Showing posts with label yankees. Show all posts
Showing posts with label yankees. Show all posts

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Game 1 on Repeat

At some point, doesn't the story just get old?  The Twins score.  The Yankees score more.  The Twins tie.  The Yankees score more.  The end.

The list of stats can go on and on.  11 straight playoff losses.  21 straight playoff games without a comeback win.  8 straight playoff losses to the Yankees, and they've scored first in every single one.  Outscored 18-2 from the seventh inning on in their last 6 against the Yankees.

You would think something would have to give.  I complained about the non-strike call on Lance Berkman in the seventh, and the subsequent bunt single by Brett Gardner and half-swing bloop single by Derek Jeter can't exactly be chalked up to the Yankees' superior ability... but at some point, you have to admit something is going on.  Not something that can be quantified, just some sort of immeasurable advantage the Yankees have over the Twins.

Once again, I'm broken.  I really thought the Twins would come out, beat up on Andy Pettitte, and prove they belonged.  Now they have to go to New York and win two games in that death knell of a stadium before coming back and needing one more at Target Field (is 'more' correct if they've yet to win one there?).  Earlier today I wrote of my remaining confidence; now I write that it has all dissipated.  I'll watch, but I'm not expecting much.  I'll root and cheer, but I'm not expecting anything more than a lead in the early innings that will disappear by the time the late innings roll around.  I'll hope, but I'm not expecting it to be rewarded.

I don't really believe Minnesota has a chance at this point.  My confidence is completely shattered.  Your move, Twins.

Take Two

If you want to read my emotional, completely nonobjective response to last night's loss, you can scroll down a bit.  This, however, is a clear-headed analysis of the Twins' chances tonight.

Just because they lost yesterday does not suddenly mean the Twins are a significantly worse team.  It's easy to write this, but another thing to believe it.  They are the exact same team they were on Wednesday at 8:00 PM.  Most of us, myself included, were expecting the Twins to come out in Game 1 and pick up a signature victory.  Something that we could all put our hat on and say, 'See?  We can play with the Yankees.'  That didn't happen, though.  Instead, the exact opposite occurred, as the Twins once again melted under the pressure that the Yankees apparently bring with them.  And, all of sudden, the thoughts came back to the fact that the Twins can't beat the Yankees; that, for some unknown reason, it'd probably be better for Twins' fans hearts if they just forfeit.

And I was as guilty as anyone.  If you read my post from right after the game, you know that.  But this is still the same team that won 94 games during the regular season, just one fewer than the Yankees.  And it's still the same team that in a way already did conquer their demons, as they managed a spectacular comeback win against the Yankees, at Yankee Stadium, against Mariano Rivera in a game back in May.

Sure, this is the postseason, and that makes it different.  But objectively we cannot let one game kill our hopes.  The Twins had already lost 68 times this year.  Some were more heartbreaking than others.  This was one of the more heartbreaking ones.  But last night's game has no effect on tonight's.  The score is going to be 0-0 when the first inning begins.  The game is still going to be in the friendly confines of Target Field, where the Twins posted an American League-best home record.

So if you were confident about yesterday's game, be confident about today's too.  Yes, the Game 1 loss definitely changes the Twins' chances in the series as a whole, but it shouldn't change your thoughts about tonight's game in particular.  So maintain your confidence tonight.  The match-up is as good as it was yesterday, with the Twins throwing Carl Pavano, who pitched beautifully in an elimination game against the Yankees in 2009, against Andy Pettitte, who, despite his experience, only recently returned from an injury and hasn't been effective in the least during that short time frame.

At 6:07, the Twins will have another opportunity to take the first chunk out of the dragon that they are attempting to slay, and I expect them to take full advantage.

Not Again

How many times?

Seriously.  How many times?

A 3-0 lead.  A 4-4 tie.  A 6-4 loss.  Yet another defeat at the hands of the Yankees.

