Results tagged ‘ Royals ’
I contemplated doing a lengthy piece tonight about how the Twins are done and how it finally came to this point. With the Tigers’ magic number down to 2 to clinch the AL Central, things sure are looking grim for our boys.
However, if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past few years, it has been to never give up on the Twins. They seem to play their best with their backs up against the wall, and I’m hoping that proves true tomorrow as well.
Here’s the way I look at it: A loss tomorrow and the whole ball of wax is gone, that much is mathematical. However, a win would actually swing some momentum back in our favor a little bit. Would we be in great position? No. But at least Detroit would have to beat the likes of Jake Peavy, Freddy Garcia, and John Danks, while we would get Zack Grienke on our turf and than not much else from the Royals.
So, I’m not giving up yet. Two seasons of Twins late-season heroics (’06, ’08) are on my side. Let’s see what tomorrow brings.
Preview (82-76, 2nd, 3.0 GB DET): Scott Baker (14-9, 4.48) vs. Nate Robertson (2-2, 5.56).
Well, the Twins managed to stick a fork in the White Sox for the second time this season, although this time I’m actually hoping they rise from that grave and put a beat-down on the Tigers this weekend.
It wasn’t pretty last night, but the Twins hung on for the Pale Hose sweep at The Cell and kept themselves in the thick of the AL Central race.
Basically, after today, the AL Central race will be down to four teams: Kansas City, Chicago, Minnesota, and Chicago. Two are spoilers, while two are trying to reach the promised land. Here are the remaining schedules for both the Twins and Tigers:
DET: 1 @ CLE, 3 @ CWS, 4 vs. MN, 3 vs. CWS
MN: 3 @ KC, 4 @ DET, 3 vs. KC
You know, for a team that hasn’t seriously competed for the division in quite awhile (the 2003 fade aside), the Royals have been in the thick of playoffs races almost every year. In 2006 they helped the Twins overtake the Tigers on the final day of the season, while last year they forced the Twins to play a 163rd game that we would eventually lose. It will be no different this year. Both Detroit and Minnesota are talented enough to beat the boys from Kauffman Stadium, but the question is who will feel the pressure the most?
If I had to guess, I will say that the Twins will come into the big Detroit series about the same as where we are right now…2.5 GB, give or take 0.5. That is, of course, unless KC plays spoiler again…
Preview (79-73, 2nd, 2.5 GB DET): Carl Pavano (12-11, 4.82) vs. Robinson Tejada (4-1, 2.94). Are you sure we can’t just skip Pavano and pitch him twice in the Detroit series?! Maybe Rick Anderson can rig up a pair of glasses for him that turn the Royal batters into Tigers.
(Okay Family Guy fans, have your laugh now…out of your system?!)
You know, I almost started this post by talking about how my expectations for the Twins have changed and how we should start watching them purely “for love of the game” and not expect them to be in any sort of pennant race. But then, I got to thinking about those poor fans in Pittsburgh, Kansas City, and a few other cities around the MLB circuit that haven’t had anything break right over the past decade (or more) and would love to be competing in any race of any kind right now. Do I think the Twins will win the AL Central? No. Especially not after those two horrible series’ against KC and Cleveland, teams that supposedly give us the advantage over Chicago the Detroit down the stretch. But do we still have a chance? However slim, yes we do, and that is the way I look at it (or at least am trying to, anyway).
I think that the past three seasons (’07-’09) have proven that only so many things can break right for a small-market organization. In the early part of this decade, the Twins were reborn as a competitive team thanks to a lot of young talent peaking at the same time. A few years later (’05-’06) the team was still able to contend because of our ability to make steals of trades and keep calling up effective players from the minor leagues. The last three years, though, has seen a complete reversal. The farm system is beginning to get tapped out (they may still be decent, but not like the talent of years ago), and the trades (Bartlett/Garza for Young) haven’t been going our way. Plus, the terrible economics of a no-salary cap sporting structure forced the Twins to lose guys like Torii Hunter and Johan Santana, keystones of the franchise.
That being said, the Twins still have a pretty good nucleus of young talent (Mauer, Morneau, Kubel) that can win in the future, but the trick will be keeping them together. One would hope that Mauer (the biggest fish who needs to be landed and mounted behind home plate) can see that and will elect to stay with his hometown team, but nothing is guaranteed in this game.
Thus, the Twins’ goal for the last month and a half of this season is to be as competitive as possible to show our young talent that this is a team that can seriously compete again in the future. That starts tonight against Texas, who is currently leading the AL Wild Card standings and thus will be a tough team to beat on the road. However, if there is one thing I never underestimate about a Ron Gardenhire-coached team, it is their ability to come back in the face of severe adversity. Just when you think this is about to happen…
…the Twins will do something crazy like sweep the Rangers and get back in the thick of things.
