September 30, 2008

Twins will have to earn it in Chicago

“Tomorrow, 162 games mean nothing. It’s only about one game and that’s great. A good feeling.” - White Sox Manager Ozzie Guillen
The Tigers failed to knock the White Sox out of playoff contention last night, so the Twins will have to travel to Chicago to face the White Sox tonight. The winner of tonight's sudden death game will be heading to Tampa Bay to face the Rays on Thursday in game one of the ALDS. Last night, the White Sox came from behind 2-1 to beat the Tigers 8-2 off of Alexei Ramirez's game-winning grand slam in the 6th inning. Tigers reliever Gary Glover came in to relief with the bases loaded only to throw an absolute meatball to Ramirez who drove it to deep left field and Ramirez knew it was gone the moment it left the bat. Ramirez also known as the "Cuban Missile" now has 4 grand slams this season, in just his first year in the league.
“I told Ozzie to have confidence in me. I’m going to go out and get these runners home somehow,” he said.
Just how good of a pitch was it? Well a belt-high 89 MPH changeup over the middle of the plate is a pitch that I have confidence that Nick Punto could hit over the fence in the same situation.

Like I said, a meatball!

Besides Freddy Garcia, none of the Tigers really played with much intensity and looked to really have no care whether or not they lose the game. Armando Galarraga came in and threw 4 pitches and only one of them crossed the plate as a strike. He threw 2 wild pitches before being yanked. All in all the Tigers threw 4 wild pitches throughout the game, which in part had to do with Dusty Ryan's terrible defense behind the plate, but also due to the fact that the relievers were just really, really off.

The batters looked lethargic throughout the game, taking terrible whacks at balls in the dirt and not running to the bases as fast or eloquently as they should, in particular Miguel Cabrera doing his best impression of Manny Ramirez by jogging to second base on his double in the 6th inning.

The Twins could have avoided this situation entirely over the weekend winning just one more game against the Royals, however it didn't work out that way and the team is going to have to step up tomorrow because the White Sox certainly have played well in the last two games.

Southpaw John Danks will take the mound for the White Sox while Nick Blackburn will make the start for the Twins. This is easily the biggest game in either of their young careers, so it will be interesting to see how both of the players handle the pressure. Blackburn pieced together a good start last Wednesday against the White Sox, going 5 innings and giving up just 2 runs for the win. Danks on the other hand struggled mightily in his last start against the Indians on Friday lasting just 4 innings while giving up 7 runs for the loss.

In both of their careers, neither pitcher has fared very well against either team. Danks is 2-3 with a 6.88 ERA in 7 starts against the Twins. Blackburn isn't much better, sporting a 2-2 record in 5 starts (6 games) with a 5.28 ERA.

It should be a very interesting game with a lot on the line. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 CT on TBS.
  • Make sure to check out Seth Stohs latest podcast. Last night he had ex-Twins and current Rays reliever Grant Balfour on as well as myself. Let me just say that I ungracefully made myself sound like I was in fact hyped-up on NyQuil, which may be true, but not what I wanted listeners to hear. Still, make sure to check out the interview with Balfour as he talks about the Rays and the upcoming series against either the Twins or White Sox. Seth continues to do an acceptable job with these podcast's so make sure to tune in.
So that's it. Go big or go home tonight. Winner moves on to the playoffs, the losers go home with after a tough season. Make sure to tune in!

September 29, 2008

Playing the wait game

"Monday is going to be the first time we are all going to be big Detroit Tigers fans. We're all going to root for them." - Twins pitcher Joe Nathan
The Twins could have won the division by winning just two games against the 4th place Royals, however the cards did not fall in the Twins favor as they lost both Friday & Saturday. Luckily, the Chicago White Sox also lost both Friday & Saturday, giving the Twins a lot of relief as they came to the Metrodome on Sunday. Both the Twins and White Sox won in do-or-die games, meaning that the White Sox will have to host the Detroit Tigers today to play game #162 which was rained out earlier this month.

