Tuesday, April 27, 2004
Lilly Shuts Out Twins
Twins Minor Leagues
Wally Can't Play for Wolves
TO KC WITH KIRK
Have you ever taken a baseball trip? I have. I went to Miller Park in Milwaukee to see two Twins games with a friend two years ago. I went to Cooperstown, NY, with some friends and family three years ago for Hall of Fame Induction weekend when Kirby Puckett, Dave Winfield, Bill Mazeroski and Hilton Smith. I have driven to Denver and went to a game at picturesque Coors Field on a sunny, 98 degree Labor Day.
Last weekend, the Twins played a three game set in Kansas City. Frequent SethSpeaks contributor, Kirk Beller, and a friend of his made the long trek south on I-29 from Fargo to Kansas City to watch all three games. Kirk was kind enough to jot down some of his thoughts on the trip, the weekend, Kauffman Stadium, and some baseball too! I hope you enjoy this. If you have any questions or comments, or want to tell me about your baseball trips, send me an e-mail. If you have any questions or comments that you would specifically like to send to Kirk, you can e-mail him here. Enjoy!
Hey everyone. I should start this by saying that Iíve just assumed that you know how to read a box score and that youíve gotten pretty good recaps from Seth or other sources, so you donít need me to tell you exactly what happened in each game. For that reason, I thought Iíd focus on what was bouncing around my pea-sized brain for the last three days.
We hatched the plan for Baseball Trek 2004 in about February of this year. The idea was to hit Kansas City for any old Royals game just to see the stadium and get a generally different baseball experience than one gets at the super-sterile, joyless venue that is the Metrodome. Well, it just so happens that one of our free weekends happened to fall over the same time that the Twins would play their first series in KCóthat pretty much settled the whole thing. Fraser and I were set. We ordered seats for the first two games, and decided to buy walk up tickets for the final game just in case it was raining or we just wanted to get on the road for the nine-hour journey home.
I should note that this isnít my first baseball trip. In the summer of 2001, two guys from work and one buddy from a fantasy league hit the road for five games over four days in three stadiums.We saw the Cards and Brewers for a pair in Milwaukee, then followed the Brewers to Wrigley for a Friday afternoon in the bleachers. We capped that one off with a scheduled double-header against the Aís in the dome. That trip was fun, but exhausting.
Fraser, on the other hand, has only seen MLB games in the Metrodome to the best of my knowledge (a fact which I didnít learn until we were strutting the concourse at Kauffman). This was his first shot at a baseball trip, and I wanted it to be a good one so that heíd agree to another one next summer. We werenít disappointed.
We left my place at 6:30 AM on Friday, figuring nine hours of driving time and a couple of minutes to get checked in and make the hike to the stadium for batting practice. Nine and a half hours, one gas stop at the Vermillion exit, and a stop and scarf at the Burger King in Council Bluffs later we were pulling into the Drury Inn parking lot across the George Brett Bridge from the Kauffman/Arrowhead stadium complex.
A word about our accommodations: if youíre ever thinking of baseball in KC, you absolutely MUST stay here. The room we had was small, but clean and nice and had all the amenities a guy would need. Plus, being so close to the stadium we saved about $10 bucks a day on parking. They also have a free full breakfast spread that rivals the adjacent Dennys. You canít lose staying at the Drury Inn. No, I didnít sign and endorsement deal with them while there.
So we got to Kauffman a little after 5:00 with a steady drizzle already coming down. We walked down to the rail in the foul line seats on the third base side and watched the pitchers doing their warm-ups. Got a close up look at Koskie and headed to our seats about 6 rows up from the field right next to the Twins bullpen in left. The seats were perfectóI love that I didnít have to shift or turn in my seat to get a good view of the game. It was perfect.
OK, not so perfect. We happened to be there on Kansas State Frat/Sorority night at the game, which apparently consists of lots of cute yet brain-free college girls whining that itís cold while talking non-stop on little pink cell phones. Add in the sorority boys (yeah, I do mean sorority boys) getting wasted off two beers apiece and it makes for a long night. At least we had a decent game.
