Monday April 19, 2004
TWINS BEAT ROYALS 9-7 (Friday)
BASEBALL THOUGHTS (Friday's Games)
TWINS BEAT ROYALS 8-4 (Saturday)
BASEBALL THOUGHTS (Saturday's Games)
TWINS SWEEP ROYALS 8-3 (Sunday's Game)
BASEBALL THOUGHTS (Sunday)
WOLVES WIN GAME 1
Q & A with Jim Souhan
Baseball at Large Writer, Minneapolis Star-Tribune
I recently had the opportunity to ask the Minneapolis Star-Tribune's Jim Souhan a number of questions. He graciously answered my questions regarding his career as well as some about the Twins. I know when I read through this, I find it very interesting, and I really think you will too. So again, thanks to Mr. Souhan, and enjoy.
SethSpeaks: How long have you been a beat writer for the Twins?
Jim Souhan: I came to Minnesota in 1990, covered the Vikings for three years, then switched to the Twins. After the 1997 season, I got off the baseball beat and became a feature writer. When the Twins returned to prominence my paper wanted more baseball coverage, so I became our baseball at large writer, which encompasses a few different roles (Twins coverage, analysis, national stuff, features, whatever).
SethSpeaks: What is your background in baseball? Did you play ball growing up?
Jim Souhan: I played as long as my talent would allow (meaning I got cut when I tried out for my high school team). I just wasn't very good. I always read incessantly, and read everything on baseball I could find (Roger Angell, Roger Kahn, Jim Bouton, and everything written with or by a player, manager or broadcaster). I was always better at reading baseball than playing baseball.
SethSpeaks: Who were your favorite players when you were growing up?
Jim Souhan: I was an Air Force brat, so I moved a lot, but my formative baseball years were in Pennsylvania and Maryland, so I idolized Brooks Robinson. I loved all the Orioles, but Brooks was No. 1.
SethSpeaks: Who were the writers that influenced you to decide that you wanted to write about baseball?
Jim Souhan: Angell, Kahn, Bouton, and anybody who wrote for a newspaper or magazine that I could get my hands on.
SethSpeaks: What is your background in journalism, and how did that transfer into a job with the Star-Tribune as the Twins beat writer?
Jim Souhan: I wrote for my high school paper, then attended the University of Missouri and got a degree in journalism. I worked at the Fort Worth Star Telegram and Dallas Morning News before coming to Minnesota. I learned a lot in journalism school (but you have to learn everything anew on the job. The real world is far different than academia).
SethSpeaks: What do you do during a typical gameday during the season?
Jim Souhan: I try to arrive early in the afternoon (between 2 and 3). I try to get to the clubhouse first, if possible, and try to talk to as many people as I can. Some of that time is spent interviewing, but more is spent just talking to people. Some of my best ideas and stories come from casual conversations with people are relaxed and able to speak freely. After batting practice, I eat in the press room, visit the clubhouse once more to check on news, then go to the press box to watch the game. If I'm covering the game, I file early notes, then prepare a running gamer that I send at the end of the game. Then I go to the clubhouse after the game for interviews, return to the press box, rewrite my story and the notes, re-send, and that's about it.
SethSpeaks: What do you do in the offseason?
Jim Souhan: Write a certain amount of baseball, l take some time off, and sometimes contribute to covering other teams, if I'm needed.
SethSpeaks: Do you follow other sports or local teams?
Jim Souhan: Depends. Sometimes I write Vikings, sometimes I contribute to a big event like the Final Four, sometimes I just monitor baseball.
SethSpeaks: Do you ever take time to read baseball blogs like this one, other Twins related websites or baseball sites?
Jim Souhan: Frankly, I try not to read blogs. I try to write what I find, not what I think other people want to hear. I read ESPN.com a lot. I love Jayson Stark, Buster Olney, Jerry Crasnick, Phil Rogers and Tim Kurkjian, and I think ESPN, although it's something of an evil empire, has done a wonderful job of hiring excellent baseball writers.
SethSpeaks: How do you draw the line between friendships with the players and coaching staff and a professional relationship with them?
Jim Souhan: I used to worry a lot more about this than I do now. Now, I realize that you're going to have people you're friendly with, and you're going to have enemies. Humans are going to act like humans (everybody has an opinion on everybody). I concentrate on doing my job the way I think it should be done. Because I spend a lot of time talking to the people I cover, I'm probably most often empathetic, so I generally get along well with people. I think that's fine, as long as I write things that are true. Just as I think it's inevitable that you're going to have difficult relationships, and, in those cases, you also have to simply write things that are true.
I find that you generally get along well with people who can handle the truth, and you don't get along with people who can't handle the truth.
SethSpeaks: How would you differentiate your role for the Star-Tribune as compared to La Velle E. Neal's?
Jim Souhan: La Velle replaced me as Twins beat writer, and now I'm more of a baseball-at-large writer, who might handle any assignment on any given day. That gives me a little more freedom to go off on tangents, or write baseball stories, or do analysis.
