I think the Twins have a good enough organization and farm system to build around Mauer (or keep the talent around, as is the case now) for many years.

Giving 8 years and $184 million to a health-risk catcher may seem dicey, but Mauer is the exception to the rule.  If he wanted to stay, and he did, then the right move was locking him up at any price.

It just boggles my mind that only 20 years ago, Kirby Puckett…

puckett88nike-1.jpg  was the first guy in the majors to make $3 million per season.   Crazy.

A Word Of Warning For Joe Mauer…

Just saw this story on Yahoo! News today…

http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/news?slug=ap-knoblauch-assaultplea&prov=ap&type=lgns

First off, I hope that Chuckles gets his life put back together.  It’s always sad to me to see a former Minnesota athlete struggle like that, and my prayers go out to him.

That being said, his life story (at least as it relates to baseball) could be a sort of warning for Joe Mauer (who is perhaps considering a shot in the Big Apple himself, seeing as how he hasn’t signed a contract yet):

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In 1991, Knoblauch was the spark-plug that helped drive the team to their World Series title.  He proceeded to become an elite lead-off hitter in the American League for the next 5-6 years, even on abysmal Twins teams.  He was a doubles machine, and could steal bases with the best of them.  However, he decided to opt for the big market of New York after “serving his time” here in Minny.

knobber.jpg

In the City that Never Sleeps, unfortunately Knobby didn’t get much shut-eye either. Under that big-time pressure, he never re-captured those glory years with the Twins, and suddenly developed an inability to throw the baseball from his second base position over to first.  The mental block got so bad that he eventually changed positions to left field, which led to this career path:

AADC038~Chuck-Knoblauch-Studio-Portrait-Posters.jpgI don’t think I have to tell you how that turned out.

So Joe, before you even think about how playing in NYC is all playoff games and confetti showers, consider the sad story of one Chuck Knoblauch, a living example of what pressure (even leading to his being named in the Mitchell Report a few years ago) can do to a person.  The grass always seems greener (literally, in this case) on the other side, but only if you can enjoy the grazing.  Think about it.

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