I donít know what Kyle Lohseís problem is. I watched him work into three ball counts and wanted to tear my hair out. I was thinking that with the way everything was dying that night, he should just challenge every hitter and let one of the better defenses in the game pick up the slack. That apparently wasnít Kyleís plan. I donít know. It looked to me like he wanted to prove that he could pitch, not get people out, so pitch he did. It was painful to watch. I was especially fond of the way he bounced nine or ten pitches in the dirt five feet in front of the plate. I learned that nothing cheeses Fraser off more than a pitcher who goes to three ball counts to at least every other batter.
So the Twins couldnít get anything going for the longest time but we hung in there through the rain. By the 7th we were pretty wet from a rather steady if light drizzle. Then the rain picked up. I thought for sure we were going to see this one called early and that weíd go back to the hotel wondering why weíd driven 600 miles to watch the Twins suck so bad. I finally gave up scoring when my pencil started to tear my scorecard rather than leave any mark on the sheet. It was like that was the signal for the Twins to start hitting. They put up three in the 8th and added another three in the 9th to win the game.
Thereís something about hanging around at the game through those kind of conditions that is so satisfying. You feel like you actually worked your fan mojo to make your team win. I mean, here we are sporting Twins jerseys, sitting next to obnoxious fans in the Ďenemyí ballpark, weíve driven 600 miles, sat in the rain, itís pretty much bedtime, and weíve seen nothing to suggest that the Twins have any real life in them tonight. Next thing you know, the sorority boys are slumped in their chairs, weíre standing and cheering while actually shivering (I should be embarrassed to admit that Iím a Minnesota/North Dakota boy that got cold in 50 degree temps), and the Twins are walking off the field with a win. Right there, regardless of anything else that happened all weekend, the trip was a success.
Saturday, we slept late, snuck down just in time for the free breakfast, and managed to catch a good portion of the NFL draft before we decided we needed to get out of the hotel room for a bit. We checked out the home of Harry S. Truman in Independence and on the suggestion of one of the National Park Service dudes there, toured the Vaile Mansion in the same city. I gotta tell you, Harry Truman could be one of the blandest historical figures ever. This is coming from a guy that was a history major in college. Iím telling you, I know bland when I see it. The tour was interesting, but thereís certainly nothing controversial about that guy. Oh wait. I guess there was the whole Hirsoshima/Nagasaki thing. Other than that though, bland.
But, it wasted some time for us. By the time we had stopped off for some Fuddruckers (why in Godís name was that restaurant not a success in Fargo? I heart that place.) and stopped by the room to change into our jerseys we were looking at 5 PM. We strutted over and took our seats in the first row of the upper deck right above the Twins dugout on the third base side.
I decided that it wasnít a good omen when I found out that Michael Cuddyer would be starting in right field with the lefty May pitching (GOOD!) so that Jacque Jones could . . . DH? What the crap is that? I thought Gardy had finally realized that there is no reason to have Jacque in the lineup against a lefty. I mean, wouldnít it make sense to give Jacque the night off and let one of the bench guys start that night instead? I was dumbfounded.
I donít know. People, Iím 6 feet tall and I weigh in right around 250 pounds. Iím roundish in the middle, mostly because I have a predisposition for efficient snacking and an aversion to any sort of exercise. Plus, Iím not coordinated in the least. In other words, Iím your average baseball fan. Iím telling you, that the gods got back at Gardy for putting Jacque in the game by making Cristian Guzman play worse than I would have out there. I donít know what Gordo and Dazzle had to say about his play in the field, but there is no way that they can accurately describe just how far up his rectum Guzman had his head. The sad thing is he started the game with a real slick play where he took away a sure-hit by Graffanino, proving that he has the skills to be an above-average fielding shortstop. After that though, he managed to boot two plays for errors, and misplay two others that were generously scored as hits. I canít tell you how bad I wanted to have a sniper rifle right about then.
As infuriating as that was, it really didnít dampen our spirits much to see the Twins get outplayed and stomped 10-1. Iím telling you, getting a clear blue vivid sky after a day of constant showers coupled with a field thatís a color of green actually found in nature and a light breeze does more for my spirits than just about anything else I can imagine. At that point, the game becomes secondary to me, and I just sort of sit back and bask in my surroundings. Oh, I score the game still and cheer when itís time to cheer, but I certainly donít worry about whether or not Jacque Jones should be DH-ing, or if Carlos Pulido is going to be sent out after being shellacked, or if Al Newman is going to eat the weak foul ball he just picked up. Thatís pretty much as close to a Zen moment as I can get.
