Tagged: scott baker

It’s Been a While…

… 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.

Twins Take Texas

It was a pretty good weekend for the Twins, all things considered. Minnesota managed to take two games out of three from the Rangers, and only narrowly missed out on a sweep when RA Dickey gave up a walk-off home-run to Ian Kinsler on Sunday evening in extra innings.

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photo: AP/Yahoo!

Glen Perkins didn’t start Friday’s game too well. After giving up a two-run shot to Josh Hamilton, I’m sure many Twins fans were having nightmare flashbacks to his Yankee Stadium meltdown earlier in the season. However, the Twins prevailed. Carlos Gomez’s two-run triple tied things up in the next inning and this was followed up by a vital three-run homer by Jason Kubel shortly after. The bullpen performed impeccably and the Twins ran out 5-3 winners.

On Saturday, Scott Baker had one of his best outings of the season so far, so it was good to see him regaining some confidence. Baker pitched eight innings, giving up just eight hits and one earned run. The Twins’ offense did just enough, even if it wasn’t spectacular, and Minnesota won 4-1 to take the series.

Sunday, however, was a weird one. The Twins showed very little offense, and even Texas seemed a little jaded too. Francisco Liriano had an unspectacular outing, which started promisingly, but then faded. In an I don’t believe what I just saw! moment, Nick Punto went 3-for-4, and even hit a home run, while Joe Mauer went 0-for-6. Mauer was a pitifiul 1-for-13 the entire series, and his average dropped to .358, leaving him behind Seattle’s Ichiro Suzuki, who is at .363. Despite this, the Twins still took the series, and it’s a promising sign if the other guys on the team can perform well when our star players are slumping.

With Detroit being swept by the Yankees in three very close games, Minnesota moved to two games back in the AL Central, but once again, they can’t rely on how the other teams are performing in the division if they’re not winning games themselves, so a sweep of Texas would’ve been a far prettier outcome. Now the Twins move onto Oakland where they split a four-game series in June. They better win Tuesday at the very least, because I’ll be in attendance at the Coliseum!

In other intriguing Twins news, the organization signed veteran second baseman Mark Grudzielanek to a Minor League contract.
The guy is 39-years old so I’m not sure how confident we can be about his fielding abilities these days, however he’s certainly a quality hitter, and considering the other duffers the team have been putting at second base like Alexi Casilla and Matt Tolbert, I doubt Mark Grudzielanek could be any worse.

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photo: Tom Sweeney, Star Tribune

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.

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Though the Brewers had lost four straight and the first game of the series to the Twins, it was not surprising that they bounced back and finally claimed a victory over Minnesota this season. Still, both games were mainly won on costly fielding errors, so it’s hardly been pretty for either team.

To be honest, the Twins were pretty fortunate to win Tuesday night’s game, but they took advantage of two Brewers’ errors to emerge with a 7-3 victory. Watching the game though, it’s hard to believe the scoreline was that unbalanced. The game just seemed to drag and drag as we witnessed Francisco Liriano struggling once again. He showed massive control issues, giving up hits and walks, and constantly throwing balls down low and in the dirt. It certainly wasn’t much fun for Joe Mauer behind the plate, either. Still, surprisingly enough, Liriano only gave up three runs in five innings and the bullpen was impeccable (it’s rare we get to say that as Twins fans), as RA Dickey, Matt Guerrier, and Joe Nathan threw four run-free innings between them. Carlos Gomez had a great night though, going 3-for-5 with two RBIs.

Wednesday night saw Nick Blackburn pitch well again in a tight contest where neither team’s offense truly got going. The Twins took a 3-1 lead in the sixth with a Jason Kubel home run, then a Joe Crede RBI double scored Michael Cuddyer, who had also hit a double a few pitches earlier. But with two outs in the bottom of the eighth and Minnesota holding a 3-2 lead, a couple of costly errors cost the Twins the game. Jason Kendall doubled and JJ Hardy scored when Brendan Harris’ throw was wide
of home plate and bounced away from Joe Mauer. So Kendall broke
for third, but Nick Blackburn flung the ball into left
field, which allowed Kendall to trot home for the go-ahead run. Harris and
Blackburn were each charged with errors on the play, and Brewers’ closer Trevor Hoffman did the rest to end a frustrating evening for the Twins. At least Joe Mauer ended his 0-for-12 hitless streak with a single in the seventh that deflected off pitcher Mitch Stetter.

The rubber match is on Thursday with Scott Baker facing off against Milwaukee’s Mike Burns who was just called up from Triple-A Nashville and gets his first start of the year. The Detroit Tigers keep winning and are opening up a lead in the AL Central, while the Twins are struggling to even keep their heads bobbing around the .500 mark. Minnesota will be hoping to at least salvage something from another disappointing series on the road before moving onto St Louis.

Houston, We Have a Problem

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photo: soxinthecity.wordpress.com

Yeah, I so much wanted that headline to be “Houston, YOU have a problem” but it was a disappointing weekend for the Twins, who lost two of three to the Astros. Houston played moderately well and certainly didn’t decimate the Twins, but Minnesota’s offense barely got going all weekend. With tough games on the road this week against the Cardinals and the Brewers, this last home stand was an opportunity to forge ahead, but Minnesota remains stubbornly just below the .500 mark for now.

