GameChat – Twins @ Royals #3, 1:10pm

Happy Easter!

Clearly the holiday has all of us Knuckleballers with our attention focused elsewhere but now that I have services done, brunch with the inlaws and the turkey in the oven, I can actually spend a little time with baseball – and feeding baby.

A quick roster update that happened just before the game started: the Twins have claimed Sam Fuld off of waivers from the A’s and DFA’s Darin Mastrioanni – which leaves the Twins a little short on the bench today but that is what happens when you need room on the 40 man.

Minnesota @ Kansas City
Dozier, 2B   Aoki, RF
Mauer, 1B   Infante, 2B
Plouffe, 3B   Hosmer, 1B
Colabello, RF   Perez, S, C
Kubel, LF   Gordon, A, LF
Pinto, DH   Butler, B, DH
Suzuki, K, C   Moustakas, 3B
Hicks, CF   Maxwell, CF
Escobar, E, SS   Escobar, A, SS
  Hughes, P, P     Ventura, P

GameChat – Twins @ Royals #2, 1:10pm

So the boys are up against Bruce Chen again.. last time it seemed as though we had finally figured out how to hit an 84 mph fastball. I hope they remember what they did because it would be a LOT of fun to do it again.

Minnesota @ Kansas City
Dozier, 2B Aoki, RF
Mauer, 1B Infante, 2B
Plouffe, 3B Hosmer, 1B
Colabello, RF Perez, S, C
Kubel, LF Gordon, A, LF
Pinto, C Butler, B, DH
Suzuki, K, DH Moustakas, 3B
Hicks, CF Maxwell, CF
Florimon, SS Escobar, A, SS
  Correia, P   Chen, B, P
  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Minnesota 0 1 0 1 2 0 0 0 0 4 8 1
Kansas City 0 0 0 5 0 0 0 0 x 5 10 0

this was not a GREAT day for Correia but today was really not his fault.. This loss was all on the Twins defense… absolute crap.

GameChat – Twins @ Royals, 7:10pm

The Twins are a game over .500 for the first time in almost 12 months.  They’re scoring runs in bunches and Kyle Gibson is 3-0 with a super tiny ERA.  Things are going pretty well for the Twins right now.

The Royals were swept a week ago in Minneapolis, let’s hope the Twins take their winning streak against the Royals one game longer, tonight.

**Jason Bartlett has decided to retire***

Minnesota

@

Kansas City
Mastroianni, LF Aoki, RF
Dozier, 2B Infante, 2B
Mauer, 1B Hosmer, 1B
Colabello, RF Perez, S, C
Plouffe, 3B Gordon, A, LF
Pinto, DH Butler, B, DH
Suzuki, K, C Moustakas, 3B
Hicks, CF Maxwell, CF
Florimon, SS Escobar, A, SS
_Nolasco, P _Vargas, P

 

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Minnesota 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 8 0
Kansas City 0 0 2 0 1 2 0 0 x 5 11 0

KL here. I managed to stay awake for the whole game, but I’m not sure the Twins get the credit for that. It was quiet in the chat room this evening, kind of like the Twins, so I hope you all had a good evening elsewhere.

GameChat – Blue Jays @ Twins #3, 6:10pm

Ok, here’s our makeup game from last night.. it’s a whole 8 degrees warmer than it was during last night’s game time but at least this time there is no active snow!

Toronto (and even maybe the Twins) is going to feel seriously gypped by this whole circumstance when Minnesota is enjoying weather in the 60′s this weekend after they had to suffer through this ridiculous homestand.

I sure hope that Pelfrey can pull together a good start. *crosses fingers* And Twins fans, let’s welcome Eduardo Nunez who is up just for this evenings game… I’ll be interested to see how he does!