SethSpeaks: What is your relationship with the likes of Gordon Wittenmeyer or other Twins writers from the competition? Are you always trying to one-up each other?
Jim Souhan: Of course, you're always trying to one-up the competition. Again, I concentrate on pursuing news and writing stories on my own terms, following my own instincts. I try to do my own work, and produce more news and insight than anybody else. It's up to others to judge how well I do that.
SethSpeaks: I assume you fly with the team to road games? Do players and coaches come to you or include you, or do you have to go to them?
Jim Souhan: I rarely fly with the team. I try to book my own travel, and fly with the team only if it's the only sane way to get from one place to another.
If you spend a lot of time around a team (especially one with as many good people as the Twins) you're going to develop some positive relationships. But in general I try to leave those people alone on the road. They're very good with me at the ballpark, and I try to leave them alone when they're away from the ballpark. I am a reporter, not a groupie.
SethSpeaks: How often do you converse with Terry Ryan?
Jim Souhan: When I'm covering the team, every day. When I'm not covering the team, I'll call him on occasion to chat or check on a news tip.
SethSpeaks: How would you describe Ron Gardenhire the man versus Ron Gardenhire the manager? Is there a difference? (eg. is he as patient as he has been with Cristian Guzman and Luis Rivas, or as impatient has he has been with the likes of Michael Cuddyer and Justin Morneau in previous years?)
Jim Souhan: I think he's exactly the same in his job and in his life. He's fiery, funny, and he worries. Frankly, I think he's been patient with Guzman and Rivas because he hasn't had good alternatives for them, and they've at least proved they can survive a full big-league season. Cuddyer and Morneau displayed swing flaws that he thought would be fatal against big-league pitching, and, unlike Guzman and Rivas, they have to hit a ton to stay in the big leagues.
SethSpeaks: Which player or players are the first to the ballpark to take extra hitting or hit the weight room?
Jim Souhan: Everybody has their own routine. Doug (and formerly A.J.) used to work out in the morning, so they could concentrate on baseball at the ballpark. Jacque and Torii work out religiously. Shannon Stewart has the most involved pregame routine. I know Al Newman has tried to get Guzman and Rivas to be a little more active before games. Some pitchers run like crazy; others don't do much. Eddie ran for miles every day; LaTroy worked out hard in the offseason, then rested during the season.
SethSpeaks: There seem to be a lot of great personalities on the roster. Which player or players are the pranksters or jokers on the roster? Any one story that you would feel comfortable telling?
Jim Souhan: Corey Koskie might be the funniest, because he invites jokes, then tries to respond. Rick Stelmaszek is the best when it comes to making fun of players, especially Koskie.
My favorites: Koskie putting ice in David Ortiz's pants, to distract Ortiz from the peanut butter that was in his underwear. I've never heard someone cuss that much without getting arrested.
And there was the time that Koskie deflected a few shots off his body at third base. After the game, Stelly put on all the catching gear he could, grabbed a hockey stick, put on a Koskie jersey and sat in front of the bathroom, waiting for Koskie to walk out.
The thing about baseball humor: It never sounds as funny in print as it was in reality.
SethSpeaks: How are the new guys adapting to life in the Twins organization?
Jim Souhan: This is an easy team to adapt to. But there's an obvious difference between being a born-and-bred Twin and a newcomer. The newcomers never seem quite as comfortable. I know Gardy is hoping Offerman will be a good influence on the middle infielders.
SethSpeaks: Do you keep in contact with former Twins (Guardado, Hawkins, Pierzynski, etc.) on a regular basis?
Jim Souhan: I talked to those three a lot this winter and spring, but haven't called them lately.
SethSpeaks: Who wins a footrace between Matthew Lecroy, Henry Blanco and a continental drift?
Jim Souhan: What, is the glacier in another heat? Drift, Blanco, LeCroy. The great thing about LeCroy is, as slow as he is, he still has trouble making the turn at first base without running into the baggie.
SethSpeaks: Rochester and New Britain seem to be loaded with talent that is ready (or nearly ready) to contribute to the Twins.
Jim Souhan: I think Crain, Morneau, Restovich and Durbin could be key figures on this team (Crain could be vital to the bullpen, Durbin could be in the rotation for half the season, Morneau could wind up being the DH if LeCroy doesn't produce, and Restovich is insurance at the corner outfield spots and DH). And Bartlett will be a key player next year.
SethSpeaks: Are the Twins as excited about Jesse Crain and JD Durbin as they seem? If so, when can we expect to see them in a Twins uniform?
Jim Souhan: Crain: May. Durbin: July. They love both, and think Crain is simply a little ahead of Durbin right now.
SethSpeaks: With the Twins signing Doug Mientkiewicz to a 3 year deal, it appears that Justin Morneau will have to be a DH (who can play 1B from time to time). Does that mean that whenever the Twins brass deems Morneau ready, Matthew Lecroy will be dealt or become the third catcher/pinch hitter?