Preview (56-61, 3rd, 3.5 GB CWS): Francisco Liriano (5-11, 5.39) vs. Tommy Hunter (5-2, 2.26).
Up until just recently, the Minnesota Twins had owned the Kansas City Royals. During the “division title years” earlier this decade, the Twins would routinely come into KC and get fat both at the plate and on the mound. Recently (the past few seasons), though, the Royals have morphed into one of our toughest divisional opponents. Though perennial cellar-dwellers (although I won’t gloat too much, as I, having grown up in the 1990s with Twins Baseball, know what that is like), the Royals seem to bring their A-game when the Twins come to town. The first two games of this series only served to continue that trend, with the Twins and Royals playing each other very tough, right down to the wire.
That being said, today the Royals reverted back to their old ways and gave the Twins a much-needed victory. Glen Perkins was by no means perfect (allowing 10 hits over seven innings), but the Royals could only muster a measly one run for all their efforts. More daunting, though, were the defensive miscues, such as a ball that went right through the wickets of second baseman Callaspo, and a ball lost in the sun by Willie Bloomquist. John Bale walking in a run even put a cap on things. For a time, and had the Twins not needed a win so badly I would have felt worse, I felt bad for the boys in royal blue, as this kind of play just seems to be their kind of lot in life. I know how difficult it is to compete in today’s game without a large payroll, and the Royals continue to get bit time and time again. Whenever a guy gets good (Johnny Damon, Carlos Beltran, etc.) he gets shipped somewhere else, or else a player that once looked great suddenly falters and is gone within a year or two (too many to count).
The Twins were actually really lucky back in the early 2000s to have the nucleus (Santana, Hunter, Jones, Koskie, Dougie Baseball, Guzman, etc.) come together so quickly. The Royals have not been so lucky, instead reduced to playing “payroll roulette” and hoping the hit the jackpot. Were it not for the fact that the Twins need to make a living by beating them, I would love to see the Royals develop into a competitive franchise once again.
Preview (41-39, T-2nd w/CWS, 3.0 GB DET): Lucas French (0-0, 0.00) vs. Kevin Slowey (10-3, 4.41). The fact that the Tigers, playing in perhaps the most important series of their season so far (as are the Twins), are sending a guy making his major league debut to the Metrodome mound tells you something about where they are right now pitching-wise. Hopefully the Twins can take advantage of it.
Back in their hey-day, the Three Stooges used a gag in one of their infamous shorts where Curly and Larry create the “Two Man Quartet“, much to the dismay of Moe (2:22 in the clip).
Tonight, the Minnesota Twins used a similar approach to beat the Kansas City Royals. A dinger from Justin Morneau (into the waterfalls!) and a run-scored from Joe Mauer provided the only offense of the game. The M&M Boys strike again!
Scott Baker did just enough (i.e. got lucky) to survive through five innings and a buttload of pitches, but was picked up nice by a very strong outing from newcomer Bobby Keppel. You mean we kept him the minors while Ayala and Crain stunk up the joint for months…grrr.
A strong showing? By no means. We should pound KC…we didn’t. Baker should breeze through their lineup…he struggled. Yet, a win is a win and keeps us in the same spot we were last night: On the cusp of contention, on the brink of utter failure.
Preview (40-39, T-2 w/CWS, 4.0 GB DET): Glen Perkins (3-4, 4.70) vs. Gil Meche (4-7, 4.27). With a big Detroit showdown looming this weekend, the Twins don’t want to fall any further behind in the “division race” (a.k.a. who sucks the least down the stretch).
Weren’t we all afraid this was going to happen? Coming off what is traditionally the hottest part of the season for the Twins, Interleague Play, the Minnesota players and fans came into Kansas City on a high. Sure, we were only a game over .500, but we had been playing better baseball (especially on the road) and still (if only by default) in the AL Central division race. Then we lay on egg against the Royals with our best pitcher on the mound.
Besides a two-run blast from Justin Morneau, the Twins couldn’t muster any offense against KC’s Luke Hochevar. I believe we had one hit through five or six innings against him. Once again, the lineup that can (at times) put some crooked numbers on the board wilted on the road against a team we should handle fairly easily. Not once in the game did two consecutive batters get a hit.
On the flip side, Nick Blackburn pitched a decent game, but seemed to be just a little “off” from his normal self. He wasn’t getting first-pitch strikes, and the hitters seemed to be really teeing-off when they got their pitch (thus the two home runs from Callaspo and Olivo). However, this was probably just the case of a pitcher (as sometimes happens) not having his best stuff, and battling through it. He kept us in the game, at the very least, although with the kind of stink our offense was wallowing in it really wouldn’t have mattered anyway.
