Results tagged ‘ Scott Baker ’

Cookin’ With Gas

10043291-3542-4e14-aeb2-86272e320804.jpgNow THAT’s the Scott Baker I like to see!  Against the Texas Rangers earlier tonight, Baker turned in what might have been his best start of the season thus far, allowing just one run and six hits over eight innings and striking out eight.  Like I said in the previous post, the Baker-Liriano tandem will be paramount to the Twins’ second half success, so it was good to see at least half of that combo start off on the right foot.

Offensively, Cuddyer led the way tonight with a dinger and an RBI double.  The streaking Carlos Gomez and Justin Morneau also added run-scoring hits.

Basically, it was just a solid win for the Twins, especially on the road.

Notes:

 

3c90acd9-eb02-4ef3-a28e-9d7f5c49fba9.jpg

That is all.

Preview (47-44, 3rd, 0.5 GB CWS): Francisco Liriano (4-9, 5.47) vs. Derek Holland (3-5, 5.97). Time for Cisco to follow in Bakers’ footsteps.

A.L. Steals Another One

2009_AS_game.jpg(I was out of town for the A.S. Game, thus am just commenting on things now…)

For whatever reason (probably because of the rich history of the event), I am an MLB All-Star game junkie. I started watching the Midsummer Classic in 1997, the same year the American League began their current winning streak, and have been hooked ever since. I mean, how can a baseball fan NOT be excited about the biggest gather of current stars in the same place, as well as the fact that the actual game means more than any other professional sports’ All-Star games (almost put together). I am also in the minority (at least I think) of people who LOVE the fact that the game determines which league gets home field advantage in the World Series…I would never want to go back to those by-and-large boring contests of the 1990s, where the Home Run Derby and pregame ceremonies far eclipsed the game itself. Thus, this year was no less exciting for me.

 First, there were the always-touching pregame ceremonies…
Stan.jpgOld-time St. Louis Cardinals such as Lou Brock, Ozzie Smith, Red Schoendist, Bob Gibson, and Stan Musial (picture above) were honored before the ceremonial first pitch. As a self-proclaimed “baseball historian”, I always find it exciting to see those stars of yesteryear and remember their past greatness on the diamond. It was also quite interesting to see how the metaphorical St. Louis baseball torch is being passed from Stan The Man to Albert Pujols. Stan owned St. Louis since his retirement, and only Pujols has been able to carry that mantra since.

The network then made a big deal about the ceremonial first pitch, as it was thrown out by some guy you probably have heard of…
Barack.jpgLet’s just say that maybe he should stick to hoops (although at least he didn’t bounce it too badly!).

The game then began with the two horses (Roy Halladay and Tim Lincecum) taking their respective mounds for either league…
DocLink.jpgRight out of the gate, the National League looked like a circuit that has had its hind end handed to it for a while now, as some fielding jitters allowed the AL to take an early 2-0 lead.

 In the second inning, though, the NL came storming back…
Yadier.jpgYadier Molina singled to score David Wright and Shane Victorino, and was quickly driven home himself when Prince Fielder hit a ground-rule double, giving the Senior Circuit a 3-2 lead.

For the next few innings, the contest was dominated by pitching. Only a Joe Mauer double in the fifth, preceded by a Derek Jeter fielder’s choice, finally tied the contest at 3-3…
MauerJeter.jpgArguably the biggest play of the night, though, came in the seventh inning, when pinch hitter Brad Hawpe sent a towering fly to left-center off the first pitch he saw from Jonathon Papelbon. Carl Crawford drew a bead on the missile, though, and timed a perfect leap to rob Hawpe of four bases…
Catch.jpgThen, right away in the next half-inning, Curtis Granderson tripled off of NL reliever Heath Bell, and later scored on a sacrifice fly from Adam Jones, giving the AL a lead it would not relinquish (not with Joe Nathan and Mariano Rivera next out of the pen). Granderson took home MVP honors for his triple and run-scored…
Curtis.jpgSo once again, the 2009 version of the MLB All-Star game was another exciting experience. The game was well-contested and full of tension, while (selfishly) the AL extended its winning streak and will now have home turf come late October. Plus, Joe Mauer (1-3, double), Joe Nathan (1 scoreless inning), and Justin Morneau (two hard-hit outs) had good showings in the game.

