Results tagged ‘ Ron Gardenhire ’
Well, here it is, the night before the playoff ALDS opener against the New York Yankees at Target Field. Here are my “x-factors” for this series:
The first two starters…
Both these two starters are renowned Twins-killers, capable of shutting down even our most potent bats for inning after inning. To me, just splitting (even at home) with these guys on the mound would be the best we could hope for, as I’m confident that Duensing will beat Hughes in the Bronx for Game 3. However, two straight losses would pretty much doom us.
For the Twins:
The big righthanded bat…
In previous years, the Twins have never had that powerful righthanded bat in the lineup to counter-act a tough lefty on the mound. Delmon Young changes the equation.
Also, though I won’t necessarily say this is a prediction, but I think Ron Gardenhire gives the Twins a big edge…
Not saying that Joe Girardi isn’t a quality manager as well, but you know that Gardy will have our boys ready to go for every game. Plus, this year he has some “bullets in the chamber” instead of blanks to match up with the Yanks’ firepower.
I’m too superstitious to make a prediction on this series due to the fact that my home team is in it, so about all that’s left to say is this:
Preview: C.C. Sabathia (0-0, 0.00) vs. Francisco Liriano (0-0, 0.00). The slate is wiped clean in the postseason!
If the Twins were to start Alexi Casilla at second base (or SS for that matter) on a regular basis, he would hit .250 with no power, strike out often, and make enough bonehead plays (both in the field and on the basepaths) to send Gardy to an early grave.
However, put him in a late-season pressure-cooker situation, and the results speak for themselves:
For a team looking for a spark going forward into the playoffs, this could be it!
-Still don’t know our first-round opponent. Tampa Bay holds the tiebreaker over New York, so (with both teams tied heading into the regular season’s final day) a TB win would automatically give us the Yanks.
Preview (94-67, 1st, 7 GA CWS): Marc Rzepczynski (3-4, 5.56) vs. Nick Blackburn (10-11, 5.55)
The 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…
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:
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.
This 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.
-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)
Tonight’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?!
-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).
This 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.
-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:
Before 2004, the year in which a staggering chain of events (begun with this)…
…released the Boston Red Sox from their Yankee-dominant purgatory, the Sox were seemingly “cursed” by the inability to: A. Win the big game; and B. Win ANY meaningful game against the arch-rival Yankees.
After watching (in person) the Twins fall twice to the Yanks in one day today at Target Field, I now have my own little theory as to where that curse went and where it is dwelling now…
In both 2003 and 2004…
…the Yankees defeated the Twins in the ALDS. From that point forward, we haven’t been able to touch them. At home, we are something like 10 games under .500 against them in the Ron Gardenhire era. On the road, we have won (literally) a handful of games in that same time period. Plus, the 2009 playoffs brought another ALDS defeat at their hands, this time a clean sweep.
Could it be possible that the Red Sox, free from the “1918” chants, somehow transferred the curse to us, seeing as it was us who allowed the epic 2003 and 2004 ALCS’ to transpire in the first place?
Today, the Yankee heroes were primarily three-fold:
First, Derek Jeter provided the lone offense in the resumption game today, then proceeded to make a spectacular “jump-throw” (his trademark) to gun down a runner at first that, if safe, would have allowed the tying run to score.
Then, Pettitte again basically shut us down for eight innings, only allowing two measly runs.
Finally, the back-breaker came from Nick Swisher, who launched a bomb into the right field bleachers in the bottom of the eighth inning (with two outs, of course) off Jon Rauch to give the visitors a lead they would not relinquish.
Let’s just say this: Remember those old “whose your Daddy” chants that Yankees fans used to hurl at Pedro Martinez? They now apply for a completely different reason.
Preview (26-20, 1st, 1.0 GA DET): Javier Vazquez (3-4, 6.69) vs. Nick Blackburn (5-1, 4.50)
For far too many years, Yankee closer Mariano “Mo” Rivera has done the baseball equivalent of this video to American League batters…
That video could also be a metaphor of the Yankees’ dominance over the Twins in the Bronx since the Ron Gardenhire Era. The Twins may put up a fight, but it was always the Yankees who got the final “slap”.
Does this game signify a major shift in the rivalry? Who can know. Will the Yankees start another streak just as long the next time we come to the Big Apple? Hopefully not, but perhaps. For today, though, we finally got to celebrate in the nextdoor neighbor to the House That Ruth Built. It feels good.
In not too long, the Yanks will have to come into our house:
…where hopefully we can start our own little Yankee-killing streak in the heart of Twins Territory.
Preview (23-14, 1st, 1.5 GA DET): Kevin Slowey (4-3, 4.62) vs. Dana Eveland (3-2, 4.81). Off to Toronto now, who have really had our number the past two seasons.
