Tagged: metrodome

Your 2009 Minnesota Twins: AL Central Winners

Alexi Casilla singles to right field, Carlos Gomez scores.

I’m not sure what else I can add to the already salient commentaries out there on yesterday’s epic tie-breaker victory for the Twins over Detroit in 12 innings. Just check my “Minnesota Gurus” section in the margin to read them.

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photo: Brian Peterson, Star Tribune

All in all it was a tremendous, exciting, nerve-wracking, roller coaster of a game that in some ways pretty much mirrored both the Twins’ and Tigers’ up-and-down seasons. Rick Porcello pitched beautifully and silenced the 54,088 very lucky people who got to watch in the Metrodome, and with a 3-1 lead and Miguel Cabrera putting all his off-field troubles behind him, I must admit I was a little worried that the Twins had finally found their match.

But, like so often this year, Minnesota somehow found a way to fight back, and everyone seemed to contribute somehow, whether in the right way or the wrong way. The game was exciting because it had a little bit of everything: some bad umpire calls (but some great ones too), some sensational fielding but some errors of judgment, base-running mistakes by both teams, patient at-bats (yes, you Nick Punto — that was quite a job you did out there) and some absurd first-pitch impatient ground-outs (sorry Delmon Young, you’re back in the doghouse despite your recent heroics). The teams looked nervous out there, like they were fighting for their lives, and it pretty much made for the most exciting game I’ve ever seen at the Metrodome (and maybe beyond), and probably up there with the 1987 and 1991 World Series games in terms of historic victories. It was a game for the ages, and everyone who saw it will no doubt always remember it.

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photo: AP/Yahoo!

I know Tigers fans will blame some of the loss on missed calls and the crazy Metrodome but seriously, some calls also went against the Twins too (and many more earlier this year). The so-called ‘plunking’ of Aubrey Huff was a very close call which looked like it merely brushed his leg, Brandon Inge should really start to wear a tighter-fitting shirt instead of that Tellytubbie-sized thing he puts on before every game, and Ryan Raburn diving for a ball which he could have just played on the bounce instead of trying for the Sportscenter web gem probably turned Michael Cuddyer’s single into a triple: but of course that was because of the Metrodome lights…

So many excuses, but really, Detroit played an incredible game, were a little unlucky, and didn’t win this division because they failed to hold a lead both in this actual tiebreaker, but more costly, over the entire month of September. This time last month, the Twins were seven games back. Entering the final games of the year, they were three back with four to play. Minnesota went an outstanding 17-4 over the last 21 games and finally found the team spirit and battling nature that had somewhat eluded them previously. Detroit fans should be well aware that even though it didn’t happen for them this year, some time in the future they will have an opportunity to turn the tables at the Twins’ expense: it’s just how this game works sometimes.

So, the Yankees huh? The Twins are totally over matched, to be honest, I don’t think they stand a chance. Then again, Minnesota’s odds of winning even the AL Central a week or so ago were something absurd like 5%. Anything could happen, and I’m just delighted to have been following this scrappy, crazy, small-market team for the past few years and seeing what they can achieve. It’s David & Goliath for sure in the play-offs, but if the Twins can keep things competitive (and that’s really all you can ask), it could be an interesting few games ahead.

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One final note before I go though. What the hell was with FOX and their AL play-off promos the past few weeks? As many of you probably saw, these promos featured the Yankees, the Red Sox, the Angels, and, you guessed it, the Tigers. I know the major networks just hate it when the small franchise clubs make it to the post-season, but you’d think by now they’d be smart enough to never second guess the game of baseball. If I was a Tigers fan, I’d be a little pissed about these, it’s almost like it jinxed them. I talked to a buddy of mine who told me that FOX were guilty of the same crime with the ’07 and ’08 Mets, so I’m thinking they might need to stop with their stupid promos preempting events in a sport that is notorious for its “anything can happen” mentality.

#163

Who’d have thunk it eh? For the second season in a row, the Twins face a final single-game play-off to decide who will reach the postseason this year. In 2008, the Twins narrowly missed out on that privilege to the White Sox who beat them 1-0 in game #163. This year, Minnesota gets to play at home against the Tigers, so they’ll be hoping this time that things go their way.

I’m not sure what the odds are, after 162 games, of two teams being tied. Just goes to show how tight this game can be. I’ve been quick to dismiss the Twins this year, but rightly I believe. For the great majority of the year they’ve barely kept themselves around the .500 mark and they’ve failed to take competitive advantage of what has been one of the poorest divisions in years. Remember, this was the team that was sitting 5.5 games back on September 14, when it was announced that Justin Morneau would be out for the rest of the year, as fans groaned that Michael Cuddyer would be his replacement at first base. Even the usually astute Aaron Gleeman was prepared to write an entry entitled “The End” just last week (which, he has rather nicely, followed up with one called “The Beginning?” today).

