Results tagged ‘ White Sox ’

A Different Feeling

Last year ended (at least the regular season) about as exciting as a Twins season has ever come to a close (see above).

This year obviously felt a little different.  For most of today’s regular season finale against the Toronto Blue Jays, the 3-4-5 batters were: Drew Butera, Ben Revere, and Trevor Plouffe.

This occured due to the Twins trying to rest guys for the playoffs, but it was still a bit disconcerting to see the team lose so many games after clinching.  I’m not too worried, though, for this reason:

Last year in the ALDS against the Yankees, the Twins Brendan Harris, Nick Punto, and Matt Tolbert in the starting lineup.  No such thing will happen this year, as those guys are replaced (respectively) by Jim Thome, Orlando Hudson, and Danny Valencia.

We know that our first-round opponent this year will again be the Yankees, but I’ll have more on that matchup in a later post.

Final AL Central Standings:

y-Minnesota 94 -68 . -
Chi White Sox 88 -74 6.0
Detroit 81 -81 13.0
Cleveland 69 -93 25.0
Kansas City 67 -95 27.0

Thanks Again, ‘Lexi!

Blue_Jays_Twins_Baseball_sff_197164_game.jpgIf 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!

Notes:

-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 Fireman


Twins_White_Sox_Baseball_sff_193964_game.jpgTechnically, Brian Duensing is no longer considered a “fireman” now that he is a starter.  However, he threw enough water on Chicago hot situations tonight to qualify for the title.

The Twins kept up their hot hitting since flying into the Windy City, but if not for some jam-escaping abilites inning after inning from Duensing, it might not have been enough.  Like Francisco Liriano a night before, Big-Game Brian had good stuff and used it at the most opportune times in the Twins’ 9-3 win over the ChiSox that further drives home the nail in Ozzie Guillen’s team’s chances of making a late-season push.

Notes:

-Delmon Young picked up his 100th RBI of the season.  A little over a year ago, Twins fans wanted to run him out of town.  Now, we put up with his bumbling, stumbling defense for all those driven in runs.

Preview (87-58, 1st, 8.0 GA CWS, Magic #: 10): Carl Pavano (16-11, 3.47) vs. Mark Buerhle (12-10, 3.99)

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)

Piranhas No More

piranhas_final.jpg

OzzieGuillenLead_crop_200x136.jpgIn 2006, Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen gave the Minnesota Twins the nickname “piranhas” for there ability to “peck away” at you until they finally succeed.  Basically, Ozzie was just frustrated that a team featuring the likes of Jason Bartlett, Lew Ford, Luis Castillo, Nick Punto, Juan Castro, and Jason Tyner could beat his band of sluggers.  The Twins were that pesky team you should beat, but don’t more often than not.

 Just recently, though, Guillen announced that the Twins were no longer piranhas.  You know what I say to that?  Great!

It was fine to watch that small-ball, attacking style of offense over the course of the regular reason, but once the playoffs were at hand it always failed us.  It’s common sense, really: give too many important at-bats to Punto, Brian Buscher, Tyner, or the like, and eventually (once you face good pitching) you will start to falter.  That is exactly what happened in the 2006 ALDS against the A’s.

Really, it comes down to this.  Take a look at these two players, and tell me who you would rather have up in a key spot against, say, Mariano Rivera in the playoffs:

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mp_main_wide_GardenhireThome452.jpgYep.

Preview (70-51, 1st, 4.0 GA CWS): Dan Haren (1-3, 3.44) vs. Brian Duensing (6-1, 2.00).

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:

White_Sox_Twins_Baseball_sff_188531_gameKonerko.jpg

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:

White_Sox_Twins_Baseball_sff_188639_gameRauch.jpg

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).

Jammed

Twins_White_Sox_Baseball_sff_187721_game.jpgTonight, Francisco Liriano went 5.2 innings and only gave up one run. Without observing the game and just going by that stat line, you’d think that maybe he walked a few too many guys or just ran out of gas.  This was not the case whatsoever.  In fact, Frankie (if not spectacular) was remarkable in his ability to get out of jams.

In the fifth inning, with the bases loaded with Sox and no one out, Cisco got Rios to hit into a force play at the plate, then struck out both Konerko and Quentin on nasty sliders to end the inning.

In the sixth, the Sox again loaded the bases, this time with one out, only to see Liriano get Pierre to line out and then cede to Guerrier, who popped out Ramirez.

All told, it was a miraculous performance from Liriano in terms of pitching out of jams.