The White Sox will send out Gavin Floyd to the mound, who has struggled in both his last two games, giving up a combined 9 runs in 12 innings. He will be matched up against Freddy Garcia who is making just his 3rd start since June 7th of last year. He got hit hard for 5 runs in his last start, he has a lot to play for in this game which makes it a little more interesting. Garcia was traded by the White Sox to the Phillies in December of 2006 for (ironically enough) Floyd and prized prospect Gio Gonzalez. Garcia was unhappy with the trade and felt betrayed. He is good friends with White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, and is ultimately auditioning on a national stage for a contract next season. His future won't necessarily hinder on his performance tomorrow, but being that it's a big game, it definitely will help him. The Tigers have nothing to play for, however I cannot see Jim Leyland allowing any of his players to lay down for any opponent, especially one that could hinder a teams fate. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire agrees:
"I think Jimmy Leyland will want to win that game as much as anybody," Gardenhire said of the Tigers skipper. "No one wants to lay down, they'd love to be a spoiler. If you are making a team stay an extra day to play a game, I would imagine they ought to be irritated enough to take a whack at it."
The game will be at 1:05 CT today, and it will be aired both on ESPN2 and WGN.

If the White Sox win, they will face the Twins on Tuesday in the infamous "coin-flip" match which will be held at U.S. Cellular field in Chicago. If the game is necessary, the Twins will start Nick Blackburn who held the White Sox to 2 runs over 5 innings in his last start. John Danks will get the start for the White Sox, on 3 days rest, despite giving up 7 runs in 4 innings to the Indians on Friday.

It sure will be interesting if it comes down to that game, but I surely hope it doesn't have to. As much as I like seeing intense baseball, I would just like to see the Twins get the extra day off and start preparing for the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday.

For recaps of this weekends series, make sure to visit Seth Speaks. He has recaps for Friday, Saturday, as well as Sunday. It was definitely an interesting series, but all I have to say is "thank you Indians!"

Game Ball (9/26)
Joe Mauer - Catcher


Game Ball (9/27)
Alexi Casilla - Second Base

1-3, 2 walks, stolen base

Game Ball (9/28)
Scott Baker - Starting Pitcher

7 innings pitched, 4 hits, 0 runs, 1 walk, 9 K, win

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

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

September 24, 2008

One down, two to go

The Twins played extremely strong last night to take game one of the series against the White Sox. Chicago was hit for 9 runs on 12 hits while Twins starter Scott Baker gave up just 1 run over 7 innings to pick up his 10th win of the season. Baker shined as the Metrodome roared in a playoff-like atmosphere as the Twins got ahead early and never looked back.

After being down 2-1 in the 2nd inning, Jason Kubel put the Twins up for good with a 2-run home run, his first (of two) on the night. Kubel went 3-5 in the game with a triple, 3 runs, and 3 RBI to go along with his two home runs. Delmon Young also had 3 hits in the game, and was just a triple away from the cycle. He drove in 2 of the 9 runs for the Twins. As good as they were, their home runs were not the key plays in the game.

Instead, those rights go to Carlos Gomez and Nick Punto who were both 2-4 with an RBI apiece. With a 2-run lead in the 4th inning, Delmon Young was on third base and Punto layed down a perfect bunt, putting on the suicide squeeze to not only drive Young in from 3rd base, but also reach base as well. After a stolen base, Carlos Gomez worked Javier Vazquez to a full count and ended up dropping his bat to pick up a 12-6 curveball to hit a bloop single into left field, scoring Punto in from 2nd base. Those to me, were what pumped this team up the most and what really gave the Twins the confidence that they needed.

Baker's pitching was outstanding. He really stepped up and showed just why he's the ace of this pitching staff. He did exactly what a good veteran pitcher should do late in September, and that is throw at least 7 innings to give his bullpen a break. Jesse Crain & Matt Guerrier both threw an inning apiece, and it could really help if the Twins need to use the bullpen earlier in any of the rest of the games.

Baker threw 102 pitches, 73 for strikes (72%) and allowed just 5 hits, 1 run, 1 walk to go along with 4 strikeouts. He lowered his ERA to 3.59 and became the 5th Twins starter this season to reach the double-digit win column.

Nick Blackburn (10-10, 4.15) will face Mark Buehrle (14-11, 3.87) tonight in game two of the series. Buehrle is 3-0 with a 2.13 ERA in his last 4 starts while Blackburn is 0-2 with 20.20 ERA in his last two starts, managing to throw just 5 1/3 innings between the two. It's definitely going to be a tough start for Blackburn, but I have confidence that he has the mentality to buckle down and pitch much better than he has in those last two starts.

