Results tagged ‘ Nick Blackburn ’

Matchups, Matchups

a89afc92-b2c3-485b-9648-a895602e3764.jpgWith just twelve games remaining on the 2009 regular season schedule for the Minnesota Twins, we are right back in the thick of things in the AL Central division race. It seems like every pitcher in the starting rotation (while underachieving terribly at one point or another over the course of the season) now has their defined “role” in the remaining tilts:

-Blackie’s job was to beat the White Sox, which he did with ease tonight. The Pale Hose (well, sans Thome at least) cannot solve Blackburn to save their lives.

-Carl Pavano was brought in to beat the Tigers, and he has done so succesfully so far (I’m sure he’s lined up for another start against them next week).

-Then, it is just up to Scott Baker to dominate the Royals (a very important feat with the KC boys creaming everyone these days).

I guess you also have to include Brian Duensing, whose job it is to continue pitching well against whomever he is thrown against!

Notes: A scary moment for Denard Span tonight, as he got hit right in the back of the helmet…

SpanDown.jpg

The report on (aside from Joe Mauer) the guy I consider to be our team MVP this year came back good and he’s officially listed as “day-to-day” (of course, as Bert Blyleven would say, “aren’t we all”?).  I’m sure he’ll get the night off tomorrow (unless he’s 100%) and then hopefully be back for Wednesday’s contest.

Preview (77-73, 2nd, 2.5 GB DET): Jeff Manship (0-1, 5.31) vs. John Danks (12-9, 3.59).

Little Big Man

c15b02bb-f861-4f41-b83a-459ec887f628.jpgAfter hearing (and digesting, if you will) the news that Justin Morneau will no longer be contributing for the remainder of the season due to some pretty serious back issues, it was clear that other players would have to step up in the big Canadian’s abscence.

Well, Nick Punto made that quick impact tonight, collecting three hits and knocking in two runs as the Twins defeated the Indians 5-4.  Despite jumping out to an early lead, the Twins found themselves down 3-1 to the Indians after Scott Baker’s mini-meltdown in the fourth inning.  However, in the bottom of that inning, Punto’s RBI single brought the Twins to within one and later, after a solo homer from Orlando Cabrera tied it and a big hit from Brian Buscher put the Twins in the leader, Punto again singled to score the Busch-Man and give the Twins a much-needed insurance run, as Nathan struggled (solo shot, left tying run on second) to close the door in the ninth.

A great win that, what with Detroit again having their backsides handed to them by the Royals, pulls us one game closer.

Preview (73-72, 2nd, 4.5 GB DET): Aaron Laffey (7-5, 3.79) vs. Nick Blackburn (9-11, 4.39)

This Is Why We’re Not

3fd6b08d-332a-4ebb-a653-02aede15a234.jpgAlright hip-hop fans, sing along (with a little bit of tweeking):

This is why we’re not, not

This is why we’re not, not

This is why

This is why

This is why we’re not…

A playoff team.

Getting stymied by Brett Cecil for six innings and then laying an egg against the bullpen. Kudos to Span for continuing to knock the ball around, and Baker for stepping up into his ace mantra, but other than that it was just a waste of a baseball game (especially with Detroit losing).

Preview (70-70, 2nd, 5.5 GB DET): Clay Mortensen (0-2, 9.00) vs. Nick Blackburn (9-10, 4.16). Blackie has a losing record? What a pitching staff…

Blame It (On The T-T-T-T-T-T-T-Twins)


abd12ee9-c0c5-4ce0-9a3a-3447ff6bc19e.jpgLast night, as the Chicago White Sox opened their last three-game series at their personal house of horrors, the Metrodome, the team was essentially playing for the rest of the season in one night. With the post-season roster deadline kicking in at midnight, it represented teams’ last chance to improve their club for the stretch run.  The Pale Hose were the epitomy of a bubble team, quickly fading from the AL Central race and needing to win this series to have any realistic hopes of remaining in the conversation.

Good thing that the Twins showed up to play then, huh?!  Nick Blackburn (7 IP, 1 ER, 7K) continued his mastery of the Sox, while both Jo-Mo and Kubel went deep for most of the home boys’ offense.  Can you believe that Mauer (now at 26 dingers) has a shot at 30?!  If Albert Pujols is the undisputed king of NL hitters, than Joe Mauer obviously holds that position in the junior circuit.

After the loss, then, the Pale Hosers decided to cut bait, trading Jim Thome and Jon Garland to the LA Dodgers and sending Jose Contreras to the Colorado Rockies.  So even if the Twins don’t game another game on the Tigers all season, at least we have the satisfaction of knowing that he did our part to knock our fiercest rivals out of it (sounds crass, yes, but I cannot and will not sympathize with a team coached by a nutjob like Ozzie Guillen).