Now the pressure is on to win the final two games of this series…as that is what a contending team should do.
Preview (39-39, 2nd, 4.0 GB DET): Scott Baker (5-6, 5.17) vs. Brian Bannister (5-5, 4.17)
The Twins finished up the Interleague Portion of their season today, beating the Cardinals 6-2 behind a strong start from Francisco Liriano and some big hits from Justin Morneau and Jason Kubel.
Looking back, the Twins (once again) really enjoyed this month of NL play, as (just recently) we were one Nick Blackburn gaffe and two Albert Pujols swings away from sweeping both the Brewers and Cardinals ON THE ROAD. The Twins haven’t played that well in an opposing ballpark since guys like Mientkiewicz, Rivas, and Guzman were still lurking around!
Now, though, the test will be whether or not the Twins can parlay this Interleague success back over to the AL. Luckily, the road doesn’t get much easier than in Kansas City, our opponent tomorrow night.
Preview (39-38, 2nd, 4.0 GB DET): Nick Blackburn (6-3, 3.11) vs. Luke Hochevar (2-3, 5.87). The Royals have nothing without Zack Grienke, and we don’t draw him…sweet.
By the way, this guy died today…
Unbelievable. Celebs (Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson, Mays) are dying at an incredible rate these days.
Unfortunately, this just means that this guy…
…is now the “king” of infomercials. Sad.
Two interesting events in the world of baseball that I would quickly like to touch on:
First, is David “Big Papi” Ortiz…
As you very well know, Ortiz is currently mired in a slump so long that many people are starting to call it “reality”. As the stats currently sit, he is hitting a paltry .188 with just one long ball and 21 RBIs in a full 191 at-bats. I haven’t seen him a whole lot during this horrid stretch, but I guess the word is that he is not catching up to the fastball and, when he does make contact, just pops it up all over the field.
Personally, I hope that Big Papi finds his stroke at some point this season. When hitting well, he is one of the most exciting players in all of baseball. I think the thing that Papi has going for him is that, like me, everyone is rooting for him. I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets a full season of at-bats even if he continues to stink. There are just too many memories like these… http://mlb.mlb.com/media/player/mp_tpl_3_1.jsp?w=/library/open/moments/bbm_04alcs_gm4_nyybos_350.wmv&vid=7808&pid=gen_video&cid=mlb&v=2 … and many others that allow Ortiz time to turn things around. I’m rooting for him!
On the other hand, there is Tom Glavine…
He was recently released by the Atlanta Braves (the team for which he played for most of his career) after finally seeming to get healthy following his injury from last season. There is much buzz going around that Glavine was given a rough deal, but unlike Ortiz, who is universally liked by his home and national fans, Glavine also has THIS on his record…
For five seasons, Tommy-Boy “jumped shipped” and pitched for the Braves’ biggest rivals, the New York Mets. I really don’t remember the details of those negotiations, but I do know that Glavine pitched long enough in the Big Apple to identify with fans their as well. He re-joined the Braves last season but wasn’t able to stay healthy enough to do any real quality pitching.
Personally, I could care less about what Glavine thinks the Braves “owe” him. As sports fans have learned from the Brett Favre fiasco year after year, until an athlete retires “for good”, sports, at their core, are still a business. The Braves didn’t want to waste $1 million on Glavine when he could easily just go out and get injured again, and I don’t question their decision on that one bit. The same thing happened with the Twins and Harmon Killebrew. Towards the end of his career, Harmon was clearly fading skills-wise and Twins owner Cal Griffeth practically begged him to retire. Harmon refused, and thus the Twins traded him to Kansas City were he limped to the quick end of his career.
I didn’t see the game last tonight (had to work…boo), but it featured the return of Joe Mauer, who promptly deposited a Sidney Ponson offering into the left field seats. Welcome back, Joe! Despite a shaky outing from Kevin Slowey, the Twins still held on for the 7-5 victory and dropped Sir Sidney to 0-4 on the season (the team who loses to him will be a pretty embarrassed bunch).
Oh, about the theme song…does anyone find it strange that such a white-bread, boring guy like Mauer (Monotone: “The good-good-goodness of Land O’Lakes milk”) would have a hard-core rap theme song?!
Preview (12-11, T-2nd, 0,5 GB CWS): Brian Bannister (2-0, 0.69) vs. Glen Perkins (1-2, 2.48). The bats won’t be able to swing away with ease tonight, but I look for MN’s dominance over KC to continue.
Each 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:
Tampa Bay (Wild Card)
New York (Wild Card)
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.