It’d be very easy to blame a blown umpire’s call for the Twins’ loss on Friday night which saw them go 2-0 down in the American League Divisional Series play-off against the Yankees, but that would just seem like too much of a convenient scapegoat.
The fact is, a terrible base-running mistake by Carlos Gomez, closer Joe Nathan blowing a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the ninth inning, the Twins leaving 17 (yes, 17) runners on base, and failing to get a single run at the top of the 11th with the bases loaded and no outs (including first pitch outs by both Delmon Young and Carlos Gomez) were the real reasons for their failure, and it was all the more disappointing after Nick Blackburn had pitched so well for the first part of the game.
Detroit: We feel your pain.
That is all.
After their successful midweek sweep of the Chicago White Sox, the Twins were quickly brought back down to earth with a resounding thud, being swept by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in three games.
The Halos scored an incredible 35 runs, thoroughly decimating a sorry looking Twins who have now dropped to one game under .500, and yet they still remain merely three games back, which I think says more about the weakness of the AL Central than it does about the abilities of this year’s Minnesota team.
Even though Nick Blackburn pitched effectively on Friday evening, and the Twins opened up a 5-2 lead, the Angels came back to tie it up in the eighth inning due to the familiarly ineffectual Minnesota bullpen. A six-run eleventh inning then completed the comeback, humbling the Twins who really should have done a better job holding their lead, as the Twins finally lost 11-5.
On Saturday, Anthony Swarzak gave up six runs, and not to be outdone, the bullpen chipped-in for five more. The Twins were in it early on, matching the Angels with two-run second and third innings, but the Halos were far more relentless and once again crushed Minnesota 11-6.
If those two games weren’t ugly enough for Twins fans, Sunday didn’t bring much joy either. Glen Perkins was his usual ineffective self, and the Angels ran out 13-4 winners.
It’s worth noting that on Friday, LA catcher Mike Napoli went 4-for-6. On Saturday, he went 3-for-5. And on Sunday, he didn’t even play, yet the Angels still put 13 runs on the board. Despite Minnesota’s thorough inadequacy this entire weekend, there’s no doubt in my mind that this Angels team really looks the part. Against overwhelming odds, Mike Scioscia has done an incredible job with his team this season. Even with injuries to star players like Torii Hunter and Vladimir Guerrero, and the tragic death of Nick Adenhart, this team has played like champions these past few months, and I’d be very surprised if they didn’t go all the way, providing their starting pitching can settle down.
Minnesota on the other hand… Well, as I mentioned above, somehow they’re still in it, and now move on to face three at Cleveland and then three at Detroit. While it’s true that they’ve fared far better this year against AL Central opposition, these upcoming games will be crucial. Cleveland may be a little depleted personnel-wise, but now the pressure is off them, they put up an excellent showing against the aforementioned Tigers this weekend, so they’ll be no pushovers as usual.
Dick & Bert consistently harped on about a Carlos Gomez throwing error in the game on Friday night, and other defensive miscues here and there this weekend, but the simple fact remains that the Twins were outdone not only by an Angels team who are far stronger and quicker than them offensively, but more importantly, Minnesota’s starting pitching and bullpen sucked huge donkey balls and won’t be able to take this team all the way if they continue to put up performances like that. Make all the excuses you like, if the pitching doesn’t get it done, this team will be thoroughly held back from ever succeeding.
It was a pretty good weekend for the Twins, all things considered. Minnesota managed to take two games out of three from the Rangers, and only narrowly missed out on a sweep when RA Dickey gave up a walk-off home-run to Ian Kinsler on Sunday evening in extra innings.
Glen Perkins didn’t start Friday’s game too well. After giving up a two-run shot to Josh Hamilton, I’m sure many Twins fans were having nightmare flashbacks to his Yankee Stadium meltdown earlier in the season. However, the Twins prevailed. Carlos Gomez’s two-run triple tied things up in the next inning and this was followed up by a vital three-run homer by Jason Kubel shortly after. The bullpen performed impeccably and the Twins ran out 5-3 winners.
On Saturday, Scott Baker had one of his best outings of the season so far, so it was good to see him regaining some confidence. Baker pitched eight innings, giving up just eight hits and one earned run. The Twins’ offense did just enough, even if it wasn’t spectacular, and Minnesota won 4-1 to take the series.
Sunday, however, was a weird one. The Twins showed very little offense, and even Texas seemed a little jaded too. Francisco Liriano had an unspectacular outing, which started promisingly, but then faded. In an “I don’t believe what I just saw!“ moment, Nick Punto went 3-for-4, and even hit a home run, while Joe Mauer went 0-for-6. Mauer was a pitifiul 1-for-13 the entire series, and his average dropped to .358, leaving him behind Seattle’s Ichiro Suzuki, who is at .363. Despite this, the Twins still took the series, and it’s a promising sign if the other guys on the team can perform well when our star players are slumping.
With Detroit being swept by the Yankees in three very close games, Minnesota moved to two games back in the AL Central, but once again, they can’t rely on how the other teams are performing in the division if they’re not winning games themselves, so a sweep of Texas would’ve been a far prettier outcome. Now the Twins move onto Oakland where they split a four-game series in June. They better win Tuesday at the very least, because I’ll be in attendance at the Coliseum!
