The new version of Windows Desktop Firewall hosed TBL's work computer all to hell, and she is now trying desperately to catch up on all the time she lost so as not to have to work during the holiday weekend. That means no lunch-break Twins post today. Perhaps tonight, if it isn't too late and TBL isn't in too foul a mood.
Thursday, June 30, 2005
Tuesday, June 28, 2005
You. Yeah, you, with the mouse. Read this. Now.
When you've stopped screaming and banging your head against the nearest wall, check out One Pissed Off Veteran. It's a brand-shiny-new blog by a Vietnam veteran who's not exactly thrilled about Iraq, among other things. He calls himself Farnsworth, and he's already got some great stuff out there for your perusal. (For future reference, I've added a permanent link to OPOV on your right, under "Politics and Society".)
Good game last night. Joe Mays and Joe Nathan both shook the rust off and combined for an excellent nine innings versus the Kansas City Landed Gentry. The Twins won 3-1.
In that brief gap between visitor's batting practice and the clearing of the field for anthems and "first pitches", I was heartened to see all our infielders (and I do mean all) get run out there for a quick round of pepper. Practice makes perfect, boys. And whaddaya know--no errors last night!
Monday, June 27, 2005
Well. Judging by what I'm reading in the papers and hearing on the TV and radio and even in person, the world has come to an end, the sky is falling, there can be no joy in Mudville, and we're all doomed to squalid, meaningless lives until Death opens his arms and finally takes us into the blessed, icy embrace of the grave.
Wake up, people. It's not like we're Cubs fans.
(Oh. Sorry, Mom....most of us aren't Cubs fans.)
Let's just set aside how incredibly sucky the last 15 games have been. For those of you who haven't been paying attention, and I don't blame you in the least, the Twins have lost their last five series. They've won one game in each series. Yeah, thanks for not getting swept, guys. That means...well, actually, that means pretty much nothing at this point. But I digress.
Despite the last two weeks, the Twins' record is almost exactly what it was at this time last year. And last year, they won the division. Got that? Good. There's a lot of baseball left to be played. Anything can happen, and that includes a return to a more familiar reality for both the Whine Sox and the Twins.
Failing that, the Twins are solidly in the wild card race. Good play will keep them there. There's no shame in being the wild card, folks. It's a whole new season after the first 162.
And really, what's the worst thing that could happen? The worst is this: they can continue to lose and end the season in third or even fourth place, with a record under .500.
Whoopie. Remember the 2000 season? Or the six before that? How about the last half of 2001?
I hate to break it to you, but no team wins forever, and the Twins don't have enough money to even do a fair imitation. We have been blessed with three glorious seasons in a row, and a crop of young players who will make the next few years well worth following, win or lose.
And let's just say, for argument's sake, that this season does end as a crashing disappointment. No playoffs. A losing record, perhaps. Bitterness and tears. Alas.
There's always next year. We'll still have Brad Radke, Johan Santana and Carlos Silva. We'll still have Juan Rincon and Joe Nathan. We'll still have Lew Ford, Torii Hunter, Jason Bartlett, Luis Rodriguez, Glenn Williams and Nick Punto. Jason Kubel will probably rejoin the team in '06. Matt Guerrier, Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer will have a full year's MLB experience under their belts, and we'll have them. Francisco Liriano and Scott Baker will have (more or less) a full year's experience at AAA, and will be expected to vie for any open position on the pitching staff in spring training.
And then there's the offseason. A lot can happen in an offseason. The Twins could acquire a hitting coach. JC Romero could take up yoga and calm the hell down. Michael Cuddyer could leave baseball to embark on a career as a carnival magician. Terry Ryan could make a brilliant trade at the winter meetings, or a brilliant claim off the waiver wire. Kyle Lohse could have success with an experimental treatment for his chronic cranial rectitis and remember that he can be dominant.
The whole team, staff included, might learn from this season, maturing by realizing that you can't take success for granted, and come back (humbly) to take it all next year.
Even when the worst happens, the best can follow. Even, horror of horrors, if this is the beginning of another 8-year drought, our turn will come again. Take a lesson from the Cubs' loyalists--love the game for its own sake. Love the team for its own sake. Bitch about the little things, accept the rest. Believe fervently, hope irrationally and, if failure comes, shrug it off.