It should be exciting, make sure to watch another high-intensity game. I just wish I could be in the Metrodome during this series, it must be insane!

Game Ball
Scott Baker - Starting Pitcher

7 innings pitched, 5 hits, 1 run, 1 walk, 4 K, win

September 23, 2008

Do or Die

The Twins split the 4 game series with the Tampa Bay Rays. The Twins played well, however the real negative is that Francisco Liriano is the only starter that lasted past 4 1/3 innings, and along with Kevin Slowey was the only starter to last past 1 1/3 innings. The starters have really hit a wall in September and they are really struggling. They really need to get their act together this last week of the season, if the Twins want to reach the post season.

The White Sox come to town tonight for the most important series of the season. The Twins sit 2 1/2 games behind Chicago with just 6 games remaining for both teams. After they face one another, the Twins will face the Royals while the White Sox will head back to Chicago to face the Indians.

It all comes down to this. Here are the matchups:
Tuesday: RHP Javier Vazquez (12-14, 4.32) vs. RHP Scott Baker (9-4, 3.69)
Wednesday: LHP Mark Buehrle (14-11, 3.87) vs. RHP Nick Blackburn (10-10, 4.15)
Thursday: RHP Gavin Floyd (16-8, 3.84) vs. RHP Kevin Slowey (12-11, 3.85)
The White Sox arranged their rotation in preparation for this series, while I'm sure the Twins wish that they could exchange Blackburn for Francisco Liriano. Nonetheless, both teams have good enough starters to sweep the series, which should make it very entertaining.

The Twins offense ranks 3rd in the AL with 801 runs scored, while the White Sox are 5th with 772 runs scored. However, the White Sox lead the league with 223 home runs while the Twins are second to last with only 108 longballs. The reason why this possess a problem is that Baker, Blackburn and Slowey have all been prone to giving up the longball this season, which could make it very easy for the White Sox offense to get quick runs. It's certainly something to keep an eye on. The Twins have walked a league-low 389 batters, but have given up the 3rd most hits in the majors with 1,508.

The key to this series is our starting pitching. Buehrle & Vazquez have a combined ERA of 5.51 in 5 starts this season. However, Floyd has beaten the Twins 3 times already this season (in 4 starts) with an ERA of 1.86 ERA. He has averaged going 7+ innings in each of his starts, which makes the Twins primary objective vs. him (and I suppose all of the starters) is to knock him up early and get to their bullpen. The White Sox bullpen has a team ERA of 3.89 which is just slightly better than the Twins bullpen ERA of 3.94. Both teams have been hit hard with an inconsistent bullpen this season, so the earlier the Twins can get to them, the better.

I am really looking forward to what the Twins can vs. the White Sox. But I will say that regardless of if the Twins make the playoffs, I believe that this season is already a success. Who would have thought last winter that the Twins would be contending for the playoffs with just a week left in the season? Not too many can say that they truly saw us doing that, especially with the off-season that we had.

September 22, 2008

Game Balls

Game Ball (9/11) vs. Royals
Francisco Liriano - Starting Pitcher
Line: 8 innings pitched, 6 hits, 2 runs, 0 walks, 6 K's

Game Ball (9/13) vs. Orioles (Game 1)
Denard Span - Right Field
Line: 2-5, 2 runs, 2 home runs, 4 RBI, walk

Game Ball (9/13) vs. Orioles (Game 2)
Brendan Harris - Third Base
Line: 2-4, 3 Runs, Home Run, 2 RBI, walk

Game Ball (9/14) vs. Orioles
Nick Punto - Shortstop
Line: 3-4, RBI

Game Ball (9/15) vs. Indians
Delmon Young - Left Field
Line: 3-3, Double

Game Ball (9/16) vs. Indians (11 innings)
Carlos Gomez - Center Field
Line: 2-6, run, Double, 3 RBI

Game Ball (9/17) vs. Indians
Justin Morneau - Designated Hitter
Line: 3-5, 2 RBI

Already posted Game Ball for 9/18

Game Ball (9/19) vs. Rays
Denard Span - Right Field
Line: 2-3, run, walk

Game Ball (9/20) vs. Rays
Joe Mauer - Catcher
Line: 2-5

Game Ball (9/21) vs. Rays
Francisco Liriano - Starting Pitcher
Line: 7 innings pitched, 5 hits, 1 run, 4 walks, 7 K's, win

September 19, 2008

That's what I'm talkin' about!