Toronto

@

Minnesota
Cabrera, Me, LF Dozier, 2B
Rasmus, C, DH Mauer, DH
Bautista, RF Colabello, 1B
Encarnacion, 1B Kubel, LF
Navarro, D, C Pinto, C
Lawrie, 3B Herrmann, C, RF
Gose, CF Nunez, 3B
Goins, 2B Hicks, CF
Diaz, J, SS Escobar, E, SS
  McGowan, P   Pelfrey, P

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

R

H

E

Toronto

2

0

0

0

3

0

0

0

0

5

8

0

Minnesota

1

0

0

0

2

0

0

6

x

9

8

2

Ok, that was a mildly odd and sometimes frustrating baseball game – typical Twins … until the 8th inning.

The 8th inning is not something that is easily described.. wow.. simply put, the Blue Jays whole bullpen fell apart: eg 6 runs on one hit, 8 BB’s, 3 consecutive scoring WP’s. Yeah, I can honestly say I have NEVER seen an inning like that. I’m going to give you the MLB Play by Play text for the bottom of the 8th just you can see how it all came down:

THE 8th  
AB# Play String Play Play by Play
73     Pitching Change: Steve Delabar replaces Brett Cecil.
73 ..BBCBCFB W Josmil Pinto walks.
74 .*BBCB*B W.1-2 Chris Herrmann walks. Josmil Pinto to 2nd.
75   Coaching visit to mound.  
75 .LLX 34/SAC/BG.2-3;1-2 Eduardo Nunez out on a sacrifice bunt, first baseman Edwin Encarnacion to second baseman Ryan Goins. Josmil Pinto to 3rd. Chris Herrmann to 2nd.
76     Offensive Substitution: Pinch-hitter Trevor Plouffe replaces Aaron Hicks.
76     Pitching Change: Sergio Santos replaces Steve Delabar.
76   Coaching visit to mound.  
76 …BBBC*B W Trevor Plouffe walks.
77     Offensive Substitution: Pinch-hitter Kurt Suzuki replaces Eduardo Escobar.
77 ..B. WP.3-H;2-3;1-2 With Kurt Suzuki batting, wild pitch by Sergio Santos, Josmil Pinto scores. Chris Herrmann to 3rd. Trevor Plouffe to 2nd.
77     Offensive Substitution: Pinch-runner Pedro Florimon replaces Trevor Plouffe.
77 ..B.B.CBB W+WP.3-H;2-3 Kurt Suzuki walks. Wild pitch by pitcher Sergio Santos. Chris Herrmann scores. Pedro Florimon to 3rd.
78     Offensive Substitution: Pinch-runner Darin Mastroianni replaces Kurt Suzuki.
78 ..>B. SB2 With Brian Dozier batting, Darin Mastroianni steals (1) 2nd base.
78 ..>B.S*B*BCB W+WP.3-H;2-3 Brian Dozier walks. Wild pitch by pitcher Sergio Santos. Pedro Florimon scores. Darin Mastroianni to 3rd.
79     Pitching Change: J. A. Happ replaces Sergio Santos.
79   Coaching visit to mound.  
79 ..B>B. SB2 With Joe Mauer batting, Brian Dozier steals (5) 2nd base.
79 ..B>B.BCB W Joe Mauer walks.
80 .BBC*BSB W.3-H;2-3;1-2 Chris Colabello walks. Darin Mastroianni scores. Brian Dozier to 3rd. Joe Mauer to 2nd.
81 .CE S9/L.3-H;2-H;1-3 Jason Kubel singles on a line drive to right fielder Jose Bautista. Brian Dozier scores. Joe Mauer scores. Chris Colabello to 3rd.
82 .SBBBB W.1-2 Josmil Pinto walks. Jason Kubel to 2nd.
83 .SSC K Chris Herrmann called out on strikes.
84 .FSBBX 53/G- Eduardo Nunez grounds out softly, third baseman Brett Lawrie to first baseman Edwin Encarnacion.

Seriously.. I don’t know quite what I would have done if I was that manager..

But given that we can’t exactly give the Blue Jays’ bullpen BOD, it was voted in the room to give it to the red hot Chris Colabello – again. Gotta say I’m liking him a LOT.

Chris Colabello

GameChat – Blue Jays @ Twins #2, 12:10pm

ok, they are actually going to play ball.. no clue how much snow they got at Target Field because the amounts were extremely variable.. I got nothing. I bet they got plenty.