The last time reliever Jon Rauch was on the mound to start a ninth-inning save situation, he was closing out games for the worst team in the National League…
Now, he’ll (hopefully) be doing much of the same, only this time for a competitive squad in the junior circuit:
Today, Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire announced that Rauch will be closing games for the Twins in 2010 (at least to start the year). This didn’t surprise me one bit, considering the big man’s experience in the final frame. If he suceeds, then great. If he fails, then perhaps Neshek will be ready.
No word yet on an entrance theme. Perhaps something from “Papa Roach”?!
In other late Spring Training news:
Brendan Harris hit .357 during the Florida exhibitions, Nick Punto finished in the low .200s. Guess who will be starting on Opening Day? If you know Gardy, the answer will be obvious.
Now that the Twins are cranking things up down in Fort Myers, here is a little preview of what to expect in terms of the build-up to Opening Day 2010:
Last Year: 87-76, 1st in American League Central Division (1 GA of Detroit Tigers), lost to New York Yankees in ALDS (3-0).
Manager: Once again, the Twins will have Ron Gardenhire at the helm. Since taking the reins from Tom Kelly back in 2002, Gardy has posted a 709-588 (.547) record with the Twins. Besides the lone 1969 Billy Martin tenure, that winning percentage constitutes the highest mark in franchise history, and trails only TK (1140-1244) in overall wins.
Venue: After nearly three decades of playing in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, the Twins will now christen open-air Target Field as their new home. Dimensions: LF-339, LCF-377, CF-404, RCF-367, RF-328.
Projected Starting Lineup & Positions:
- Denard Span (R), CF (2009 stats: .311 BA, 97 R, 180 H, 23 SB, .807 OPS): Though primarily just a singles hitter who runs the bases well, Span is very adept at working counts, getting on base, and coming up big in the clutch. The best lead-off hitter wearing “TC” since Chuck Knoblauch jumped ship. Plays Torii Hunter-like defense in the outfield.
- Orlando Hudson (S), 2B (for LA Dodgers: .283 BA, 74 R, 35 2B, .774 OPS, All-Star, Gold Glove): One of the newcomers this year. Can’t say I’ve watched him play much, but the stats don’t seem to lie. He’s very comparable to the departed Orlando Cabrera, who did wonders for the top of the order down the stretch in ’09.
- Joe Mauer (L), C (.365 BA, 94 R, 96 RBI, 28 HR, 1.031 OPS, All-Star, Gold Glove, MVP, Silver Slugger): Perhaps the most talented player in baseball this side of Albert Pujols. The kind of guy who could hit .320 and call it a “down year”.
- Justin Morneau (L), 1B (.274 BA, 100 RBI, 30 HR, .878 OPS, All-Star): Take a look at those stats, and then consider he missed the final month of ’09 due to injury. His ability to hit for average and maintain a selective eye separates him from the hackers.
- Michael Cuddyer (R), RF (.276 BA, 93 R, 94 RBI, 32 HR, .862 OPS): The biggest hurdle for Cuddy is making it through an entire season. When hurt, he struggles with things like consistency and strike outs. When healthy, he puts up numbers like last season. Possesses a rifle arm.
- Jason Kubel (L), DH (.300 BA, 28 HR, 103 RBI, .907 OPS): Could be the cleanup hitter in many other teams’ lineups. Is just coming into his own (a bit late) after struggling through a serious knee injury as a rookie. Can also more than hold his own in the outfield, where he may find himself on more than a few occasions if Jim Thome heats up.
- Delmon Young (R), LF (.284 BA, 60 RBI, 12 HR, .733 OPS): Will be the first to sit if Kubel and Thome play their way into the lineup, but also has tremendous upside. Is clumsy in the field (but just good enough to make up for it) and prone to hitting nothing but singles for long stretches, but when locked in can be a deadly force.
- J.J. Hardy (R), SS (for Milwaukee Brewers: .229 BA, 53 R, 47 RBI, 11 HR, .659 OPS): The Twins are hoping for the ’07-’08 Hardy to re-emerge…the one who hit 25+ homers and posted a respectable average. The verdict is still out on his D, which is decent but not Punto-like.
- Nick Punto (S) (.228 BA, 56 R, 82 H, 16 SB, .621 OPS) or Brendan Harris (R), 3B (.261 BA, 44 R, 108 H, .672 OPS): A classic “offense vs. defense” choice here. Gardy loves Punto for the defense he brings to the infield, but Little Nicky is often an albatross at the bottom of the order. Harris is an average fielder, but can rattle one off the wall every so often.