No doubt, everyone has been taken by surprise, yet all that counts for nothing when it comes down to just this single game. Remarkably, the Twins were three games back with just four games to play. No team has ever overcome such a deficit in MLB history, so it’ll be even sweeter if they can beat Detroit and get into the play-offs to face the Yankees.

We’ll all be looking forward to Tuesday’s game. It’s going to be a tense affair for sure, but how ever things pan out, it’s been a fascinating end to what was once a fairly frustrating season for the Minnesota Twins and their fans. I, for one, feel less aggrieved than last year where the Twins had the chance to wrap things up earlier but failed to do so. This year, instead, they’ve been fighting their tails off from behind, and with expectations not being as high as they once were, even if they don’t make it, it’s all been a lot of fun.

Yikes

Did you see what I did there?

“The simple fact is, that if the Twins don’t win more than three of the
four games upcoming at Comerica Park between Monday and Thursday, they
can pretty much kiss their play-off hopes goodbye.”

Of course, I was utterly wrong as usual. Instead, with just a single game to go tomorrow the Twins and the Tigers are tied in the AL Central. If one team wins and the other loses, it’s game over for the team that goes down. If both win or both lose, we’ll be, ahem, “enjoying” yet another game #163 at the Metrodome on Tuesday.

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photo: AP/Yahoo!

I’m stunned the season has ended like this. I admit I was guilty of writing off the Twins a couple of weeks ago, and you’d be hard pressed to find any fans out there who were still optimistic. Sure, we all knew mathematically that Minnesota could still reach the play-offs, but also, a few days ago, after splitting that four game series with Detroit, the Twins’ chances of reaching the post-season had dwindled to about 7% or something absurdly low.

Instead, somehow, the Twins staved off a valiant Kansas City fightback on Friday night (squandering a ten run lead as usual). Then, on Saturday, Minnesota managed the impossible by scoring four runs off Zack Greinke, and seemed to be coasting, but the bullpen once again screwed up Nick Blackburn’s incredible pitching effort as the Royals tied it up at 4-4 before “Mr September” Michael Cuddyer (.342 with seven homers and 22 RBIs in 19 games at first base since taking over there from injured Justin Morneau) hit his 31st home run of the year and Joe Nathan closed out the Royals again.

Meanwhile, the Tigers have been floundering against the White Sox who are “playing loose” with no pressure on them, and have already taken two out of three at Comerica Park. An epic choke for sure, but tomorrow could be a different matter for Detroit with Justin Verlander on the mound for them.

The Twins will bring back Carl Pavano on three-days rest to pitch against Luke Hochevar. It’s going to be a crazy final game at the Metrodome, how ever things pan out for the Twins, and it’s been a thoroughly exciting way to end the season.

Of course it’ll be saddening if the Twins don’t make it, but unlike last year, where they squandered their lead and could have clinched things sooner, this time they’ve been battling all the way from behind, and it’s been a fantastic effort regardless of the outcome tomorrow.

NYY and CWS Preview

It’s tough for Twins fans to view games against the New York Yankees without some sort of trepidation, after all, Minnesota’s record against the Bronx Bombers has hardly been favorable in the Ron Gardenhire era, with the Twins being stomped by the Yankees more often than not.

However, now is as good a time as any to break that run of disappointing results, and I’m sure the Twins will be looking for payback after New York swept Minnesota four games to nothing earlier this year at the new Yankee Stadium, even if three of those victories were closely contested walk-off wins.

The Twins are playing better recently, or at least, getting better results and series victories, however the Yankees have been on a hot streak and their line-up is very competent and dangerous as ever. To be honest, if it wasn’t for the 0-8 deficit the Yankees have had against the Red Sox so far this year, they’d probably be topping the AL East, and their powerful batting prowess is equally matched by their pitching abilities. With CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett going for the Yankees in two of the games this series, the Twins better be on top of their game, or they’ll be facing another sweep.

Still, positive news for the Twins organization yesterday was that Kevin Slowey is not seriously hurt and will return soon enough. Justin Morneau won the AL Player of the Week due to his excellent performances against the Royals and the Tigers last week, so Twins fans will be hoping he can keep that up. Joe Nathan was just named Delivery Man of the Month, an award I can’t say I’ve actually ever heard of previously, but nevertheless, his recent performances closing out games have been nothing less than stellar.

The weekend series against the White Sox should be interesting too. There’s another team that has also been performing much better of late, and despite some struggles at the Metrodome last season, I doubt the Sox will roll over so easily this year. If the Tigers eventually lose their claws, it’ll probably be the Twins and White Sox contending for the AL Central top spot again until the bitter end.

