Tagged: new york yankees

Balls

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.

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.

Well, That Was Ugly

Another Yankees sweep. To say we were “owned” by the Bronx Bombers this year would be an understatement. The Twins record against New York is now a very unhealthy 0-7.

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Tuesday’s game was horrible for the Twins as they got thoroughly out-played by the Yankees and lost 10-2. But, these things happens to even the best teams now and again, so any baseball fan can expect this to occur a few times every season. Anyway, there wasn’t much to talk about regards the Twins, except perhaps a fine defensive play by Carlos Gomez, but if that’s the only highlight of your team’s night, something is very wrong. Still, all credit to the Yankees who got their noses ahead early and really took the game to Scott Baker. Meanwhile, CC Sabathia backed up all the New York batting heroics with another composed, steady, and dominating performance.

Sure, Wednesday’s game was a tighter affair, but the Twins still lost, and that’s what matters. They may as well have been totally blown out again, but instead went down 4-3. Yeah, we could talk about how the Twins took the game to the Yankees this time, or how they kept fighting back, but it was still not enough. Again, the Yankees got ahead early and really worked last-minute replacement pitcher Anthony Swarzak hard to complete their sixth victory in a row over a dispirited Minnesota line up.

On Thursday, the Twins didn’t fare too well either, and the sweep was completed by the Yankees with a 6-4 victory. The loss put Minnesota back at the .500 mark again. Detroit and Chicago still have to face the Yankees and the Red Sox in the coming months (as well as the Rays), while Minnesota will be happy to be shot of the main AL East contenders, “only” having to entertain the Orioles in August and visiting Toronto in September for four games.

Much discussion emerges after these close games about how the Twins “just can’t seem to get a break” or how they’re “one hit away from winning”, but frankly the Yankees outplayed the Twins this series, and even if Minnesota do make it to the post-season, the prospect of facing them or Boston again sends shudders down most fans’ spines. Witnessing Michael Cuddyer’s pitiful flailing strike-out in a bases-loaded two-outs situation in the fifth inning on Wednesday night, pretty much exemplifies how a team that has shown so much promise, has consistently failed to produce in clutch situations this season.

The depth of the Yankees batting line-up is also apparent, as the players at the bottom of their order continued to out-perform even their stars up at the top. Brett Gardner, Jorge Posada, Robinson Cano, even some guy called Francisco Cervelli all produced hits and runs for the Yankees. I know many Boston fans sometimes think their team is pretty much a shoe-in for the AL East pennant this year, but the Yankees look like a class act finally, and if their pitching remains dominant, Boston better keep a close eye on their New York rivals.

Detroit and Chicago continued to win this week, while the Twins struggled. Minnesota is beginning to lose some pace in the AL Central. Of course, a sweep of the Sox this weekend would take care of that, and the Twins are by no means out of it, but once again, they’ve let a potential position of dominance disappear from their clutches. Losing the series to the Yankees was hardly unexpected, but Minnesota can’t keep relying on other teams’ records if they want to forge ahead.

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.

Twins vs White Sox Series Preview

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The Minnesota Twins are coming off a series sweep by the Yankees. The Chicago White Sox are coming off a series sweep by the Blue Jays. Minnesota have just put starting pitcher Glen Perkins on the 15-day DL and called up relief-pitcher Sean Henn from Triple-A Rochester. It’s not certain yet who’ll take Perkins’ place in the pitching rotation though. Whoever it is, they will likely be the starter on Saturday against the Brewers. Perhaps it will be RA Dickey. Perhaps they’ll ressurect Sandy Koufax out of retirement and put him in a Twins uniform. I’d like to see one of the hot young pitchers like Anthony Swarzak or Kevin Mulvey called up to make their major-league debuts… seriously, what have we got to lose? But it has been remarked that these young arms are “not quite ready” which is ironic considering how ill-prepared our ‘older arms’ have looked in the bullpen this year.

The White Sox have gone 2-8 in their last 10 games but Minnesota should realize that a wounded Chicago could be a troublesome prospect. They have a nasty habit of waking up when playing the Twins at Cellular Field. I’m remaining cautiously optimistic about our chances Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, but I go on vacation Thursday anyway, so will only be observing from afar.

Three Walk-off Wins in a Row?!

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photo: thecount.com and a zillion others

I’m almost at a loss for words. For three games in a row, the Yankees rallied to claim walk-off victories. That’s a tough pill to swallow for the Twins who are now a dreadful 3-22 in the Bronx since 2002.

If you hadn’t been playing close attention to the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday games, you could be mistaken for thinking Minnesota have been a tad unlucky, but I’m not so sure. Once again, our boys failed to get runners home in scoring positions in clutch situations, and though Francisco Liriano didn’t have a particularly good outing, both Nick Blackburn and Kevin Slowey pitched well, but didn’t get enough run support yet again.

I’ll leave the analysis about “what went wrong” to those who know better than me, and instead focus on a couple of good things: Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer continued to hit home-runs, which was nice to see. Justin even hit two on his birthday, Friday night! In Sunday’s game, Nick Punto made one hell of a great catch, and Joe Mauer made an outstanding defensive play. Despite the disappointing losses which will probably be copiously dissected by my fellow Twins bloggers, Minnesota really played hard and kept fighting and hustling all the way through. Sometimes things go right (look at the Detroit series last week), other times, games just don’t go your way.

The final game of the series is on Monday and will see Glen Perkins up against Andy Pettitte, before the Twins move on to Chicago for three against the White Sox, another divisional foe who find themselves struggling. Baseball can be tough sometimes, yet all it’d take is a win tomorrow, and a sweep of the Sox, and this weekend’s nightmare memories could be swiftly forgotten, as the AL Central still remains quite tight this early on. 

Low Key Thursday? Not a Chance!

As expected, Justin Verlander pitched a great game Thursday, with an incredible career-high 13 strikeouts. Everyone’s been talking about Zack Greinke this season, but Verlander has thoroughly looked the part recently. After the crazy antics of the previous night, it wasn’t surprising that today’s game was a fairly low key affair at first, which the Tigers broke open in the sixth inning with five runs. But of course, this is baseball…

Tigers manager Jim Leyland took out Verlander in the seventh inning because he’d thrown 120+ pitches. He’d given up a Brian Buscher base hit and a Nick Punto walk (score: 5-0), but he still looked visibly upset, not surprisingly after such a domineering performance. Cue the Tigers bullpen meltdown, with the Twins scoring six runs to take a 6-5 lead, and just like that, Verlander doesn’t get a result, no more runs scored, and Joe Nathan had a quick and easy ninth to close out the game.

Despite the satisfaction of a series sweep against Detroit, the Twins now face a tricky set of games to round out May. 10 of their 17 upcoming games (without a day off) will be on the road, and their opponents will include the New York Yankees, Milwaukee Brewers, Chicago White Sox, Boston Red Sox, and Tampa Bay Rays. Gulp. If Minnesota can make it through that bunch more or less around the .500 mark, I think they’ll have done a good job, but it will be a very testing end to the month for sure.