Twins Notes:

-Relief pitcher Kevin Mulvey is up, third-string catcher Jose Morales is down, as the Twins want a 12-man pitching staff going forward.

-Late breaking news: Alexi Casilla may still be a bonehead; letting a ball skip right past him on one occasion last night and then failing to cover the base on another. Let’s just chock it up to “I want to impress Gardy” nerves and keep our fingers tightly crossed.

Preview (46-44, 3rd, 0.5 GB CWS): Scott Baker (7-7, 5.42) vs. Scott Feldman (8-2, 3.83). One big key for the Twins in the second half is to have Baker and Liriano pitch better than they did in the first 81. That starts tonight.

A Team Loss, If Such A Thing Exists (But Thanks, Brad)

a7fe91c9-d7a9-4bd5-99c5-b591ed92d190.jpgBefore the game earlier tonight, the Minnesota Twins inducted former starting pitcher Brad Radke into their Hall of Fame, an honor I believe he rightly deserves.  Although he was just a smidge over .500 for his career winning percentage, he also played on a bunch of terrible Twins clubs early in his career, and then for few teams that didn’t score him many runs at all.  About the only run support he got was in his final year, 2006, when he was essentially pitching with a torn-up shoulder.  Yet, even during that ’06 campaign, where he showed more heart and guts than any pitcher in a long time, he was still more reliable than any Twins starter this season, save for perhaps Nick Blackburn.  Deep down I wished he could have just stayed out there on that mound in place of Glen Perkins and set down the ChiSox order with his pinpoint control and pull-the-string changeup.  He looks like he could still do it!

After the ceremony, however, the game was nothing but a slow spiral into another notch in the right-hand column of this season’s winning percentage.  During his inning in the TV broadcast booth, Radke kept talking up the fact that baseball is a team game, giving all the credit to his success to his former teammates.  The Twins proved him right on the field, but unfortunatly it was in the opposite way he intended.  Basically, all areas of the Twins’ game stunk in some way, shape, or form:

Starting pitching: Perkins just didn’t have it tonight.  Maybe he wasn’t still fully recovered from his recent illness, but he just wasn’t hitting his spots or making good pitches.  Thus, the Sox battered him around accordingly.

Bullpen: Brian Duensing and Jose Mijares were solid, but R.A. Dickey was just a complete pain to watch.  He didn’t throw strikes, couldn’t get batters to chase the knuckler, and walked three batters in an inning and a third.  Of course, his outing wouldn’t have been nearly as bad if not for…

Defense: With the bases loaded with Sox in the sixth inning, Jim Thome busted his bat and hit a little bloop to left-center that Gomez pursued with his usual reckless abandon.  The ball bounced once on the turf, vaulted Go-Go, and Span got all turned around in trying to back up the play.  When all was said and done, the bases were cleared.

Hitting: Yes, the Twins did eventually put seven runs on the board, but WAY too many at-bats earlier in the game were just give-aways.  The reason Gavin Floyd was able to last as long as he did in the game was because we had such weak at-bats in the first innings.  Michael Cuddyer especially got on my nerves tonight, as he is such a sucker for that low, sweeping slider down and away.  Makes him look like an idiot when he flails at it.

Preview (44-44, 3rd, 1.5 GB CWS): Mark Buerhle (9-2, 3.14) vs. Scott Baker (6-7, 5.31). The wait for Baker to develop into any sort of consistent starting pitcher continues on Sunday before the break.

Emperors And Idiots

EmporerIdiots_Large.jpgJust recently, I finished reading Mike Vaccaro’s book entitled “Emperors and Idiots” and had fun re-living the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry of 2003 and 2004 (as well as down throughout the years).  However, after watching the Twins get swept (once again) by the Yankees this past week, I think that title could very well ring true to the contests between these two teams as well.  Basically, the Yankees are the emperors, and they make the Twins look like idiots.