Jim Souhan: I know Matthew wants to be in the lineup every day, and there are people on the staff who think he'll have a big year. If not, I think he'll stick around here because he's valuable as a backup catcher/pinch-hitter/dh who will do anything they ask without complaint. They really like the guy.
SethSpeaks: Shannon Stewart and Torii Hunter are locked into the Twins outfield for a few years. Jacque Jones is probably in his final season with the Twins. Michael Ryan, Michael Cuddyer and Lew Ford are on the roster. Nick Punto can play centerfield. Rochester has Michael Restovich, Brian Simmons and Josh Rabe in their outfield, and Jason Kubel may be better than any of them as he's tearing up the ball at New Britain. (Not to mention the likes of James Tomlin, Alex Romero, Denard Span and Trent Oeltjen in lower levels) With the Twins current injury situation, the depth is great. However, do you think there is any plan to do something with some of these players to give them a chance to play in the big leagues?
Jim Souhan: I think they'll go with this setup unless they desperately need pitching at midseason, or get a great offer for Jacque. If victory sports or a new stadium promise to provide a lot of money, Jacque could receive a nice offer. Otherwise, a lot of those guys will compete for the rightfield job next year, with Restovich getting first shot.
SethSpeaks: The new turf... I have read that they don't think the turf has caused any of the injuries that happened last week, but it does appear sticky and slow. What are the players saying about the turf compared to the old stuff?
Jim Souhan: They say it wasn't ready to play last week, but that if it breaks in like it should, it will be better for them in the long run, saving wear and tear.
SethSpeaks: You wrote about parity in baseball, and I totally agree with you. I think we're seeing that just within the AL Central. Obviously there is a lot of season left, but how do you see the division shaping up? Can the Tigers compete for the full season?
Jim Souhan: I don't think so. Over 162 games, you need pitching excellence, pitching depth, and depth of positional talent. The Tigers are thin at all three spots. I think the Royals and White Sox will be streaky (and will be scary when they're hot). I still question whether either has enough pitching to win it. If the Twins play to their capabilities, I still like them to win it. But they can't afford a full season of this kind of luck.
SethSpeaks: Finally, what would you say is your favorite part of your job? And, what is the most difficult?
My favorite: Writing about the humor inherent in baseball. Because there are so many games, and the people spend so much time together, strange and funny stuff happens all the time.
Most difficult? Time on the road. I have four kids, and no matter how nice the hotel, city or road ballpark, I can only go so long before I wish I were home. (I know that sounds sappy, but I'm a pathetic old man.)
Thanks again for taking the time to answer these questions!! I know there are a lot of readers who look forward to your columns every day throughout the season and in the offseason!! Keep up the great work! If anyone has any questions or comments about this, please e-mail me.
FRIDAY - TWINS 9, ROYALS 7
The Twins matched up last night at the Metrodome with the team many "experts" think will win the AL Central Division. The Kansas City Royals came to town tied with the Twins for the most home runs in the league. Carlos Beltran, Mike Sweeney and Juan Gonzalez provide much punch in the middle of their order. Reigning AL Rookie of the Year Angel Berroa stayed at the hotel with an illness.
Well, the Royals claimed the HR leadership for themselves in the game, but the Twins got the most important thing in last night's game, the win. Juan Gonzalez hit a solo home run off Johan Santana in the second inning. The next half-inning, Lew Ford gave the Twins the lead with a two run homer of his own. In the 3rd, Luis Rivas and Michael Cuddyer each had RBI singles to stretch the lead to 4-1. Mike Sweeney then hit a solo home run off Santana. But the Twins scored three runs in the bottom of the 4th when a Shannon Stewart single drove in Lew Ford, a wild pitch scored Henry Blanco and a Luis Rivas singled in Stewart. So, the Twins held the 7-2 lead until the 6th inning when the Royals did what they've been doing all season so far. They began an impressive comeback. First, Juan Gonzalez knocked his second homer off Santana well into the left field bleachers with one on to cut the lead to 7-4. Santana started the 7th an got one out recorded, but gave up two singles, so Juan Rincon was brought in. Rincon was able to get Tony Graffanino for the second out, but with two strikes to Carlos Beltran, he grooved a pitch, and Beltran did not miss it, drilling the ball over the baggy in right to tie the game.
However, like they did every immediate half-inning after giving up runs last night, the Twins had a rally of their own in the top of the 8th. Jacque Jones singled up the middle of Jason Grimsley to score Jose Offerman. Then, Lew Ford came up big with a triple to the gap in right center to score Jones, providing a two run lead.
JC Romero pitched a strong 8th inning and got Aaron Guiel for the first out of the 9th before Joe Nathan was brought in (for the third straight game). He did struggle a little bit. Matt Stairs singles before Carlos Beltran walked. Fortunately, Mike Sweeney flew out to Ford in center to end the game.
