Results tagged ‘ Target Field ’

Tomorrow

Okay, deep breath Twins fans.  Remember, in ’03 and ’04 we won the first game of those ALDS (and in NY no less), but still couldn’t get the job done.  Tomorrow is a new day, and we don’t know which Andy Pettitte will show up: the one who dominates us, or the one who couldn’t do anything at the end of this season.

Going into this series, I just wanted the Twins to split those first two games at Target Field.  Obviously, that can still be accomplished.

Losing the first game of a playoff series is a lot like losing the first game of the regular season in that everybody panics.  Sure, the sample size is much smaller now, but there is still a good amount of baseball to be played.

Tomorrow.

Preview: Andy Pettitte vs. Carl Pavano

Twins vs. Yankees X-Factors

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:

Yankees:

The first two starters…

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andy-pettite.jpgBoth 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…

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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…

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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!

No Need To Panic

Twins_Tigers_Baseball_sff_195997_game.jpgAfter securing the AL Central division crown with a sweep of the Cleveland Indians, the Detroit Tigers returned the favor by taking three straight from us at Comerica. Here’s two reasons why I’m not concerned:

1. The Tigers are us good in their home park as we are at ours.  If they could win at all on the road, we’d still be battling them in meaningful games.

2. In 1987, after clinching the AL West, the Twins proceeded to lose the final 5 games of the regular season before doing their damage again in the playoffs.

Of course, having home field advantage in a potential second-round playoff series would be nice, but not at the expense of tired arms or worn-down bodies.

Preview (92-63, 1st, 9.5 GA CWS): Kevin Slowey (13-6, 4.18) vs. Kyle Davies (8-11, 5.05)

The Franchise


francisco-liriano-versus-tigers.jpg“It’s the franchise, boy, I’m shining now…”

In 2006, the Minnesota Twins were supposed to have the lethal 1-2 combination of savvy vet Johan Santana and unhittable rookie Francisco Liriano leading them deep into the playoffs.  That is, until Frankie’s arm popped one too many times, and old Tommy John reared his ugly head.

After losing all of 2007 and most of 2008, last year was a lost one for the Cisco Kid, as he struggled mightily with control, his delivery, and his velocity.  Good thing that is now in the past, as “The Franchise” is now living up to the billing.

His stat line tonight might not have been all that sparkly (6 IP, 3 ER), but he did strike out seven batters (including Manny Ramirez twice) and pretty much dominated until he ran out of gas a little early due to an extended opening inning.  He was hitting 97 mph on Chicago’s radar gun, had the biting slider, and even a nice assortment of changeups to really keep the batsmen shifting.

Amazingly enough, that wasn’t even the pitching performance of the game, as that “award” goes to Jesse Crain for striking out Paul Konerko and Manny Ramirez with likely the game on the line in the seventh inning.  While I may not take back ALL the things I’ve said about Crain on this blog, I will say that he has undergone perhaps the most remarkable in-season turnaround of any reliever I’ve ever seen.  He’s absolutely unhittable right now, and is mopping up all of Guerrier’s and Rauch’s messes.

I was very surprised by the lack of pizazz shown by the Chicago crowd tonight.  With Ramirez up and the bases loaded in the seventh, the fans never really even got on their feet or made any noise (except, of course, to boo Manny rigorously as he returned to the dugout).  Then, when Alex Rios misplayed a ball in center field that allowed three runs to score and effectively clinched a Twins victory, I thought the Chi-Sox fans were practicing a fire drill the way they were heading for the exits.

I would like to believe that, if the roles had been reversed, Twins fans at Target Field would have been on their feet in those crucial situations and not leaving until that 27th out.

Preview (86-58, 1st, 7.0 GA CWS, Magic #: 12): Brian Duensing (8-2, 2.02) vs. Gavin Floyd (10-12, 3.91)

More Bailouts Than Obama (aka Don’t Mess Around With Jim)

Tonight’s Twins-White Sox game featured more bailouts of Twins’ pitchers than the Obama Administration:

First, Scott Baker stunk it up once again, giving up a bevy of hard-hit balls, including a moonshot from Paul Konerko in the early innings:

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However, the Twins also got dingers of their own from Delmon Young and Orlando Hudson, as well as a big triple from Jason Kubel, to stay in the game.

With the Twins leading 5-4 going into the bottom of the ninth, Matt Capps was brought in for the save situation.  The first batter, Alexei Ramirez, homered to tie the game, but Capps was bailed out by a huge, bases-loaded double play to end the inning.

In the tenth, Jon Rauch took the mound and, with one out, gave up three straight singles to once again allow the White Sox to score a run, giving them a 6-5 lead.  Rauch, for the second time in as many games, couldn’t even finish off his inning and had to be replaced:

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At this point, though, is when Big Jim took matters onto his own, rather broad shoulders:

 


White_Sox_Twins_Baseball_sff_188630_gameBigJim.jpgIn the bottom of the tenth, Delmon Young sent a rocket right through the crotch (almost literally) of Matt Thorton.  Up stepped Jim Thome, and three things happened in rather short fashion:

1. The ball rocketed towards the right field pavilion;

2. The ball landed, giving Thome career homer #581, and the first walk-off jack at Target Field;

3. A shaving cream-filled towel quickly homed in on Thome’s face, courtesy of one Nick Punto.

 

Every win against the Sox is a good win at this point, but it’s so much sweeter when Thome does it to his former mates!  Next to Delmon Young choosing to punch AJ Pierzynski in the face instead of sliding into home plate, Thome’s blast is easily the highlight of the season-series with these two clubs so far.  Can we drop them even further back tomorrow?!

Preview (69-50, 1st, 4.0 GA CWS): Gavin Floyd (8-9, 3.70) vs. Francisco Liriano (11-7, 3.26).