Each of the three games of this most recent series was, in its own right, a little slice of why the Yankees thump the Twins so bad each and every game.  First, was the big blowout where the Yankees just teed-off on Scott Baker.  Second, was the Twins’ bats running into the buzzsaw that is A.J. Burnett (I almost titled this post “Why do guys named A.J. always haunt the Twins?”) while we throw Anthony Swarzak in against the most powerful lineup in the game.  Finally, Thursday’s matinee was just that kind of game where the Twins kept battling for all nine innings, but the Yankees always had an answer with their bats.

To put it bluntly, the Yankees make us look like a minor league outfit for one primary reason: our pitching isn’t good enough to stop their tremendous hitting.  Unless Nick Blackburn were to take the mound, there would be no starter-starter combination that would favor the Twins.  Baker is too inconsistent, Liriano is Liriano, Swarzak’s just a kid, and Perkins is erratic.

All told, the series can be summed up in two pictures:

cc028f29-701d-4e30-af09-6d0bf53b8f55.jpg

d56283f4-f836-4067-ad83-bd83f9ee915f.jpgPreview (43-43, 3rd, 1.5 GB CWS): John Danks (7-6, 3.76) vs. Nick Blackburn (7-4, 2.94). Coming into the Yankees series, the Twins were in second place and nipping at Detroit’s heels.  Now they are in third place and looking up at the Pale Hose as well.  A “statement series” before the All-Star break would be nice, as would the bump in the standings.

Payback

 

you_got_owned_yel.gif The last time the Twins and Yankees met, earlier this season in mid-May at Yankee Stadium, the Twins got owned, plain and simple.  We played tough in every game, yet the Yanks always found a way to come back and beat us in the late or extra innings.

However, things have always been a bit different at the Metrodome (save for the ’03 and ’04 ALDS series’) for the Yankees.  While they haven’t exactly struggled at the park, they also haven’t come in too many times and waltzed all over us, either.  If the Twins are on their “A” game, they can compete with anybody, but the difficult part is doing it for all nine innings against the Bronx Bombers.  With other teams you can have easy outs or innings, but against New York it is easy for things to spiral out of control at any time, what with the cavalcade of hitters they send up to the plate one after another (no Buscher-Punto-Gomez combination in that lineup).

As you can probably tell, I’m pumped for tonight’s contest.  Maybe we’ll even see some of this…

Mean?  Yeah.  Deserved?  Absolutely!

Preview (43-40, 2nd, 1.5 GB DET): C.C. Sabathia (7-5, 3.85) vs. Scott Baker (6-6, 4.99). All things considered, there really couldn’t be a more fitting way for this series to begin.  Baker is, rather mysteriously, a historic Yankee killer, while the Twins will be reacquainted with old nemesis C.C., who either owns us or gets rattled in the early innings.

One Man Show

6421c48a-b99e-42ae-a2d8-48d44e134bc1.jpgBack 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).

Hitless Wonders

19f0f023-2597-4c84-be24-649f2e355876.jpgWeren’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 Big Guy Gets One, But The Twins Hang On

210e5591-087a-4a51-9bfb-f9305ed4afa2.jpgTry as he might, the Big Vegetarian was not able to power the Brewers past the Twins today…though he certainly tried, by launching an absolute bomb off Scott Baker in the sixth inning.  Have the Twins played a series against Milwaukee since Prince joined the team where he HASN’T hit at least one home run?!

It was a decent win for the Twins this afternoon, but one that could have been improved upon mightily.  On the offensive side, there are still way too many runners being left on base.  The Twins got four across the plate in the first six innings today, but that total could have been much higher.  It was nice to see Denard Span back in the leadoff spot, as I think he may have the best batting eye on the entire team (Joe Mauer included).

Pitching-wise, Baker was brilliant for five innings, then (as so often happens with him) gave up a few big bombs in the sixth.  Really, Baker’s inability to pitch deep into games is the biggest factor in his never moving into that “next level” as an ace-type pitcher.  Either he throws too many pitches and wears himself out, or he cruises along and then absolutely hits a wall in the middle innings.