So take your finger off the panic button, everyone. Take a deep breath. Have a beer. Enjoy the game.
Friday, June 24, 2005
The Twins won.
I am shocked. I am stunned. I am thrilled.
I am mindful that four of those six runs were, in essence, gifts.
The Twins scored four in the first inning when, after two routine outs, a single and two walks loaded the bases for Jacque Jones. And Jacque, who is in an almighty funk at the plate lately (along with two-thirds of the lineup) promptly struck out. Inning over...right? But the third strike went wild, and Jones sprinted for first. A run scored, and the Detroit pitcher failed to cover home while his catcher was recovering the ball, so a second run scored. A single (which should have been a popout, but wasn't scored an error for reasons unknown to this blog) by the next batter scores two more, and a flyout finally ends the inning.
Four runs scored after a two-out strikeout. You don't see that every day. And it was great, it really was, since it was happening for our Twins and not against them (as usual). But those fluke runs that won't happen every day, or even every month, were the difference in the game, which says to me that despite the utter joy of breaking a season-long losing streak, our boys aren't out of the woods yet.
Twins pitching, on the other hand, was phenomenal yesterday, a sparkling performance from the starter with the lowest ERA on the staff. He's also got the fewest losses (tied with 2 others), the fewest runs allowed, the second-fewest home runs allowed, the fewest walks, and is the only Twins starter who has yet to throw a wild pitch.
Nope, Carlos Silva, who has quietly begun to assume the mantle of "stopper". He does not have the veteran presence of Radke, or the (occasionally erratic) dominance of Santana. But he's spent the last year and a half, since making the sudden switch from average National League short reliever to unlikely American League starter, throwing strikes and getting outs. He gives up boatloads of hits but gets boatloads of double plays in return. He eats innings, throwing on average less than 12 pitches an inning (the staff average is over 14).
At this point in time, he is the Twins' best chance at ending a losing streak, and yesterday he came through with a 2-run complete game. He had more luck than real run support behind him, but we'll take it.
Wednesday, June 22, 2005
It has seemed to me that the Twins have been on a downward trend for some weeks now. They've been slowly sinking in the standings, wasting opportunities, struggling to get opposing hitters out, and generally stinking up the joint on a pretty regular basis. So let's put that impression up against the numbers.
|last 7 days||6||.236||.284||.653||8||2.6||0.8||2.8||2||8.7||2|
Hmm. Pretty steady there, up until the last week or so. And this last week has indeed sucked with all the force and enthusiasm of a quicksand pit in an old black and white adventure movie. Now, that whole GIDP every game thing has got to stop (I'm looking at you, Cuddyer. You lead the American League in GIDP. Stop that!), but otherwise our boys are doing okay at the plate, the last few games excepted. They're middle of the pack in most hitting categories, which is par for the course. Pitching and fielding have been and remain this team's backbone.
Fielding stats, alas, are not available by month, but I will note that the Twins are 8th in the league in fielding (I'm looking at you again, Cuddyer), and 9.3% of the runs the Twins have allowed so far this season were unearned. That's, um, pretty bad. Verging on atrocious. That rate, however, has been slowly but steadily decreasing, from a high of 9.7% in April to 9.1% so far this month, 8.9% the last 7 days. This information was gleaned from pitching stats. Speaking of which...
|last 7 days||6||1||5||6.59||0||13.3||6.8||0.7||0.3||2.7||5.5|
Well, that explains the last week, doesn't it? June as a whole screams "control problems"--more walks, more hits (lots more hits), more home runs (though, curiously, fewer in the last hideous week), more extra-base hits, more walks. Add in the fact that the hitters aren't hitting, and that 1-5 record makes perfect sense.
So, what needs to happen? Well, the pitching and hitting have to stabilize and improve, obviously. The fielding needs to improve faster. I don't know why our pitchers have lost their control lately, but I certainly hope [pitching coach] Rick Anderson does!
Let's leave the numbers for a moment and go back to gut feeling. The Twins just look flat lately. Limp, slow, helpless and hopeless in the field, on the mound and at the plate. Sound harsh? Were you there last night? This team needs harsh. This team needs a spark, and I'm not the only one who thinks so. Team officials have been hinting lately that they're hoping to make a trade before the break to liven up the team and bring some production to the field. They're looking, basically, for another Shannon Stewart-for-Bobby Kielty trade.