Ironically, Juan Rincon picked up the win despite giving up the Beltran homer. So, if you happen to have him on your fantasy team, you're happy. He is 2-0 and has a save! Joe Nathan picked up his second consecutive save, so one would have to assume he will not be able to pitch on Saturday.
The Twins are now 6-4, tied with the White Sox and Tigers... Just 152 games to go!!
By the way, because I STILL DON'T HAVE VICTORY SPORTS, I could not watch the Twins game last night. I continue to listen to the Twins play over the internet. I did listen to Herb Carneal, John Gordon and Dan Gladden for awhile, but soon I grew tired of them quickly and switched to the Royals broadcast team which includes former Gophers outfielder Ryan Lefebvre. He did some TV analysis for the Twins for a couple of years, but was given the Royals radio job probably five years. I have to admit, he is great to listen to. First, he is a former high-level player, so he knows what he is talking about. Also, he doesn't go over the edge in emotion the way John Gordon does. So, if you're like me and can't watch the Twins on TV and listen online, be sure to listen to Ryan Lefebvre for a different perspective.
Any thoughts on the Twins? E-mail me.
ROCHESTER REPORT - The Redwings finally lost a game last night, falling now to 8-1 on the season. Maybe it was because they gave SS Jason Bartlett the game off? Actually, Rochester was able to get just two hits, doubles by Justin Morneau (whose average fell down to .486, with the 1-4) and Josh Rabe. Brent Schoening actually pitched quite well in the loss. He went 5 innings, giving up four hits and no walks. He gave up just one run and recorded six strikeouts. Former #1 pick Ryan Mills pitched the final three innings and gave up two more runs and three hits and a walk, striking out two.
ROCKCAT REPORT - AA New Britain finally played again last night. However, they lost 3-2 to Norwich. Jason Kubel had two (of the Rockcat's six) hits in four at bats. The 2-4 made his batting average plummet to .517. Boof Bonser pitched six innings for them. He gave up three runs on four hits, with no walks and three strikeouts.
MIRACLE REPORT - Fort Myers beat Lakeland 8-1 over Lakeland in Florida State League action. RF Doug Deeds went 3-4 with two triples and three RBI. He is now hitting .444. DH Jose Morales also went 3-4 with a triple (.226). RF Trent Oeltjen went 2-5. Josh Gray improved to 2-0. He gave up no runs in five innings, giving up five hits, two walks and he struck out six.
SWING THINGS - Matt Moses got a day off and the Swing lost to Burlington 8-5 last night. Catcher Kyle Phillips went 3-4 to improve his average to .444. Denard Span started off slowly, but after going 2-5 last night, his average is up to .273.
Any questions or comments on the Twins minor league system, players or teams? E-mail me.
Just a few thoughts on some of Friday's games:
Did you watch the Red Sox beat the Yankees on Fox last night? I did. As I wrote below, I can not watch Twins games on my television because of the problems that the Twins-owned Victory Sports in having with cable and satellite providers. So, I was able to mute Joe Buck, Tim McCarver and Kenny Albert throughout the game, which, in my opinion, is the best way to listen to them. And no... there isn't such a thing as an East Coast Bias (note sarcasm!).
The Manny Ramirez home run that shouldn't have been a home run, but was a home run... How wimpy did Gary Sheffield go into the corner there? I guarantee Dustan Mohr makes that catch!
Aramis Ramirez hit another homer, his fourth in three games. Sammy Sosa tied up the game before Moises Alou hit his second home run, which won the game 11-10 for the Cubs in the 10th inning. Alou and Ramirez each had four hits on the game.
What's wrong with the Blue Jays? Two hits off Matt Riley, Rick Bauer and John Parrish!
Phillies win again, 4-2 over the Expos! Former Twins starter Eric Milton went 6 innings and gave up two runs while striking out 6. Pat Burrell was 2-4 with a homer and three RBI. On a good note for the Expos, they did score!! When Tony Batista hit a solo home run in the top of the second, the Expos put a run on the board for the first time in 30 innings!
Jody Gerut had a day last night in the Indians 10-3 win over the Tigers! 5-5 with a HR and 3 doubles! I am still asking myself, and anyone who will listen, how Gerut fell so far in every draft I was in or looked in on! Nate Cornejo gave up 14 hits and 8 runs in five innings. Ouch! Ugueth Urbina did pitch for the Tigers.
Kip Wells is so underrated. He moves to 2-1 on the season with 7 innings, 2 runs and 6 strikeouts. Look for the Pirates to get some really, really good prospects for him in July!! In the same game, old man Tom Glavine pitched 7 one-hit innings before the bullpen came in and imploded.
JD Durbin fans, like me, not this --> Last night, both Tim Hudson and Roy Oswalt tossed complete game shutouts. They're both young, "short" pitchers who have shown durability, throw hard, get strikeouts and have been very successful. Hopefully Durbin can follow in such footsteps.