After 4 very disappointing loses in a row, the Twins managed to come back 8-6 in the 9th inning last night to beat the Rays 11-8. All of that even after they surrendered a 3-0 lead in the 1st inning to go down 5-3 while pulling starter Glen Perkins in place of Philip Humber. Humber went on to pitch the through the 6th inning giving up just 2 solo home runs to keep the Twins within reach of a win. He was very impressive, and really gave the Twins a chance to come back while pitching 5 1/3 innings. The Twins came back within 1 in the 7th inning, just to go down by another run to make it 8-6 heading into the 9th inning.

The 9th inning lead off with a 2-run shot by Alexi Casilla. After a Joe Mauer double and a Justin Morneau walk, Gardenhire made a surprising move by taking out Jason Kubel in place of Adam Everett who hit a game-winning double, scoring Mauer from 2nd. Delmon Young and Matt Tolbert added another run each and it was enough to give the Twins the win.

The game was very fun to watch. As many know, I've been a fan of the Rays for a few years and love watching their young team play. I was very impressed with Evan Longoria (I know, bold statement) who went 3-5 with 3 home runs and 4 RBI in the game. I was also impressed with David Price who threw to just 3 batters and after giving up a 2-run single to Mauer, he got Morneau & Kubel to strikeout to end the 7th inning. He definitely looks to be a future ace with great velocity, movement and command on his pitches.

The Rays team certainly looks bright. Longoria, Scott Kazmir, B.J. Upton, Matt Garza, Price, and a glut of great prospects, they certainly look to be establishing themselves as one of the best teams in the league for a long time.

But enough about the Rays, how 'bout them Twins? I still cannot believe that they came back in such dramatic fashion. All we can do is hope that they can continue to carry the momentum through the rest of the series and hopefully finish this road trip off strong. They are set to face the wild Edwin Encarnacion tonight. Nick Blackburn is set to start for the Twins, so hopefully he can last a lot longer than Perkins did last night and hopefully a few innings longer than he did against the Orioles.

Lets keep it going! And in case you didn't know, the White Sox lost last night which brought the Twins within 1.5 games of the division lead. GO TWINS!

Game Ball
Philip Humber - Reliever

5.1 innings pitched, 3 hits, 2 runs, 2 walks, 1 K

Seth Stohs believes believes Philip Humber should receive the game ball, and I have to agree with him! He came in and kept the team in the game while facing a very good offense. He definitely gave this team some momentum. Joe Mauer and Alexi Casilla were the other players I considered.

(I will have the game balls that I've missed up at some point over the weekend.)

September 18, 2008

No words

From Nick Nelson of Nick & Nick's Twins Blog:
As much as I'd love to go off on an angry rant about this team choking away the season by inventing new ways to lose on a nightly basis, I find myself speechless. Really, I'm more disheartened than angry as I watch these games slip away night after night.
That's basically all I can say. Nick basically put everything into perspective (from my eyes) with this. Do I expect the Twins to win every game? Absolutely not. However it's a complete kick in the _____(insert body part)_____ to watch the team have a realistic shot at winning and seemingly give up and lose games that they should win. It's just too hard to talk about right now. There's nothing constructive I can really say. The arms are tired, the bats seem alive, the defense is shaky... Basically, things that I and everyone else have been beating a dead horse with all year.

I just am at a loss of words with what to say. They need to win, that's it.
Hopefully I will be able to have something to say tomorrow. But today, I just have nothing worth while to mention. I am a very optimistic person, however I have to admit that it's starting to wear right now.

September 16, 2008

Optimistic? Really?

The Twins had a great opportunity last night to move within a half-game of the White Sox. Facing Scott Lewis of the Indians, the Twins managed to score zero runs on just 3 hits against the crafty rookie left-hander. In just his second Major League start, Lewis blanked the Twins in 6 innings of work to make the Twins drop their second game in a row.