All things considered, though, it was nice to take two of three from the Brew Crew on the road.  Losing the sweep (especially in the fashion it happened) was heartbreaking, but for a team that just tries to avoid getting swept when batting first, it’s okay.

Notes:

-I don’t care what people say, Miller Park’s Sausage Races are one of the funnier pre-game activities in all of baseball.  Nothing the Twins do even comes close to that.  Maybe next year I’ll have to get back to one of these “rivalry” games, as I have an Aunt who lives right down in the area.  I suppose next year, though, the buzz will be for Brewers fans to cross the border and see Target Field.  However, going the other way at least one will be guaranteed a baseball game, something you won’t be able to say here in Minny.

Preview (37-37, 2nd, 5.0 GB DET): Glen Perkins (2-4, 5.10) vs. Adam Wainwright (8-4, 3.58)

Take It Away, George…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4SnUij-8nnc&feature=related

Maybe more tomorrow…still too angry to write with a clear head.

Preview (36-37, 2nd, 5.0 GB DET): Scott Baker (4-6, 5.22) vs. Mike Burns (0-0, 0.00)

A Much-Needed Victory

9260ad8b-1ca6-4191-a21d-329a7ce2e299.jpgIf you read my blog post last night, it was pretty obvious that I was angry at the way the Twins (despite picking up the victory) let the game end on Tuesday night.  Thus, I was very glad to see Liriano pitch a good game tonight, as well as the bats coming alive in the late innings (when was the last time THAT happened on the road?!) to get the ball to Joe Nathan in an opposing stadium.

I always just want to add tonight that, no matter what happens the rest of this season, I will be pulling for the Twins all the way.  That sounds like an incredibly obvious thing to say, but it seems as if a lot of negativity has been floating around the Twins this season.  Whether it is hating on the bullpen, the Baker/Liriano early-season disaster, or a few batsmen (Delmon Young, Brian Buscher, etc.), there hasn’t been a whole of positivity so far into the ’09 season.  Though all those areas are ripe for criticism, I think that sometimes we all need (including myself) to remember that this really is just a game.  It’s like little league…you play your heart out on the field, but once the final out is recorded you don’t take it with you whether win or loss.

A few years ago, while writing for the University of Minnesota-Morris campus newspaper, The University Register, I wrote an article entitled “Why We Watch Baseball”.  I would like to copy that into this blog post, as I think it really rings true this season:

Why We Watch Baseball

-With those who don’t give a (hoot) about sports, I can only sympathize.  I do not resent them.  I am even willing to concede that many of them are physically clean, good to their mothers and in favor of world peace.  But while the game is on, I can’t think of anything to say to them. (Art Hill)

If a woman has to choose between catching a fly ball and saving an infant’s life, she will choose to save the infant’s life without even considering if there are men on base. (Dave Barry)…A couple of months ago, a friend of my sister happened to be over at my family’s home for dinner.  This being summer time, my nightly ritual of watching the Twins game was about to commence.  After the meal, she plopped down on the coach next to me and asked: Why do you like watching baseball?  Not being mentally prepared for that kind of question, I gave the typical male answer: “Grunt…Because it’s better than shopping…grunt”.  However, that was not good enough for her inquisitive mind, as she launched into a lecture of how professional sports mean absolutely nothing.  As she mentioned something about starving people in Africa, I realized that I had nothing (at that time) to refute her claims.  The games themselves do mean nothing in the grand context of history and there are more important endeavors in life than stealing second base.  So, why do we watch baseball?  The following argument could be applied to all professional sports, but I am going to keep it confined to a baseball context.

I see great things in baseball.  It’s our game – the American game.  It will take our people out-of-doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism.  Tends to relieve us from being a nervous, dyspeptic set. (Walt Whitman)…A young boy idolizes his dad and wants to do everything with him.  The dad, a big baseball fan, teaches his son about the game.  They play whiffle ball in the back yard, watch Twins games together, and talk to each other about the game.  Political events have no bearing on the young boy’s life at this time, but baseball does.  Through the sport of baseball they are able to form a common bond that will last the rest of their lives, through good times and bad. 