This is not a team that is being thoroughly dominated, that is outclassed by a far superior opponent.  This is a team that just can't figure it out.  I can't figure it out.  There's no explanation.  At some point it has to end.  The Yankees, quite simply, haven't been that much better than the Twins in the past, and there's a case to be made that the Twins are actually the better team in 2010.

But, as of right now, it's just another disappointing game.  A game in which the Twins went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position.  J.J. Hardy was up with the bases loaded and two outs.  Struck out.  Jim Thome had a chance with two on and two out.  Against a right-hander.  That's been a home run 1 out of every 13 trips to the plate this year.  At Target Field.  That's a homer every 12th time.  He struck out on a pitch that bounced three times before it crossed the plate.  Then Denard Span came up with runners on second and third and two outs.  He grounded out softly to short.

I'm a little sore obviously.  I'll get some rest, write two essays before 4:00 PM today, then be ready to watch the Twins' first playoff victory since 2004 at 6:00.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

ALDS Game 1

For the second year in a row the Twins will face the New York Yankees in the first round of the playoffs.  Tonight at 8:37 PM, Francisco Liriano will take the mound opposite whatever imposing lineup the Yankees choose to throw at the Twins.  As they have been for the last three months, the Twins will be without both their best hitter and their best reliever (Justin Morneau and Joe Nathan).  And yet, despite that, the Twins undoubtedly are better off than they were before Game 1 of the ALDS in 2009.

That, of course, is due in large part to the circumstances surrounding their entrance into the playoffs.  Rather than playing late into the night halfway across the country just 18 hours before the start of the game, the Twins have been resting their players and getting their starters healthy for this matchup for two weeks now.  Instead of opening on the road in a city that has offered nothing but disappointment since 2002, they will play in front of a home crowd at their brand new ballpark.  And, as mentioned before, it will be a dominant Francisco Liriano pitching as opposed to the inexperienced Brian Duensing.

Even without these advantages the Twins could already boast a much improved team than last year.  Brendan Harris at designated hitter?  Try Jim Thome, a man with an OPS over 1.000.  Nick Punto and Nick Punto-lite (Matt Tolbert) both in the starting lineup?  I'll take the established Orlando Hudson and electrifying rookie Danny Valencia instead.  Orlando Cabrera, a man with the range of a slow-footed penguin, manning shortstop?  Give me perennial gold glove candidate J.J. Hardy instead.

That being said, the team they are playing, the Yankees, is similarly talented.  They boast an impressive array of hitters up and down the lineup, leaving no weak spots where the Twins can relax.  They have an excellent--if not Cy Young-worthy--southpaw pitching opposite Liriano tonight, and a few high-quality arms bridging the gap to the ageless Mariano Rivera.  The Twins have a better team than last year, but they are going to need it to handle the challenge.  And they will, in 5 games, vanquish the team that has owned them for eight years running.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The absolute, unequivocal end

The Twins' magical run to the postseason is over. This time there are no doubts nor any possibility that they have a chance. 2009 is finally, officially fini.

Countless times throughout the season, bloggers, columnists, and Twins fans everywhere exclaimed that the season was over. Seth Stohs said so way back on August 17th. Aaron Gleeman declared them dead on October 1st, along with many others, after their second loss in the Tigers series. There were so many points at which you could have said the Twins' season was done, and yet they proved us wrong. Until now.

Having lost their 3rd game of the American League Division Series to the Yankees, they are categorically eliminated from playoff contention. Carl Pavano made a miraculous attempt to give them another breath, but the Yankees just had too much power and the Twins just had too much Nick Punto. Give him credit for getting the double in the first place, but rounding third by so much was just an inexcusable blunder. You can't place all the blame on him, as the entire Twins offense struggled, but that just about sucked every last bit of life from the Twins.

Overall the series went just as many had predicted a would: a sweep for the Yankees. But the Twins did not make it easy. They took the lead in game 1, but simply didn't have enough, having played 11 innings the day before and throwing Brian Duensing opposite C.C. Sabathia. Game 2 was the one the Twins really let get away, as they again were up 2 runs, but this time all the way until the ninth inning. Joe Nathan's struggles against the Yankees continued, though, as he allowed a home run to tie the game, his first with a runner on base all year, before Mark Teixeira won the game in the 11th.