Luckily, the White Sox didn't have much luck of their own. They faced Alfredo Aceves (also a rookie) and got just 2 runs through 6 innings off of him and later lost the game in the 7th inning after a Wilson Betemit ground-rule double. The loss kept the Twins within 1.5 games behind the White Sox for the Division lead.

The Twins are set to face Zach Jackson on Tuesday followed by Cliff Lee who is the Cy Young front-runner for the AL before facing four very tough pitchers in Tampa Bay. The Rays are scheduled to start James Shields in game one against Glen Perkins, which may be a great matchup without looking strickly at just the pitchers own performance. Despite being a far better pitcher than Perkins, the Rays as a team are one of the worst in all of baseball versus left-handed pitchers, which may make game one a favorable matchup for the Twins. However, Shields is a very talented pitcher and definitely will make the Twins sweat despite being 1-1 with a 5.94 ERA in 3 career starts against the Twins. In game two, the Twins will face Edwin Jackson who is 0-2 with an 18.90 ERA in 5 games (2 starts vs. the Twins) while the Twins send out Nick Blackburn who has never faced the Rays however if he pitches like he did vs. the Orioles the game will be over quickly. In game three, Scott Kazmir will face Kevin Slowey which should be a very interesting matchup with two very young and talented pitchers. And finally, Francisco Liriano will face Andy Sonnanstine who is 3-1 with a 3.99 ERA in his last 8 starts.

Besides the game against Cliff Lee, which I fully expect to see him no-hit the Twins (I wish I was joking), but I can definitely see us win any of those other 5 games that I mentioned. Sure you can only put so much into numbers, since it's clear that Edwin Jackson is a much better pitcher than he was the last time he faced us, and both James Shields and Scott Kazmir are two of the better pitchers in the American League, however I do feel optimistic for the remainder of this road trip and don't ask me how I am. The Twins took 2 of 3 against the Orioles, however again were beaten up by the very hittable Radhames Liz while Nick Blackburn was crushed by the subpar Orioles. That along with the fact that our bullpen and defense are still very shaky, I cannot believe that I actually have any optimism whatsoever right now.

But for whatever reason, I still see the Twins being able to pull off a big feat and win at least the majority of their remaining games which might be enough to keep the Twins within a game or two of the division lead, if they don't take the lead. The White Sox have 9 games remaining on their current road trip including 3 more agains the Yankees and 3 against the Twins next week. They face the Royals in between which could be a huge series for the Twins. The Royals aren't playing for anything right now, but for whatever reason those teams generally are what decide a tight divisional race. They aren't taken seriously and I just hope that the White Sox go in with that mindset before they face the Twins later that week. On the other hand, I just hope the Twins don't allow the Royals to come in the last series of the year and let them walk all over us because the Twins didn't take them seriously.

Other links:
  • The Twins new ballpark now has a name. "Target Field" will open in time for the 2010 season, and is going to be the new home for Twins baseball. I'm not a real fan of the name yet, however it could've been much worse. I (like Aaron Gleeman) am more of a fan of "park" instead of "field" but that's neither here or there. It's kind of boring, however I'm just glad it's not named after "Land O'Lakes" so we don't have to see Joe Mauer in any more hideous commericials.
  • Make sure to try and listen to Seth Stohs (of Seth Speaks) weekly podcast tonight. I am in class until about 8 (which is the time it's starting) but will definitely tune in as soon as I get home to try and listen to him talk about some of the current issues related to Twins baseball. And while you're there, make sure to check out some of his past podcasts which feature great discussions with members from some of our minor league affiliates, Pat Neshek, and much more. Be sure to check it out, it's definitely worth it!
  • Aaron Gleeman looks at Denard Span's defense as well a theory that a reader wanted him to test out.

September 15, 2008

Be Back on Tuesday

Sorry, had a pretty busy Sunday so I will be back on Tuesday with an update. Make sure to check out Seth Speaks for a weekend recap. Have a great day!

September 11, 2008

Who da thunk it?

Back in March, if someone mentioned 80 wins and the Twins in the same sentence you probably would've been laughed at. Although I predicted them to place 3rd in the division, many had them 4th if not 5th. That would mean somewhere around 60 wins. But last night, the Twins won their 80th game of the season by beating the Royals 7-1.

