Tagged: matt tolbert

Wait. Only a Month to Go? Yikes…

Yep, I know, I should be updating this more often, but forgive my lack of entries lately while I still continue to get my life sorted out and find full-time work again so I can get back into some kind of settled routine. In the meantime, here’s a few thoughts from the past few weeks.

  • Glen Perkins may, apparently, file a grievance against the Twins for the way they handled his recent injury. I hope it gets settled. I always liked Glen, but it’s clear he couldn’t cut it as a starter and has been really inconsistent, despite showing occasional signs of brilliance.
  • Justin Morneau is in a slump again. I like this guy, I think he’s a huge talent, and there’s no denying his value to the Twins is immense. But despite this, he seems to end up going into a slump every single damn season, and always at the most inappropriate time. As many fans noticed, both Justin and Joe Nathan were also whining in the press a couple of months back about how the Twins organization don’t bring in enough new talent via trades, and yet both of these players have been instrumental in recent Twins losses because of  their lackluster performances. Of course, both are still hugely valuable players and are usually dominant factors in any Twins’ success, but perhaps they might need to think before they speak or just go about their business quietly and efficiently like Jason Kubel.
  • Matt Tolbert and Brain Buscher were both brought back up from Triple-A at the expense of some exciting younger prospects. This kind of bugs me. Both Tolbert and Buscher have proven to be decidedly below average in the majors over the past couple of years, but still the Twins won’t take a chance on some of the newer prospects who they deem “not ready”, despite tearing it up in the minors this year. I find this kind of sad as it seems to be something the Twins have done well in the past. True, not every youngster is going to cut it in the big leagues, but one Denard Span is certainly proof of what can happen if you give an unknown young’un a shot. What’s worse, is reading purported stories like this one, which imply that Matt Tolbert’s ‘enthusiasm’ and ‘hard work’ are enough to make him a success, despite his proven lack of talent and ability. What is he, a bloody cheerleader? The crap that spews forth from Ron Gardenhire sometimes is enough to make you crazy.
  • Jon Rauch, now a Twins’ relief pitcher after being traded from the D’Backs, has scary googily eyes, but whenever he’s on the mound, I can’t help staring at his neck tattoo which looks to be about the size of Alaska.
rauchtattoo.jpgphoto: David Wallace/The Arizona Republic

Mid-season Thoughts

I had this whole giant post mapped out in my mind, complete with details on every individual player and my thoughts on each aspect of the Twins’ season so far, but it just seems like things are more easily summed up in a single word: UNCONVINCING.

Yep, that’s my word to describe Minnesota’s season thus far. It’s not like they’ve sucked horribly, but neither have the lit up the league. Instead, they’ve just failed to live up to their potential so far. Can they turn it around? Of course they can. Will they? Who knows.

There’s already been much discussion on other blogs better than this one about what needs to be done. We know who’s been productive and what needs to change. But the one thing that remains true, above everything else, is that if the Twins’ starting pitching doesn’t improve, this team isn’t going to win the AL Central.

It doesn’t matter that the Twins are always usually around the .500 mark at the All-Star break. It doesn’t matter if the bottom of the order doesn’t produce like the top half. It doesn’t matter if the bullpen is showing signs of improvement. The simple fact is, the reason why Minnesota remains a .500 team right now is down to their starting pitching not being as good as it could be.

In other news…

  • Alexi Casilla has been brought back to the squad. It’s probably the last chance for the young second baseman to prove himself, and I seriously hope he does because he’s a real asset when he’s playing well. Matt Tolbert has finally been sent back down to Triple-A Rochester. He never looked like a big leaguer the whole time he was up with the Twins anyway. What bugs me about the Casilla move though is that he’s likely to bat second, which could mean Ron Gardenhire will play Nick Punto more than the much more talented and productive Brendan Harris, because of the skipper’s continuing love affair with one of the most offensively inept players on the team (Punto). I personally liked the Denard Span, Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau 1-2-3 line-up that was tried earlier this season, and it seemed to be a winning combination, but Gardy seems to insist on putting someone else in the number two spot before Joe and Justin.
  • Kevin Slowey’s rehabilitation hit a snag when he tried some practice pitches this weekend, so Anthony Swarzak will probably get a few more starts. This one’s a real bummer as Slowey is one of the aforementioned starting pitchers who could help turn this season around for the Twins when healthy.
  • I wanted to give a ‘shout out’ to my second favorite team, the San Francisco Giants. As a Bay Area resident, I’ve followed the progress of the Giants longer than the Twins, if not quite so avidly. After a couple of terrible seasons that have seen them fall from grace, I’m really delighted to see how well they’ve been playing so far. I think the Giants are going about things the right way, building their franchise on solid starting pitching, and I hope they make the play-offs this year. GO BIG PANDA!

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Twins Take Sox Series

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.

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photo: AP/Yahoo!

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.

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photo: AP/Tom Olmscheid

Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad

The Twins managed to win two out of three against the Tigers at the Metrodome, which was a pretty damn good result against the division leaders. Minnesota is now two games back, and the White Sox, who split a series with the Royals this weekend, are just 2.5 games behind Detroit.

Extra-inning games can be particularly cruel, especially to the team that doesn’t win them. The Twins remarkable comeback on Friday night pretty much meant nothing in the end, and simply managed to tire out all concerned, as the Tigers topped the Twins 11-9 in the 16th inning.

