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.
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.
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.
Firstly, I apologize for not updating this sooner. What with being jobless and out of my usual routine, I’ve not felt particularly inspired to write posts here when I have more important things to concern myself with right now.
But to be perfectly honest, the Twins have hardly been inspiring lately either. Earlier in the season, such performances would usually have entailed me ranting on this very blog, but sometimes it’s like flogging a dead horse. I think all us ‘fans’ know what’s wrong with the Twins right now, but it doesn’t seem many of these issues are being addressed by the management folks.
The most disappointing factor of the season so far is the obvious weakness of the AL Central. To be honest, I sometimes think none of these terms deserve to go to the play-offs, but of course, someone has to. Strangely enough, even as many games as the Twins are back, there’s still a chance they could make it, but it’s a very, very slim chance admittedly. With the talent in the Minnesota line-up, this team should have ripped the AL Central apart, so their lack of good performances this year have made it all the more troubling. 2009 was really the Twins best opportunity in a long time, and they’ve pretty much screwed it up, and it’s all been because of one thing: terrible pitching.
Still, I almost hope they do kind of give up on their divisional hopes. One thing that’s alarmed me about watching the Twins lately is that they just don’t seem to be having any fun. They don’t appear to be enjoying themselves. Sure, it sucks to lose a lot, and teams like the Nationals and Pirates are well used to it, but the Twins look miserable out there, and it just goes to show: expectations are a bitch. If good things wouldn’t have been expected of Minnesota this year, maybe everyone could have enjoyed themselves a bit more, but right now, it looks brutal out there. It’s not always the losing that matters, it’s how completely and utterly the Twins have been outplayed, especially in August. It hasn’t been much fun for the fans either.
But, if the Twins are pretty much done for this year, there’s still a few good things to look forward to. If the pressure is off them a little, perhaps they can shake things up good and proper in September and be the pesky little troublemakers they usually are. There could be the opportunity to finally see some classy players from the Twins’ minor league affiliates brought up to the majors like Anthony Slama, Rob Delaney, Danny Valencia, Armando Gabino, and Steve Tolleson. Perhaps some of the comedy bullpen clowns like Bobby Keppel and Jesse Crain will finally be sent down. Starters like Nick Blackburn and Anthony Swarzak are having horrible games out there, so they’d benefit from some time to work on that, while the Twins bring up the young arms and let them demonstrate what they’ve got… and there will be nothing to lose.
And of course, there’s one very important thing to look forward to, and that’s Joe Mauer and his hunt for the .400 average. The way things are right now, it’s not impossible by any means that Mauer could reach that golden number. The odds are still against him, but it’s going to be fun watching him try. Joe Mauer is still, completely and utterly (at this particular time of writing), 100% AL MVP for 2009. Plenty of other players have had great seasons so far (like Mark Teixeira) but nobody has been quite as brilliant as Joe Mauer (and evidently, Joe Posnanski agrees) when it comes to being the most valuable asset on a team. Joe Mauer has shined both offensively and defensively, and if he doesn’t get the award this year, it’ll be a travesty. But that’s a good word to describe the Twins’ season so far, so anything could happen.
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.
… Since I last wrote, but I think with good reason. Unfortunately, the company I worked for had to shut its doors and lay off not just me, but 50 or so other people. It’s a real bummer being unemployed in this tough economy, and the start-up I worked at, even though it had a brilliant and well-received product, fell victim to both these difficult economic climes and a few poor management decisions along the way.
So with all this time on my hands you’d think it’d be an ideal opportunity to write about the Twins any time I liked, but it really doesn’t work like that for me. This blog was mainly started as a diversion, a nice respite during a regular work day and an opportunity to take a break at lunch time and focus on something else. Now I have all the time in the world, it’s actually a lot harder to get motivated, and of course I have more important things on my mind. However, with a little time to get over the harsh realities of life, I will bounce back.
So how about them Twins eh? Just when you think they’ve finally given up the ghost and decided to die peacefully, they turn it around again and start to realize they’re still in this thing. I’m still not sure if they can last, but they just don’t want to die either, so I suppose that’s encouraging. After a nasty three days in Oakland (Heather and I somehow managed to attend the only game they played well, Tuesday’s 3-2 tenth inning win), the trip to Los Angeles was not much better as the Twins dropped three of four to the Angels. But that final game victory was followed by a sweep of the White Sox back home, and what with some better looking production from the usually less-than-stellar lower batting order, Minnesota now finds itself just two games out of first place again.
