"Let us go forth a while, and get better air in our lungs. Let us leave our closed rooms...
The game of ball is glorious."

--Walt Whitman

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Thursdays In the Park With Gardy

You know what's great? Going to a Twins game when pretty much everyone you know is at work, and when you're normally scheduled to be. That's great. What's even better is when BatGirl and BatMom have seats directly in front of yours, and the wisecracking runs riot. What's even better still is when the Twins win. And they did, but this was certainly no (pardon the pun) walk in the park.

Our starting pitcher today was rookie lefty Dave Gassner, making his second and final start in place of the injured Carlos Silva, who comes off the disabled list tomorrow. Gassner seemed, well, a bit rattled. Which is odd, because he acted pretty relaxed in his debut. On second thought, perhaps not so odd. See, Kyle "Hit Me!" Lohse will be skipped in the next turn through the rotation. I guess two years plus three starts of uninterrupted suckitude (okay, there was one interruption--that complete game shutout last year) is what it takes to get the organization's attention.

Anyhoo, this is making all sorts of people, like me for instance, think that maybe Lohse is bullpen-bound unless he pulls it together really soon. And that would leave a hole in the rotation. And Gassner would like to fill that hole, wouldn't he? So he might have considered today's start an audition. Next time he auditions, he might want to skip the whole tripping-over-a-prop-and-falling-into-the-orchestra-pit part. Just a thought.

Will we ever see you again, Dave Gassner?

Five runs and an error in an inning and two-thirds later, they've pried Gassner out of the tuba and escorted him into the wings, leaving the stage clear for Matt Guerrier, who is filling in for the injured Grant Balfour and who, while not in imminent danger of getting a plane ticket to Rochester, would surely love to nail down a more permanent gig. He would pitch three scoreless innings and be handed a three-run lead before hacking up three runs on two homers in the sixth and being replaced by JC "Meltdown" Romero. More on that later.

While all this was going on in the tops of the first six innings, the Twins were getting some hitting and running done in the bottoms. With Stewart on first in the bottom of the first, Bartlett outraced the double play curse and got to first before the ball. Hunter and LeCroy hit back-to-back jacks, combining for three runs. In the bottom of the third, Stewart, Bartlett and Hunter all singled, driving in one run. Bartlett was at ease on the basepaths, despite not having been there since disco was cool. Hunter got caught off of first base while LeCroy was batting, Mike Sweeney missed the tag but thought he'd made it, and Hunter darted safely down to second in the confusion. Things got even stranger a couple of pitches later when LeCroy got an RBI infield hit to just inside the third base bag. Sit back a minute, try to imagine LeCroy reaching first on a ball that doesn't even cross the baseline. It's okay if you can't do it--I saw it and I have trouble picturing it!

Ford hit the fifth consecutive single for the third consecutive RBI before Jones hit into a double play (dammit!). Cuddyer then got the inning's sixth and last single to plate a fourth run. Hitting with runners on--novel concept! They did it again in the fourth, an inning somewhat marred by two drunken jerks (who's liquored up at 1pm on a Thursday?) bellowing trite taunts at Sweeney all inning while those around them cringed and clapped their hands over their ears. On the field, Bartlett knocked Rivas in on a fielder's choice, but then the hitting wasn't so nice as LeCroy got hit by a pitch. Redmond would take a fastball to the leg in the bottom of the fifth.

In between those two homers Guerrier gave up in the top of the sixth there was a walk. And in the middle of the walk there was a strike that bounced into the stands, and thence into my gleeful little hands. Woo-hoo!

04/21/2002, top 6th, 0 on, 0 out. #54 Guerrier pitching for Minnesota, #36 Pickering batting for Kansas City. Strike 2, lined foul.

It was all tied up at 8 after Guerrier got the hook, and Romero came in to relieve him. Someone needs to relieve Romero, perhaps with a deep tissue massage and a dram or three of Tullamore Dew, because he was having a meltdown from the word go. He misplayed a bunt for an error and then escorted the runner to second by way of a balk. A BALK. When was the last time you saw a balk? He got out of the inning when the Royals willingly took an out with a sac bunt, and Mike Redmond tagged an incoming runner after the next batter missed a suicide squeeze bunt attempt and the runner couldn't put on the brakes in time.

There was some walking and some running but no scoring on either side for a while after that. In the top of the ninth, Juan Rincón gave up a single and then something (possibly Bartlett alerting him to the fact that the runner was on the move just as he got into his optimal mental pitching zone) startled him so badly that he literally jumped off the rubber. Jumping off the rubber is, of course, a balk. Two balks in one game. Un-balkin'-believable. A single later in the inning would give the Royals the lead and tarnish dear Juan's heretofore unblemished ERA.

But the Twins roared back in the bottom of the ninth. Hunter scored the tying run on a one-out Jones double, with Ford, on base from an earlier single, moving to third. The bases loaded up with two outs on a walk to Redmond, whereupon Tiffee kept bases-loaded tradition alive by striking out to end the inning. Dammit!

On to extra innings, and Joe Nathan. Joltin' Joe jolted three Royals straight back to the dugout when he struck out the side. The bottom of the tenth started with a Stewart groundout to short. Bartlett then doubled (holy ****, a two-hit game! He lives!). Hunter was intentionally walked. LeCroy hit a single to left to load the bases. Uh-oh.

Ford, sweet Leeeeeeew Ford, strode to the plate with the sacks jammed and he did not hit into a double play, or strike out, or spontaneously combust. He hit...

...a single.


2 rejoinders:

Fourth pew, center sounded off...


TwinsJunkie sounded off...

Nothing better than going to a matinee game and getting a foul ball (except maybe a Twins home run ball. Then again, I always wanted to get a home run ball hit by the other team and throw it back.)