Wednesday, August 30, 2006

A loss we can't afford

Last night, I kept up with the Twins game pretty soundly on Gameday on I have to say I am very disappointed in this team from last night. We lose to KC 2-0, meanwhile, the White Sox win against Tampa 12-9 to go ahead in the WC by 1/2 a game.

This was a loss that the Twins couldn't really afford to have at this point in the season. With their bullpen on life support, the last thing this team needs is their offense to defibrilate. When one of their "shaky" starters goes 7.2 IP and gives up only 2ER, that should be enough to garner a win. But not last night. The Twins' bats were silent.

I got some criticism from ubelmann on SBG last night for complaining about the offense. Ubelmann was quick to point out that the Twins are 6th in the AL in offense. Now, granted, that's in the top half, but not nearly that impressive as I think he made it out to be. The fact is, last night was the 12th time the Twins have been shutout. They were only shutout 10 times last year.

While this offense has made great strides this year, I'm still noticing some games where they just can't get it together. Let's face it, Mauer is not where he was earlier. He's batting .353, which is much less than the .370/.380 he was putting up earlier. I think he's starting to wear down a bit. Morneau seems to be cooling a bit as well, with only 4 HR in August. Don't get me wrong, they're still having great seasons, but lately I'm not seeing it.

The other thing that gets me is that the Twins seem to be allergic to the Wild Card lead, or at least the offense is. They've had three relatively brief stints in the WC lead, and each has been followed by faltering offense. In July, after sweeping the White Sox to take a share of the WC lead (for a couple hours anyway, until the Yanks won that night), the Twins headed home to host the Tigers, and promptly lost the first two games. Granted, we did score runs, but we lost the first game 3-2, and the second game we couldn't get enough offense to overcome the Tigers, and we lost 8-6. Now these games weren't terribly offensively, but then we come to the second example.

In mid-August, the Twins took the last two games of a three-game series in Detroit. Afterward, we were 1/2 game up on the Sox. We then come home to host Toronto, a team that lost 10 of 14 before this series. The Twins rattle off a total of ONE run in the next three games. Meanwhile, the Sox sweep Detroit.

Now we see it again. After taking a 1.5 game lead over Chicago on Saturday, the Twins score a total of one run in the next two games, and subsequently lose their Wild Card lead, AGAIN. Worse, the Twins are losing these leads while they are at home, and the Twins have the best home record in baseball! You wouldn't know it by the second half though. The Twins are 4-3 in series at home since the All-Star break, while they are 6-0 on the road. 14-11 total at home, 15-4 total on the road.

It's getting to the point that I'd almost with the Twins stayed in WC contention, just so that they can play on the road more. That seems to be where they're winning.

Last night was a wasted opportunity. If the Twins are going to make the playoffs, they need to minimize the games they lose while having good pitching on the mound. Hopefully we can turn it around tonight and have a chance at a series win.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Preparing for the worst

The worst team in the American League, of course :-). The Kansas City Royals are headed to Minnesota for a quick three game series. Twins are flying in and out for this series, which is surrounded by 12 road games. It's almost as if the Twins are on a 15 game road trip.

The Twins should sweep this series. They need to. After all, the Sox are playing Tampa Bay, so any losses the Twins incur may drag 'em down a bit. On the other hand, the Yankees are playing Detroit, so that could turn out very well for the Twins. Hard to believe I'm actually hoping the Yankees win, but at this point, I've already conceded that they'll take the East, and that the Twins will likely play them in the first round. However, that doesn't have to happen if the Yankees can snipe the Tigers.

Then of course, the Yankees are going to play gracious hosts to the Twins this weekend. I wish that series could get some coverage. Unfortunately, the way the rotation is going, it looks as if Santana will either miss the Yankees or the Tigers. He's scheduled for Thursday, but if they put him of until Friday, that would mean he would completely miss the Tigers. Not sure where I want him more.

Anyway, looking forward to another good week. 5 weeks left. 33 games.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Can ya feel it?