I’m also fairly sure that the rest of the Knuckleballers here are as romantically fond of having a knuckleball pitcher in the game as I am – but especially we would like to welcome R.A. Dickey back to Minnesota! Sorry about the weather, man..

Toronto

@

Minnesota
Cabrera, Me, LF Dozier, 2B
Kawasaki, 2B Mauer, 1B
Bautista, CF Plouffe, 3B
Encarnacion, 1B Colabello, RF
Rasmus, C, DH Kubel, LF
Lawrie, 3B Pinto, DH
Sierra, RF Suzuki, K, C
Thole, C Hicks, CF
Goins, SS Florimon, SS
  Dickey, P   Gibson, P

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

R

H

E

Toronto

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

4

2

Minnesota

0

0

0

0

5

2

0

0

x

7

10

2

Well that was actually an interesting game – odd, but interesting – to watch, at least on TV.. I don’t think I would have been dying to be in the stands at 32 degrees but a win is a win so for those who were there, I’m glad they got that benefit! RA Dickey didn’t get that benefit. He had the same cold and not nearly as much good feeling about it all. He was pretty pissed.

As for this afternoon’s BOD, wow, that is hard to come up with. The room was empty before I could remind people to vote so .. yeah, today’s decision is unilateral – but still hard. There was so much all-around effort from our boys and a good result that it’s hard to narrow down. But I keep going back to the one thing that I am looking for out of every game and never know if I’m going to get – good starting pitching. Today, we got excellent starting pitching against a team that KNOWS how to hit the ball.. so I grant BOD to Kyle Gibson.. again!

Kyle Gibson (Photo: Kevin Pataky/MiLB.com_

Kyle Gibson (Photo: Kevin Pataky/MiLB.com_

Episode 79: Brian Dozier is Robinson Cano and Other Lies

Happy birthday to our very own Jay Corn!  As a birthday present to Jay, Paul skipped the show!  Without him Eric is free to heap all of the praise in the world on Brian Dozier, and he does. You can download the new Talk to Contact (@TalkToContact) episode via iTunes or by clicking here.

Dozier at bat

Jay Corn revisits his prediction that Josmil Pinto will hit 25 home runs (which is not looking so bad right now), and we wonder what might happen to Pinto’s playing time when Josh Willingham and/or Oswaldo Arcia return from the DL and Chris Herrmann goes back to AAA.  The jabbering continues with Logan Darnell, one of three AAA Left Handers in the Rochester starting rotation.  Lots of beer talk this week, and Eric is a little over excited about his “bready beer” and then the gang goes Around the League.

Enjoy the show!

You can follow Cody on Twitter (@NoDakTwinsFan) or read his writing at NoDakTwinsFan, you can find Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) and read his writing at PuckettsPond.com, and you can find Mr. Jay Corn on Twitter (@Jay__Corn)!

If you enjoy our podcast, please take a couple extra minutes and rate and review us on iTunes. Ratings and reviews are like syrup for our metaphorical banana walnut pancakes.

Who Are These Guys?

The people who pay attention to such things during professional baseball’s offseason were pretty much in agreement in their expectations for this team coming out of spring training in Fort Myers.

The starting pitching should be quite improved, perhaps the best it has been in a few years. The bullpen should once again be sound. But when the topic turned to the offense, one question was nearly universal, “Where will the runs come from?”

Now, roughly two weeks in to the 2014 season, there have been a couple of surprises. First, the supposed much improved rotation was a little slow getting out of the gate, but now we’re seeing results that look much closer to what we had hoped we would see from some of the starting pitchers.

But the offense is not what was expected. Instead of struggling to score runs consistently, we’re seeing an offense that sits at or near the top of several offensive statistics. Granted, the season is still young, but the rate at which the team is scoring runs is certainly encouraging.

All of which begs the question, “Who are these guys?”

Coincidental or not, that question could be answered in either of two ways and both would be accurate.

We could certainly be talking about the Minnesota Twins, who came through the past weekend’s series sweep of their American League Central Division rival Kansas City Royals averaging 5.6 runs per game, good for a third place tie in all of Major League Baseball. All three of their starting pitchers in the Royals series chalked up quality starts (at least six innings, giving up three runs or less).