Game 3 was more of the same, as the Twins went up 1-0 on a Joe Mauer RBI single, before the Yankees hit two solo homers to take the lead. They added two more for insurance in the ninth, and the Twins were unable to make up any of the deficit.

So on the year the Twins ended 0-for-10 versus the Yankees. They lost 5 games by one run, and one more on a walk-off home run. Two others were decided by three runs, meaning just two were of the blowout variety. They held a lead in every game at Yankee Stadium, but lost all six of them by a combined 11 runs.

The sweep means they still haven't won a postseason game since 2004 (they were swept by the Athletics in 2006), and haven't won a postseason series since 2002 (lost 4 in a row, 3 to the Yankees). Obviously there are much more painful streaks alive (see Pirates, Pittsburgh), but it's still frustrating.

I was glad to see the crowd at the Metrodome cheering right up to the final out by Brendan Harris as the stadium's storied history came to a close. The Twins had a great showing this year, particularly down the stretch in September, and I was yet again proud to be a Twins fan. Thank you, Minnesota, for making that true.

Friday, October 9, 2009

?

There's times when it's a very good thing this is a blog and not a more formal medium. Because sometimes your team goes out there and totally outplays the best team in the league at home. Because sometimes your team goes out there and plays eight innings of wonderful baseball. Because sometimes your team's pitcher goes out there and pitches like an ace against the most potent lineup in baseball. Because sometimes your team loads the bases with no one out in extra innings. And because sometimes, despite all that, they lose.

And you want to scream profanities at the umpire who missed a call terribly that might have cost your team the game. You want to tell him what an unbelievable idiot he is; how his ONLY FREAKING JOB is to stare at that line and determine whether the ball was to the left or right of it; how you've never seen an umpire ever miss a call like that before; how even the grandmother in the upper deck could tell that he was a total imbecile.

And you want to lambaste Joe Nathan, who couldn't even get one out before he wasted your team's entire effort. And you want to berate Delmon Young and Carlos Gomez for their stunning inability to bring a runner from third with less than two outs. You want to forcefully remind Delmon that he could have grounded into a double play and still given the Twins the lead.

But you also want to cry as your team loses their ninth game in nine tries to the same time. You want to brood for hours as you realize they've lost 28 of their last 31 games at Yankee Stadium. You want to mope around, knowing they just lost their fourth game in walk-off fashion, their fifth game by one run, and that they lead in all six games played at that stadium this year.

You want to take your anger out on everyone else as all of this happens against the team you hate most of all, the team you despise almost as much as you like the Twins, and as you ponder the jeers you'll hear the next day from said fans.

But then you remind yourself that it's just a baseball game--that there are more important things. Sure, you've spent massive amounts of time following them for the last five months and you've blogged endlessly about them, but you just remember that it's only baseball. And it doesn't matter.

Or at least you try to.

2009 ALDS

I've read too much about Game 1 to think I could write anything unique, especially since everyone seems to feel the same way. It went pretty much as expected, with the Twins playing a long, energy-sapping game the day before and getting into New York early that morning, and Brian Duensing pitching against C.C. Sabathia.

The negative, obviously, is that they lost. The positive is that that was the toughest game of the series to win. Not that any of the following ones will be easy, but the odds will certainly be more favorable than they were on Wednesday. Today Nick Blackburn will be pitching for the Twins, and A.J. Burnett for the Yankees. I question why Joe Girardi chose to start Burnett in Game 2 over Andy Pettitte, since he's been a little better than Burnett this year and the Twins have a lefty-heavy lineup.

Meanwhile, Ron Gardenhire should think about inserting Carlos Gomez back into his regular lineup and shifting Jason Kubel back to designated hitter. I didn't realize this myself, but rather read about it at Seth Speaks, but it makes total sense. Jose Morales has come down to earth and Brendan Harris has never been a DH-caliber hitter, meaning there's no good option to fill that spot in the lineup. At this point, it seems like an easy choice; what they would lose offensively in the drop-off from Harris or Morales to Gomez is minimal, but the defensive gain with Gomez in the outfield and Kubel not fielding at all would be tremendous.