This season just keeps getting better.

Last night, after 5 innings of shutout ball, I was about ready to kill the Twins. They couldn't get anything going. It was ridiculous, the Twins were making Vazquez look like an Ace. I was tired of the sputtering offense that always seemed to get worse when behind.

So I voiced my frustrations on Stick and Ball Guy. And lo and behold, right afterward, Punto hit his first homer of the year. Good start.

I then posted another one urging the Twins to keep on going. Boom! Hunter goes yard, gives the Twins the lead.

After taking a little time to rub my wife's feet, I come back down to see the Twins and Sox still tied going into the 9th. So, I make another post on Stick and Ball Guy, telling the Twins to finish off the Sox. Five minutes later, Bartlett gets his RBI single.

I feel like I have some kind of mysterious power! And I had witnesses!

So with that, I now urge the Twins to win each and every single game left in the season. I'll even go on SBG's site to make sure it happens. Hey, superstition runs think in baseball. I must do what is right for the team!

On another note, we are FIVE back in the division. You can count that on one hand. Most teams look at that as impossible to overcome in just a month, but for some strange reason, I KNOW the Twins can pull it off. Even without Liriano.

It just keeps getting better!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The break we need!

Jim Thome injured.

Now, I feel bad for the guy. I don't want to see anyone injured. But as a Twins fan, and in the whole logistics of it all, this is huge for the Twins. That bat is going to be missed about as much as Liriano's arm. I can think of no better opportunity than for the Twins to really turn up the heat now.

Monday, August 21, 2006

A little bit closer (week in review)

After coming up short for my prediction last week, the Twins met this week's prediction spot on. Not only taking 4 of 6 overall, but winning both series. They also got closer to Chicago in the process, now only one game out.

The sad thing is, the two games they lost should have gone much better. First, Garza pitched a great deal better than his first start, limiting the Indians to only 3 runs in 5 innings, giving the Twins a much better chance of striking back. But Byrd was too good, and too efficient, and the Twins could only muster up one more run in the late innings.

Then, on Saturday, a game I was able to watch for a couple innings, the Twins let errors get the best of them. They simply gave the White Sox too many outs. Not only did the errors put the Twins in an early hole (2-0), but a lot of times, errors on the field can evolve to frustrations at bat. Therefore the Twins wasted a good pitching performance from Radke, and lost 4-1.

But despite all that, the Twins are now only one game out of the Wildcard again. Also, Detroit's been on a downturn, allowing the Twins to creep up to 6.5 out of the division lead, closer than they've been in months. However, I hope Detroit doesn't fall too far, because I'd rather have the Tigers in the postseason, than the White Sox.

I'll finish with news that Francisco Liriano is going to start throwing on flat ground on Tuesday. It still looks like it'll be a while before he starts pitching in games, but it's a start, and boy would he be valuable to have if we get to the postseason. That is, a healthy Liriano.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Way to start a tough series!

Well, so far so good. The Twins are proving my initial "bad feeling" wrong for the first game. I hope they continue to do so.

As many have said, this was supposed to be the game to lose. With Bonser on the mound, our chances were much lower than normal. With Radke and Santana going the next two days, I feel like our chances are even better. Just gotta keep that offense going.

And hooray to Hunter for getting the lead back on that line drive homer!

Friday, August 18, 2006

I have a bad feeling about this.

I don't know what it is, but I have a bad feeling about this weekend's series with Chicago. I have a feeling that Twins fans are not going to be pleased. I think it could be the weekend that kills our playoff hopes.

Don't get me wrong, I hope Mauer and company prove me dead wrong, but just something is looming over me right now that tells me that something bad is going to happen. I hope it's not that they run into an ambush with the Millenium Falcon while trying to destroy the death star.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Missed Opportunity

After two fantastic nights, the Twins let a hard loss in on Wednesday afternoon. Going into the game, I figured the Twins would end up 2 games back of the Sox. I figured this because I couldn’t believe that the White Sox could lose 3 straight to the Royals, and with Garza on the mound, I didn’t want to get my hopes up.

