September 25, 2008

Out of teeth, eh?

"Those little piranhas are out of teeth now." White Sox Manager Ozzie Guillen last week.
The Twins and the "piranhas" are now just a half-game behind Guillen and the Chicago White Sox as we head into game 3 with the White Sox tonight. Last night wasn't as pretty as Tuesday's win, however a win is a win and the Twins will take it any way they can.

Joe Mauer drove in two runs on two fielder's choices. He put the Twins up in the first and drove in what happened to be the game-winning run in the bottom of the second inning. The Pirhana's started biting early in the first. Denard Span took a 1-2 count and drew a walk on 3 straight balls, all which were very good takes. Then Alexi Casilla hit a single to right field which advanced Span to third base. Then Mauer grounded out to second base which scored Span for the first run of the game.

Then in the second inning, Brendan Harris lead-off the inning with a single. He was later called out on a force out to second, but Nick Punto got to first base before the relay throw. Then Carlos Gomez hit a bunt single up the first base line, advancing Punto to second. Span came up with runners on first and second and hit an RBI single to center field which scored Punto all the way from second base and advanced Gomez to second. After a 4-pitch walk to Casilla, Mauer came up and grounded out to his second fielder's choice to second base in as many innings. The play scored Gomez from third base, however giving the Twins a 3-1 lead. The Final score was 3-2.

How's that for no teeth, Ozzie?

A scary moment in the 4th inning, Brendan Harris was chasing a foul ball to the railing in foul territory next to 3rd base when a fan nearly snatched the ball over Harris' glove which could have been very costly for the Twins. The thoughts of Steve Bartman ran through many people's heads, which would have been both devestating for this team as well as that fan.
“If he had touched it, I would have knocked his beer over,” Harris said. “And he had a full one too, I saw. But it kind of sliced back, so it came back in play. I saw an arm come out then, I guess, some alligator arms."
Thanks goodness it didn't happen, although Harris knocking over a fan's beer would have been pretty entertaining. After the play he flipped the ball to the guy sitting directly next to him.

Also a "what the?" moment came in the same inning, actually just 4 batters earlier. Ken Griffey Jr. connected on a slider that got left out over the plate for his 611th home run of his career. Although the telecast never showed it (at least to my knowledge) by the cheers of the fans, it seemed as if the fan who caught it in the upper deck of right field threw the ball back onto the field. Although he probably would have been booed for not doing it, I don't think any person with any knowledge of the game would have blamed him for keeping it. Griffey is a first-ballot Hall of Famer and is considered by some the best player to ever play the game. I just don't understand it. If I had caught it, and I'm sure I'm not alone on this, but I'd clench that ball so tightly that my fingers probably would have turned purple. It's just one of those instances that I go "what the (bleep) was he thinking?"

Starter Nick Blackburn did not have a great start, although he didn't receive any help from home plate umpire Alfonso Marquez. Blackburn found himself in trouble a few times last night, partially in thanks to Marquez's inconstant strike zone. In the second inning, he threw a perfect (should be) strike-three pitch to Jim Thome which was called a ball, Thome then hit a double and later came around to score to tie the game at one all in the second inning. All-in-all, Blackburn pieced together a nice game, and did what he had to do to preserve the lead before handing it over to the bullpen.

The Twins bullpen has been far from dazzling this season, but last night they shined combining for 4 shutout innings while allowing just one hit and a walk to preserve a Twins victory. All the talk (at least in relevance to the bullpen) right now is centered around the emergence of 23-year-old rookie Jose Mijares. After suffering a potential career-ending elbow injury after a car crash last winter, missing most of this season, Mijares came into the 8th inning to set down Jim Thome, Paul Konerko, and Ken Griffey Jr., all three are potent bats in the White Sox lineup. To already be labeled as a setup man with just 6 innings of work in the majors probably means that the rest of your bullpen stinks, which isn't far from the truth. However the move to bring in Mijares in the 8th inning vs. 3 of the best bats on the White Sox was a huge confidence builder and really showed the Twins that he could very well be the best option out of the bullpen, other than Joe Nathan. That could be a big positive as the Twins have two left-handed relievers set to hit free agency this winter, Eddie Guardado and Dennys Reyes. With Craig Breslow under team control through 2013, and the emergence of Mijares could give Reyes & Guardado their tickets out the door.

As good as Mijares was, the best play came in the 9th inning. A.J. Pierzynski laced a 94 mph outer-half fastball into "no man's land" in left-center field where seemingly nobody could catch it. But the all-mighty Carlos Gomez came to the rescue and made a game-saving, and potential season-saving catch. He took a perfect route to the ball and made a running leap to hurl the ball in to make the 2nd out of the inning. I don't know if any other player in baseball could have caught that, it was truly remarkable.

The Twins will face Gavin Floyd which should give the Twins some problems. Now, in theory the Twins should be able to beat Floyd. He (overall) has not done great in his last 4 starts and has little experience in pitching in important games, however the same can be said about Kevin Slowey. Floyd has given the Twins trouble this season, going 3-1 with a 1.89 ERA in 4 starts. However hopefully his 1-2 record and 5.20 ERA in his last 4 starts will carry over into tonight's start. Kevin Slowey also has little experience (at least in the major league level) in pitching in big games, but he's been said to have a great head on his shoulders and I hope that he can prove that although it's an important game, he doesn't get too shaken up if anything bad happens. It doesn't get that much more intense during the regular season, so the pressure is on for both of these two young pitchers.

Game Ball
Carlos Gomez - Center Field

1-4, bunt single, amazing catch