Following Game 2, I was again asked to be on the Minnesota Twins Fan Network podcast with Jeff Straub. If you would like to listen to many of my thoughts on the first two games and more, click here.
October 4, 2006
I'm one of those people that hates to say that one play can cost a team a ball game. Wow! Was that philosophy ever tested this afternoon!?
We hear so often that the playoffs are for veterans, for guys who have "been there," not for rookies or young players. Well, veteran Torii Hunter's play was horrible. I have no idea what he was thinking. Yesterday it was Luis Castillo who could not advance Jason Bartlett from second last in the game. Today, he struck out looking THREE TIMES! The team has not been able to deliver with runners in scoring position. There have been errors, both physical and mental.
Back to the Hunter play. It really was just "Typical Torii." The effort is there, it can't be questioned. But did he really think he could catch that ball? He wasn't close. There were two outs in the top of the 8th inning of a 2-2 ball game. If he plays it on a bounce, there are runners on first and either second or third. There are still two outs, and the game is still tied at two. Dennys Reyes, as he has been so effective throughout the year, gets to face another batter with a chance to get out of the inning.
Because of that one decision, one split-second decision, the Twins were down 4-2. For all intents and purposes, the game was over, and really, the shot at advancing to the ALCS may have been too.
I say it is typical Torii because that typifies what he has been the last couple of months. Defensively, he still seems to think he can do what he once did, but in reality, he just can't. Offensively, as nice as those first pitch home runs are, his first pitch pop ups are equally frustrating. Immediately after Michael Cuddyer and Justin Morneau each hit home runs after working the counts and getting mistakes, Torii Hunter swung at a first ball and popped it up. Then, after his outfield blunder, what did he do in his next at bat? Popped up a first pitch.
Maybe it was just a good reminder to Twins fans that his option is up, he isn't getting younger, and his decision-making is certainly questionable at times.
The Twins bullpen is the best in baseball. But, by the 9th inning, the announcers were talking about how the Twins bullpen didn't come through. Well, it isn't that they didn't do the job. They made the pitches. But, the runs are earned because there was no error charged to Hunter. Pat Neshek takes the loss. Dennys Reyes is charged with a run.
Baseball can be very frustrating at times. It's frustrating when you know that your team is better than it is playing, it's better than it is showing the country.
However, one big factor that seems to be missed by many Twins fans. The Oakland A's are a very good team too, and they deserve a lot of credit. Yesterday I said that in a short series, the better team doesn't always win. In saying that, I did not mean to downplay the A's team. I am not saying taht the Twins are the better team in this series. Barry Zito and Esteban Loaiza deserve a lot of credit, and they are good. Kiko Calero, Justin Duchscherer and Joe Kennedy have done the job in the bullpen all year. And, when healthy, Huston Street is a great closer. The offense is known as Frank Thomas, Nick Swisher and a bunch of guys. But that 'bunch of guys' includes a lot of good, professional hitters. Guys like Jason Kendall, Mark Kotsay, Mark Ellis, and Milton Bradley all seem to take good at bats. Jay Payton is a great athlete who is a little less disciplined at the plate. The "Moneyball" A's were known as not caring about defense, but this team does a great job with their gloves too. This is a good team. Dan Haren, their Game 3 pitcher, is immensely talented, if inconsistent this year. And, Rich Harden may have as good of stuff as anyone in baseball, if only he could stay healthy. He would start Game 4.
I know how good that A's are as a team, and I did not do a good job of letting that be known here. The Twins had to play well to beat them. I thought they would be up for it. Now, I am hoping that they will get to see Rich Harden on Saturday. I hope there is a Game 4. I hope Brad Radke can be strong and provide six good innings. It's all about surviving another day, another game at this point.
By the way, there have been some positives for the Twins. Johan Santana and Boof Bonser have each had quality starts. Bonser gave up two runs in his six innings. He really impressed me and showed great stuff with great poise. The Cuddyer and Morneau blasts went back-to-back. Both were on good at bats, and each had two hits in the game.
Do you have any thoughts on the Twins, the A's, this series, or anything? Can the Twins come back? Are the odds of the Twins coming back better or worse than they were for the Twins to win the division back in June? Send me an e-mail, or leave some thoughts in the Comments.
Have a great day!
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