But we could equally be describing the Twins’ Class A Midwest League affiliate, the Cedar Rapids Kernels.

The Kernels are expected to have one of the top rotations in minor league baseball this season, staffed with several of the organization’s top prospects, including the Twins’ first and second round draft picks a year ago, Kohl Stewart and Ryan Eades, among others.

The Kernels’ pitching certainly has been showing glimpses of their talent and arguably have done a better job of living up to their pre-season expectations than their counterparts with the parent Twins.

Hudson Boyd

Hudson Boyd

Through Tuesday’s games, relievers Brandon Bixler, Josue Montanez, Brandon Peterson and Hudson Boyd have each averaged at least a strikeout per inning pitched and have given up just four earned runs combined, between the four of them.

After struggling a little bit during the season’s chilly opening series at home, the rotation started to find their groove during last week’s eastern road trip, as well. Aaron Slegers has just a 1-0 record to show for his efforts, but he’s racked up 14 strikeouts in just 16 innings of work, while walking only a single batter.

Kernels pitching coach Ivan Arteaga indicated Monday night that he was pleased with the work his starting pitching corps did during their recent 5-1 road trip.

“This early in the season, you hope they give a good effort every night, which they did,” Arteaga said of his rotation arms. “They pretty much took us where we wanted them to take us.”

Arteaga added, “We have a pitch limit, everybody knows that. It’s a team effort. The relievers are giving us a chance every night, we can’t ask for more than that. The bullpen’s doing a great job.”

That swing out east last week also seemed to wake up some of the Kernels’ bats, a fact not lost on hitting coach Tommy Watkins who, while praising catcher Mitch Garver for an outstanding road trip, also saw progress from others.

“It was different guys every night,” said Watkins. “The hitters did a good job having quality at-bats. The main thing is they had a pretty decent approach and they stuck to it.”

That approach is showing up in the offensive statistics.

After Tuesday’s game, the Kernels were second in the MWL in runs scored (60) and at the top of the league in both slugging percentage (.442) and OPS (.777).

Cedar Rapids hitters have notched 11 home runs, tying them for the MWL lead with Lake County and Wisconsin. They also rank fourth in the league in doubles (23) and sit atop the MWL list in triples (8).

The power surge wasn’t something that Kernels manager Jake Mauer expected to see at this point.

“That (the home runs) has been a surprise,” Mauer said Monday night. “We know Garver and (Bryan) Haar have some pop, without a doubt, but I’d say the frequency that they’ve hit them, to this point, has been surprising. But they’ve also had some pretty good at-bats with runners in scoring position and we’ve been able to keep that carousel moving. We were a little concerned early that we’d only be able to score one run (at a time), but we’ve found a way to score multiple runs and that’s encouraging.”

Mitch Garver

Mitch Garver

Garver, the Twins’ 9th round draft pick a year ago, has accounted for nine of the team’s extra-base hits. He has three doubles, a triple and is leading the MWL in home runs with five. The combination has lifted his slugging percentage to a league leading .825 and his OPS to 1.254, good enough for second highest in the league.

Garver and Haar also lead the Kernels with 10 RBI each.

As Watkins pointed out, however, the offensive contributions haven’t been limited to just a couple of guys.

Outfielder Zach Larson’s six doubles have him tied for the MWL lead in that category and, while seeing action in just seven of the Kernels’ 12 games, through Tuesday, infielder Tanner Vavra has made the most of his opportunities to get to the plate and leads the club with a .360 batting average, just a single point above Haar’s .359.

After Monday’s come-from-behind win over South Bend, Mauer summarized his team’s efforts thus far. “The pitching has been really good, really good. The defense, for the most part, has been pretty good. We’ve gotten some big hits. We’re proud of the boys. They really don’t give up.”

Mauer credits the work the hitters have been doing with their hitting coach for their offensive progress early in the year.