Notes:

-Wild prediction of the day: The Tampa Bay Rays will win the Wild Card in the AL.

-Speaking of the Rays, their big slugger Carlos Pena, quite remarkably, has more home runs than singles this season.  Baseball Tonight continues to chart his progress, and it would be funny to see him finish that way.  I believe Mark McGwire did that in his 70-homer season, if I’m not mistaken (or at least was close).

Preview (66-65, 2nd, 3.5 GB DET): John Danks (12-8, 3.82) vs. Jeff Manship (0-0, 5.14). Manship starting a game scares me a bit, but at least he won’t have Big Thome to deal with anymore!

 

Texas Two (Out Of Three) Step

Man, I bet the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays are our biggest fans right now! Like the couple in the above video, the Minnesota Twins took a little while to get going tonight, but when push came to shove we came out on the winning end of another series against the Texas Rangers.

The Rangers took an early 1-0 lead in the third inning when Elvis Andrus singled in Ivan Rodriguez, but a big fly from Kubel (with Morneau on base) took care of that in short order…

KubelRangers.jpgFor the next couple of innings, Scott Baker proceeded to shut down the bats of one of the most potent lineups in the American League…

BakerRangers.jpg  I have to tip my cap to Baker after writing him off in May/June…he has really started to come around the past two months.  Sure, he has a bad start now and then…but who doesn’t?  Without him upping his game, the Twins might be in as big of a free-fall as the Sox are right now.

Yet, with a bloop and a blast in the seventh inning, the lawmen managed to grab a 3-2 lead.  The Twins’ bats managed to have a bit more life in them, though, scoring three times in the bottom of the eighth (including a squeeze bunt from Nick Punto) to take a 5-3 lead.

Then, just when you thought it was safe to exhale again, Joe Nathan got shaky once again.  After a crazy series in KC a week ago, Nathan found himself tonight in a bases-loaded, no-out jam.  Not only was he wild in the strike zone and getting hit, but he also threw low (and in the dirt for a no-catch) to second base on what should have been an easy double play ball.  The good news?  Just three batters later, Nathan was doing this…

NathanRangers.jpg

Whew!!

Notes:

-It was a very sloppy game by both sides.  The Twins had the Nathan throw-away in the ninth, while the Rangers couldn’t seem to hold onto the ball all night…

GiftRangers.jpg

-Mike Redmond hit a triple. Yep, it is possible. Eat your heart out Matthew LeCroy!!

Preview (65-65, 2nd, 4.5 GB DET): Gavin Floyd (10-8, 3.95) vs. Nick Blackburn (8-9, 4.29). Despite the fact that Brett Favre will be playing on Monday Night Football tomorrow night, I’m still more interested in what the Twins tangling with the ChiSox.  Football can wait its turn.

A series win can all but put away the Pale Hose, while a series loss (especially if Detroit keeps winning) will set us back two weeks.

At Night At The Guthrie (And Not The Theatre…)

10230ce4-4407-4c48-9aa0-49b1bec2c448.jpgWhy do the Orioles find so much pleasure in ending our streaks?! I know that our little five-game winning streak doesn’t compare to this scale, but in early June of 1991 the Twins were riding a 15-game winning streak (the longest in team history) into the old Memorial Stadium. The Twins were up 5-3 going into the bottom of the ninth, only to see Rick Aguilera blow the save and the streak

Tonight, the O’s again broke up a Twins’ streak when Jeremy Guthrie shut down our bats and Nick Blackburn was shaky again. Blackie pitched just well enough to keep us in the game, but the bats just couldn’t get going.

Back in that ’91 season after the winning streak was destroyed, the Twins recovered to win five more in a row. I’m hoping this ’09 bunch can do the same, starting with the Rangers on Friday.

Preview (63-64, T-2nd w/CWS, 4.5 GB DET): Tommy Hunter (6-2, 2.85) vs. Brian Duensing (1-1, 4.91).

An Unlikely Hero For An Unlikely Streak

18ab6091-e5ee-4d2b-8e94-f1811be6f7e5.jpgThis, my friends, is why you can never count out the Minnesota Twins. Due to the fact that we have some nice young talent, plus play in easily baseball’s worst division, a little winning streak can have us right back in the thick of things.

Of course, the biggest key the past week has been to get at least decent starting pitching (punctuated by really solid outings, like Baker’s last effort). Last night, new callup Armando Gabino didn’t pitch particularly well by any means, but he also didn’t completely implode and lose the game before it ever really got started (something Liriano, for example, was never able to do). Thus, the Twins have been able to stay in games right to the end, and our bats are on fire, leading to a bevy of late-inning wins. Heck, if we could just play the sixth inning of every game on a never-ending loop we would be unstoppable!