I canít believe I just wrote that. You are getting very sleepy. You are forgetting what you just read. You donít think Iím a giant ween for sharing my near-religious baseball experience . . . .
So Fraser and I walked out of the park after being heckled mightily for having the audacity to wear Twins jerseys to a Royals game. We hooked up with a friend of mine from high school who lives in the KC area, had some dessert at Dennyís (diet be damned!) and returned to our room to drain about half a bottle of scotch before crashing at about 1 AM.
The next morning it was back for more sweet free breakfast, checkout, pack up the car and head over for the game. The Twins got all four of their runs in one inning and played a typical Twins-style game after that. Decent, though not overpowering pitching performance out of Carlos Silva for 7 innings, followed by a nice inning of work out of J.C. Romero and a nail-biter of a save out of Nathan. It was the kind of game that left you walking out of the park going ďYep, that was pretty much what you expect out of the Twins.Ē
We were lucky enough to sit next to a family of Twins fans from the Sioux Falls, SD area which was a nice change from the previous nights. Hunterís bomb landed about 15 feet away from us, though in an area where no fans could get to it. It was gorgeous outside. About 70 degrees and enough sun to cause my poor, white, havenít-been-exposed-to-ultra-violet-light-for-six-months arms to turn a nice lobster red. Ditto the ears and cheeks. You pretty much canít ask for more when you know that youíre about to head back to a place that will get down below freezing that night.
The trip back was uneventful, and just a touch more subdued than the trip down. I guess that the anticipation of a weekend of games is a bit more fun than the anticipation of a return to work. Add in the fact that I-29 from KC to Fargo is so straight and boring that a guy could practically drive with no hands and claim heís using the force to keep the car on the road, and you can understand how weíd be a tad less keyed-up for the ride back. Our copy of ďThis is JeopardyĒ with 400+ final jeopardy questions managed to shorten the trip a bit. Yes, we are nerds.
So I guess you could count this one as an unqualified success. If you told me before heading out that Iíd get to see the Twins win two of three AND Iíd get to see the family home of Harry Truman, youíd have had a happy guy on your hands. I canít imagine how it would have been more fun. OK, check that. I canít imagine how I would have more fun without getting a divorce.
Soap-box time: If you havenít ever done a baseball trek with a friend or a group of your buddies, or your family or whatever, you need to do this. If you do try it, I would really suggest taking the time to watch a few games in the same stadium like we did this time so that you can really get a chance to enjoy the whole experience. Take some time to relax while youíre there too (i.e. drink a half a bottle of scotch). For me, Iíve decided that Iím making this an annual thing. Iím thinking Pittsburgh or Denver next year to check out some of this DH-free stuff. Any of you cats interested?
Again, if you would like to converse with or have any questions for Kirk, send Kirk an e-mail. If you want to discuss your baseball trips, or have any ideas for trips for me, e-mail me.
TWINS LOSE TO LILLY
Michael Cuddyer's solo homer in the 6th inning ruined his shutout. That home run and a bloop single by Cristian Guzman were the only blemishes in a great performance by Blue Jays starter Ted Lilly. Lilly went 9 innings with 2 hits and 2 walks. The soft-tosser even struck out 8 Twins batters, many of them looking. Brad Radke was able to give the Twins 7 innings, something that has been a rarity for Twins starters so far this season. Radke actually got through the first inning without giving up a run, and then the second too! But in the third, the Blue Jays scored two runs. The Jays then scored two more in the 6th inning on a Josh Phelps double. In his 7 innings, Radke gave up those four runs on 10 hits, walking no one. Aaron Fultz came in for the 8th and gave up two runs (1 earned). Terry Mulholland pitched a scoreless ninth. In case you were wondering, Luis Rivas is now 0 for his last 19 at bats.
The teams play again tonight at 7:10 when Johan Santana faces Miguel Batista.