“I think that’s what Tommy Watkins has been doing with these guys, just learning how to trust their hands and try see the ball a little bit. He’s got a pretty good plan that I think the boys are starting to buy in to. Overall, the quality of the at-bats has been much better,” Mauer said on Monday.

The season is young and less than 10% of the Kernels’ regular season games are behind them, but if early hitting trends can be maintained and their pitching turns out to be as improved as it was expected to be, this Cedar Rapids club could turn out to be quite competitive.

Of course, you could perhaps say something similar about the Minnesota Twins.

- JC

GameChat – Blue Jays @ Twins, 7:10pm

umm… yeah. It’s cold out there folks. It happens in this state in the Spring but none of us like it. At least Toronto is a “northern” team so they should be used to it right??

It will be interesting to see how the teams handle the game.. before the snow moves in for tomorrow. :(

Toronto

@

Minnesota
Cabrera, Me, LF Dozier, 2B
Kawasaki, 2B Mauer, 1B
Bautista, CF Plouffe, 3B
Lind, DH Colabello, RF
Encarnacion, 1B Kubel, LF
Navarro, D, C Pinto, DH
Sierra, RF Suzuki, K, C
Lawrie, 3B Hicks, CF
Goins, SS Florimon, SS
  Morrow, P   Hughes, P, P
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Toronto 0 0 0 0 0 5 0 0 4 9 14 1
Minnesota 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 3 7 1

I didn’t see or hear any of tonight’s Twins game, so I have no idea what happened beyond what I can see in the box score. But that’s enough to know it was ugly.

I do see Chris Colabello had three hits and Trevor Plouffe put up home run number 1 on the season, so I guess that’s something. Oh, and Phil Hughes had 7 strikeouts in his 5 innings of work and, from what some people seem to think, that’s a good thing. I personally think it’s not as good as it would have been without giving up the four runs, but what do I know? – JC

Eating Crow with the Minnesota Twins

crow eatAlmost a week ago, with the Twins in the middle of being swept by the Oakland Athletics, I wrote (over at BaseballTwins.com) that the Twins had no chance of being above .500 for the entire season, and then went so far as to loudly proclaim the same stance on the most recent Talk to Contact podcast.  After a weekend of hot baseball, from the offense and pitching staff, the Twins are now back to .500, at 6-6, and with an off day today to prep for a three game series at home with the Blue Jays, I find myself on the verge of eating crow.

How did this happen?

The Twins pitching turned in their three best performances of the year, the Twins’ bats woke up in a big way, and some timely defensive miscues allowed the Twins to steal a victory on Sunday.

On Friday night, Kyle Gibson put in another strong start, going 6.1 innings and giving up just one run.  Like his first start of the year, Gibson once again walked four batters, and recorded just three strike outs, so it wasn’t a perfect start, but he got the outs he needed and avoided any real damage (and the run he gave up in the first inning was directly related to Pedro Florimon booting a tailor-made double-play ball).

Not to be outdone, on Saturday afternoon, Ricky Nolasco pitched eight strong innings of one run ball, controlling the ball well, recording four strike outs and surrendering only a single walk.

While Nolasco and Gibson put up strong performances, the Twins hitters did their jobs too, scoring 17 runs in those first two games, with a balanced lineup that saw key hits from Dozier, Suzuki, Pinto, Mauer, Kubel, Colabello and Plouffe.  Everyone was hitting except Florimon and Mastroianni, who managed to be 0-8 (but did chip in two walks) while the rest of the team recorded a .346 on base percentage.

On Sunday, Kevin Correia worked seven scoreless innings, but let the first three batters of the inning reach base, and Brian Duensing came in with two one and one in already.  He couldn’t stop the bleeding and the Twins were down 3-2 going into the home half of the eighth.  IN the bottom of the inning the Twins loaded the bases and Chris Herrmann grounded to the pitcher Wade Davis who tried to start a home-to-first double play, but instead threw the ball away allowing two runs to score.

While the Twins might creep over .500 before this home stand ends, I still think that the Twins next four series after that, against the Royals, Rays, Tigers and Dodgers will put the Twins firmly below .500 without much chance of a return.

For now though, the Twins are interesting, and I look forward to eating crow.