However, the problem wasn’t Garza, as he pitched fair, going 5 innings and giving up on 3 runs. The bullpen even did well, keeping the Twins in the game and not giving up any more runs. However, the offense couldn’t capitalize, and we couldn’t stage a good enough rally. We almost had another prolific 8th, but starting the inning with two outs didn’t help.

I think two things are evident after Garza’s second start. First, he’s no Liriano. Second, he needs more work. The Twins have shown that they know how to manage good young pitching talent in the success that has occurred with Santana and Liriano (sans injury). I think the same approach should have been used with Garza. But I understand that this season didn’t go quite as planned, and who could have predicted Baker and Bonser blowing up right after giving up Lohse.

Next season I hope they keep Garza in AAA for a while. And I also hope that if Liriano does come back this season, that he takes Garza’s spot in the rotation and leave Garza to either start in AAA or throw out of the bullpen after September callups.

All in all, I think we have a great chance this weekend against Chicago. This is a big opportunity for them to show how good they are. A win from Bonser will help immensely as Radke and Santana will follow. Every win counts right now.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Ups and downs (prediction review)

This week started with a large disappointment. Liriano loses a game against Detroit, but also ends up with an injury that might end up costing him the season (and rookie of the year, and Cy Young, but that's not important right now.) The Twins end up losing the opener and it appears that more misery may be coming from Detroit.

Despite the bad news about the "F-Bomb," Brad Radke comes in and gives the Twins a shot, and pitches brilliantly through pain, and the Twins win 4-2. Then Santana, despite a mistake in the 7th, pitches another beauty. Morneau gets him out of a jam with a 2 run blast that counts for his 30th homerun and 100th and 101st RBI. Not to mention, for a day, the Twins are your wildcard leader.

We leave Detroit and head home, with the best home record in baseball. We host Toronto, and the first game starts out well. However, Silva can't hold 'em forever, and the bats never find the ball at the right time.

Next day Garza comes in, hopes abound, but quickly crumble as he gives up 7 runs in 2 2/3 innings. Twins manage to score one run, but it's too little too late, and the Twins lose 2 straight. Offensive woes continue despite a much better start for Bonser, and the Twins get shutout for the second time in three days.

But then our old friend Radke comes in and changes the momentum again. Twins salvage the last one 5-0.

I set the standard at 4-3 this week, thinking it was low. The Twins managed to go 3-4, and certainly in a way I didn't expect. They beat the best team in the league, but then drop 3 to a future also-ran, who's race in the Wildcard resembles the Twins view in the Central. It's too bad, because Chicago swept the Tigers, and we coulda been holding pace while gaining ground on the division leader. Instead, we end 2 1/2 back of the Sox, and still 8 back of the Tigers.

This week, we're playing 6 with the Indians and Sox. I'm going with the easy button. The Twins MUST win 4 of 6. They have to take the two series. I'll allow them a loss in each, but they can't keep losing at home. That needs to stop now. Just when the find their wood on the road, they can't do it at home. After losing one home series all year for the first 3 3/4 months, the Twins drop 3 straight. 4-2. That's where we need to be. Now, let's get to work!

Right after the off day.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

BIG victory

Last night was perhaps the biggest victory for the Twins this season. At least it was the most eventful night all year.

Morneau hit his 30th homerun of the season. Doesn't sound like a big deal when you think about what Bonds and McGwire accomplished. But the Twins haven't had a 30 homerun guy in 19 years. That's big for this team. He also got RBI #100 and #101.

The homerun came at the right time. Down 3-2 in the eighth, with Detroit reliever Joel Zumaya in to help close the door, Morneau tackles a fastball and puts it away. Big hit off a big pitcher!