In doing so, the Twins stayed within a game of the White Sox who face the Blue Jays for a 4th time on Thursday. The Twins will in turn face the Royals in hope to sweep their first opponent since the Mariners in mid-August.

This team certainly has exceeded everyone's expectations, even their own, I'm sure. After the losses of Torii Hunter, Carlos Silva and Johan Santana in the off-season and Pat Neshek in the beginning of the season, it seemed as if the Twins were destined to finish in the middle or the back of the pack in the AL Central. And I think that anytime you take away a clubhouse leader like Hunter or a Cy Young caliber pitcher like Santana, that is expected.

Carlos Gomez couldn't keep up his early production, however I don't see this season as a disappointment. He was certainly rushed through the Mets system and at just 22-years-old he put up o.k. numbers for a player with such raw talent. I have to say the only thing that has disappointed me about Gomez at all is his lack of base stealing. He got off to such a great start, leading the league for a while and then just pretty much quite, cold turky. He even promised more steals after the second half, and that in fact hasn't happened. There are still a few weeks left, however I don't see him getting to where he (or anyone else) expected him to be.

in left, I wanted to touch a little on him because he was one of the biggest question marks entering this season. I think the Twins would've liked to see him start the season in Triple-A, however they didn't know what they had in Denard Span. Span's minor league track record wasn't spectacular and after he went back to Rochester, he had a mission and I think he proved to the Twins that he is certainly capable of starting in the major leagues. I bring this up because the Twins have quite a few outfielders right now that are all vying for playing time. Delmon YoungMichael Cuddyer (will be) in right, Jason Kubel likely at designated hitter, Jason Pridie who can backup any of those positions along with Span and Gomez.

Is it ever too soon to begin thinking about the next season? Perhaps, however I think always thinking about the next step is always on the mind of a General Manager. Bill Smith knows that he has to find a way to find all of these players playing time, which could pose a problem. This is how I would handle the situation (and take this with a grain of salt being as we're not even finished with the 2008 season, it's just a little something to chew on):
Left Field: Delmon Young
Center Field: Denard Span
Right Field: Michael Cuddyer
Designated Hitter: Jason Kubel
Bench: Jason Pridie

AAA Center Field: Carlos Gomez
Sure this may not be ideal, however now that the Twins know what they have in Span, they surely could make this a viable option.

Of course, looking ahead to the 2009 season also makes you think about shortstop, thirdbase and the bullpen. With the surplus of starting pitchers the Twins have in the major and minor leagues as well as the one-too-many outfielders, the Twins could certainly package one or two players from their surplus to fill one of their other voids. Shortstop, Thirdbase and Relievers should be high on the Twins priorty list and they really have no reason not to fill those positions. They certainly are the positions that are holding us back right now (maybe not thirdbase so much), but if we can fill those positions there is no reason for the Twins not to be right back at the top of the AL Central.

Just think, back in March many wouldn't think the Twins could even make the playoffs this year. And I think that at this point it'd be a huge disappointment not to make the playoffs. But still, I'm already looking at what can make us even better in 2009.

That's baseball for ya... always unpredictable which is really the reason why I think many of us like it.

(Forgive me for my ramblings, I am all over the place right now and I just can't help but already gear myself up for the always disappointing rumors that will come this off-season).

Game Ball (9/10)
Kevin Slowey - Starting Pitcher
Line: 7 innings, 4 hits, 1 run, 1 walk, 2 K, win
Twins beat the Royals, 7-1.

September 10, 2008

There We Go!

That's what I'm talking about. The Twins got a much needed off-day on Monday, and turned in a great performance last night in which the bullpen didn't let the game get out of hand. In fact, the bullpen pitched 2 scoreless innings thanks to Dennys Reyes and Jesse Crain, who has struggled mightily since the All-Star Break.

Nick Blackburn won his first start since August 6th. He held the Royals hitters to 2 runs on 5 hits through 7 innings of work. He improved to 10-8 on the season, making him the 4th starter to reach the double-digit win mark. He also lowered his ERA to 3.67, giving him the 3rd best ERA amongst rookie starters in the league (behind Armando Galarraga and Jair Jurrjens).

