Results tagged ‘ Mariners ’

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!!

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.

Double Homecomings

 
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Tom Glavine back to the Atlanta Braves: After pitching the first 16 years of his career with the Braves, then five years spent with the rival Mets, Tom Glavine was back in a Braves uniform last season.  However, his great homecoming story was cut short by an elbow injury that required surgery, after which many thought he would hang ‘em up.  However, it was announced today that he is coming back to the Braves for one (presumably final) season.  Hey, as long as he can still paint that outside corner, he can still win 10 games.

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Ken Griffey Jr. back to the Seattle Mariners: After spending his first 11 star-studded seasons in a Mariner uniform, KGJ left for his hometown of Cincinnati for eight years, where injuries plagued his performance to the point where he became a shell of his former greatness.  During the mid-1990s, when I was just getting into the Minnesota Twins and baseball in general, my favorite single player was Griffey (sorry Ron Coomer, you just didn’t cut it for me…!).  I loved the mammoth dingers he would crush and the confident (bordering on cocky, but he could back it up) way he carried himself.  Thus, although he’ll likely never hit as many as 35 homers in a single season again, it will be fun to see that bat-waggling, uppercut swing back in Seattle (although it will be a little wierd not observing it in the Kingdome!).

Skirting The Truth

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With all the current controversy surrounding Alex Rodriguez’s leaked positive drug test from 2003, I just wanted to put in my two cents worth: I think he is still (while not outright lying) trying to cover up a large portion of his steroid involvement, or at least make it seem much more benign than it really was.  The only thing different with A-Rod is that, once he was caught, he opened himself up to a live press conference (more accessibility than guys like Mark McGwire or Rafael Palmeiro, for example).  He allowed himself to be put through the wringer and now hopes that his answers will prove satisfactory to warrant some forgiveness.  I, however, do not believe that he is portraying himself in the correct light based on two portions of his recent comments:

First, he has not (to this point, and likely ever) given what I would consider a decent explanation for why he continued to take steroids.  All he says is that he was “young, naive, and stupid”, but to me that is a cop-out.  You can’t tell me that when A-Rod saw his HR numbers surpassing 50 (in 2001 and 2002), up from his usual low-40s number, he didn’t realize it was because of the substances he was injecting into himself.  Sure, Rodriguez may say that his rookie year in Seattle and his 2007 Yankees campaign were his two greatest seasons in the major leagues, but that is strictly a matter of opinion.  I think that A-Rod knew EXACTLY what he was doing (taking steroids).

Also, we are all forgetting that MLB DID actually have a steroid “policy” in place before 2003.  Basically, the policy stated that all substances deemed illegal outside the game were also illegal within the game.  The steroid that A-Rod tested positive for, Primobolan, has never had an approved prescription use.  Also, by itself it is a rather weak steroid, so it is often used in conjunction with other products (such as HGH, perhaps, the other substance that A-Rod tested positive for in ’03…hmm).

Thus, there are two many loose ends and fishy coincidences here for me to completely believe A-Rod’s claims.  Plus, in 2007 (when under the steroid allegations of Jose Canseco) Rodriguez told Kate Couric point-blank that he never used steroids.  Either he was a great liar, then, or a complete idiot.  He wants us to believe that “idiot” line, but I lean towards the “liar”.

Getting Out With A Win

tag.jpgThe first (and, until yesterday, only) time the Twins won a game at SAFECO field in Seattle, Denard Span leaped high over the wall to rob a Mariner batter of a home run, effectively preserving the game.  In yesterday’s contest, Span made a similar contribution…

Like nearly ever Twins-Mariners game this season, the lead seesawed back and forth throughout the entire game.  The Twins took an early lead on a Delmon Young sacrifice fly, but Betancourt’s double tied the game at 1-1.

In the top of the fourth, a bases-load double from Span (more on him later, fortunately!) pulled the Twins in front 4-2, but again that margin was erased two batters into the bottom of the inning, when Jose Lopez hit a two-run dinger.

Then, for a short time, the Mariners took the lead, 5-4, when Raul Ibanez launched ANOTHER big home run.  However, a double from Jason Kubel and a single from Brian Buscher made the game 6-4 in favor of the visitors.

Finally, in a closing act fitting of this year’s Twins/Mariners rivalry, Jeff Clement doubled in Kenji Johjima to make the score 6-5 with Eddie Guardado on the mound.  With two outs, Miguel Cairo singled to right and Hulett (running for Clement) barreled towards home.  Span came up with the ball and fired a one-hop bullet to Mike Redmond, who applied the tag (as shown above) and ended the inning.

Joe Nathan then closed out the game with no incident (not a minor feat against these Ms).  Whew!

Notes:

-Where would the Twins be without Denard Span right now?  Currently, he covers the most range in the outfield, has a strong arm, gets all the clutch hits, and runs the bases very well.  Torii Hunter sure did a good job mentoring this guy…plus, Span is a much more disciplined hitter than Hunter will ever be!

-Alright Twins fans, let’s just calm down a little bit here.  We eaked out a win in Seattle, so we didn’t get swept.  The other two teams on the road trip are Oakland and Toronto, who are both very beatable.  Really, if not for Seattle, the Twins would be lauded as the best team in the league since the All-Star break.  Good riddance to them!

