Edit (9:14 PM): The game will be played tomorrow at 12:35 ET as part of a doubleheader.
I was planning to examine the addition of Juan Morillo on the off-day, but Aaron Gleeman did such a good job of it that I felt what I would have written would simply have been a restatement of his post. Also, it may not be an off-day, but I live in Massachussetts (albeit 90 miles from Boston) and it's pretty messy out there. I'm not optimistic about the Twins getting their game in today, although Joe Christensen is.
With that out of the way, there is one piece of Twins news: Phil Humber will be headed to Rochester as no team claimed him while he was on waivers. That's surprising to me and many others, but I suppose all the other ballclubs saw the same things that caused the Twins to designate Humber in the first place. Regardless, I'm glad he's staying in the organization.
Now, onto the actual topic of this blog post. In the off-season, I wrote up a list of the most memorable games and moments of the Twins' 2008 season. However, the list was quite extensive and was simply in chronological order, so I decided to cut it down and then rank the top 10 most memorable moments. Here they are, with the write-ups being the same as the ones from the original post.
10. Denard Span makes a game-saving catch (August 6th at Seattle)
==>The bullpen woes were just beginning for the Twins, but the previous two games of the series were extremely tough to stomach. In the first game, the Twins led 6-1 heading into the seventh, when Glen Perkins exited with a lead. Before it was over, though, Brian Bass, Boof Bonser, and Matt Guerrier had combined to give up six of the ten runs the Twins allowed in that one inning. In the next game, the offense pushed four runs across in the eighth to take a one-run lead, but Matt Guerrier and Joe Nathan promptly gave two runs right back. Then, in this game, the Twins were leading 4-3 in the seventh when Jesse Crain came on to face Adrian Beltre with a man on. He crushed the ball to right for what looked like a home run, but Span set himself up against the wall and made a leaping grab over the wall to save two runs and end the inning. And just for good measure, he also had 4 RBIs in the game.
9. The Twins score five in the ninth to beat the Rays (September 18th at Tampa Bay)
==>As badly as they’d needed the win against Cleveland, it was just that much more dire now. It was a roller coaster game, as Jason Kubel hit a homer in the first to put the Twins up 3-0. Then, Glen Perkins didn’t make it out of the first, and the Rays went up 5-3. They built their lead up to 7-3, before the Twins cut it to 7-6. A third Evan Longoria home run made the score 8-6. Coming into the ninth, on the verge of their fifth straight loss, I had turned the game off long ago. But, before Tampa even had time to get an out, Alexi Casilla had crushed a two-run homer to tie the game. Joe Mauer doubled and Justin Morneau was intentionally walked, bringing Jason Kubel to the plate. But Gardenhire decided to pinch hit for him with Adam Everett, obviously intending to have him bunt the runners over. Instead, Everett took a huge cut and sent the ball to the left field wall, scoring the go-ahead run. A Delmon Young single and a Matt Tolbert sac fly would add insurance runs, which helped put everyone at ease.
8. Mike Lamb hits a two-run walk-off single (May 9th vs. Boston)
==>Down 6-5 with two outs and Delmon Young on second, the Twins’ prospects of winning were looking fairly bleak, largely because Jonathan Papelbon was on the mound. That changed quickly though, after Young stole third, Carlos Gomez walked, and then Gomez stole second. Up to bat came Mike Lamb, with his average hovering just above the Mendoza line. But, in what was certainly his best moment as a Twin, he hit a soft line drive into left field that easily scored both runners, and gave the Twins a walk-off victory over the Red Sox.
7. Justin Morneau goes 5-5 and wins the game in the 11th (July 10th at Detroit)
==>The Twins fell behind early, 6-2 in the fourth inning to be precise. Still trailing by the same score late in the game, they pushed across one run in the seventh and another in the eighth before entering the ninth with a 2-run deficit. That lead wouldn’t last long; Nick Punto and Denard Span’s singles, followed by Joe Mauer’s sacrifice fly, would force the game into extra innings. It was then that Justin Morneau once again came through for the Twins. Already 4-4 with a walk, Justin Morneau added a little extra by hitting a go-ahead home run in the top of the eleventh, to finish the game 5-5 with 2 runs, a home run, an RBI, and a walk. For Denard Span, it was too bad, because his day (4-4, 2 R, RBI, BB, SB) was lost amidst Morneau’s performance.
6. Carlos Gomez hits for the cycle (May 7th at Chicago)
==>The Twins beat the White Sox 13-1 and Livan Hernandez had a shutout through 8 1/3 innings (and ended up with a complete game), but the story of the game was Carlos Gomez. He led off the game with a home run, but that was only the beginning, both literally and figuratively. By the end of the night, he had collected four hits in six at bats to go along with two runs and 3 RBIs. And, of course, he had the double, triple, and single necessary to hit for the eighth cycle in Twins history, and the first since Kirby Puckett did it in 1986.
5. The Tigers score six in the first, but the Twins rally to win 7-6 (May 4th vs. Detroit)
==>One of the top three comeback wins of the year (the other two still to come), the Twins fell behind very quickly. Curtis Granderson led off the game with a homer, and the Tigers would score five more times off of Boof Bonser before the inning was over. Bonser, however, came back and pitched five more scoreless innings to give the Twins a chance—a chance they would fully capitalize on, as they scored once in the fourth, twice in the fifth, and completed the comeback with four runs in the seventh. Joe Mauer delivered the go-ahead single with runners on second and third and two outs to give the Twins their fifth consecutive victory. Dick Bremer’s call of the play still rings soundly in my ears: “High chopper, over the mound, INTO CENTERFIELD! And the Twins take the lead!”