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photo: AP/Yahoo!

Kevin Slowey had another terrible outing unfortunately, and Detroit
were quickly 6-0 up by the second inning. Somehow, Minnesota managed to
rally from a 7-1 deficit and tied the game at 7-7 in the sixth inning.
By then, Slowey was long gone, and it was revealed later that he’s been
put on the DL after suffering sharp pains in his wrist. Anthony Swarzak
has been recalled from Triple-A Rochester, and will likely make a start
sometime this week.

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photo: AP/Yahoo!

Anyway, back to Friday night, and the game
went to extra innings, prolonging the agony for Twins and Tigers fans
everywhere. In the 14th, the Tigers looked like they may have finally
secured victory when they made it 8-7, but Minnesota rallied to tie it
up again. Finally, some time around 7:00 AM two weeks later, the Tigers
hit three runs in the top of the 16th off an undoubtedly tiring RA
Dickey, and the game was essentially over. Frankly, the Twins should
have just conceded defeat in the second inning, the result would have
been the same, and the home plate umpire’s strike zone was positively
cavernous all evening, it was even more remarkable the game lasted so
long. Amazingly, Delmon Young ended up being one triple shy of the
cycle, and Denard Span had a crazy night going 5-for-8 with two RBIs.

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photo: AP/Yahoo!

Saturday’s game was a little more conventional. Francisco Liriano
pitched very well for most of his outing. Having retired a string of 13
straight batters, he took a 2-0 lead into the top of the seventh. But,
the inevitable implosion occurred as the Tigers managed three hits in
as many balls, one of which was a three-run homer to Magglio “I’m not
even in form” Ordonez, as the Twins relinquished their lead and found
themselves 3-2 down. Incredibly enough, Minnesota managed to tie it up
with a single run in the bottom of the seventh. Even more incredibly,
in the eighth, Nick Punto hit a cheesy blooper off his magic bat which
saw the usually ineffective Matt Tolbert (pinch-running for Jason
Kubel) score the go-ahead run with a head-first Punto-style dive, a
pinch-running decision by Gardy that probably won the game, something
I’ve rarely witnessed before with the Twins. Joe Nathan easily mopped
up the Tigers in the ninth, and Minnesota tied the series one game
apiece with a 4-3 win.

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photo: AP/Yahoo!

On Sunday, Nick Blackburn was just a couple of outs away from a
complete game shut out. He’d pitched beautifully again, but gave up a
two-run homer to Brandon Inge in the ninth inning. A few weeks ago against the Pirates, Blackburn had done something similar, taking a shutout into the ninth but blowing it. Nevertheless, Blackburn
prevailed for a complete game anyway as the Twins ran out 6-2 winners.
Minnesota did all the damage in the fourth inning. With Joe Mauer on
base, Justin Morneau cranked home run number 21 for the season, and then the
floodgates opened, with the Twins scoring four more runs, including
three on a throwing error by Adam Everett.

So a satisfactory weekend of baseball, despite Friday’s nastiness, and it was good to see the Twins bouncing back from that disappointing night so well. Next up, visits from the Yankees and the White Sox before the All-Star Game, which won’t see Justin Morneau starting at first base despite having one of the best seasons of his career, though he was selected as a reserve at least.

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.

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.

Twins Top Tigers

Minnesota secured its second series victory in a row last night with a walk-off 14-10 win in the 13th inning. They’ll be going for the sweep today, but runs will probably be a lot harder to come by what with Justin Verlander on the mound for Detroit.

It was a topsy-turvy game last night that took almost five hours to complete. The Twins gave up a 9-7 lead in the seventh inning, but Jason Kubel hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth to tie it 9-9. In the 13th, after hitting a lead-off triple, Curtis Granderson got a vital run due to Jesse Crain’s balk to make it 10-9, but the fireworks really started at the bottom of the inning. After Nick Punto scored on a Matt Tolbert single to level it, Joe Crede stepped up and hit a game-winning walk-off grand slam.

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photo: AP/Yahoo!

Tuesday’s game was a little more conventional. The Twins topped the Tigers 6-2, but it was by no means plain sailing. Kevin Slowey found himself pitching out of a jam quite a lot, but his persistence was encouraging, and he had a bit of run support this time round. When Delmon Young lost what looked like a fairly easy ball in the left field in the first inning, and Joe Mauer missed a home run by mere inches, it looked like it was going to be one of those games again, but Minnesota prevailed, and Joe hit a homer to pretty much the same place his next at-bat. Reliever Jesse Crain gave up a home-run with the score at 5-1, then followed that up with a walk which led to a chorus of boos, and his immediate removal, but luckily this time, Detroit didn’t get to exploit that lapse much further.

In other notes, it was nice to see Dontrelle Willis back on the mound for the Tigers, though the Twins line-up didn’t give him a particularly warm welcome! Still, he does bring a great deal of enthusiasm to the game and seems to really enjoy himself up there, despite his recent emotional problems. Of course, he won’t be judged on just this single outing, but how he performs the rest of the season. I remember watching him pitch for the Marlins back in the 2003 World Series. Even though I wasn’t really much of a baseball follower back then, he certainly left an impression.