The Big Unit, Randy Johnson, is on the opposite end of the spectrum. He's old and tall. Last night, he shut out the San Diego Padres, reminding people of how good he can be. Also, this just points out that like everything in baseball, there is no one right way. You can be tall. You can be short. You can be stick-thin, or you could be an offensive lineman in the NFL! You can be a stat-head. You can be a traditionalist. It's all good. It can all work! Can't we all just get along?
Another shutout... Of all people, Chan Ho Park pitched 7 shutout innings for the Texas Rangers last night in a win over the Seattle Mariners. Three years ago, he was great. Injury problems have cost him a lot of time the last couple of seasons. I would love to see him healthy! Here was the Rangers lineup last night, with their current batting averages: Michael Young (.360), Hank Blalock (.362), Alphonso Soriano (.391), Brad Fullmer (.308), Herbert Perry (.318), David Dellucci (.280), Kevin Mench (.255), Laynce Nix (.360), Gerald Laird (.414). And that's not including Mark Teixeira who was put on the Disabled List yesterday. If Chan Ho Park is healthy and regains his former form. He could win a lot of games!
Comeback player of the Year (through 10 games!) Jermaine Dye hit his 6th home run!
The Dodgers had a 3-0 lead on the Giants going into the 9th inning. Milton Bradley was 0-3, but had all three RBI. He grounded out to drive in a run in the 1st, 6th and 9th innings. Eric Gagne came in with his 65 consecutive saves. With a runner on, he threw to Barry Bonds, and Bonds won that meeting, hitting a home run deep into the centerfield seats. It was his 662nd career homer. But Gagne got out of the inning, and the Dodgers won 3-2, and Gagne has converted 66 straight save opportunities.
Reggie Sanders. Another team, another great start. Last night, he hit his third and fourth homers of the season in the Cardinals crushing of the Rockies. More surprising, Tony Womack hit a home run... and he was 3-3... and he's hitting .366!
Any other baseball thoughts you would care to share? If so, e-mail me.
SATURDAY - Twins 8, Royals 4
Kyle Lohse has not started the season well. Going into last night's game, he was 0-2 with an ERA around 9. So, when he gave up four early runs to the Royals, you couldn't help but wonder what's going on. However, he fought himself, fought control problems and gave up just those four runs in six innings of work. Fortunately, the Twins offense was able to hit off of Kevin Appier.
Carlos Beltran hit a solo home run in the first inning. In the second inning, the Twins got RBI from two guys who are doing a great job in place of starters. Lew Ford singled in a run. That was followed by a Henry Blanco double that scored two. So, what did Lohse do with the lead? Well, Mike Sweeney deposited a deep three-run home run to give the Royals the 4-3 lead. But as they did the night before, the Twins had an answer. The Twins scored four runs. First, Doug Mientkiewicz singled in Nick Punto, who was playing 2B. Then Henry Blanco came through again with a single to score Mientkiewicz. Then Cristian Guzman hit a routine grounder to SS, but Andres Blanco, just recalled from AA to replace Angel Berroa (who was placed on the DL with severe migraines). The barely 20 year old Blanco fielded the ball well, but his throw was wide left and the Twins scored two runs on the error to take a 7-4 lead. From that point on Lohse wasn't perfect, but did not give up another run.
Many in the SABRmetric world do not believe in 'manufacturing runs.' But that's exactly when Jacque Jones did in the 5th inning. He led off with a single. He proceeded to steal 2B and on the next pitch, 3B too. Lew Ford then hit a fly ball to left field, deep enough to score Jones from third. That gave the Twins the 8-4 lead which they onto for the final score of the game. May seem like a little thing as it turns out, but in my opinion, every run counts, and it did give the Twins a little more insurance, which, against a lineup that includes Carlos Beltran, Mike Sweeney and Juan Gonzalez is very important.
Terry Mulholland made his Twins debut with a perfect 7th inning. In the 8th, he got an out, but gave up three singles before JC Romero was brought in. Romero got the Twins out of the inning without the Royals scoring another run. Romero then finished the 9th without giving up a run. You may wonder how, when the Twins were ahead by 4, JC Romero got credited for his first save of the year. Well, when he came into the game, he faced the tying run, the go-ahead run was in he on-deck circle. So, according to the rulebook, that constitutes a save situation.
So many were worried when the Twins were 3-4, but after four straight wins, the Twins are now 7-4 and are at the top of the AL Central. That is ridiculous as thinking that the Royals, now 4-7, are out of contention. That is, in my opinion, one of the beauties of baseball. It's a long season and so much can happen. Teams go on good streaks and they go through struggles. Sometimes it isn't as much who you play, but when you play them.
The Twins finish the series with the Royals today at 1:05. Seth Griesinger will take the mound against the Royals' Darrell May. It is a big start for Griesinger. Rick Helling will be coming of the Disabled List shortly. Jesse Crain could be called up to the Twins in the next month or two. Pete Munro and Matt Guerrier are also pitching well at AAA Rochester. Griesinger may be pitching to maintain a roster spot.
