Firstly, I apologize for not updating this sooner. What with being jobless and out of my usual routine, I’ve not felt particularly inspired to write posts here when I have more important things to concern myself with right now.
But to be perfectly honest, the Twins have hardly been inspiring lately either. Earlier in the season, such performances would usually have entailed me ranting on this very blog, but sometimes it’s like flogging a dead horse. I think all us ‘fans’ know what’s wrong with the Twins right now, but it doesn’t seem many of these issues are being addressed by the management folks.
The most disappointing factor of the season so far is the obvious weakness of the AL Central. To be honest, I sometimes think none of these terms deserve to go to the play-offs, but of course, someone has to. Strangely enough, even as many games as the Twins are back, there’s still a chance they could make it, but it’s a very, very slim chance admittedly. With the talent in the Minnesota line-up, this team should have ripped the AL Central apart, so their lack of good performances this year have made it all the more troubling. 2009 was really the Twins best opportunity in a long time, and they’ve pretty much screwed it up, and it’s all been because of one thing: terrible pitching.
Still, I almost hope they do kind of give up on their divisional hopes. One thing that’s alarmed me about watching the Twins lately is that they just don’t seem to be having any fun. They don’t appear to be enjoying themselves. Sure, it sucks to lose a lot, and teams like the Nationals and Pirates are well used to it, but the Twins look miserable out there, and it just goes to show: expectations are a bitch. If good things wouldn’t have been expected of Minnesota this year, maybe everyone could have enjoyed themselves a bit more, but right now, it looks brutal out there. It’s not always the losing that matters, it’s how completely and utterly the Twins have been outplayed, especially in August. It hasn’t been much fun for the fans either.
But, if the Twins are pretty much done for this year, there’s still a few good things to look forward to. If the pressure is off them a little, perhaps they can shake things up good and proper in September and be the pesky little troublemakers they usually are. There could be the opportunity to finally see some classy players from the Twins’ minor league affiliates brought up to the majors like Anthony Slama, Rob Delaney, Danny Valencia, Armando Gabino, and Steve Tolleson. Perhaps some of the comedy bullpen clowns like Bobby Keppel and Jesse Crain will finally be sent down. Starters like Nick Blackburn and Anthony Swarzak are having horrible games out there, so they’d benefit from some time to work on that, while the Twins bring up the young arms and let them demonstrate what they’ve got… and there will be nothing to lose.
And of course, there’s one very important thing to look forward to, and that’s Joe Mauer and his hunt for the .400 average. The way things are right now, it’s not impossible by any means that Mauer could reach that golden number. The odds are still against him, but it’s going to be fun watching him try. Joe Mauer is still, completely and utterly (at this particular time of writing), 100% AL MVP for 2009. Plenty of other players have had great seasons so far (like Mark Teixeira) but nobody has been quite as brilliant as Joe Mauer (and evidently, Joe Posnanski agrees) when it comes to being the most valuable asset on a team. Joe Mauer has shined both offensively and defensively, and if he doesn’t get the award this year, it’ll be a travesty. But that’s a good word to describe the Twins’ season so far, so anything could happen.
As both the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays showed earlier this season, sometimes being 10 runs in front is not enough to win a game. On Monday night, the Oakland Athletics rallied from being 12-2 down at one point in the game to beat the Twins 14-13 in the end.
Anyone who saw the game though, even when Minnesota was 10 runs up, knew that a victory for the Twins was not a foregone conclusion by any means. After Jason Kubel made it 3-0 in the first with his 16th home run of the year, the A’s immediately bounced back to make it 3-2. Things then looked to be going the Twins’ way after Justin Morneau cranked a grand-slam, and followed that up with a three-run shot the next inning, but still the Athletics kept stringing together hit after hit to make sure they were never really out of it.
Pitcher Nick Blackburn never looked in command of his pitches, and the Twins’ defense was fairly lackluster all night, but the fatal blow was struck in a seven-run seventh inning by the A’s. With the Twins’ comedy bullpen trio of Brian Duensing, Bobby Keppel (whose start had been suspiciously good prior to this game and was due to implode any moment), and Jose Mijares on display, Matt Holliday’s grand slam tied things up and was topped-off by Jack Cust’s solo home run shot to make the game 14-13 in Oakland’s favor.