That's pretty much all I've got. I'll start rolling out the massive year-in-review items this weekend, but exactly when a lot of the stuff is posted will depend on how the Twins do in the postseason.

Let's hope it has to wait.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Yankee Stadium: Unkind

With the loss last night, the Twins are now 3 for their last 26 at Yankee Stadium. That's really annoying because the games against the Yankees are about the only ones I get to watch on TV, so I usually wind up watching a bunch of clunkers. This series, despite the four losses, was not bad, and the Twins were quite unlucky to come away with zero wins. The Yankees won the four games by a combined 5 runs, and the first 3 of them were in walk-off style.

Monday's game was another tough loss, as the Twins battled back from an early hole to bring the go-ahead run to the plate in the ninth inning. After Glen Perkins was unable to throw effectively at all, R.A. Dickey replaced him and performed admirably, which afforded the Twins the opportunity to mount a comeback. He threw 4 1/3 scoreless innings, and was followed by Luis Ayala, Craig Breslow, and Jesse Crain. All told, the bullpen gave up only one run on Mark Teixeira's second homer in 7 1/3 innings.

Before Perkins imploded, the Twins had already taken a 2-0 lead on RBI singles by Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. Morneau would go on to collect four hits, including two doubles, and Denard Span hit his second home run of the year. Span also picked up an RBI single on a soft liner that Derek Jeter terribly misjudged. I'll take any chance to mock Jeter's extremely overrated fielding but this time it was completely deserved.

Carlos Gomez had himself a nice game, going 2-3 with a hit by pitch and a walk. So many times I'd seen Gomez come up way overanxious in close and late situations, but in this game he worked a 7-pitch walk with 2 outs in the ninth inning. It was very impressive to see him lay off pitches in that high pressure situation, especially when it stood in stark contrast to his overagressiveness in the seventh inning when the bases were loaded. Mike Redmond, though, followed up with a ground out in his pinch-hitting appearance for Nick Punto to end the game. By the way, I definitely agreed with the decision to bring Redmond in to pinch-hit, but it was unfortunate that he was the best option.

No matter how you look at it, a 4-game sweep at the hands of the Yankees is always tough to live down, but the close games the Twins played made it both harder to stomach and more encouraging. Hopefully they can put it together for an entire game as they move to Chicago to face the other team I hate, the White Sox.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Home Run #1

Joe Mauer finally hit his first home run of the season last night, and it was an important one. With two outs in the seventh, Mauer came up and launched a solo shot way back in right field to tie the game at five apiece. Delmon Young then doubled home the winning run in the eighth.

It was only one of three RBI doubles for Young. Obviously, it was a good game for Young, but with Mauer's homer, he is now the only Twins' regular who is still holding a goose egg in that column. He had a good series against the Yankees, despite having some of the worst swings I've ever seen, so hopefully he can turn some of this recent success into a few balls clearing the fences.

Michael Cuddyer had another outfield assist, this time nailing Derek Jeter at second base. His play was simply very impressive. He knew right where to be after the ball bounced off the wall, bare-handed it, and threw an absolute strike to Brendan Harris.

Anyways, it was good to see the Twins come back and salvage a split of the series after losing two tough games to start.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Heartbreak

What to write about, what about to write about. A lot happened in this game. The Twins really should have won the game, but could not take advantage of numerous opportunities. Mike Lamb came within two feet of winning the game in the tenth inning, but instead picked up a triple. Then the Yankees intentionally walked Nick Punto to pitch to Carlos Gomez. I assume you were also thinking they were crazy, especially after they allowed Punto to take second without a throw, which made it clear that they really just wanted to pitch to Gomez. Unfortunately, it worked. Gomez looked bad, swinging at some sliders that were low and away.