ROCHESTER REPORT - Brian Simmons had an RBI double in the top of the 15th inning to give the Red Wings a 7-6 lead. However, Scranton-Wilkes Barre scored two runs in the bottom of that inning off of new Twins farmhand, Joe Beimel, for the 8-7 win. The 15 inning game was tough on a some batting average. For instance, Justin Morneau was just 1-7 to drop to .429. Simmons and Jason Bartlett each hit two doubles. Luis Rodriguez, Michael Restovich and Josh Rabe each had two hits, including a double. Chris Heintz also had two hits.
ROCKCAT REPORT - Jim Abbott was the star. He pitched six innings of three hit ball. He struck out five and didn't walk anyone. He left the game with a 6-0 lead. However, a couple of players the Twins sent to the Arizona Fall League struggled and lost the lead. Pat Neshek gave up three runs on three hits and a walk in 1/3 of an inning. Brian Wolfe came in and in 2 innings, gave up three hits and three runs. Bryan Korecky came in to get the save, but he gave up three hits and the losing run in New Britain's 7-6 loss.
MIRACLE REPORT - Kyle Lohse got the win for the Twins. Younger brother Erik Lohse got the win for the Miracle. Lohse pitched two innings in relief, giving up just one hit, for the win. Matt Yeatman got the start and gave up two hits and two walks in four innings (he struck out 5). CF Trent Oeltjen, C Jose Morales, DH Danny Matienzo and 1B Garrett Jones each had two hits for the Miracle. Jones hit a three-run homer late in the game for some insurance.
SWING THINGS - RF Scott Whitrock had three hits and Matt Moses had a double, but the Swing were unable to bunch enough hits together and lost 2-1 to Burlington. Adam Harben pitched well however. In 5 2/3 inning, Harben gave up seven hits, but no walks, and 2 runs (1 earned).
SATURDAY - BASEBALL THOUGHTS
What's up with Kerry Wood. I think it's fair to say that his competitive juices got the best of him in the 9th inning. And, I have to say that ESPN is not being at all fair to the umpire. They put their seemingly arbitrary strike zone on the screen showing that two pitches 'should have been' called strikes. I'm sorry, but when I saw those two pitches, I didn't think either was a strike, both were outside. Let's just say that I have seen much better pitches called balls before. Oh, it was also in the 9th, just after Wood had turned a 2-1 lead into a 3-2 loss.
The Red Sox beat the Yankees again yesterday afternoon. Just a couple of thoughts. First, the Yankees will be fine. It's just two losses. Alex Rodriguez is still a good hitter. So are Jason Giambi, Derek Jeter and the other Yankees hitters that have struggled the last couple of games. Secondly, much was made about the Yankees signing of A-Rod. Well, the old saying is very true, Good Pitching DOES beat Good Hitting. Curt Schilling to the Red Sox could prove the best acquisition. Despite struggling on Friday night, Javier Vazquez will be the same for the Yankees. Kevin Brown has already proven to be a good acquisition and he pitches tomorrow for the Yankees in the series' fourth game.
Phillies OF Pat Burrell hit his second home run and is hitting .351. Are his struggles over? I can't say that for sure. If you see his swing, he seems to be off-balance and out on his front foot. So, he may hit some homers but I think that it will be difficult to maintain his batting average.
Possible fantasy sleeper... Oliver Perez of the Pittsburgh Pirates. He "won" the 5th starter job for the Pirates out of spring training. Control has been a problem for him in his two big league seasons. But he is now 2-0, and has walked four in 11 2/3 innings while striking out 12. He is left-handed and throws HARD! He has averaged 9.7 per 9 innings. And, most importantly, he's just 22 years old.
Barry Bonds hit another home run. Eric Gagne gave up another home run (to Pedro Feliz) but recorded another save. At some point, Gagne will blow a save. And Bonds will just continue hitting home runs! The craziest thing about this game (with apologies to Milton Bradley) was that Dodgers Jose Hernandez went 4-4!
The Cardinals and Rockies have now scored a combined 30 runs in the first two games of their three game set. Scott Rolen hit his sixth and seventh home runs. Aaron Miles had another four hit game. Former Twin Denny Hocking was 3-5. Even the Cardinals So Taguchi had three hits! Did I mention this series is being played in St. Louis, not Denver!? I think we're learning a lot about why neither of these teams will win much this year, despite their offensive prowess.
There were seven home runs hit in the Astros 14-5 win over Milwaukee. Scott Podsednik hit two homers. I hate to mock SportsCenter too often, but it can be fun. Someone on there said that Scott Podsednik might be worth picking up in your fantasy baseball league. OK, if Scott Podsednik was not drafted in your fantasy league draft, I want to join your league!!!