Preview (75-58, 2nd, 1.0 GB CWS): Nick Blackburn (9-8, 3.78) vs. Dana Eveland (8-8, 4.30). All those “Moneyball” hitters are the A’s are tough to easily retire, but this year none of them are extremely talented (they just have a knack for working counts).  Thus, strong pitching performances can and will beat them.

Lethargic

Roy.jpgThe look on Seattle relief pitcher Roy Corcoran’s face as he finished off the Twins for a two-inning save the other day pretty much says it all in regards to how the Twins fared against the Mariners.

Right from the get-go, it was apparent that Twins starter Scott Baker did not have any “stuff” last night, as he gave up two runs in the second inning on a Jeff Clement single.  Yet, despite pitching out of jam after jam (and giving up ten hits in the process), Baker held the M’s scoreless through the 3rd, 4th, and 5th innings.

In the top of the sixth, the Twins offense finally showed a spark of life.  However, with runners on the corners and no outs, Justin Morneau grounded into a rally-killing double play, despite a run scoring.  Yet, all was seemingly forgiven when the next batter, Randy Ruiz, cranked his first major league home run to tie the score.

In the bottom of the same inning, though, Baker allowed another single run on a Jose Lopez single (scoring who else but Adrian Beltre).  From that point, the Twins’ bats were absolutely shut down, not managing a single rally for the duration in the 3-2 loss.

Notes:

-This type of game is EXACTLY what Twins fans are terrified of on this long road trip, more specifically the bats falling almost completely silent while the pitchers turn in good performances (this EXACT thing happened down the stretch in 2005 and pushed the Twins out of the playoff picture).

-Boy, do the Twins sure miss Michael Cuddyer right now.  In all honesty, Carlos Gomez (oh he of many misplays and strikeouts) probably does not deserve to be starting on an every day basis for the Twins, as he gives away too many at-bats.

Preview (74-58, 2nd, 2.0 GB CWS): Glen Perkins (11-3, 3.90) vs. Ryan Feirerabend (0-1, 7.88). Perkie has been a losing-streak stopper as of late, and Twins bats hammered Feirerabend the last time we saw him (of course, I also said the same thing about Rowland-Smith last and we all know how that turned out).  A sweep at the hands of the Mariners would be embarrassing, pure and simple.

Deja Vu All Over Again

 
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If you were busy all day yesterday (like I was) and didn’t tune in the game until moments before the first pitch, you were in for quite a surprise.  Early in the day, the Twins released Mike “Out Like A…” Lamb from their roster, and added old fan-favorite Eddie “G-Man” Guardado to the bullpen, trading young Mark Hamburger (greatest last name ever?!) to the Texas Rangers as compensation.  Talk about deja vu!  Before my thoughts on “Everyday’s” return, though, here is a quick summary of the game, which actually produced just as much deja vu as Eddie did…

After a season series that to this point had featured some of the highest scoring games of the year, this contest was as tight as tight can be.  The Twins got a single run on the board in the third inning when Alexi Casilla drove in Denard Span, but a double from Miguel “Dumbo” Cairo (have you seen that guy’s ears?!) tied things up.

Things looked really promising in the eighth inning, when Delmon Young’s single scored Joe Mauer to give the Twins a 2-1.  However, a lead-off double from Adrian Beltre (unfortunately, more on him later) eventually came around to score on Joe Nathan in the ninth (there goes the sub-1.00 ERA), and the game went into extras.

After a scoreless tenth for both teams, Jesse Crain started his second inning of work in the bottom of the eleventh.  While watching the game on television, I suddenly had a terrible case of deja vu, remembering back to June 7 of 2006, when in a game against the Mariners Crain gave up a long home run to Carl Everett (one of those no-doubters) to blow the game.  Sadly, my feeling ended up being correct…after carefully pitching to new Twin killer (didn’t we leave those guys behind in Anaheim?) Raul Ibanez and walking him, Crain’s first pitch to Beltre was absolutely crushed to deep left field for the walk-off dinger.  Game over.

Notes:

-How exciting is it to have Eddie back?!  Based purely on skill, he is better than Craig Breslow, and Reyes only beats him on the Big Sweat’s best outing.  More importantly, though, is the experience and excitement that Eddie brings to the club.  G-Man went through the playoff wars with this club earlier in the decade, and usually would rise to the challenge despite his sub-par repertoire of pitches.  Can you imagine the ovation he will get in his first Metrodome appearance?!  His career really fizzled after two good seasons with the Mariners, after which he bounced around for awhile, so hopefully he can get things back on track as a Twin.

-Need I say more about Jesse Crain?  If the Twins were to release him today, I would not complain a bit.  He throws heat, but that heat all too often has zero movement and ends up being hit hard.  As I have said so many times before, he has never sniffed the success of his awesome 2005 campaign (12-5, 2.71).

-However, I suppose if I do believe that strongly in deja vu, I should actually be happy, as right after Crain blew that Seattle game in 2006, the Twins were suddenly resurrected from the grave, and the rest is history.

Preview (74-57, 2nd, 1.0 GB CWS): Scott Baker (7-3, 3.74) vs. Ryan Rowland-Smith (2-2, 3.84). The Twins jumped all over Smith (three runs in the first inning, I believe) when they faced him a week and a half ago at the Dome, so it would be nice to continue that success.

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