Which brings me to the best idea I've heard all season.
You think this year's team is struggling? The Stewart trade occured when that team had lost eight in a row and 12 of 13. During that eight-game losing streak they got outscored 58-20, demoted Joe Mays to the bullpen, benched shortstop Cristian Guzman, reinstated Guzman when third baseman Corey Koskie hurt his back, watched J.C. Romero rebuke catcher A.J. Pierzynski on the mound, saw Pierzynski throw a fit when left out of the lineup in Anaheim, and heard first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz threaten to "name names" if the team didn't start winning.
It was the most divisive, lackluster team I've ever seen in Twins uniforms -- one that came back to win the division after the Stewart trade. Making another deal of that magnitude will be virtually impossible. This is a weak trade market, and many of the good players available are overpriced.
After reviewing big-league rosters and salaries, only one name jumps out at me as a quintessential Twins acquisition: Reds third baseman Joe Randa.
He's making only $2.15 million on a one-year contract. Randa is hitting .292 with 11 homers and 38 RBI. And he plays one of the positions the Twins need to upgrade.
The Twins rank 10th or worst in OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) in the American League at three positions -- second base, shortstop and third base.
They can live with shortstop being a defensive position, because Juan Castro has been superb in the field. They can't thrive without getting run production from a third of their lineup. Michael Cuddyer has yet to impress with the glove or bat, and he actually plays better at second base than third. The Twins would have their second baseman if Nick Punto could stay healthy, but they could be out of contention by the time he comes back.
So now I'm thinking: Cuddyer and Rivas to the Reds for Randa and his salary. We get a third baseman who can hit and field (remember what that felt like?), and with that veteran infield presence at third we can bring back Jason Bartlett and his hitting potential, moving Castro's defensive genius (and veteran infield presence) to second until Punto is healthy.
I've wanted to see Joe Randa in a Twins uniform since, a couple of days after we found out Corey Koskie would no longer be manning the hot corner for us, an interview with Randa revealed his hope that the Twins would consider him for the open position. And now, after half a season of hacks, GIDPs, missed plays and wild throws from the organizational golden boy over there, the thought of Randa in a Twins uniform makes me salivate like one of Pavlov's dogs.
I wonder if the Reds would like to throw in a lefthanded reliever who doesn't go all Wile E. Coyote with runners on? Hey, I can dream.
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
One of the great things about public transportation is the conversations you catch bits of.
Person 1: "You know how Bush keeps going on about the 'war against terror'?"
Person 2: "Yeah."
Person 1: "And you know how he mispronounces 'terror' as 'terra'?"
Person 2: (pause) "Yeah, you're right, he does."
Person 1: "Isn't 'terra' Latin for 'earth'?"
Person 1, I salute you.
And now, the inaugural installment of
TBL's Unofficial, Ever-Growing List of Ways to Cope With Emperor Shrub's Reign
- spend most waking hours plugged into trusty mp3 player, blasting the Levellers
- when Shrub comes on TV, instantly salute with "the finger" (TBL uses both hands)
- watch Daily Show religiously
- learn words to Canadian national anthem
- read fiction
- knit for humanitarian organization (soothing and constructive)
- transfer savings to higher-interest account so eventual move to Canada can be accomplished by truck instead of hand-cart
- primal scream
Add yours in the comments!
Monday, June 20, 2005
Friday's game was exactly the sort of win we have come to expect from the Twins. A no-name pitcher made to look like Sandy Koufax by Twins hitters, an early lead blown in one big inning, a lone late run to tie, and a bloop RBI hit from a replacement player in extra innings to save the day.
It was fun the first dozen times, guys. Getting old now.
I didn't see much of the next two games, as I was out enjoying this brief part of the Minnesota summer which is warm and sunny but lacking the killer humidity of midsummer. What I did see/hear was brutal. Saturday the Twins offense once again brought limp noodles instead of bats, and Sunday Gordo jinxed Johan Santana into a loss.
See, whenever we've got a pitcher in a jam, or a hitter in a pressure situation, Gordo often comments on how long it's been since that player did the one thing that would totally ruin the current inning. And every f***ing time, the player does exactly that thing. Because Gordo isn't just the worst baseball commentator in the long, loooooong history of baseball radio, he's also an infallible jinx.