Former Twins OF Bobby Kielty is playing every day for the Oakland A's. He is doing exactly what it was that made Billy Beane and the A's drool over him. Last night was a perfect example. He was 1-2 with three walks.
SUNDAY - TWINS 8, ROYALS 3
The Twins were able to finish off the sweep of the Kansas City Royals with an 8-3 win. It was debatable as to who should have made the start for the Twins. They could have gone with Carlos Silva on three days rest. They could have gone with Joe Roa or Terry Mulholland (although after he pitched Saturday night, that wasn't going to happen. So, the Twins decided on Seth Greisinger. He didn't do too terrible. He went four innings. He gave up six hits and walked one. He gave up three runs, but just two were earned. He struck out four. He gave way to Joe Roa who gave the Twins 2 1/3 innings of one-hit ball. He struck out two. Aaron Fultz came in and went 1 2/3 innings perfect innings (including 3 strikeouts). Juan Rincon struck out two in a perfect ninth. So, the bullpen got the Twins that win! A big part of there success? Carlos Beltran went 0-3. Mike Sweeney was 0-4, and Juan Gonzalez was 0-3.
Jacque Jones was the star on offense. I wondered if he would get the game off against lefty Darrell May, but Ron Gardenhire continues to show confidence in Jones by playing him. Jones came through! He went 3-4 with two doubles off May before a big triple off Shane Camp. All told, he had four RBI. Luis Rivas had two hits including a big two run homer in the sixth inning that gave the Twins a three-run lead. He continues to hit homers against the Royals.
The Twins will take their five game winning streak and 8-4 record into a three game series with the Tigers at the Metrodome starting on Tuesday. The Tigers will finish their four game set with the Indians on Monday night.
ROCHESTER REPORT - The Red Wings lost their third straight game to Scranton-Wilkes Barre Sunday afternoon 6-1. Phenom (who somehow still isn't with the Phillies) Chase Utley had a homer, a triple and three RBI. Out of pitching necessity, Adam Johnson had to start. He gave up three runs (2 earned) in 5 innings. Josh Rabe drove in Justin Morneau for Rochester's lone run of the game. They had just seven hits and Morneau's double was the only extra-base hit. Monday, they will play Pawtucket in a three game series. They will face Byung-Hyun Kim in the first game.
ROCKCATS REPORT - New Britain was also swept this weekend in a three-game series with Norwich. Sunday, they lost 8-1. Henry Bonilla gave up 6 runs (4 earned) in 5 innings. Beau Kemp did pitch two scoreless innings in relief. 2B Luis Maza, DH Kevin West and RF Jason Kubel each had two hits. Kubel is now hitting .486. West is at .314. BJ Garbe ended the day at .259. The other six who started for New Britain on Sunday were all hitting under .211.
MIRACLE REPORT - Ft. Myers won their fourth straight game, sweeping Clearwater this weekend. LF Ron Perodin went 3-3 on the day. DH Jose Morales was 2-4 with a two-run homer. Starting pitcher Jeff Randazzo pitched five shutout innings before giving up 5 runs in the sixth inning.
SWING THINGS - The Swing lost their third straight game to Burlington 13-14 in 11 innings.
SUNDAY - BASEBALL THOUGHTS
So much was made of the Red Sox beating the Yankees Friday and Saturday as if it meant anything. The Yankees returned the favor Sunday with a 7-3 win. A-Rod was still 0-4, but everyone else really contributed. I have both Derek Lowe and Jose Contreras on one of my fantasy teams. I decided to pitch both of them, hoping to get a win out of one. Well, neither even went three innings, so that backfired!
Cleveland won two out of three over the Tigers, pushing them out of first place for the first time this year. Former Twins OF Matt Lawton went 2-4, with 2 HR, 4 R and 4 RBI.
Eric Dubose went seven three-hit innings in the Orioles win over the Blue Jays. Going into the season, many believed that the Blue Jays closer would be Aquilino Lopez. Well, if he was, he isn't any more. He gave up a walk and a hit in 2/3 of an inning to set his ERA at 12.00 for the season. In 7 games this year, he has pitched 6 innings, given up 10 hits and 3 walks for 8 runs. What else is wrong with the Jays? Well, here are the batting averages of five of their regulars: Reed Johnson (.184), Eric Hinske (.186), Carlos Delgado (.119), Orlando Hudson (.150), and Chris Woodward (.167).
Hamstring injuries are popping up all over. The Twins had to put Torii Hunter on the DL. Chipper Jones misses a few games last week because he pulled his hamstring. Sunday, trying to make a long-running catch, he came up lame after hitting the wall in left-center. Seeing it, I think he will have to go on the DL. Frank Thomas drilled a ball to the leftfield wall Sunday. He tried to turn it into a double and came up short, and limping. Look at what happened with Jacque Jones' groin injury last year. Muscle pulls take time to heal. Trying to come back too soon can sometimes make it far worse. This early in the season, you would think teams would be smarter.