The bats collected 13 hits on the night, 10 of which were off of starter Brian Banister before he was taken out of the game in the 4th inning. Joe Mauer was the only batter to not record a hit. Denard Span and Brian Buscher combined for 6 of those hits. Justin Morneau tagged on 2 more including a 4th inning home run. He finished the game with 2 RBI which paired him with Mauer who also drove in two. Span, Buscher and Carlos Gomez all drove in one run apiece.

The Royals are scheduled to start Kyle Davies on Wednesday, while the Twins are scheduled to start Kevin Slowey. Before the All-Star Break, Slowey was 6-6 with a 4.26 ERA. But since, he is 5-3 with a 3.00 ERA and has a ridiculous 9.6 K/BB ratio, which is outstanding. He is certainly making a name for himself and is giving Twins fans a lot to look forward to in the coming years.

Game Ball (9/9)
Justin Morneau - First Base
Line: 2-4, 2-run Home Run

September 9, 2008

Game Balls

Game Ball (8/27)
Denard Span - Right Field
Line: 2-5, Double, 2 RBI
Twins beat Mariners, 6-5.

Game Ball (8/28)
Nick Punto - Shorstop
Line: 1-2, RBI, Walk, Stolen Base
Twins lose to A's, 3-2.

Game Ball (8/29)
Joe Mauer - Catcher
Line: 5-6, Run, Double 4 RBI
Twins beat A's, 12-2.

Game Ball (8/30)
Francisco Liriano - Starting Pitcher
Line: 7 innings pitched, 5 hits, 1 run, 0 Walks, 10 K
Twins lose to A's, 3-2.

Game Ball (8/31)
Justin Morneau - First Base
Line: 2-5, 3 Run Home Run, 4 RBI
Twins beat A's, 12-4.

Game Ball (9/2)
Joe Mauer - Catcher
Line: 2-3, Run, RBI
Twins lose to Jays, 7-5.

Game Ball (9/3)
Joe Mauer - Catcher
Line: 2-6, Double, 3 RBI
Twins lose to Jays, 5-4. (11 Innings)

Game Ball (9/4)
Denard Span - Center Field
Line: 2-4
Twins lose to Jays, 9-0.

Game Ball (9/5)
Francisco Liriano - Starting Pitcher
Line: 7 innings pitched, 5 hits, 2 runs, 1 walk, 9 K, win
Twins beat Tigers, 10-2.

Game Ball (9/6)
Alexi Casilla - Second Base
Line: 3-4, Walk
Twins lose to Tigers, 6-4.

Game Ball (9/7)
Justin Morneau - First Base
Line: 1-3, Run, Triple, 4 RBI
Twins lose to Tigers, 7-5.

September 8, 2008

What's wrong?

I think everyone knows what's wrong, it's just a rhetorical question. The bullpen stinks, the defense hasn't helped and the team just doesn't seem to be playing with as much heart (or enthusiasm) as they've shown in the past.

It's been very hard watching the team as of late (which is in part to why I've been so lazy with posts, the other has to do with... well just being lazy or being extremely busy... it's your call). This team's achilles heal this season has been it's weak bullpen, and although there are still 19 games remaining (including 3 against the White Sox), it just is starting to be really hard picturing the Twins making the playoffs with the bullpen at an all-time low, the defense seemingly getting worse each game and in part that's negatively affecting the way the team plays as a whole.

There's really nothing else to say. The team is playing like absolute **** right now and they need to pull it together soon. The team has an off-day today, which should be a good time to regroup and get ready for the next 2 weeks (until their next off-day) in which they play everyday including a 10-game road trip to Baltimore, Cleveland and Tampa Bay. I've never been a huge fan of managers ripping on his players to try to "pump them up", but I'm at the point that I hope that they try anything to get this team going. Hopefully Gardenhire talked to Jim Leyland a little before the Tigers left Minnesota and get a few pointers on how to do that.

The minor league seasons came to a close, and I will soon be posting my post-season top 50 prospect list, but I wouldn't count on it being up before the end of the Twins' season, which hopefully won't be until sometime in late October.


(I will come back and post game balls sometime before tomorrow, for those of you who may be wondering. If you don't care, disregard this space).

Also, be sure to vote for Denard Span or Glen Perkins for the August Rookie of the Month.

Have a great day!