Say this much for big league baseball – it is beyond question the greatest conversation piece ever invented in America. (Bruce Catton)…The same boy has a grandfather who is 84 years old.  The grandpa lived through the Great Depression, spent his childhood working on a farm, and served his country during World War II.  The boy grew up playing video games, reading science fiction novels, and the closest he ever came to a battlefield was Risk or Fort Apache.  The binding factor between the two–baseball.  While each came from completely different backgrounds and ideologies, making communication with each other difficult, the love of sports provided a bond.  They may not be able to bridge the generation gap, but it is easy to debate the merits of Johan Santana versus Dizzy Dean (the grandfather’s favorite pitcher as a child) or how Rogers Hornsby (star player of the 1920′s and 30′s) would have fared against today’s pitchers.

Baseball, it is said, is only a game.  True.  And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona. (George F. Will)…Now that same boy has left home for college.  He finds the transition difficult, but smoothened by one thing–baseball.  Getting through the day might be a struggle, but at night he can watch the Twins on TV or listen to John Gordon bring the game alive on the radio.  The games relax him and give him something other than school to think about.  After a while his spirits raise and he is able to do much better in his classes.

People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball.  I’ll tell you what I do.  I stare out the window and wait for spring. (Rogers Hornsby)…At the beginning of his second semester of college, the boy is feeling lonely again.  Spring will be coming soon and he feels trapped, away from his family or anyone to talk to.  He begins writing for the school newspaper–sports, of course.  This gives him something creative to do and a way to meet new people.  He becomes motivated to make himself more physically fit, letting the Twins take his mind off the treadmill he pounds every night.

             Most people are in a factory from nine till five.  Their job may be to turn out 263 little circles.  At the end of the week they’re three short and somebody has a go at them.  On Saturday afternoons they deserve something to go and shout about. (Rodney Marsh)…When the boy goes home on weekends, the last thing he wants to do is talk about the hard week of studying that has transpired.  He is tired from the week and wants to relax with his family.  What a better opportunity than a baseball game?  Whether it means making the trip to the Metrodome or watching on TV, baseball allows the boy to unwind before another tough week.  It transports him (for a few hours at least) into a world where the concerns of real-life seem to melt away.

            Don’t tell me about the world.  Not today.  It’s springtime and they’re knocking a baseball around fields where the grass is damp and green in the morning and the kids are trying to hit the curve ball. (Pete Hamill)… The boy has now passed his love of baseball on to his two younger brothers.  They play in Little League over the summer, as well as endless games of the MVP Baseball 2005 video game.  Once school starts again, emails are sent back and forth about favorite baseball teams and players.

            I don’t love baseball.  I don’t love most of today’s players.  I don’t love the owners.  I do love, however, the baseball that is in the heads of baseball fans.  I love the dreams of glory of 10-year-olds, the reminiscences of 70-year-olds.  The greatest baseball arena is in our heads, what we bring to the games, to the telecasts, to reading newspaper reports. (Stan Isaacs)…So as you can see, the sport of baseball does have the power to enrich a life.  Or, more specifically, my life; as I am the boy.  While on occasion it has made stay up a little too late (darn extra-innings!) or ignore the outside world because “the game is on”, baseball’s positive influence in my life has outweighed the negatives.

You gotta be a man to play baseball for a living, but you gotta have a lot of little boy in you, too. (Roy Campanella)…To further appreciate the impact that baseball can have on one’s life, please see the movie Field of Dreams.  My favorite sports movie of all-time, it focuses on the relationship between father and son and how that relationship can be enhanced through a mutual love of baseball.  At one point in the movie, James Earl Jones (aka Voice of the Baseball Gods) explains how baseball is able to leave its mark on a person.  I leave you with his quote…

            The one constant through all the years has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time.  This game: it’s a part of our past. It reminds of us of all that once was good and could be again. (Field of Dreams) 

Preview (30-31, 2nd, 4.0 GB DET): Nick Blackburn (5-2, 3.30) vs. Trevor Cahill (3-5, 4.21).  Another no-name Oakland pitcher…the days of Zito, Mulder, and Hudson seem so long ago! 

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