Any Twins Thoughts? E-mail me.
TWINS MINOR LEAGUE REPORTS
ROCHESTER REPORT - Last night, the Redwings were beaten 11-3 by Jeroime Robertson and the Buffalo Bison. Matt Guerrier threw six innings and gave up five hits and three runs (2 earned). He walked one and struck out seven. The Redwings had just five hits. Jose Rabe and Chris Heintz each had two hits, including a double. Brian Simmons had a double. Jason Bartlett went 0-5, ending an 11 game hit streak. Remember Justin Morneau is at his grandmother's funeral. Also, Terry Tiffee is expected off the Disabled List in the next few days.
NEW BRITAIN REPORT - A day after beating Akron 19-0, the Rockcats lost to Erie 10-1. Boof Bonser took the loss for New Britain. He went 5 1/3 innings and gave up 5 runs (4 earned) on 7 hits and 2 walks. He did strike out 8. The Rockcats had just five hits. Jason Kubel and Gabby Torres each had a double. Luis Maza hit a home run.
FT. MYERS REPORT - The Miracle defeated Brevard County 4-3 yesterday. Josh Gray pitched the first two innings for the Miracle, but Marcus Moseley pitched the next three scoreless innings. He now has an ERA of 0.84 on the young season. Justin Olson pitched the final two innings to pick up the win. The Miracle, who had been shut out their previous three games, managed just 6 hits, but it was enough. No player had more than one hit. RF Doug Deeds had a double and SS Jesus Merchan had a triple. On another note, pitcher Francisco Liriano, who came to the Twins in the AJ Pierzynski deal, was named the Florida State League Pitcher of the Week.
QUAD CITIES REPORT - The Swing lost 5-4 in 10 innings last night. Errol Simonitsch started and went 7 quality innings. He gave up two runs on 3 hits and 2 walks. He struck out seven. Peter Tautor got into trouble in the 9th. Julio Depaula came in for the save, but gave up a two-run hit to tie the game in the bottom of the 9th. Jon Uhl gave up the run in the 10th inning. Denard Span led the Swing with a 2-5 performance. He also stole his 7th base. RF Scott Whitrock did hit his 4th home run of the season. Matt Moses again did not play.
Any questions or comments, e-mail me.
WOLVES LOSE WALLY
If you watched the Wolves Game 3 loss Saturday night at Denver, you saw Wally Szczerbiak go up for a fast break dunk. He was fouled hard as he was getting close to the rim. He tried to hang on to the rim, but he was moving so quickly that he couldn't. He fell and landed hard on his back. He did come back and continued to play. Turns out that he broke three vertebra, and will not be able to play at least the rest of this series. That is bad news for the Wolves. They should still be able to beat the Nuggets, but having someone who can shoot from the perimeter like Wally can is very important. Fred Hoiberg will have to play a far bigger role!
Game 4 is tonight, again from the Pepsi Center. It will be yet another late night game. But, of course, I will stay up for it. I do expect to see the Wolves play far better than they did Saturday!
How do you think the Wolves will do tonight? Any predictions? E-mail me.
If you're like me and will really miss Friends, be sure to check out this site, an Encyclopedia of Friends knowledge.
The Hardball Times is a great site. They now have their Stats page up and running. It does not show your standard statistics, but some really deep, well-thought-out stats that could be useful. One statistic that I find incredibly interesting is the Line Drive Percentage. Simply Stated, it is the percent of times that a batter hits a line drive. To me, that's what a hitter should try to do. If the player does not walk or strikeout, but puts the ball in play, all you can do is try to hit it hard. What happens after that really is a lot of luck.
The Twins Geek had a great article on the pathetic play of Cristian Guzman and Luis Rivas and discusses the future of the Twins middle infield situation.
Another cable company signed up for Victory Sports. Hopefully more and more will do so, especially my cable company!!
And on that positive note, I'll call it a day! I hope you have a wonderful Tuesday. Again, if you know where I can find a picture of Jason Kubel for the left side of this screen, please let me know. If you have any ideas for topics, or you yourself would like to write an entry to be posted on this site, please let me know and we'll figure it out! Any questions or comments, e-mail me.
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