Speaking of the White Sox, Esteban Loaiza pitched a complete game two-hitter against the Devil Rays. The win keeps the Sox even with the Twins at the top of the AL Central.
If you have Billy Wagner on your fantasy team, you're smiling after this weekend. He had saves on both Friday and Saturday nights. He then pitched a scoreless inning on Sunday and got credit with the win when notorious slugger Doug Glanville homered in the bottom of the ninth. How do I know this? I've got Wagner on one of my fantasy teams. Oh, and many, maybe including me, were ready to fire Larry Bowa when the Phillies were at 1-6. Well, after this sweep, they are now 4-6. Not that it is good, but seven games is too soon.
The Rockies and Cardinals scored 13 more runs Sunday with the the Rockies winning 8-5. The Rockies called up Matt Holliday last week when the put Preston Wilson on the Disabled List. He went 0-7 in his first two games, but he went 3-3 Sunday.
The wind was blowing out at Wrigley... and we were struck watching the White Sox on WGN! Adam Dunn hit his 6th and 7th homers. Sammy Sosa hit his 3rd and 4th. Moises Alou hit his 6th. Greg Maddux struggled again, giving up 7 earned runs in 6 innings. His ERA is now 8.62 in three starts. My advice, don't worry about him!! Former Twins reliever Todd Jones went 2 1/3 scoreless innings to pick up the win for the Reds.
Barry Bonds was at it again Sunday. In his first at bat, he had an RBI double. In his second at bat, he hit a solo homer in the fourth inning. In the sixth, he came up with two runners on base. The Dodgers chose to pitch to him, and he drilled a three-run homer. In the seventh inning, he ripped a single to right. Oh, by the way, the Giants lost to the Dodgers 7-6 despite the 4-4, 5 RBI effort from Bonds.
In my baseball predictions, I didn't include the Padres Khalil Greene in my picks for NL Rookie of the Year... I may have been wrong. He's pretty good!
Any thoughts on anything, e-mail me.
WOLVES WIN 106-92
It was The Sam and KG Show for the Wolves last night! The Wolves jumped out to a lead in the first quarter and maintained it in the second. They got the lead up to 22 early in the third quarter, but the Nuggets were feisty and refused to go away. At one point in the fourth quarter, they had cut the lead to 5. Soon after, Kevin Garnett was relegated to the bench with his 5th foul. However, that is when Sam Cassell took over. Garnett was out for just about 4 minutes, but the lead went from 7 to 11.
Kevin Garnett started out 1-5 from the field, but he had a double-double six minutes into the second quarter. He continued to hit big shots and grab big rebounds on his way to a 30 point, 20 rebound performance. But the star of the show was none other than Sam Cassell. He started out hot, scoring 12 first quarter points. He had 17 at half time. When, in the third quarter, the Wolves went from a 7 point lead to their 22 point lead, Cassell knocked down three three pointers. When Garnett was on the bench, Cassell knocked down two straight 17 footers and when he wasn't shooting, he created open shots for others. All said, Cassell was 16-24 from the field (including 5-6 from behind the arc) for 40 points!
But it was more than just the big two! Did you see the defense being played by Trenton Hassell on the likes of Carmelo Anthony and Jon Barry? How about the in-your-face defense of Latrell Sprewell, primarily on Anthony. Also, down the stretch, both came up with big steals! Wally Szczerbiak knocked down some big open shots, which he will have to continue to do for the Wolves to continue to win. Ervin Johnson had 5 rebounds, all on the offensive end. Mark Madsen and Kevin Garnett also were big on the offensive boards.
From the Nuggets perspective, they did not give up at all. They kept making comebacks. Carmelo Anthony scored 19 despite foul trouble. Marcus Camby scored 19 points, all in the second half. Earl Boykins scored 16 points and 5 assists. He just created havoc on the court. I kept thinking, "OK, you've got Andre Miller as your point guard, and Earl Boykins is in the game in the 4th quarter?" But, every time I thought that, Boykins would make a play.
Next up, the Wolves host the Nuggets again on Wednesday night at 8:30 on TNT. The Nuggets will make some adjustments, but so will the Wolves. And, the Nugget comebacks will keep the Wolves nervous enough not to let down. I think that the key for the Wolves will be getting Latrell Sprewell off on the offensive end of the court early in the game. I think they should set up the first three plays for Sprewell to get him into it. Yes, he is still a valuable cog on the team because he does so much. I had always heard he was good defensively. Then I saw him during the regular season and saw just how good a defender he is. But last night, he took defense to a whole new level! Hopefully Wednesday, Darrick Martin can provide Cassell more than 6 minutes of rest.
Game 2 should be another good game. It is a seven game series, and it was a good win in Game #1.
What did you think of the game? Any thoughts? E-mail me.
And that is it for today. If you have any questions or comments on anything you've read, let me know. If you have any comments on the format of this weekend's postings, I would love to hear them. Please feel free to e-mail me. Thanks for stopping by, and have a great week!
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