Looking forward to the six games ahead between now and Sunday, if Minnesota can come through with even a 3-3 record, I think they’ll have done very well. Of course, anything better than that would be a nice fillip with which to enter the All Star Break.

Two Games Over 500

Seriously, you read that correctly. Minnesota is finally two games over the .500 mark for the first time this season thanks to a 5-1 victory over the Kansas City Royals. After playing terribly in the first game, the Twins played moderately better yesterday to beat the Royals 2-1, but that was mainly down to the increasingly error-prone Kansas City line-up. Today, the Twins were a little more convincing and came out on top, with Joe Mauer going 3-for-3 and Glen Perkins largely untroubled by the Royals’ bats. Minnesota has now gone 10-6 on the road since June 8.

With a day off tomorrow, the Twins will just have to hope that the injuries sustained to Justin Morneau, Mike Redmond, and Nick Punto aren’t too severe. All three left the game at some point today because they were hurt. Justin left because of a ‘tight left groin’, and the Twins would definitely miss his presence terribly if his injury is severe. Nick Punto continues to get hurt so often, it’s getting beyond a joke, especially because he’s been wholly unconvincing with the bat all season long. Maybe Ron Gardenhire will put him on the DL or finally bench him for a longer stint so someone more worthy can get a chance in the line-up. Right now, the bottom of the Twins order continues to perform woefully compared to the guys at the top.

Next up, the Detroit Tigers visit Minnesota for a series that could really make a difference to the AL Central standings. Detroit lost a series to the A’s today, so are three games ahead of the Twins, with three games to play at the Metrodome this weekend.

Astros @ Twins Preview

Houston is the fourth largest city in the USA. For some reason, that statistic always surprises me. It’s also home to the Lyndon B Johnson Space Center, and of course, the Houston Astros who are in Minneapolis today for a three game series against the Twins. The Astros played for 30+ years in a dome too. Maybe back in the sixties and seventies that was considered “cool”.

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photo: theclownvisionchronicles.blogspot.com

The last time the two teams met was 2006. The previous year, the Astros had their only World Series appearance when they lost to the Chicago White Sox in 2005. Back then, they had Roy Oswalt, Andy Pettitte, and Roger Clemens among their pitching staff, but now, only Roy Oswalt remains. He’s still a great pitcher of course, so tonight’s showdown between him and Kevin Slowey should be a good one. If Slowey gets the win tonight, he’ll join the elite club of ten-game winners so far this year.

Though the Astros have been struggling lately, they certainly have some talent in their ranks. Miguel Tejada currently has a .341 average and recently achieved his 2000th big league hit last week. They also have that perennial favorite Pudge Rodriguez, who achieved a major milestone this week by setting the record for most games played as a catcher. Minnesota will probably seem like favorites on paper, taking their record at the Metrodome into account, but hopefully they’ll not take anything for granted this weekend.

Elsewhere in the AL Central, interleague play continues. The Tigers find themselves entertaining the Milwaukee Brewers, the White Sox are at Cincinnati for three games against the Reds, Cleveland gets to play at Wrigley Field against the Cubs this weekend, and Kansas City remain at home to face the mighty St. Louis Cardinals.

Pirates on Parade

The Twins latest (interleague) home stand got off to a good start last night with an 8-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates. Glen Perkins was welcomed back to the starting rotation and pitched solidly, getting good run support from our boys from the very beginning. Everyone got on base at some time, Crede and Cuddyer were back in the line-up and got hits, and Joe Mauer went 4-4 to increase his average to an incredible .429 for the season. No slowing down in June for Joe so far!

Jesse Crain, whose performances in the bullpen this year have been anything but stellar, got optioned to Rochester, which I think many Twins fan will welcome. However, despite his difficulties, I hope he can work them out and get back to pitching well again because the Twins bullpen is shorthanded already. Denard Span is on the DL for a few days while he sorts out his dizziness issues, and Jason Pridie has been called back up from Triple-A Rochester to the 25-man roster.

Francisco Liriano will get the start today, and I think he really needs a commanding game to boost his confidence. His opposition on the mound for the Pirates will be Ian Snell, who by the looks of things has also had his fair share of poor starts, going 1-7 this season so far. Should be an interesting game, and the Twins will be hoping to clinch a series victory quickly.

On Thursday, it will be Nick Blackburn vs Zach Duke. As the Pirates get used to playing in the Metrodome, I’m sure they’ll improve from yesterday’s performance, and will still provide the Twins with plenty of healthy competition. As they showed in their 2-1 series win over Detroit this past weekend, these plucky Pirates are no pushovers, especially with a mascot like this.

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photo: fullcountpitch.com