September 26, 2008

Young Twins gainin' a little more R-E-S-P-E-C-T

"That was the most intense series I've ever been a part of.'' - Manager Ron Gardenhire
The Twins played last night like they had everything to lose, and for such a young team to bounce back and have that kind of win is something pretty special. Since the Twins traded Johan Santana last winter, the Twins have been considered underdogs, even more so than in previous seasons, they just never have gained enough respect to be taken seriously. With young, unproven bats and a young rotation, the Twins are defying all odds and making a push for the playoffs this season. With just a 3 game series against the Kansas City Royals remaining, the Twins moved into a 1/2 game lead over Chicago after they completed a 3-game sweep over the White Sox.

After quickly jumping out to a 1-0 lead in the 1st inning, Kevin Slowey (as well as poor defense) gave up 6 runs in the 4th inning to pretty much crush every thought and dream of a sweep and potentially a playoff birth. However the Twins lead by the "piranhas" showed yet again that they still have plenty of teeth and brought the Twins back in the game, eventually winning it in the 10th inning.

First, we'll break down the 4th inning blowup.
  • Slowey struck out Dewayne Wise on 3 pitches.
  • Slowey hung a 76 MPH curveball over the plate to Orlando Cabrera who connected for a solo home run.
  • Slowey threw a fastball away (clearly out of the strike zone) but Jermaine Dye reached his bat out and hit a single to center.
  • Slowey got Jim Thome to start the AB on 2 straight fastballs called for strikes. He then threw a high fastball in which Thome connected on a fly ball to right center field. While attempting to make the catch, Denard Span and Carlos Gomez collided which resulted in a Thome double.
  • With Dye on third and Thome on second, Paul Konerko hit a grounder to Nick Punto who got the out at first.
  • Slowey walked Ken Griffey Jr. on 4 straight pitches.
  • Slowey then got Alexei Ramirez to hit a soft grounder to Brian Buscher at third base who couldn't make the exchange from his glove to his hand which resulted in Jim Thome scoring and moving Griffey Jr. over to second.
  • Slowey hit A.J. Pierzynski with an 89 MPH fastball, loading up the bases.
  • With the bases loaded Juan Uribe hit a 90 MPH fastball right back at Slowey which hit his wrist. Slowey then grabbed the ball and made a wild throw to 1st base which was out of the reach of Justin Morneau and allowed three more White Sox players to score.
  • Matt Guerrier replaces the injured Slowey and strikes out Wise, his second whiff of the inning.

That half of the inning was terrible and really took a lot out of the Twins.

Or so we thought...

Gomez and Span were clearly upset with the way they allowed Thome to hit adouble off of their misplay, but did not allow it to follow them at the plate. After a Buscher walk( in the bottom of the same) inning, Gomez hit a triple to left center field, scoring Buscher all the way from 1st base. The next batter was Span who hit a bloop double down the left field line which scored Gomez. After the inning was over, the Twins brought a 6-1 defecit within 3 runs.

After another Gomez triple in the 6th, Span bunted him in to bring the Twins within 2.

Then in the 8th inning, the magic really happened. Brendan Harris pinched hit for Buscher and it paid off. Harris hit a double to left field. Nick Punto moved him over on a ground ball out, which lead the way for an RBI single to right field by Gomez. Then Span came to the plate. After falling behind 0-2, Span ripped a 95 mph fastball by Sox closer Bobby Jenks down the right field line (right by first baseman Paul Konerko), resulting in a triple, which drove Gomez in from first base.

This tied the game and we later went into extra innings. After 2 shutout innings of perfect relief by Joe Nathan, the Twins had a lot of momentum heading in the bottom of the 10th inning.

With two outs and Punto on 3rd base, Span was intentionally walked to bring up the 1 for 5 Alexi Casilla. Casilla connected on 91 mph Jenks fastball and ripped it over 2nd base in center field.

The team swarmed the field as if they just won the ALCS and were on their way to the World Series. It reminded me a lot of when the team clinched the division on the last day of the 2006 season to make the playoffs.

One other thing I want to be sure I mention is that this bullpen has done an outstanding job. The White Sox are no slouches with the bat, and yet the bullpen combined for 12 1/3 innings of work and only gave up two runs which came off of a Ken Griffey Jr. home run on Tuesday. The bullpen had to work 6 1/3 innings alone last night and they combined to pitch great. Both Guerrier and Jesse Crain ran into problems both allowing two base runners apiece. But Dennys Reyes picked up Guerrier while Crain worked out his own jam. All in all, a great performance not only last night but throughout this entire series by the Twins bullpen.

It was truly a remarkable game by such a young, inexperienced team. Up to this point, the overwhelming majority of mainstream media has had the White Sox winning the division, saying that the Twins are just too young and inexperienced to be able to do anything substantial. This should show the baseball world that this team is legitimate and they will undoubtedly gain more respect.

I want to stress that the season is hardly over. The Royals swept the Detroit Tigers back in 2006 which paved the way for the Twins to win the division on the last day of the season. The Royals as well as the White Sox next opponent, the Indians are both very hot teams right now and although neither have played well up until recently this season, neither team should be taken lightly. "It ain't over 'til the fat lady sings," and that's the way the Twins have been playing baseball and the way they need to continue playing it.

Game Ball
Carlos Gomez - Center Field

4-5, 3 runs, double, 2 triples, 2 RBI