The homerun helped us win the game, and the series. Against the best team in baseball. On the road. In fact the Twins are now 11-2 on the road since the All-Star Break. Oh, and all those games were against division opponents. (2-1 @ Cleveland, sweep of the Sox, sweep of the Royals, and this fine victory).

The victory also helped push the Twins into sole possession of the Wild Card lead. Pretty impressive considering a month ago they were 9 games out of the race.

Call me crazy, but that homerun means more than just the Twins' first 30 homer guy in 19 years, it means that despite losing Liriano to the DL, this team is not done yet and they are not going to get down on themselves for one moment. It seems that every time this team encounters a setback, they answer with more heart.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. This is the most fun I have ever had following the Twins. This season is nothing short of awesome.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

It CAN be done!

Holy cow. The Twins can win in Detroit! 4-2 victory. 7 great innings by Radke. Rincon and Nathan come in to close it out. A nice insurance run in the 9th. Wow. And this with the news of Liriano going on the DL. But then again, maybe the news that Garza was coming up gave the guys a little more hope. This season ain't over yet! 50 more games to go. We're in the homestretch. Time to get Francisco rested and ready to go for the finish line.

Go Twins!

Monday, August 07, 2006

Well, that sucked

I thought we'd have a little momentum going into this series with Detroit, but obviously that's not the case. Detroit takes the season series with a sure-handed victory against the Twins. Everytime we play these guys it's like we can't stop the bleeding long enough to start our own rally. Just as we get close (2-1, 4-3) they come out and beat our pitching. Francisco wasn't doing it, and neither was anyone else in the bullpen. The result, a lopsided 9-3 loss that looked good about halfway through (where I was sitting, behind my computer), but in the end was nothing but another miserable loss at the hand of the best team in baseball.

Oh well... we can still take 2 of three... right.... right?

Prediction for week of 8/7 - 8/13

This is going to be a tough week. 3 at Detroit, followed by 4 games at home hosting Toronto. I've been going back and forth with this. I'm definately going to set the bar above .500 (because the Twins CAN do it). It's just a matter of how high.

For this week, since we're playing a tough Tigers team, I'm going to predict a one game salvage like the home series. I hate to do it, but I'm trying to be realistic. I think the Twins can take two, especially with their current road streak. But the Twins were doing well at home before the Tigers came along too.

For Toronto, it's another tough guess. If it was only 3 at home, I'd easily pick 2 out of 3. But with four, that extra game can throw a wrench in it. Split, or 3 of 4? I'm going to say 3 of 4, just because we're at home and Toronto is starting to slip a bit (lost last 4 series).

Total prediction 4-3. Now c'mon guys, prove me wrong and hit higher than that!

Prediction review

The Twins need to go 5-2. That's the bar I'm setting. (from my 7/31 post)

After the first series, I wasn't sure the Twins would be able to pull it off. Then they scored 41 runs against KC to prove me wrong. Way to go boys! That also put the Twins within 1/2 game of the Wild Card. But... still 52 games to go. A full deck still ahead of us.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Week in review

The week started out nice. Then our own Killer "B's" brought us down to earth. Now against the Royals we're looking like the June/July wonders again. I'm tired of the roller coaster, I just want to sit at the top of the hill and enjoy the view.

Games like Monday's, Thursday's and tonight's are nice. Ya know, the Twins get off to a nice start and it takes the pressure of the pitcher (which usually helps. Silva both Monday and tonight.) However, Tuesday and Friday, we had to really battle. We struggled to get going. I still can't believe Santana gave up four runs?

What got our team back into this race was our pitching. And as long as Silva is carrying us (did I just say that), hopefully we can get back into the groove with our lefties. This season ain't over yet, and the Yankees, White Sox, Red Sox and Tigers are still winning.

Side note, the first thing I noticed when checking tonight's game online, was that we had 11 runs and 9 hits (fewer hits than runs?). Then I noticed the walk count. Holy cow! 12 walks! And thanks to SBG comment board for noticing, none for Hunter. (Dude, take a pitch).