Results tagged ‘ Justin Verlander ’

The Missing Piece

the_missing_piece_book.jpgIn today’s baseball economy, simple numbers (if not a relatively shallow talent pool because of expansion) dictate that teams build a pitching staff one of two wins: Either rely on one or two horses and patchwork, or collect five “average joes” that give you a chance to win every night and pray that one develops into an ace.

For playoff-bound teams, the former solution seems to be the way to go, as evidenced by the Yankees being able to essentially rely on the shoulders of CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett all the way through to the World Series championship.  The Twins, however, may have just gotten lucky…

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Earlier tonight, Francisco Liriano and Justin Verlander hooked up in a duel that could have easily been the first game of a postseason series, with Frankie matching Verlander pitch for pitch and eventually out-dueling him with eight scoreless innings of 4-hit ball and 10 strikeouts.

There was one sequence in the bottom of the fifth inning that I especially enjoyed: With young Scott Sizemore at the plate, Liriano broke off two nasty sliders down and in for swinging strikes.  After one high heater to change Sizemore’s eye level, Cisco came back with the slider and made the young man look silly.  Just complete domination the likes of which we haven’t seen since, well, Liriano (at least in ’06-form)!

Right now, there is just a certain electricity whenever Liriano takes the hill, and that’s what being an ace is all about…just knowing that you have that advantage right from the get-go.  Of course, it’s too early to give Frankie the Cy-Young plaque already, but the signs sure are encouraging.  I can’t wait for Sunday to see him again!

Notes:

-A funny thought: In last year’s game 163 against Detroit, Michael Cuddyer was at first base because of Morneau’s back injury, Alexi Casilla was in the infield, and Ryan Raburn was misplaying balls out in left.  Huh (!).  In all seriousness, though, I hope Justin is okay and just tweaked a muscle trying to catch up with Verlander’s heat.

Preview (14-6, 1st, 3.5 GA DET): Scott Baker (2-2, 4.81) vs. Max Scherzer (1-1, 2.63).

A Rivalry Renewed

When we last saw our rivals from the Motor City, the greatest game of baseball I have ever seen was the result…

 

Tonight, the rivalry continues.

Preview (13-6, 1st, 2.5 GA DET): Francisco Liriano (2-0, 1.29) vs. Justin Verlander (1-1, 6.95)

Why Exactly Are We Moving Out Of Here Again?

b04c3acb-5040-499b-914d-21abe2ed58f7.jpgWell folks, here we go again!!  As common as .500 baseball has been for the Twins over the past two or three seasons, just as common has been incredibly inspired late-season play. 

After taking the first game in this playoff-like Dome series against the Tigers last night thanks to the brilliant pitching of Brian Duensing, the Twins needed to keep the momentum going this afternoon and did so in spectacular fashion.

For the first seven innings, this game was the tightest of pitchers duels, with Carl Pavano’s hex on the Tiger bats matching Justin Verlander’s 99 mph heater.  Both teams got a run early, and the Tigers scored again in the third to go up 2-1, a score that would hold until the bottom of the eighth inning.

Really, though, the momentum in this game began to shift in the top half of that inning.  With Pavano out of the game after having pitched incredibly well, the ball was given to the ever-shaky Jesse Crain…who proceeded to get three quick outs on just eleven pitches (I probably should heap the credit on Crain tonight, as somewhere along the line I will be quick to jump all over him a bit later).

Of course, things didn’t look all that bad for Verlander in that fateful eighth to begin with, as Punto struck out and Span hit one of his patented singles to land on first.  Orlando Cabrera then lifted a lazy fly ball to left field that Don Kelly, who had been put into the game as a defensive substition just an inning previous, easily had measured…until he didn’t, of course, and the ball dropped to put runners on second and third.  With opposing teams only having to deal with those kind of Dome Balls for five more contests, the baseball gods must be getting their money’s worth.

Joe Mauer was intentionally walked to load the bases, but Jason Kubel promptly doinked a single into left that scored both Span and Cabrera to give the Twins a lead.  That was the end of the night for Verlander, but the firemen didn’t do much better, as Brandon Lyon quickly served up a three-run jack to the suddenly red-hot Michael Cuddyer to give the Twins a 6-2 cushion, which would amount to the final score.

