Tagged: mariners

Sleepy in Seattle

The Twins’ bats barely woke up all weekend when they lost two out of three at Seattle. True, they were facing an excellent pitching line-up of Rodriguez, Washburn, and Bedard, but even then, just a pitiful five runs in three games was all Minnesota could muster. Admittedly, the Mariners could only score seven themselves, but at least they won the series, and that’s what counts in the end.

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photo: Chris Gin

On Friday night, Francisco Liriano pitched pretty well. He even got past the fourth inning for a change! But so did Felix Hernandez. In the end, the game went to extra innings, and the Twins were lucky to come out 2-1 winners. In the top of the 10th, Jason Kubel was robbed of a three-run homer due to an excellent catch by Franklin Gutierrez. Next, Joe Mauer was caught in a run-down at third base after a failed squeeze-play, and it seemed things just weren’t going to go our way. Then Matt Tolbert hit a deep fly ball which came off left-fielder Wladimir Balentien’s glove, and Justin Morneau scored, and that was pretty much it: a lucky break and a fortunate victory.

On Saturday, Nick Blackburn also pitched pretty well, but Minnesota squandered numerous chances to get runs home, and lost the game later when that man again, Ken Griffey Jr., got a clutch double that scored Ichiro from first. In the ninth, the Twins failed to get the tying run home, so once again it was a game of missed opportunities.

I didn’t see Sunday’s game, but the Twins lost 4-2, so I can’t really comment on what happened. I did read articles saying Minnesota went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring positions on Sunday, and 2-for-24 with runners in scoring positions over the entire series, which doesn’t surprise me, and has pretty much been the story of our season so far. That’s a statistic which will probably come back to haunt us if the Twins don’t make it to the post-season this year.

Now the Twins face a tough four-game series against the Oakland A’s. The Athletics have won their last six straight, including a sweep of the Orioles this weekend, and it looks like things have finally started to click for them after a fairly poor start to the season. So, it’s just our luck that the team with one of the worst road records in baseball now faces a resurgent team that’s just won its last six. It should be an interesting series. An unlikely four game sweep by the Twins would totally revive them of course, but if the A’s took four in a row instead (equally unlikely), it could really pump life into a season where they’ve struggled to even get close to .500. I’m guessing things are going to be pretty tight at the Coliseum, but who knows? Minnesota continue to see-saw from brilliant to incompetent with every game, so anything could happen, and probably will.

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Way to Go, Joe!

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photo: Steve Wewerka, USA Today

I just wanted to extend my congratulations to Joe Mauer (not that he
reads this of course) for being voted the AL Player of the Month for
May.

I’m not sure what else I can say about his stunning month
to be honest. It’s actually been refreshing to read so much positive
press about Joe Mauer in the media outside of Twins Territory, and
his performance in May has been incredible, all the more so considering
he missed the entire month of April.

Just look at those figures:
106 at bats, 28 runs, 45 hits, 12 home runs, and a remarkable .425
average, .508 OBP, .849 SLG, and an even prettier 1.357 OPS. He’s only
struck out a mere 16 times too.

It’ll be hard work keeping that kind of production
up all season long of course, but if anyone has the natural ability to play like
this every month, it’s probably Joe Mauer. Meanwhile, behind him,
Justin Morneau continues to have an outstanding season, though the
spotlight so far this season has been falling firmly on Joe.

Today
though, Joe was outshone by Jason Kubel, who hit two 3-run home runs
and thus 6 RBIs in an 11-3 victory over the Cleveland Indians.
Minnesota took the series 2-1 and now face their extended road trip on
the west coast with games against the Mariners and the A’s, before a
weekend in Chicago against the Cubs.

Road Woes Continue

Man, these guys shouldn’t even be allowed to leave the Twin Cities! Another poor road trip, this time in Tampa Bay, saw the Twins only win one of three. Minnesota is still a fairly embarrassing 6-16 on the road, and this was just their second win in 13 games away from the Metrodome. Their Sunday performance was a nail biter, but the win was a very welcome one after two poor showings on Friday and Saturday. Nick Blackburn pitched a good game, only giving up a couple of solo home runs, and the Twins hustled home a few runs to claim a scrappy 3-2 victory.

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On Friday night, Scott Baker started well enough, but yet again had one of his mental breakdowns in the sixth inning, giving up a three-run homer to Evan Longoria. The Twins rallied a bit later on, but couldn’t get enough going and ended up losing 5-3. When Brian Buscher (.183) has to pinch hit for Carlos Gomez (.219), as happened in the ninth inning, you know there’s definitely something wrong with your line-up, even if that was the right move in the circumstances.

Saturday’s game was even more pitiful. There’s definitely something odd going on with Francisco Liriano, who only lasted four innings for the third straight time. He threw 47 (yes, 47) pitches in the third inning and gave up four runs, after which, I gave up watching. The Twins organization need to do something with poor Frankie, I’m not confident the whole “working out his issues on the mound” thing is really going to pan out if Minnesota wants to remain competitive. Saturday’s game also featured a woeful base-running decision by Scott Ulger, stopping Joe Crede at third after an overthrow instead of waving him home. Sure, it may have been a risky play to send Crede home, but with the way David Price was pitching, the Twins weren’t going to get many chances to score runs, and we blew one right there. Naturally, Alexi Casilla failed to get the run home the next at-bat.