Then the seventh inning dawned, the Tighty-Whities put a man on base (Mauer) to pitch to Kubel, and that pretty much ended things:

Twins_White_Sox_Baseball_sff_187726_game.jpg Notes:

-With Valencia playing so well at third, there seems to be no rush to hurry along Nick Punto back from injury.  When Little Nicky does return, I would hope that Gardy would use him as a sub, not wrenching the starting job from a still-hitting Danny Boy.

-Will anyone really miss Mijares?  He’s basically what I call a 50-50 guy.  He might get the lefty out, but he also has just a great a chance at walking him or uncorking a wild pitch.  Is he worth it as a LOGEY?

Preview (65-50, 1st, 1.0 GA CWS): Gio Gonzalez (10-7, 3.51) vs. Carl Pavano (14-7, 3.28). As Bert Blyleven said on the telecast tonight, Oakland is playing some decent ball right now, and can throw some quality arms at us this weekend.  But is it any match for the stache?  I think not.

And…We’re Back!

Twins_White_Sox_Baseball_sff_187313_game.jpgFor the first time since July 2, the Twins are alone atop the AL Central division!

It helps when you hit 5 home runs off the Pale Hose, including #579 in the career of Jim Thome.

Scott Baker kept the ball in the park just enough to be awarded the victory on the mound.

Hey, I remember what this feels like…does it have to end?!

Preview (64-49, 1st, 1.0 GA CWS): Glen Perkins (0-0, 0.00) vs. John Danks (11-8, 3.30).  Welcome back, Perk.  Now go win a game in a pennant race.

Whew…That Was Close

Twins_Tigers_Baseball_sff_181553_game.jpgWhew…the Twins managed to avoid a sweep today at the hands of the Tigers thanks to another solid outing from Carl Pavano and some much-needed clutch hitting (that didn’t produce too many double plays).

With pretty much the entire rotation struggling at this point, Pavano took the rotation on his back and turned in 7.2 IP while allowing just three earned runs.  Heck, he even managed to keep Miguel Cabrera from completely destroying us!

Multi-hit games from Young, Cuddyer (who is finally starting to hit the ball again), and Kubel allowed the M&M-less offense to come out on top.

This was a big win for the Twins, as heading into the break three games back is much better (if only psychologically) than five.

Notes:

-Justin Morneau, due to his lingering concussion symptoms, will not start in the All-Star game (or play whatsoever) on Tuesday night.  Cabrera will start the game, while Paul Konerko of the White Sox has been added to the roster.

-Sad news today in hearing that longtime Yankees PA announcer Bob Sheppard passed away today.  I know that he hadn’t been doing the PA for a few years now, but his recorded broadcast still introduces Derek Jeter to this day.  Younger fans may not remember the name, but the voice will likely be familiar.

Preview: Home-Run Derby!  Here are this year’s participants:

 

National League: Chris Young (Diamondbacks), Corey Hart (Brewers), Matt Holliday (Cardinals), Hanley Ramirez (Marlins)

American League: David Ortiz (Red Sox), Nick Swisher (Yankees), Miguel Cabrera (Tigers), Vernon Wells (Blue Jays)

Pinballin’

2955623966_1bdf7a3c4b.jpgMan, since when did Rogers Centre turn into Coors Field?  Once again tonight, the home of the Toronto Blue Jays turned into something akin to a pinball machine, with the Jays bashing enough long fly balls (both in and out of the park) to beat the Twins 6-5.

Both Alex Gonzalez and Jose Bautista hit moonshots for the blue birdies, while John Buck, Vernon Wells, and that pesky Fred “my batting stance looks exactly like Fred McGriff” Lewis also added big hits.

Of course, both Orlando Hudson and the unstoppable Delmon Young added dingers of their own, but it wasn’t enough to push Kevin Slowey (6.1 IP, 5 ER) and Matt Guerrier (blown hold) out on top.

Like I said yesterday, the Twins hitters will come around (even if it is at the frenetically-charged Rogers Centre), but it is the pitching that needs to turn in a few more quality starts.  It doesn’t help that our staff’s biggest weakness (the gopher ball) plays right into the Jays’ greatest strength.

Notes:

-Just heard tonight that Jake Peavy of the White Sox will likely miss the rest of the season.  This is a huge blow to the ChiSox, because they really folded down the stretch without him last season.

-Hopefully Morneau is okay after taking a knee to the head sliding into second base (he left the game as a precautionary measure).  Wouldn’t surprise me to see him take a day off tomorrow.

Preview (44-38, 1.5 GB DET): Scott Baker (7-7, 4.72) vs. Brett Cecil (7-5, 4.19).  It’s halfway through the season and Baker has an ERA near 5.00?  Perhaps this is why we are so strongly in the running for Cliff Lee?!

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