Monday, September 28, 2009
Twins… Tigers… Here We Go!
On August 17th, I wrote a blog that I called The Transition to Spoiler. In other words, that was the date when I officially thought that the Twins postseason chances were over. The Twins had a 2-4 record in a home stand against Kansas City and Cleveland. They were five games under .500 and six games behind the Tigers. I outlined several things that I thought the Twins should do over the final six weeks of the season. I thought that the Twins should put several veterans on waivers in the hopes that someone would claim them and they would be gone. I thought trying to get a Player to be Named Later of Carl Pavano would make sense. I was talking about promotions and playing time charts and all kinds of looking to 2010 topics.
Sometimes the best thing you can do is just admit being wrong. They were five games below .500 and now they are seven games above .500. They were six games behind the Tigers (and got as far as seven back), and now they are just two games back with seven to play, four against the Tigers. They lost one of their two MVP candidates for the season, and yet, they have found a way to compete and win. Maybe, just maybe, Twins bloggers and fans need to give the Twins front office and Bill Smith a little credit. They added Jon Rauch and Ron Mahay, and now the Twins bullpen has been very strong. I did like the Carl Pavano trade when it happened, but am shocked by just how good he has been, far exceeding my expectations. Orlando Cabrera, well, I’m not convinced he is adding a lot with some poor defense. His offense has actually been almost adequate the last week. Joe Mauer has continued to be Joe Mauer. Michael Cuddyer has played at the highest level in his career over the last two weeks. Denard Span missed 2+ games, but he has been vital in his return. Nick Punto has performed well in September. He was as bad as it gets offensively previous to September, and his defense had clearly taken a couple of steps backward. Suddenly in September, he has even been able to even get bunts down. We all wanted Danny Valencia to come up and play 3B. When he wasn’t, we figured Brendan Harris had to be in the lineup. Instead, Matt Tolbert was playing 3B. He is the opposite of what you would look for in a big league 3B, but he has come through with some big hits and excellent defense. Some have questioned playing Delmon Young instead of Carlos Gomez. Young has been hitting very well the last few weeks. Some bloggers may want to scream “Small Sample Size!” on several of these things. To that, my response is, “Who cares!? There are seven games left in the season, all we have left is a Small Sample!”
Twins fans, let’s enjoy this final week.
· On Sunday night’s podcast, co-host Travis Aune (Travis Talks) and I were joined to start the show by Lee Warren, who writes a Royals blog called Royal Reflections. We talked about the Twins/Royals series, some of the big players and much more. It was a very good discussion. After that, we went through the World Cup final round and showed how the Twins minor leaguers did. We spent the final 15 minutes dissecting the Twins/Tigers series, looking at the pitching matchups as we enter this series, and more.
· Again, there will be another podcast tonight at 10:00 central time. I am hoping to be joined by a Twins blogger, a Tigers blogger, and maybe even a Twins minor leaguer or two. More and more people are starting to listen live to the podcasts, and even more are listening to the Archive show, so join them and take a listen. Obviously if you have any opinions, I would love to hear them.
Twins 1, Royals 4 | Tigers 4, White Sox 8
· The Twins got to within two games of the Tigers on Friday night when they beat the Royals and the White Sox beat the Tigers. On Saturday, both teams got wins.
· Sunday was a game that, on paper, the Twins should not win. Zach Greinke is an incredible pitcher and really should be the AL Cy Young Award winner. The Twins replaced Jeff Manship in the rotation with Francisco Liriano, so the Twins were truly just hoping. Just hoping that the White Sox would help them out and beat the Tigers. And they did. The White Sox came through with an 8-4 win.
· Francisco Liriano gave up a three run homer to Yunieski Betancourt in the 2nd innings. In just 1.2 innings, he gave up three runs on three hits. After the home run, he allowed two more base runners.
· Jeff Manship replaced Liriano and got a strikeout of Billy Butler to end the 2nd innings. Manship went 3.1 innings and gave up just one run on one hit. He walked three and struck out five. In 26 innings with the Twins, Manship has walked 14 batters. Obviously that is not a good number. However, I think it is important to note that in 444.2 minor league innings, he has averaged just 2.4 walks per nine innings. In other words, that is something that will be corrected in time.
· It begs the question, “Who starts on Friday night against the Royals? Jeff Manship or Francisco Liriano?” No matter what happens during these next four games, the three games against the Royals will all still be immensely important.
· Orlando Cabrera went 3-5. Joe Mauer went 2-4. Both came to the plate one inning with the bases loaded with less than two outs and neither could knock in a run. That’s inexcusable. However, there is one excuse that is fair. The pitches that Greinke threw once the bases were loaded were incredible.
· Denard Span was 2-5 and is now hitting .307.
· Mauer is now hitting .370. Ichiro went 0-4 and is now hitting .352.
Twins/Tigers – Game 1 – Monday, 6:05 Central Time
· The Twins are where we would have wanted them to be going into this four game series in Detroit. Well, we would prefer that they Twins have a five game lead going into this series, of course, but considering where they had been, this is where they need to be. That doesn’t in any way minimize just how big this series or any of the individual games are. The phrase “This one is big” now means very little because it is simply a given. They are all big, no matter what. On the podcast last night, Travis said that the first game is huge because if the Twins lose, they are three back. If they win, they are down by just one game, and that is a big difference.
· Nick Blackburn (11-11, 4.18, 1.41, .296) will be on the mound for the Twins. In two previous starts this year against the Tigers, he is 1-1 with a 5.11 ERA.
· Rick Porcello (14-9, 4.14, 1.35, .268) is my choice for AL Rookie of the Year for 2009, but I hope that he has a performance on Monday night that makes that questionable. He has made three starts already against the Twins this year, and he has gone 1-2 with a 3.71 ERA. The Twins have hit .282 against him. In 17 innings, he has walked six and struck out seven Twins batters.
World Cup Update
· Team USA beat Cuba 10-5 on Sunday to claim the World Cup Championship! Congratulations to Trevor Plouffe and former Twins player Terry Tiffee on their gold medal. In the final game, Trevor Plouffe went 0-5. He had a very strong tournament which included an 11 game hitting streak.
· Canada claimed third place with a 6-2 win over Puerto Rico. Rene Tosoni went 0-2 but walked twice and was hit by a pitch.
· Australia beat The Netherlands 4-1 in the 5th place game. Luke Hughes went 1-3 with a walk. James Beresford went 1-3 with a walk and a stolen base.
· Venezuela beat Chinese Taipei 6-3 in the 7th place game.
If you have any opinions, comments or updates, please leave them in the Comments section.