Can they keep it up? It’s hard to tell right now, as throughout the season the Twins have consistently switched from dazzling to deadbeat from day to day. They pretty much just scraped by the White Sox taking advantage of their mistakes, but to be honest, if “doing just enough” is what it takes, so be it. Admittedly, for a change, it was nice to see the OTHER guys imploding instead of us.
However, the Twins starting pitching will have to remain confident, and with 100 games behind us now, the repercussions of any extended losing streaks are far greater than they were earlier in the season. Right now, the Twins do have a good chance of finishing first, but they probably have an even better chance of finishing third, as the race with Detroit and Chicago remains tight. They may need to make a trade move to acquire another pitcher. With Kevin Slowey out for the season, Nick Blackburn having ‘issues’ after the All-Star break, Francisco Liriano with a potential wrist problem, Glen Perkins being merely ‘meh’ all year long, and Scott Baker not being able to shut teams down, unless the Twins get some help in that department, they’re going to have a tough time against their main rivals this year.
If I’m unfortunate enough to be unemployed for a while, I hope, at the very least, I can enjoy the Twins playing competitively again, but if there was ever a time for Minnesota to finally make an exciting move before the trade deadline, I think that time is now. I’ll be stunned if that happens, knowing this organization and its somewhat ineffectual management, but delighted if it actually does, and it would certainly show fans looking forward to outdoor baseball in 2010 that they can truly compete with the big guys.
As both the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays showed earlier this season, sometimes being 10 runs in front is not enough to win a game. On Monday night, the Oakland Athletics rallied from being 12-2 down at one point in the game to beat the Twins 14-13 in the end.
Anyone who saw the game though, even when Minnesota was 10 runs up, knew that a victory for the Twins was not a foregone conclusion by any means. After Jason Kubel made it 3-0 in the first with his 16th home run of the year, the A’s immediately bounced back to make it 3-2. Things then looked to be going the Twins’ way after Justin Morneau cranked a grand-slam, and followed that up with a three-run shot the next inning, but still the Athletics kept stringing together hit after hit to make sure they were never really out of it.
Pitcher Nick Blackburn never looked in command of his pitches, and the Twins’ defense was fairly lackluster all night, but the fatal blow was struck in a seven-run seventh inning by the A’s. With the Twins’ comedy bullpen trio of Brian Duensing, Bobby Keppel (whose start had been suspiciously good prior to this game and was due to implode any moment), and Jose Mijares on display, Matt Holliday’s grand slam tied things up and was topped-off by Jack Cust’s solo home run shot to make the game 14-13 in Oakland’s favor.
Sure, the Twins had let a big lead slip, and to be honest, didn’t really deserve to win after giving it all up so stupidly, but in end, it was a controversial umpiring decision that settled the affair. In the top of the ninth, Michael Cuddyer was called out sliding into home plate on a passed ball, and it was very, very clear from the replay that he was safe by a mile. That poor decision pretty much cost the Twins the game, and it was a cheesy way for the A’s to finally get the victory. Of course, it’s easy to blame an umpire, but when you’ve given up 14 runs in a game, you pretty much deserve everything you get.
Still, Oakland needs what little joy it can muster in what’s been a poor season for them so far, and in the end it was a shame there were only around 10,000 folks at the Coliseum to watch their epic comeback as this once historic franchise continues to struggle. In the meantime, it was yet another terrible meltdown for the Twins, and a bullpen performance which was almost hilarious and tragic in its ineptitude.
I’ll be there tonight (Tuesday), and frankly, I’ll settle for a 9-0 blowout A’s win rather than what transpired on Monday night.
Kudos to Yahoo! again. Just last week in their featured module on the home page, they highlighted Nick Blackburn’s “little league” play that cost the Twins the game against the Brewers. Today, it’s a Jeff Passan article about Minnesota’s golden boy Joe Mauer and his, erm, rapping ability.
It’s a nice article too, all about Joe Mauer’s other talents besides his potential opportunity to complete a Major League season with an average above the .400 mark. My favorite line is from Denard Span on the catcher’s purported abilities as a rapper:
“Looking at him right now, I’m guessing it’s a cross between Vanilla Ice and Cypress Hill.”
That’s just priceless!