So Saturday, when Santana walked two in the seventh inning (courtesy of a home plate umpire suffering from the worst case of cranial rectitis I've ever witnessed, by the bye), and Gordo mentioned that he'd never walked three in a game, what do you think happened? That's right--Santana walked another, and then there's a three-run double, and the Twins still have the limp-noodle bats, and there's your ballgame.
And here's something to chew on. We were listening to the Saints game last night, and Saints radio commentator Kris Atteberry (who should stuff Gordo in a steamer trunk and steal his job) said:
"If you've got a man on third with one out and you can't bring that guy home, you don't deserve to be playing this game."
Hey, Kris, wanna host the next Twins team meeting?
Friday, June 17, 2005
Last night's game wasn't televised, so I took the chance to get some more Pirates! action in. Gordo drives me (pardon my French) bugfucking crazy if I try to actively listen to him, so the computer game gave me something fun to do between score checks on the baseball game. That, and wild horses couldn't drag me away from the damn computer if I'm in the same room these days.
While I was repelling (and looting) a small Dutch invasion force in the Lesser Antilles, the Twins fired 4 rounds at the Giants. After loading up on provisions and hiring some new crew, I tuned in to find that the Giants had put a lone hole in the Twins' sails. I sank a few galleons, upgraded my cannon, and discovered that the Giants had evened it out by digging up three chests of Twins' treasure. Well, that made me a little mad, so I shot down the Spanish governor's ship instead of escoring it to San Juan like I was supposed to. I sailed into Port-de-Paix to get the holes in my hull patched only to be informed that the Giants had looted two Twin settlements in the fourth. I'll flay the scurvy dogs!
I went ashore and stole Stede Bonnet's buried treasure, which Lew Ford celebrated by firing a three-run volley over the fort walls to put the Twins up 7-6. Arr! Some galleons were sunk, a frigate was pillaged, and (to get the Spanish to stop firing on me from shore) some immigrants were escorted safely to Curacao. All was proceeding according to plan. Ah, but then while I was dancing with the governor of Eleuthera's daughter my dear, darling gunnery master Juan Rincón couldn't bring his long nines to bear and the Giants evened out the scales of war yet again. That's a week on half-rations for you, Juan!
Well, I defeated the evil Don Raymundo and sailed for Cumana to rescue my long-lost sister from captivity, but could the Twins save themselves? Gliding into Rio de la Hacha for further repairs (defeating evil Dons is hard on the sails), the tavernkeeper let slip that the dread pirate Nathan and his good ship the Fastball del Muerte had been sunk with all hands aboard, taking four holes astern and capsizing before the lifeboats could be launched. Shiver me timbers! Captain Mulholland and his frigate the Greybeard tried to save him, but ended up taking heavy damage instead. The Giants sailed westward with a hold full of Minnesota gold and the smoking ruins of what had been a fine fleet behind them.
Me? I've got a fleet of six ships, enough gold to start my own nation-state, one rescued sister, and a new evil Don to chase. Arrr!
Thursday, June 16, 2005
The Twins' pitching staff is posting a nice, even 7.00 ERA in the first inning this year. They've given up 83 hits, 55 runs (49 earned), 15 homers, and four walks in the first inning of their first 63 games.
In the other half of those 63 first innings, the Twins' batters have combined for 62 hits, 26 runs, 6 homers and 23 walks. That's a -29 run differential in total runs.
In the other 8+ innings, Twins pitching sports a phenomenal 2.99 ERA, giving up 468 hits, 187 runs (170 earned), 59 homers and 103 walks over 511 2/3 total innings. The Twins' hitters have stepped up with 528 hits, 270 runs, 57 homers and 170 walks, for a +83 run differential.
That's, um...quite a turnaround, there, guys. Maybe you could think about hitting and pitching like that from the get-go?
Chew on this: The Twins have lost 26 games this season. Of those, 15 were lost by two runs or fewer. In 7 of those 15, a number of runs equal or greater than the difference in the game was surrendered in the first inning.
And we're 5 games behind the Whine Sox.
Tuesday, June 14, 2005
A girl's got to have something to do between Twins games, what with all these pesky days off in the schedule.