4. The Twins lose their one-game playoff to the White Sox (September 30th at Chicago)
==>It was game #163. The Twins’ regular season was supposed to be over on September 28th (and most would’ve said their season in general too), but they found themselves playing one more on this day. With Kevin Slowey’s injury, Nick Blackburn would take the ball for the Twins in this all-determining game. He pitched what may have been his best game of the year, considering the circumstances, but it was just not enough. One mistake to Jim Thome in the seventh inning was all it took; the Twins would wind up losing 1-0. The Twins were very close to taking the lead earlier in the game, when Michael Cuddyer attempted to tag up on a shallow fly ball hit to center by Brendan Harris. With Ken Griffey manning the position, I thought it was a good idea to send him home. But, to my surprise, Griffey delivered a throw that was right on target and took away the Twins’ only scoring opportunity of the game. Brian Anderson replaced him for defensive purposes later in the game, and he immediately showed his importance by making a diving catch of Alexi Casilla’s soft liner for the final out of what was an incredible season.
3. Howie Clark (?) and Bobby Korecky (!) win it for the Twins (May 19th vs. Texas)
==>Down 6-5 going into the ninth, the Twins rallied and tied it at six on Joe Mauer’s RBI single. They still had a great chance to win the game right there, with only one out and runners on the corners, but they failed to do so. The tenth inning passed uneventfully, but then Juan Rincon entered the game in the eleventh. He got one out, but left the bases loaded for Bobby Korecky, who had pitched all of 4 1/3 Major League innings to that point. But Korecky was up for the challenge, getting Ian Kinsler to pop out and Michael Young to strike out. In the bottom of the inning, Korecky was forced to hit due to a double switch made earlier in the game, and hit a single, certainly his first-ever hit, and the first hit ever by a Twins pitcher in an American League game! Unfortunately, Korecky wound up 90 feet from scoring the winning run, as the Twins failed to capitalize on a bases loaded, one-out situation. A 1-2-3 twelfth from Bobby Korecky, and this time the Twins took care of business in their half of the inning. Howie Clark played hero by hitting an RBI double to center field to win the game.
2. Craig Monroe caps a 5-run ninth inning rally with a 3-run homer (May 28th at Kansas City)
==>After the events of the game the day before, you wouldn’t have thought the next game could be more exciting. Obviously, you would have been wrong. This time it was the Twins who would rally in the ninth inning, after being down 8-3 to start it. Mathematically, their chances of winning were certainly the lowest they would be all year in a game in which they wound up on top, as they had just a runner on first with one out to go in an 8-3 game. But what followed was simply amazing, and also the second of the three top comebacks I mentioned earlier: a wild pitch, a Mike Lamb single, a Brendan Harris single, a Carlos Gomez single, and up walked Craig Monroe, pinch-hitting for Alexi Casilla. And, down to his last strike, Monroe hit a frozen rope over the left field fence to tie the game. Unlike the Royals the night before, the Twins capitalized on their comeback when Justin Morneau homered to lead off the tenth and Joe Nathan closed it out to hand the Royals their tenth straight loss in heartbreaking fashion—again.
1. The Twins sweep Chicago and take over first place (September 25th vs. Chicago)
==>No doubt, the best moment of the year. One of the most exciting moments since I’ve been following the Twins. They needed a sweep. They got just that. They moved into first place, a ½ game ahead of Chicago. It wasn’t easy, though. The first game was, and the second game was close, but they led the whole way. This one was completely different. I can write more about it, and I will, but just go watch the videos of Denard Span’s game-tying triple and of Alexi Casilla’s walk-off single. Look at the energy and the passion those guys had and tell me this wasn’t one of the most exciting games you’ve ever seen. Look at the crowd roar in jubilant support of its time, and remember just how amazing this game, and season, was. Every single time I watch it I get goosebumps. The Twins fell behind 6-1 after Kevin Slowey injured his wrist and subsequently made a throwing error. But things, for once, did not look bleak. It sounds fabricated, but I absolutely did not give up on the Twins in this game. Usually when they fall behind I try to convince myself they have a chance, but I don’t really believe it. This time, I did believe it; I just felt that they were going to come back, win this game, and sweep the White Sox. I can’t write anymore about it—there’s just too much. Just go relive the experience yourself.
Honorable mentions:5/6- Joe Mauer ends Gavin Floyd's no-hit bid in the ninth inning.
5/27- Delmon Young's horrible play allows an inside-the-park homer to tie the game in the ninth.
6/4- Joe Mauer hits a two-run sacrifice fly.
6/24- Brendan Harris and Brian Buscher hit back-to-back homers to break a tie in the ninth.
7/14- Justin Morneau wins the Home Run Derby.
7/25- Carlos Gomez crashes into the wall but hangs on for the catch of the year.
8/12- Delmon Young ties the game with a 3-run shot off Mariano Rivera, but the Twins lose in extras.
8/27- Denard Span throws a perfect strike to save a run and avoid another bullpen collapse.
9/16- The Twins make up a 7-run deficit against the Indians, but wind up losing.
So there you have it. Even with the honorable mentions, only about half of my original highlights are included on this list. Take a look back at my original post or just consider the ones here, and let me know what you think!