Talking of which, Alexi is back. Nick Punto is on the DL with a groin injury, so the Twins brought back Alexi Casilla who they’d sent down a few weeks ago. The lack of batting production of players like Nick Punto, Alexi Casilla, Delmon Young, and Matt Tolbert is really beginning to hurt Minnesota’s chances of success this year. But it’s not just sucky performances, injury woes continue to mount for the Twins. Jason Kubel had a dodgy knee that kept him out of a couple of games, Joe Crede has had a few unlucky niggles here and there, Michael Cuddyer left Sunday’s game with a finger injury, and we’ve already mentioned Nick Punto who the Twins probably miss more in the field than with the bat.

Usually, I like to end each posting with a positive note, but today I’m just cranky. Even excuses like “it’s still early in the season” are starting to sound a little hollow now we’re almost one-third of the way through. Still, the AL Central doesn’t have a team storming away uncontested like the Dodgers in the NL West, so yes, OK, “there’s still plenty of time to go”. Checking the standings again though, Detroit are the only team who are over the .500 mark in the division, and Minnesota are 4.5 games back, certainly not cause for panic, but nevertheless a little disconcerting.

After three games at home entertaining the steadily improving Indians, the Twins upcoming 10-game extended road trip with stops in Oakland, Seattle, and Chicago (Cubs) could prove to be vital to their hopes this year.

Anything You Can Do…

It was certainly entertaining watching the Twins on Friday and Saturday, especially the Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau show. In the fifth inning on Friday evening against the Mariners, Mauer stepped up and hit a solo home run to left field. Not to be outdone, Justin Morneau came up next and did exactly the same, but to opposite field. While back-to-back home runs are hardly uncommon in baseball, the very next evening against Seattle ace Felix Hernandez, Mauer and Morneau did exactly the same thing again, but this time in the third inning. Cue camera shots of the pair of them on the bench laughing and smiling like little kids trying to out-do each other.

Before Saturday’s game, Joe Mauer received both a Gold Glove and a Silver Bat for his brilliant performances last season. Here he is with two former Twins legends, Tony Oliva and Rod Carew.

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photo: AP/Yahoo!

Friday night, the Twins thumped the Mariners 11-0. Scott Baker pitched splendidly, but our offense truly shone that evening with Minnesota hitting an unprecedented four homers, the solo shots by Mauer and Morneu as mentioned above, and three-run shots by Brendan Harris and Brian Buscher. The Twins got their noses in front early and kept it that way, something they’d been failing to do all season. I hope this is a sign of better things to come.

Saturday was a closer affair, with the Twins beating out the Mariners 9-6. Once again, the Twins went ahead early, but this time Seattle was a little more resilient, and Francisco Liriano had a very tough fourth and fifth inning. Saturday’s game was dominated by Adrian Beltre, but not always for the right reasons. In the bottom of the fourth, he tried to tag Cuddyer at third then overthrew to first, which scored Cuddyer and put Buscher on third. Buscher scored on a Denard Span sacrifice fly, so Beltre’s mistake probably led to two Twins runs. His home run in the eighth could have meant trouble for the Twins, but the rest of the M’s line-up failed to capitalize, and Joe Nathan came out in the ninth to save it for Minnesota, and wrap up a series win.

Sunday will probably see Nick Punto back in the line-up, and Joe Mauer as the DH. Personally, I’d like to see Carlos Gomez get a chance to play a full game again. Completing the sweep against the Mariners and Erik Bedard today will be tough, but then again, if someone would’ve said the Twins will score 20 runs and hit seven home-runs in two games against Seattle, I’d have laughed like a goon.

Ups and Downs

Positives:

  • Morneau’s back!
  • Slowey kept his cool
  • Bullpen was very confident
  • Nathan’s 200th save as a Twin

Negatives:

  • Give us a reason to love you, Joe Crede!
  • Not a good start for Slowey, depsite the recovery noted above

One thing I’ve been wondering about is how good will the Mariners be this season? To be honest, it looks like they have some good hitters. On the evidence of last year, perhaps people thought they’d be easy fodder for the Twins, but maybe they have their act together for 2009. If it wasn’t for some better offense from our boys last night, that scoreline might not have been so flattering.

The Twins still really need a dominating pitching appearance from one of their starters. We seem to have got through the last couple of games by a whisker, but to be honest, if we win every game by a single run for the next six months, I doubt anyone will be complaining!

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Better tonight, but the Twins still look fragile. Still, you have to be able to take advantage of the opposing team’s mistakes and punish them, and the Twins did that brilliantly tonight, seizing their opportunity and breaking the hearts of Mariners fans everywhere.

Gardy’s decision to bring in Kubel then Buscher was clutch, and I think the little boost of confidence from tonight’s walk-off victory will be very welcome for the Twins.

Next up: a better pitching performance from our starters. On opening day, Francisco Liriano wasn’t at all bad, and it was the bullpen that looked weak. But tonight, Nick Blackburn only managed to strike out one batter all evening. If Kevin Slowey can hold it together tomorrow and our bats get hot, I think we can say that the 2009 Twins have truly arrived.

 

Meh

Thankfully, there’s still 161 more games to go, and Felix Hernandez won’t be pitching to us every time, but the Twins looked a little lazy last night and after much fanfare and excitement, it was hardly an inspiring performance.

Last season, nobody expected the Twins to do anything, and yet they were just one win away from a play-off place. Meanwhile, much was expected of the Mariners, but their season was horrible. How things have changed. Now the Mariners really have something to prove, while people (if perhaps secretly, so as not to jinx them) are expecting good things from the Twins.

Things can only get better from here. And I’m not even going to start with the MLB.TV issues…