Reasons I haven't yet caught up on my sleep after the two-series West Coast run:
Sid Meier's Pirates! should be listed as a controlled substance. Proof of chronic unemployment and/or insomnia required to play. Highly addictive.
American Gods by Neil Gaiman is a real mind-bender. Great stuff. Probably not my wisest choice for lunch break reading (it's hard to jump from Gaiman's surreal world into the mundane tasks of making a living in this one).
The Devil Wears Pinstripes by Jim Caple is a hilarious invective on all things Yankee. My only quarrel with it halfway through is that for a Yankee-hater, Caple seems awfully fond of that overrated, overhyped, smirking bastard of a shortstop they've got over there.
I am, as usual, listening mostly to the Levellers. They've got a new CD out--Truth and Lies--which is bloody brilliant. Notables: the track "Knot Around the World" is a rather pointed knock on US/UK policy in the Middle East and the recent wars, and "Confess" is a sly jab at religious institutions which impose guilt and ignorance on their followers, the better to control them.
No word yet on US tour dates. If the Levs come to Minneapolis, you can be sure you'll hear about it here!
Monday, June 13, 2005
Justin Morneau has had a challenging week. He recovered from a sore left elbow while searching for his swing. And he weathered suggestions that he didn't know how to play with aches and pains.
After his performance Saturday night in the Twins' 5-3 victory over the Dodgers, it's now known that instead of getting a cortisone shot for his achy elbow, he just needed some time with his father, George.
Morneau did the heavy lifting Saturday, driving in four runs with a two-run single in the first inning and a two-run homer in the third. His effort came in a game in which five homers were hit off of sinkerballers Derek Lowe of Los Angeles and Carlos Silva of the Twins.
In addition to dealing with his elbow, Morneau also was struggling at the plate during a 1-for-22 skid that had dropped his average to .285 from .328 on May 24. That's where George Morneau comes in.
George Morneau was born in British Columbia but lives in Gilbert, Ariz. So when the Twins played at Arizona last week, George paid his son a visit.
Morneau had taken a cortisone shot for his elbow. On Tuesday, Morneau entered the game as a substitute, walked and scored. On Wednesday, he was 1-for-4 with a run scored in a 10-0 victory over Diamondbacks.
After that game, George greeted a group of reporters as they waited for the clubhouse to open. One of them asked, "So what do you think of your son's swing these days?"
Said George: "We've worked on that. I had him out in the yard [Tuesday]. He must have hit 300 whiffle balls. He had started to turn his front foot toward the pitcher. I said, 'When did you start doing that?' He said, 'I don't know.' "
Justin Morneau admits that his father probably knows his swing better than anyone. It shows. Morneau has had a hit in all four games since returning to the starting lineup. On Friday, Morneau ran out a triple when his liner skipped by Jason Grabowski in left. On Saturday, his single up the middle scored Lew Ford and Luis Rodriguez in the first, and he crushed a 2-0 fastball from Lowe in the third for a two-run homer. The Twins led 4-0 behind Morneau's rediscovered swing.
Right. Now raise your hand if, while reading the excerpt above, you found yourself wondering where the hell the Twins' hitting coach was during all this.
Perhaps I'm simply misinformed as to the duties of a hitting coach, but when your very best power hitter goes into a slump so hideous it could only be explained by a) a change of mechanics, b) injury or c) being replaced by an incompetent lookalike, isn't it his job to notice that a change in mechanics has actually occurred? Preferably before people outside the organization and indeed outside the game itself do?
I wonder if George Morneau is looking for a job.
Friday, June 10, 2005
Okay, so I was all set to noodle around with this:
Good stuff, eh? Ripe for blogging. But I hadn't finished my first cup of coffee yet, and no one wants me to write under those circumstances, so I browsed around my favorite Twins blogs for a while. And came upon this post on Sundappled Wood, which says everything I was going to say, and about 150% more.
Twins notes: Morneau back in lineup:
Morneau returned to the starting lineup Wednesday in a 10-0 victory over Arizona after missing four starts because of a sore left elbow that required a cortisone shot Sunday. He expected to start Tuesday, but didn't see his name in the lineup.
"Frustrating? Yep," said Morneau, who talked to Gardenhire about it. "Frustrating? Yes again.