For the first time in quite awhile, I am seriously considering watching the Twins over the Vikings tomorrow afternoon.  I usually award that time-slot to the footballers due to their once-a-week status, but there is just too much excitement emanating from the Metrodome right now to turn away!  Since the Vikes start at noon and the Twins’ opening pitch is 1:10, I’ll at least have a bit of time to see how the Vikes game is going (maybe they’ll be beating the Lions so badly it won’t even be a decision!).

Preview (76-72, 2nd, 2.0 GB DET): Nate Robertson (1-2, 5.35) vs. Scott Baker (13-8, 4.35).  Basically, this game could decide the season.  A win pretty much evens things up, while a loss likely means that perfection will be needed down the stretch.

Open Mouth…Insert Foot

foot%20in%20mouth.gifLast night, I gave up on the Twins and expoused about how they would not win the division. I should have figured that something like this would happen (not that I’m complaining!). First, I complained that the Twins’ bats need to be perfect in order to beat their competition, and usually have no chance against the elite hurlers in the league. So, what happens when facing Justin Verlander…
28aee4e1-c8a1-4341-bd0b-ad25485e6842.jpgWell, let’s see…every Twins batter gets at least one hit, Denard Span gets five, Orlando Cabrera extends his hitting streak, and Joe Mauer hits home run #20 on the season en route to scoring 11 times (five off the flamethrower in six innings). Pitching-wise, I didn’t give Carl Pavano any love, and he was facing a potent Detroit lineup…

cc25d56d-a787-4090-acc0-63d571ea5c75.jpg Well, how about seven shutout innings on just five hits.

The message of the night?  Following the Twins the last few years has been like riding on one of these…

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Preview (54-56, 3rd, 2.5 GB CWS): Scott Baker (9-7, 4.59) vs. Jarrod Washburn (8-7, 2.93)

I Know The Feeling

9f801e53-3c06-46e2-a588-1e8d3f25b85d.jpgStory #1: During the summer of 2004, my Dad and I coached a Little League baseball team that reminds me a lot of the 2009 Minnesota Twins. We had one really good pitcher (Zane Stratton to Nick Blackburn) and a few guys who could hit, but other than that not much (we played decent D, again like the current Twins). We always had a chance against other similar-ranked teams, but against teams that had more talent we had to do everything perfect. One errant throw (and this was Little League, so imagine that!), a few costly outs from our big bats, or a couple of meatballs from our ace would immediately and automatically doom us to defeat.

Story #2: The next year, 2005, brought another Little League team with even worse results.  We couldn’t pitch, couldn’t hit, and could only basically field the ball (nothing spectacular).  On one dreary Minnesota night, however, our team was taking on the best team in the league and beating them by 7-8 runs.  For whatever reason (luck, primarily) everything was going right for them and wrong for us.  Yet, with an obvious thunderstorm fast approaching, our team ran out of pitchers (i.e. our “ace” was done).  With all the parents and grandparents starting to pack up the fort and get the umbrellas out in anticipation of the game being called, all we had to do was get three outs.  My memory of those next 5-10 minutes is a bit hazy, but I’m not quite sure we even got one of those.  The other team batted around twice, our guys didn’t catch/field the ball on defense, and at the exact second the game-winning run crossed the plate for the opponent, the clouds opened up and it began to pour.  It was almost like a message from God that we weren’t supposed to win that game.

On a macro-level, the Twins are very much like the team from Story #1.  We can compete with our equals, but (unless absolutely everything breaks right) we get squashed by our superiors (Anaheim and New York, primarily).

On a micro-level, though, as in tonight, the Twins are a lot like that sorry 2005 Little League team…struggling to do anything consistantly right and, at the same time, getting all the bad breaks.

I’m sad to have to say this, but for the first time all season I can definitively say that, barring a miracle, the Twins will not win the AL Central this season.  Will I still be tuning in and rooting for them down the stretch?  Yes.  But realistically, this team is a mess and cannot be fixed in the short time until October.

Notes:

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We “nabbed” Carl Pavano today. Gee whiz, what a move. He’s been just as bad as any of our current starters so far this season. In all honesty, sending down R.A. Dickey was probably a more important move than getting Pavano.

Preview (53-56, 3rd, 2.5 GB CWS): Carl Pavano (9-8, 5.37) vs. Justin Verlander (12-5, 3.29).

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