Sure, the Twins had let a big lead slip, and to be honest, didn’t really deserve to win after giving it all up so stupidly, but in end, it was a controversial umpiring decision that settled the affair. In the top of the ninth, Michael Cuddyer was called out sliding into home plate on a passed ball, and it was very, very clear from the replay that he was safe by a mile. That poor decision pretty much cost the Twins the game, and it was a cheesy way for the A’s to finally get the victory. Of course, it’s easy to blame an umpire, but when you’ve given up 14 runs in a game, you pretty much deserve everything you get.
Still, Oakland needs what little joy it can muster in what’s been a poor season for them so far, and in the end it was a shame there were only around 10,000 folks at the Coliseum to watch their epic comeback as this once historic franchise continues to struggle. In the meantime, it was yet another terrible meltdown for the Twins, and a bullpen performance which was almost hilarious and tragic in its ineptitude.
I’ll be there tonight (Tuesday), and frankly, I’ll settle for a 9-0 blowout A’s win rather than what transpired on Monday night.
Minnesota continued their successful interleague form (12-6 for the season) by taking two out of three from the St. Louis Cardinals. The Twins are now 39-38, still four games back from the Tigers. Another series victory on the road is definitely good news for the Twins who had struggled earlier in the season when playing away from the Metrodome.
The Twins won the first game 3-1 on a balmy Friday evening in St. Louis. Glen Perkins pitched admirably and kept the Cardinals at bay as they only managed one run across the plate the entire game. Keeping Albert Pujols quiet was essential, and the great man went 1-for-4 that evening, including a strike-out by the mighty Joe Nathan in the ninth, who closed the game for his 18th save of the year.
Saturday was a different story entirely. Kevin Slowey, searching for his 11th win of the season, came unstuck early, and gave up a couple of two-run shots to Albert Pujols, who once again proved why he’s the best in the league. Pujols is positively scary at the plate, putting the fear into even the best pitchers, and he increased his home run count to a magnificent 28 for the season so far. The Twins had a few chances to fight back, but didn’t look particularly convincing, and a base-running decision not to send Michael Cuddyer home in the third turned out to be quite costly when he got thrown out at home later that inning. In the end, Tony La Russa used seven different pitchers to complete the 5-3 win, and Bobby Keppel made his first Twins relief debut, tossing four shutout innings.
On Sunday, Francisco Liriano, who’d had a few troubled starts of late, truly stepped up his game and pitched very well. This time round he went seven innings throwing 97 pitches with four hits and two earned runs, six strike-outs and two walks. Fortunately, he got some great run support. Justin Morneau cracked a crucial three-run homer in the first inning, and the Twins put addtional runs on the board in the third, seventh, and ninth. Though St. Louis threatened in the later innings, a terrible base-running error in the ninth probably cost them a chance to make it close, but Minnesota still sent Joe Nathan in to get the final out as the Twins wrapped up a series victory with a 6-2 win.
Now the Twins get their first taste of the recently renovated Kauffman Stadium with three games against the struggling Kansas City Royals. The Royals have only won twice in their last ten games, but as ever, they’ll no doubt put up a good fight as the Twins look to get some momentum behind them before their extended home stand where they’ll face the Tigers, the Yankees, and the White Sox before the All-Star Break.
You wouldn’t believe how long it took me to think up that horrible pun in the title, and it’s not even funny. Then again, it’s not as if the bullpen performances by Luis Ayala for the Twins this season have been full of mirth and glee.
In a not particularly surprising turn of events, Minnesota designated relief pitcher Luis Ayala for assignment. I’m not sure what kind of assignment exactly. Maybe a “learn how to throw a pitch” assignment. OK, I’m being mean now, because admittedly, if you put me up there, I’d barely be able to chuck it 10 feet, but then again, I don’t get paid $1,300,000 to do my job.
In his place, the Twins called up one Bobby Keppel from Triple-A Rochester. I don’t know much about Bobby Keppel, but I am glad to see the Twins making an effort to do something about the struggling bullpen, especially as the AL Central is still wide open, and Minnesota has as much chance as anyone of winning it.
As I’ve probably mentioned numerous times before, I feel less aggrieved (though, of course, not exactly delighted) when a younger, inexperienced pitcher makes the odd
mistake or gives up a lead as it’s usually a learning experience for
them. What irks me more is when supposedly ‘experienced’ hands (who
the Twins pay millions for) come out onto the mound and throw like
Good luck Bobby, you’re gonna need it. Sean Henn? Better watch your back, dude.