"From my understanding, I was going to get a shot and then be in there on Tuesday. The reason he gave me was that he wanted to give me another day." Morneau isn't happy about it, which was relayed to Gardenhire before Wednesday's game.
[Gardenhire said] that players have to learn to play through periods when they're not swinging well or when they are banged up. Morneau, in a 2-for-26 slump after going 1-for-4 Wednesday, is an example.
Morneau pointed out that he kept playing last year after getting hit in the hand by a C.C. Sabathia pitch Aug. 22. He played until Sept. 19, hitting five homers, before missing four games.
"If I feel like if I can't help the team, I'm not going to play," Morneau said. "You've got to be smart enough to know when you can't help the team."
Morneau also is aware of comments Torii Hunter made about younger players needing to step up and play through injuries. Morneau didn't mind the message, but didn't care for how it was delivered.
"I don't think the paper is the place to do it," he said.
So there you go. Good reading for you, more free time for me. We're all winners here. (Except the Twins, they lost last night.)
Thursday, June 09, 2005
Johan Santana is on fire. (Figuratively! Settle down, everyone.)
He leads the league in strikeouts with 114. His nearest "competition" is Randy Johnson, with 73. Who's the Big Unit now, Randy, you traitorous pinstriped bastard? Er...ahem. Pardon. Back to Johan.
Our darling boy has pitched 13 starts and 92 1/3 innings as of this writing, for a strikeouts per start average of 8.7, strikeouts per inning average of 1.2, and strikeouts per nine innings average of 11.1. Zounds!
But strikeouts aren't everything, and without delving into the vast array of numbers available for consideration, I think we can all agree that Johan's been pitching has, in general, been noticeably better lately. He had a rough April, and early May wasn't kind, either. But last night's 10-0 complete game shutout seemed like the natural product of a talent that's been blossoming with the coming of summer.
Much has been made in the media lately of how Johan is pitching better now that the weather is warmer. They say, he's from Venezuela! He's not used to the cold! He can't perform at his peak when he's chilly!
This does not explain his 4.25 ERA at the always-70 Metrodome. Nor does it explain his 2.52 road ERA, which of necessity includes every one of those chilly starts he had to endure early in the season.
I mention this as food for thought. I intend to offer no explanation, for I do not have one. But I cannot believe the Johan-was-cold myth.
Johan was, and remains, hot.
Lew Ford leads both the American League and the MLB in hit-by-pitch. He has been plunked 10 times in only 220 plate appearances. (The National League leader, Brady Clark, has been beaned 9 times in 278 plate appearances.)
One isn't sure if one should send congratulations, or ibuprofen.
Wednesday, June 08, 2005
You'd think that scoring eight runs would win you a ballgame.
Usually, you'd be right.
But usually, Juan "Quick Inning" Rincón doesn't give up a game-tying three-run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning, either. (Don't you ever do that again, Juan!)
It was a roller-coaster of a game, with Brad Radke giving up four runs in the first inning, three before the second out was recorded. Torii Hunter put the Twins on the board in the fourth with a solo homer. They eked out another run in the fifth on a walk-single-sac bunt-sac fly sequence. The DBacks answered with a Luis Gonzalez solo homer in the bottom of the inning.
[Side note: does anyone else still carry a warm, fuzzy spot in their hearts for Gonzo because of the last game of the 2001 World Series? I sure do.]
In the top of the sixth, Hunter doubled to open the inning, then Jones moved him to third on a groundout. Matthew LeCroy got the second out of the inning on a sac fly, and though Hunter scored the bases were empty and it looked like that was pretty much all for the sixth. But Cuddyer worked a walk on a full count, then Castro singled. Glenn Williams made his major-league debut, pinch hitting for Brad Radke, and dropped a single into shallow right to load the bases. It still looked like a weak chance, given the Twins' bases-loaded woes this season, but the DBacks kindly brought out a reliever who might be of more use to the team in batting practice than actual games, and the game knotted at five apiece with a two-run single off the bat of Shannon Stewart. A balk advancing Williams and Stewart into scoring position went for naught as the half-inning finally ended on a failed bunt attempt.
The Twins held the DBacks off in the bottom of the inning, and came back to the plate in the seventh with bats still ablaze, scoring three more runs on a one-out solo homer by Hunter (making this his first multi-homer game of the season), and a two-out Morneau walk followed by a Cuddyer homer to put the Twins up 8-5. And there's your ballgame, right? Wrong.