- Jim Thome (DH/1B, L) (for White Sox & Dodgers: .249 BA, 23 HR, 77 RBI, .847 OPS): Hopefully the big bat the Twins have desperately needed off the pine. Could easily play his way into everyday lineup if balls start clearing the walls.
- Jose Morales (C, S) (.311 BA, 119 AB, .742 OPS): Showed enough poise as a youngster for the Twins to let veteran Mike Redmond leave.
- Alexi Casilla (2B, S) (.202, 228 AB, .538 OPS): At times provides a spark to the top of the order and plays flashy D, but is still far too prone to mental errors/goofs that Gardy can’t stand.
- Matt Tolbert (IF, S) (.232, 198 AB, .611 OPS): Plays the kind of scrappy ball and defense that the manager loves and his adept at handling the bat (if not racking up hits).
-Others battling for roster spots include Drew Butera (C), Wilson Ramos (C), Jacque Jones (OF), Luke Hughes (IF), Trevor Plouffe (IF), and Danny Valencia (IF).
- Scott Baker (RHP, 15-9, 4.36 ERA, 200 IP): Baker has shown spurts of ace-like outings, but needs to consistently pitch further into games to really match up against the league’s best.
- Nick Blackburn (RHP, 11-11, 4.03 ERA, 205.2 IP): Has a knack for coming up big in the clutch starts, but also needs to work on consistency. A typical sinkerball pitcher in that if the ball isn’t diving, it’s jumping (off bats, that is).
- Kevin Slowey (RHP, 10-3, 4.86 ERA, 90.2 IP): At times looks like the second coming of Brad Radke, but needs to stay healthy for an entire season to prove it. Has absolutely pin-point accuracy with an assortment of pitches to keep the hitters guessing.
- Carl Pavano (RHP, 5-4, 4.64 ERA, 73.2 IP): The only veteran in the starting rotation, but his overall effectiveness is questionable. Showed he could compete against the AL Central after being acquired during the latter months of the season, but needs to prove his worth against the “big boys” of the league.
- Francisco Liriano (LHP, 5-13, 5.80 ERA, 136.2 IP), Glen Perkins (LHP, 6-7, 5.89 ERA, 96.1 IP), Brian Duensing (LHP, 5-2, 3.64 ERA, 84 IP), Anthony Swarzak (RHP, 3-7, 6.25 ERA, 59 IP), or Jeff Manship (RHP, 1-1, 5.68 ERA, 31.2 IP): Liriano is obviously the wild card of this group, as he could become unquestioned ace of the staff or play himself right out of the majors. Perkins is not on the organization’s good side after squabbles over service time and just plain poor performance, while Duensing is the conservative pick after impressing in the heat of the pennant race last year. Swarzak and/or Manship would have to pitch their tails off to even warrant consideration.
- Joe Nathan (RHP, 2.10 ERA, 68.2 IP, 47 SV): Still a top-tier closer in all of baseball, but somehow needs to shake late- (and post-) season demons. Too many batters (7) tagged him with the long ball last year, so that is a good place to start.
- Matt Guerrier (RHP, 2.36 ERA, 76.1 IP): The primary setup man to Nathan. Is very solid, but fatigue always an issue due to over-use.
- Jose Mijares (LHP, 2.34 ERA, 61.2 IP): The lefty-lefty matchup guy who his almost unhittable when in decent shape and possessing a clear head. Has tendency to put balls in the dirt and sometimes inexplicably loses his control for short periods of time.
- Pat Neshek (RHP, DNP-Injured): After missing almost two whole seasons due to Tommy John surgery, the side-winding Minnesota native is back to confuse opponents once again. Could be a god-send to take some of the strain off Matty G.
- Jon Rauch (RHP, 1.72 ERA, 15.2 IP): One of the big (literally!) reasons the Twins made the playoffs last season. Is very flexible in terms of duration (1-3 innings).
- Jesse Crain (RHP, 4.70 ERA, 51.2 IP): An enigma: some fans love his electric stuff, while others cringe at his predictability, wobbly control, and inability to pitch out of jams after creating them.
- Clay Condrey (RHP, for Philadelphia: 3.00 ERA, 42 IP): A newcomer who is coming off two solid seasons in the National League. Adds valuable depth to a unit that would often carry a green rookie or past-his-prime vet in this spot.
Prediction: If the starting pitching holds up for the entire season and the bats produce even a trifling of what they should, this could be a very scary team. Must prove first and foremost that, as well as beating up on the Kansas City’s and Cleveland’s of the world, they now have the firepower to take on the likes of New York and Anaheim (teams that destroyed them in ’09). A division championship is a very achievable goal, with the sights set on further venturing into the playoff tournament.