Three Times…A Charm

Tigers_Twins_Baseball_sff_179444_game.jpgAfter the Twins jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the first inning against the Tigers tonight, then just as quickly fell behind 3-2, it looked like perhaps another one of “those” nights would transpire.

However, Blackburn settled down nicely (not spectacular, but enough to give him another turn in the rotation for sure), and let the batters take over.

The obvious player of the game was Denard Span, who tripled three times (tying a club record held by Ken Landreaux in 1980), drive in five runs, and scored twice to kick-start an offense that, by all means, needed a little jolt to the backside.

Joe Mauer and Michael Cuddyer also picked up clutch hits to break out of some batting doldrums, while Jim Thome hit career home run #572, putting him within one of Harmon Killebrew (I wonder if the Killer will be at the park tomorrow afternoon?!), en route to an eventual 11-4 victory that moved the Twins back into first place.

Notes:

-That outfield wall may not have too many balls fly over it at Target Field, but it sure gives fielders (especially towards that right-center area) fits with all those angles jutting out.  First Thome hits a three-bagger, than Span does him two better in a single game!

Preview (42-35, 1st, 0.5 GA DET): Andrew Oliver (0-1, 3.00) vs. Kevin Slowey (7-5, 4.79). Hopefully Slowey can make like his rotation buddy Blackburn and give us another quality start to retain first place.

Road Trip: Miller Park

Wisconsin%20Fishing%20Map.gifThis past week, a few family members and I took a road trip to the great state of Wisconsin to see the Twins play the Milwaukee Brewers. Having other relatives that live in the area, I had made the trip twice before, but not since 2005.

Now, earlier this year I had made the claim that Miller Park was a better stadium than Target Field, so throughout the entire two-game trip I was making some mental notes to compare both stadiums.  Here is what I came up with:

I think everyone can agree that the Brew Crew have the weather advantage, what with the retractable roof.  However, in terms of pure ballpark asthetics, it comes down to two things…inside & outside.

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When driving up to Miller Park via the massive parking lot, the entire structure looks much more magistic than Target Field, which is hidden away behind multiple buildings and structures, to the point where one never seems to get a clear look at the entire edifice…

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On the inside, however, there is absolutely no comparison…

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Miller Park is nice, but (visually-speaking) it as an aura of “plainess” to it.  The outfield wall is a traditional padded fence, filled with artificial structures and a few just plain eyesores around the outfield.  Plus, while there may be open sky when the roof is untouched, the sky is the only view you will be getting from your seat, as the infrastructure for the roof itself blocks out any views of the city of Milwaukee.

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By comparison, Target Field is a visual treat, what with the limestone walls, live flowers, and pine trees surrounding the outfield wall. The HD scoreboard makes Miller Park’s board look like that TV in your basement that’s been sitting around for 20 years versus your new flat screen in the living room. Plus, the view of downtown Minneapolis seems to stretch for miles and is quite spectacular.

Of course, one cannot wholly blame the Brewers for these shortcomings, as I doubt an HD scoreboard could have been constructed back in 2001, but it is nice to know that (for once) a Minnesota sports team is on the cutting edge of stadium design, not the other way around.

Evolution of A Curse

Before 2004, the year in which a staggering chain of events (begun with this)…

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…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…

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…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:

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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.

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Then, Pettitte again basically shut us down for eight innings, only allowing two measly runs.

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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)

My Thoughts On Target Field

Quick recap:

Since my last blog, the Twins got caught by two hot pitchers in Boston (Bucholz/Lester), then righted the ship by beating up on the Brew Crew over the weekend (taking two of three and coming within a big hit of sweeping).

About three weeks ago, though, I saw my first two games at Target Field…

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…and never really commented on the experience.  Although I loved the experience and thought that the new digs put the Metrodome to shame, there was just something about it where I couldn’t gush over our new home too much.  I think I may have finally figured it out.

In the old days, ballparks were built with all kinds of quirks that made them stand out.  Some examples:

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Polo Grounds: Almost 500 feet to center field (which featured a garage in the field of play!), and just 250 ft. down the lines (picture a giant horsehoe).

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Ebbets Field: A crazy little nook out in center field, a huge wall in right, with band-box dimension all around.

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Baker Bowl: ENORMOUS brick wall out in RF that puts even Boston’s Green Monster to shame!

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LA Coliseum: Just look at the picture!

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Old Yankee Stadium: Monuments and flagpoles IN PLAY; centerfield almost 500 feet deep.

Then, after going through the terrible cookie-cutter stadium movement of the 1980s (Veterans Stadium, Skydome, Astrodome, etc.), ballparks started to improve in fan amenities, but (for the most part) those little quirks/nuances had disappeared.  In the past few years, there are only a few stadiums I can recall that really spark my interest:

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Wrigley Field: Ivy, brick walls.

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Fenway Park: Green Monster, Pesky Pole

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Minute Maid Park (?; that’s the name I’ll always remember it as!): CF slope, neat LF architecture.

And, dare I say it…

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Metrodome: Vampire seats, Baggie

Basically, my point is this: I really like stadiums with distinct visual features, and I feel as if Target Field is a bit lacking in that area.  Besides the patches of Limestone and HD scoreboard (but that doesn’t really count), it feels like “any other great ballpark”.  Kind of a double standard, I know, but I guess I am more than a bit of a sentimentalist towards those “good old days” of quirky baseball stadiums.

Preview (26-18, 1st, 1.0 GA DET): AJ Burnett (4-2, 3.86) vs. Scott Baker (4-4, 4.88). Time to create a little bit of new history against the Yanks?  I hope so.

A Little Slap-Happy

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”.

Not today:

http://minnesota.twins.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=8059633&c_id=min

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:

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…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.

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