Alas, poor Juan. The bottom of the eighth didn't go well at all. He opened with a walk to Troy Glaus, then got a strikeout, followed by a single, followed by a strikeout. Two out, two on. I wasn't even worried...until he hung that slider. Tony Clark hit that ball to Tucson, and we had ourselves a tie game again.
On to the ninth, then, sometime after 11 o'clock Central, visions of extra innings dancing in our weary heads. Hero du jour Hunter reached with a one-out single, then launched an ill-advised basestealing attempt. But the pitcher threw wide of the base and the shortstop, who acquired the ball, thought Hunter was heading for third and turned that way just as Hunter dived past him to return to second. Safe. Whew!
Jones singled to right and Hunter challenged the excellent arm of Arizona right fielder Shawn Green, beating the tag at home by a hairsbreadth. That would be all the scoring for the Twins, and we handed the one-run lead over to closer Joe Nathan, who has been awfully shaky lately.
Nathan, happily, remembered that he is, in fact, the Nathanator, and allowed only a measly single in the process of securing the win for Minnesota. Twins fans everywhere went to bed only a little late, happy in the knowledge of victory.
Have you ever noticed that, no matter how violent the storm, you will only lose power if you went grocery shopping the day before? It's true!
Monday, June 06, 2005
There's nothing like beaning the other team's marquee player to get them riled up, as New York's Kevin Brown learned yesterday while nursing a two-run lead in the sixth inning. He hit Torii Hunter in the elbow with one out and no runners on, the two exchanged some heated words as Torii made his way to first. Manager Ron Gardenhire could be seen in the Twins dugout, telling his boys to sit down and calm down, when some of them seemed ready to rush the field. They sat, but they didn't calm down.
Jones got his revenge with a single to right.
LeCroy showed his contempt for such low tactics by smacking an RBI double to right. (You heard me--LeCroy got a double. The fact that the only ML player slower than LeCroy is Yankees right fielder Gary Sheffield certainly helped.)
Cuddyer sneered as Brown intentionally walked him to load the bases.
Brown doesn't take being sneered at well, so he plunked catcher Mike Redmond to bring the tying run home and re-load the bases.
Young Luis Rodriguez stepped up to the plate, and you could actually read the thoughts going through Brown's head. "Ah-ha, a rookie," he gloated to himself. "And a replacement player, too. I'll get a double play out of him, and leave with a tie."
So L-Rod, who doesn't like being thought of as an easy two outs, fouled off about a half-dozen pitches just to make Brown squirm, then lined an RBI single to right. Brown squirmed his way right on into the visitor's dugout, and the inscrutable Tanyon Sturtze took the hill for the Empire, facing recent call-up Michael Ryan.
Ryan did the last thing anyone (including Ron Gardenhire) expected. He bunted up the third base line. He took off for first, Cuddyer took off for home, Sturtze scrambled for the ball, and Cuddyer slid in just as the ball was arriving at the plate, knocking it away from catcher Jorge Posada.
Recent call-up Brent Abernathy (for the record, only four of the nine the Twins put on the field to open the game are regular starters) hit a sac fly, and the Twins were up by three.
The Bankees made it close again in the top of the eigth, scoring one to make it 5-3 Twins. In the bottom of the inning, our boys responded with four more runs, because that was marginally more polite than blowing raspberries at the other dugout, which is what they really wanted to do.
Lew Ford was brushed by a pitch in the midst of the scoring frenzy, making New York the winner of the beanball war by a score of 3-0, though I don't suppose that will comfort Emperor Steinbrenner much.
Poor George. He spends all that money on aging All-Stars, and he gets...aging All-Stars. Gee. Who knew?
Sunday, June 05, 2005
Losing to a team that just got swept by the Landed Gentry sucks.
Losing because Gardy continues to be dumb enough to bring JC Romero in with runners on (bases loaded, actually) really sucks.
Losing because your team, which is founded on pitching and defense, fumbled the ball like the Vikings in a playoff game sucks horribly.
Watching the Twins beat themselves sucks most of all.