Reading the triumphant 5-2 scoreline of Friday’s game, it might look to the casual observer that the Twins had a comfortable win, but this was far from the case. Kevin Slowey pitched well enough to get his tenth victory of the year, but in the top of the eighth inning, when Houston made it a one-run game, a Twins victory was far from assured. Fortunately, in the bottom of the eighth, Delmon Young managed to secure the 5-2 lead with a cheesey double that leftfielder Jason Michaels lost in the lights, but it was a far-from convincing victory.

Saturday’s game was just, well, kind of annoying. Minnesota managed all their runs via home runs with Brendan Harris, Delmon Young, Joe Mauer, and Jason Kubel all going deep. Trouble is, they did little else. Taking a 3-1 lead into the seventh, Scott Baker gave up a couple of runs and the score was tied at 3-3, so disappointing, but not a disaster. That is, until Ron Gardenhire, in his infinite wisdom, decided it was better to just go ahead and lose the game out right, introducing the comedy bullpen clowns once again. Sean Henn gave up a two-run homer, and Luis Ayala allowed another run to score, and despite Jason Kubel’s late-game heroics, and Jose Morales’s pinch-hitting double to make it interesting in the ninth, it was all too late by then, and Houston won the game 6-5.

Sunday: Two hits for the Twins the entire game, one of which was a solo home run shot by Michael Cuddyer. The Astros’ starter, Wandy Rodriguez, completely shut down the Minnesota offense, and Houston’s three-run first inning was more than enough to secure a series victory over a very disappointing and sorry looking Twins line up. Amusingly enough, Carlos Gomez did bunt the ball onto his head at one point, which pretty much summed up the entire weekend for Minnesota.

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photo: AP/MLB.com

Taming the Cubs

Finally, a series wins for the Twins on the road! It’s been a long time coming, but it was well deserved, and their first since the end of April. Minnesota is also back at .500.

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photo: AP/Yahoo!

 
On Friday afternoon, with a little bit of help from Milton Bradley, the Twins defeated the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field 7-4. Kevin Slowey pitched well and improved to 9-2 for the season, and Minnesota kept hustling and scoring runs, even after the Cubs had put up a threat here and there. It was great to see so many Twins fans at Wrigley cheering on Joe Mauer.

On Saturday, it was a little cloudy and overcast, but Anthony Swarzak pitched seven run-free innings, and the Twins won 2-0. Sure, neither team’s offense was sparkling, but the Twins did just enough to keep the Cubs at bay.

Glen Perkins returns to the rotation in the coming week, so unfortunately Swarzak got demoted to Triple-A Rochester right after the game! I’d personally have liked to have seen him kept in the bullpen, replacing the ineffectual Jesse Crain, but a roster move was necessary because of injuries to Michael Cuddyer and Denard Span. The Twins are an outfielder short right now, and will definitely need one for the upcoming interleague games at the Metrodome. They recalled catcher Jose Morales in place of Swarzak, but how this helps their outfield situation I’m not so sure.

Will Minnesota be able to pull off a sweep at Wrigley Field? It’s a tough proposition, but if Scott Baker is on top of his game and our bats can get going, it might just happen. The Cubs always appear threatening, and they’ll have Ted Lilly on the mound, but haven’t shown much offense so far this series. That being said, they’re probably due to erupt any minute, so here’s hoping they delay that for just one more game!

Twins Make it Interesting

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What is it about these Twins lads? Nothing is ever straightforward with them, but I suppose that makes watching them all the more exciting, and sometimes, an anxiety-ridden experience. With a 10-0 lead going into the bottom of the ninth against the A’s last night, Scott Baker was three outs away from a complete game shut out. But of course, it was never going to be that easy. So, instead of talking about a successful offensive performance by the Twins last night, we’re instead discussing how they almost blew it again.

Baker loaded the bases with a walk and a couple of singles, so in came Jesse Crain. Of course, Jesse did what Jesse does best: choke in vital situations. Adam Kennedy got a single off him which scored two, Jack Cust walked, and Chris Denofria got an infield single which Alexi Casilla fumbled (so not necessarily Crain’s fault this time) to score another. Turns out Casilla had already made a couple of mistakes earlier, so the quicker he gets sent back down to Rochester, the better. When Nick Punto returns on Friday (from what I’m reading on other blogs), Gardy will probably keep Brendan Harris at short-stop and put Punto at second, so it’ll likely be bye-bye Casilla.

With the score at 10-3, in came Jose Mijares, fresh from his cross-dressing exploits. He got Jason Giambi swinging for a vital first out, but then walked Kurt Suzuki to score one AND Daric Barton to score yet another, so now the game was at 10-5.

So would you believe it, this has now become a save situation, what with the bases loaded and the tying run in the on-deck circle. Thankfully, Joe Nathan emerged from the bullpen and was inch perfect, showing all those young’uns exactly how it’s done. He made short work of things and struck out Jack Hannahan and Rajai Davis for his 12th save of the season.

The win for Minnesota stopped their three-game losing skid, and put an end to Oakland’s impressive seven-game winning streak. The A’s young rookie pitching roster looks very promising, and I’m sure they’ll perform well this year, but whether they’ll be able to last out the long season is a different matter. And, as usual, even faced with virtually impossible odds in the ninth, their batters still hustled and played hard until the end. 

Right now, the series is tied at one apiece with two more to go tonight and tomorrow. Obviously, us Twins fans will be hoping to finally get a good string of road victories under our belts, but Oakland won’t make that an easy task.