In other intriguing Twins news, the organization signed veteran second baseman Mark Grudzielanek to a Minor League contract.
The guy is 39-years old so I’m not sure how confident we can be about his fielding abilities these days, however he’s certainly a quality hitter, and considering the other duffers the team have been putting at second base like Alexi Casilla and Matt Tolbert, I doubt Mark Grudzielanek could be any worse.
The Twins redeemed themselves somewhat after their pitiful display against New York by taking two out of three against the Chicago White Sox this weekend. Minnesota is still four games out of first place though because the Tigers keep winning, but at least they showed a little more spunk this time round and didn’t just lay down and die.
To be honest, I was quite impressed by the Twins on Friday night, which is unusual seeing as I’m finding myself lapsing into the perennially grumpy and curmudgeonly kind of fan the longer I follow this team. However, Minnesota produced the kind of gutsy performance they’re known for, but have rarely demonstrated so far this season. Despite being 0-4 down after the first inning, the White Sox constantly chipped away at the Twins’ lead before tying it up. But Joe Mauer’s RBI single in the seventh, topped off by a clever two-out RBI bunt by Carlos Gomez which scored Matt Tolbert in the eighth, secured a 6-4 victory.
The scoreline of Saturday’s 8-7 loss may have given casual observers the impression of a roller coaster, see-saw, fun kind of game with various lead changes and other high-jinx. Far from it. The White Sox punished the ineffectual and pasty-looking Glen Perkins from the get-go and ran out to an 8-3 lead, the only effective Twins offense coming from the bat of Joe Crede who hit a three-run homer, then followed that up with a solo shot later. Minnesota’s late rally was too little too late once again, and if anything, the scoreline was far too flattering to the Twins who pretty much looked like buffoons out there for most of the game.
Fortunately, there was little buffoonery on display by the Twins in their 13-7 victory on Sunday. The Minnesota bats truly came alive for a change against an unusually ineffective Mark Buehrle. Carlos Gomez was the hero today, with a career-high five-RBI game which included a three-run homer in the second, and both Denard Span and Brendan Harris also went deep. Surprisingly enough, Joe Mauer was probably the team’s most ineffective player on Sunday, going 0-for-5 with an amazing four strike-outs. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him strike-out so many times in a single game to be honest, but he’s probably just preparing his swing for the Home Run Derby tomorrow. Here’s a nice picture of Brendan Harris smacking a good one.
For a short amount of time this morning, the Minnesota Twins were in the ‘featured’ module of Yahoo!’s home page. Could it have been because of Joe Mauer’s exceptional season? Could it have been because of Jose Mijares’ cross-dressing exploits? Could it have been because Carlos Gomez bunted a ball into his head? Sadly not…
Yep, even when the Twins get featured in the national media, it’s for totally the wrong reasons of course. OK, so that’s not always strictly true as Joe Mauer got featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated this week for the second time in his career. Good job, Joe. Apparently he lives in a log cabin.
Though the Brewers had lost four straight and the first game of the series to the Twins, it was not surprising that they bounced back and finally claimed a victory over Minnesota this season. Still, both games were mainly won on costly fielding errors, so it’s hardly been pretty for either team.
To be honest, the Twins were pretty fortunate to win Tuesday night’s game, but they took advantage of two Brewers’ errors to emerge with a 7-3 victory. Watching the game though, it’s hard to believe the scoreline was that unbalanced. The game just seemed to drag and drag as we witnessed Francisco Liriano struggling once again. He showed massive control issues, giving up hits and walks, and constantly throwing balls down low and in the dirt. It certainly wasn’t much fun for Joe Mauer behind the plate, either. Still, surprisingly enough, Liriano only gave up three runs in five innings and the bullpen was impeccable (it’s rare we get to say that as Twins fans), as RA Dickey, Matt Guerrier, and Joe Nathan threw four run-free innings between them. Carlos Gomez had a great night though, going 3-for-5 with two RBIs.
Wednesday night saw Nick Blackburn pitch well again in a tight contest where neither team’s offense truly got going. The Twins took a 3-1 lead in the sixth with a Jason Kubel home run, then a Joe Crede RBI double scored Michael Cuddyer, who had also hit a double a few pitches earlier. But with two outs in the bottom of the eighth and Minnesota holding a 3-2 lead, a couple of costly errors cost the Twins the game. Jason Kendall doubled and JJ Hardy scored when Brendan Harris’ throw was wide
of home plate and bounced away from Joe Mauer. So Kendall broke
for third, but Nick Blackburn flung the ball into left
field, which allowed Kendall to trot home for the go-ahead run. Harris and
Blackburn were each charged with errors on the play, and Brewers’ closer Trevor Hoffman did the rest to end a frustrating evening for the Twins. At least Joe Mauer ended his 0-for-12 hitless streak with a single in the seventh that deflected off pitcher Mitch Stetter.
The rubber match is on Thursday with Scott Baker facing off against Milwaukee’s Mike Burns who was just called up from Triple-A Nashville and gets his first start of the year. The Detroit Tigers keep winning and are opening up a lead in the AL Central, while the Twins are struggling to even keep their heads bobbing around the .500 mark. Minnesota will be hoping to at least salvage something from another disappointing series on the road before moving onto St Louis.