The hero last night was Delmon Young, who singled in Michael Cuddyer in the bottom of the ninth to give the Twins a walk-off victory. Young, who earlier in the season was relegated to the bunch due to a mini-resurgence from Carlos Gomez, has started to show some life with the bat of late. Sure, he still has at-bats where he goes up there and waves at 3-4 pitches before heading back to the dugout, but now he’s also driving the ball when he makes contact, not just hitting 15-hoppers through the infield somewhere.

Maybe he’s finally starting to take these guys’ advice:

Preview (63-63, T-2nd w/CWS, 4.5 GB DET): Jeremy Guthrie (8-12, 5.45) vs. Nick Blackburn (8-8, 4.27)

I Hate Roller Coasters

Since the time I rode my first rollercoaster (and got off jelly-legged, terrified, and feeling lucky to be alive…I know, I might be a wimp), I have hated them. One time on the Discovery Channel, I heard that some people’s physiology are actually adverse to large drops, and I truly believe I am that sort of person. Thus, can you imagine my emotional state after this Twins/Tigers series?! I completely gave up on the Twins after the first game, put the foot in the mouth in the next, and after today (although I wasn’t able to watch) I really don’t know what to think.

ecc388b7-3d89-4582-b1f9-bb13a205c434.jpgYeah, you better hang your head when you walk back to that mound, Mr. Baker. Even with guys like Delmon Young, Jesse Crain, and Alexi Casilla on the team, YOU are my choice for “most disappointing Twin” this season. For the past two seasons, you have shown flashes of ace-like stuff out on the mound, but this year you started off in the tank and haven’t found the surface yet. At this point (including the six runs in just over four innings you allowed today) I do not see much hope that you will ever develop into a serviceable “3-4″ starter, much less an ace. I wonder if Baker doesn’t have the same problem that this guy once did…
8418_feature.jpgIn 1991, Scott Erickson won 20 games for the Twins and, statistically, was the best pitcher on the staff. However, Erickson (basically coming out of nowhere) was able to play second-fiddle to veterans such as Jack Morris and Kevin Tapani. Once Scotty became the proclaimed “ace”, though, he fell off the precipice. By 1993 he almost LOST 20 games, and never really became an effective pitcher again after that. I hope that Baker isn’t going down that same path, but so far the tracks are in step with each other.

Preview (54-57, 3rd, 2.5 GB CWS): Kyle Davies (3-8, 6.37) vs. Nick Blackburn (8-6, 3.79). Off tomorrow, back home Tuesday.

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:

p1_pavano.jpg

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).

Good Deal

Well, for the first time since Shannon Stewart was acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays back in 2003, the Minnesota Twins finally pulled the trigger on a mid-season addition, this time in the form of A’s shortstop Orlando Cabrera:

130984_Athletics_Rangers_Baseball.jpgPersonally, I think this is a GREAT move for the Twins to have made, as Cabrera plays great defense and hits, at .280, rougly 70-80 points better than Nick Punto on any given day. Plus, he is on a terror with the bat (.377 this month) right now, so maybe we’re getting him just when he is starting to peak this year.

Back in ’03, when Stewart came on board, the Twins miraculously went from a team almost out of contention, to one that won the division almost going away. It’s amazing what a little excitement (from a big trade) can do for the players on a team. Shannon brought the leadoff presence that year, while now Cabrera brings offense out of the #2 hole in the lineup (exactly what we need).

What will be interesting is how Harris, Casilla, and Punto will be used now that Orlando is in town. Harris was terrible at the second sack last year, but can (and will) play third when (not if, unfortunately) Crede needs to be out of the lineup. That leaves Punto and Casilla at second, and assuming Gardy doesn’t stroke out in the near future, we all know what that means (although batting ninth, one is probably just as good as the other).

By the way, I attended the first two Twins/Sox games at the Dome earlier this week, and really, is there any better feeling than sweeping the Sox?! Hey, maybe we can give the Angels a little payback this time around now that Cabrera is on our side!

Other deadline deals:

-Victor Martinez is on the verge of going to the Red Sox.

-Halladay is still a Jay (two minutes to go!)

-Tigers acquired starter Jarrod Washburn

Preview (52-50, 2nd, 2.0 GB DET): Ervin Santana (3-6, 7.29) vs. Nick Blackburn (8-5, 3.75). No Cabrera yet tonight, but Blackie might not need him.

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