It looked downright smooth compared to Delmon Young's at bat in the tenth inning. After his first absolutely dreadful swing, which almost looked like a bunt it was so bad, the YES announcer commented, "That's one of the weakest swings I've ever seen." The next pitch was a similar one, with an even worse result. The comment after that one? "No. My mistake. That was weaker." He laid off a third similar pitch which landed somewhere near Utah, but struck out on the next pitch. He actually had a pretty good game, despite striking out three times, in accumulating three hits.

Nick Punto made a very costly error in the third inning behind Boof Bonser, who actually was not awful. He certainly didn't do enough to keep his spot in the rotation though. The bullpen actually pitched very well after Bonser. Craig Breslow was quite impressive in his debut, striking out three batters and getting out all five that he faced. Juan Rincon pitched well in his first inning of work, but completely fell apart in the twelfth, and had to be replaced by Brian Bass, the Twins' last available reliever.

Really, those two innings, the tenth and eleventh, are ones you have to wonder about. Ross Ohlendorf was pitching, which allowed Mariano Rivera to be ready for the save, and the Twins could not push a run across against him, even with men on first and second and no outs.

On a positive note, Mike Lamb picked up three hits to raise his average to .255 and Michael Cuddyer hit his second home run of the year to knot the game at six. On a less positive note, Jason Kubel went 0-6 and looked terrible in doing so. He seemed utterly incapable of laying off the low, inside breaking pitches and wasn't even close to making contact with them.

All in all, quite a disappointing loss. It was definitely a game the Twins should have won. Just as last night the Twins were almost able to win a game in which they were totally outplayed, the Yankees had the chance to do so tonight, and they took advantage. I really hope the Twins can win at least one of the next two because being swept by the Yankees would be downright embarrassing. I'm very worried, though, especially for Livan Hernandez's start on Monday; he is very hittable, as is Nick Blackburn to a lesser degree, and may very well be torn to shreds by the Yankee hitters.

"Players continue to slide into first base...

when it's been proven you can get there faster standing up." Words of advice from Michael Kay, the Yankees announcer, after Robinson Cano beat out an infield hit to third by sliding head-first into first base. Sort of ironic to hear this being said about another team after all the times we've seen the Twins--particularly Nick Punto--do this.


As for the game... well, the Twins lost 6-5, but they were lucky to even be close. They were completely outplayed, which made me feel good that they even got the winning run to the plate in the ninth. With Craig Monroe pinch-hitting for Alexi Casilla again, it was impossible to not think back to Wednesday, when he capped a 5-run rally with a two out, full count, 3-run homer. No such luck this time. Watched a pitch go by low and away, really perfectly placed by Mariano Rivera, for strike three. Could have been just low, could have been just outside, but it really was a great pitch.


What really kept the Twins in the game was bad baserunning by the Yankees. Glen Perkins had a pickoff, Jason Giambi wasn't even within orbit of second base on his attempt for a double when Michael Cuddyer's throw got there, and A-Rod got doubled off of second on a pretty easy fly ball to right field. He also got out going from third to home on a spectacular play by Brian Bass. Brendan Harris did his best to help the Yanks by not applying the tag on Cuddyer's throw or Perkins' pickoff, but the old baseball adage of the ball beating you there meaning an out, combined with a bad angle for the umpire, allowed both calls to go the Twins' way.

The first inning, when the Twins did almost all of their damage, really wasn't all that good if you look at it. Casilla had a single and Joe Mauer walked, but then it was an error by Shelley Duncan, a hit by Michael Cuddyer on a ball Alex Rodriguez really should have had, and Jason Kubel rolling over on a grounder that just barely squeaked into right field. All three could easily have been inning ending double plays, but instead no outs were made.

Justin Morneau hit his team-leading (no surprise there) tenth homer in the eighth inning off Kyle Farnsworth, with Joba Chamberlain having been officially moved to his new role as a starter. The Twins won't see him, however, as he will make his first start on Tuesday.

Oh, and if some unfortunate accident were to befall Bobby Abreu before the next game, I have to say, I wouldn't be all that upset.