Saturday, June 04, 2005
I know some people who aren't much into baseball. And they marvel at the change in me when the Yankees play my Twins. What's the big deal, they wonder. Isn't it just another series? And why are you so angry when the Yankees win? Shouldn't they win, when they pay so much for the privilege?
No. No, they shouldn't. Not so often, not so utterly. And that's why it makes me so angry.
But sometimes, my friends, sometimes...
Sometimes the baseball gods yawn and stretch and realize that things have gone horribly awry whilst they napped, and go about setting things right. They see aging, overpaid, defensively inept clubs and declare that there shall be wins for them in direct proportion to their drive and heart and hustle. And suddenly evil empires are getting swept by the Royals.
And then with the Twins are down by two early all you can do is scream "LEWWWWWWWW!" when Ford legs a double into a triple while Gary Sheffield hobbles after the ball on his walker, and again when Lew scores on a Hunter single. Then you must pause to rain curses upon the heads of inept third basemen as they kill the rally by hitting into their second double play in as many at-bats. But soon you're happy again, for in the very next inning Stewart hits a double and Brent Abernathy walks and it's "LEWWWWWWWW!" for the three-run homer deep into the left-field stands and at that point it's all over except the crying in the visitor's dugout.
Joe Mauer? Groin pull, benched.
Justin Morneau? Hyperextended left elbow, benched.
Nick Punto? Pulled hamstring, disabled list.
Substitutes at first, second and catcher, with the Yankees in town? Win.
Sometimes there's justice in baseball. Sometimes the best team wins. And sometimes the best payroll gets exactly what it deserves.
Friday, June 03, 2005
Any of the following could, or rather should, have been the title of today's post:
Worthy stories all. I would have loved to write any of those posts. Why, I had a laundry list of wisecracks about tiny infielders hitting homers, already prepared! But instead, alas alack and aday, I am forced to write:
Le sigh. Le moan. Le swear.
Cleanup hitter (and the Twins' only legitimate power threat) Justin Morneau hyperextended his left elbow during batting practice, but like a dipshit decided to play through it. He accomplished nothing but a further lowering of his batting average in two at-bats before discomfort drove him from the game in the fourth. He is listed as day-to-day.
In the seventh, second baseman Nick Punto (oh my, a second baseman who can hit over .250!) pulled a hamstring attempting to steal second base. He was placed on the 15-day disabled list after the game and is currently expected to miss 3-4 weeks. Terry Tiffee, who spent a whole two days in AAA, is on his way back to Minnesota to fill the roster spot. Who will be playing at second base for the next month, with Luis Rivas also on the DL, is anyone's guess.
And finally, in the tenth, the Twins' only .300+ hitter (do we have a hitting coach?), phenom backstop Joe Mauer, re-aggravated the groin pull that kept him out of the lineup most of last week. He is also listed as day-to-day.
All this, the day before the Evil Empire comes to town. Oh, and I should mention that the two pitchers the Twins will not be sending to the mound in the series are Radke and Santana. Can you see me containing my joy? It's difficult.
Of course, the Bankees just got swept by the Kansas City
Oh, wait...it's the Yankees. That's not sad, that's funny!
Wednesday, June 01, 2005
We can beat CC Sabathia. We've done it before. He's a very good pitcher, but sometimes he has an "off" day. We can beat him when he's "on", too. We've done it before. Why we didn't do it last night is a mystery for the ages.
How do you beat CC Sabathia when he's got his best stuff?
Fire up his legendary temper, that's how. Piss Sabathia off and he ceases to be a pitcher and becomes a big man throwing a ball, nothing more. Sure, he'll plunk a guy or two on his way out of the game, but with how antsy the umpires are in these Minnesota/Cleveland series, one should be enough to get him ejected. And even if he can restrain what has often appeared to be an irresistable urge to bean batters when he's feeling grumpy, his lack of finesse and control when riled will result in enough runs to see him leave the game early.
How do you piss CC Sabathia off?
Make him field his position. Make him run, make him hurry, make him move. Infield hits, boys and girls. Bunts, taps, squibs. The occasional bat "accidentally" slipping free of the batter's grip and whizzing in the mound's general direction doesn't hurt, either. Put some body armor on your best players and don't let much leave the infield until CC is good and furious.
This man has an Achilles' heel larger than his inflated head. Why the Twins don't use it anymore (they used to!) baffles me.