GameChat – Twins @ Yankees #3, 6:05, FSN & am1500

Dare we ask for two in a row? Let’s dare, shall we?

The Twins send ‘Stache to the mound to face the Evil Empire, for whom he once pitched (no, I don’t mean he only pitched for them one time in the four years he was under contract to them… but as Yankee fans would tell you, it really wasn’t a lot more than that).

Pavano gets his lil buddy, sweet Drew Butera, catching him tonight so he’ll have to figure out a way to win without Joe Mauer’s bat in the lineup.

By the way, if you haven’t yet checked out the blog of new mlb.com Twins beat writer Rhett Bollinger, now might be a good time to do that. In tonight’s post, he touches on the “personal catcher” thing.

Speaking of blogs and guys not in the lineup tonight, you should head on over to Babes Love Baseball to enter the the contest they’ve got going, up until Jim Thome hits HR # 590. They’re giving away one of the TwinsCentric “Mashin’ Taters” t-shirts and all you have to do to enter is post a comment… and I know you all know how to make comments!

You also won’t find Derek Jeter’s name in the Yankees’ lineup tonight. Either Girardi and Gardy decided together not to play either manager’s designated “saint” or, more likely, Jeter became so unnerved by the sound of the collective screams of “Sit Down Bitch!!!!” that reverberated across America from thousands of former Batlings (OK, maybe not thousands, but I bet there were at least a dozen of us) as he swung through a Joe Nathan fastball to end last night’s game, that he’s curled up in a fetal position somewhere in the bowels of Yankee Mausoleum and needs a day to recover.

With that, here’s the list of guys who ARE in the lineup tonight:

TWINS @ YANKEES
Span, CF Gardner, LF
Nishioka, 2B Granderson, CF
Young, D, LF Teixeira, 1B
Morneau, 1B Rodriguez, A, DH
Kubel, DH Cano, 2B
Cuddyer, RF Swisher, RF
Valencia, 3B Chavez, Er, 3B
Butera, C Nunez, E, SS
Casilla, A, SS Molina, C
Pavano, P Garcia, F, P

Game postponed tonight. No make up date announced yet. If this had happened in Minnesota, there would be loud howls about Target Field not having a retractable roof.

Let’s hope for better weather Thursday.

- JC

Just Keepin’ It Real

Wow, that game last night was kinda fun… the way it ended anyway. Not so much the first seven innings, but in Big Boy League, they play nine (or in this case, 10) and it was great to see our guys show some backbone and scratch out a W in the Bronx.

And it’s fine that we were all giddy last night… including the players, if some of their Tweets are any indication.

But today brings another game and the reality that not too much should be read in to that win. Just as I’d caution people not to think Monday’s loss was an indication that the season is going in the toilet or that the Yankees will continue to forever dominate the Twins, let’s not jump to the conclusion that last night’s win gets King Kong off the Twins’ backs, either.

As our old friend Nuke LaLoosh so profoundly stated, “Winning is like, you know, better than losing!” But as the Twins learned last season, pulling off one come-from-behind win over the Evil Empire in that Mausoleum in Bronx (and seriously, that’s all the better Yankee fans can do in terms of showing up for a ballgame? I don’t care what the weather was… that’s a joke. They call themselves baseball fans?) does not, in itself, constitute a reversal of a trend.

I have to kind of like the pitching matchups for the next two games and I’ve held the minority view that the Twins bullpen is actually better than the Yankees’ overall, despite how “vaunted” it is by the media (especially the YES network broadcasters, apparently). I mean really… how many fans would have been screaming for the heads of Bill Smith, Ron Gardenhire, and/or pitching coach Rick Anderson if the Twins would have left Ft. Myers with Luis Ayala in the bullpen (again)?

But we can debate pitching and middle infielding until we’re all out of breath (or our typing fingers fall off) and it really won’t matter in the long run. Yes, the starting pitchers need to stop giving up early gopher balls. Yes, Casilla and Nishioka need to step up their games a bit.

It's time for Mauer, Morneau, Cuddyer and Thome to show up

But no matter what anyone else does, this team’s fortunes are going to be tied to how the heart of the batting order performs with the bat and, so far, they flat out haven’t performed well. If and when Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Delmon Young, Michael Cuddyer and Jim Thome start hitting with some consistent authority, this team will win a lot of baseball games. It’s really that simple.

At this point, none of those guys has been able to accumulate as much as a .150 batting average. Yes, I know BA isn’t the be-all and end-all of offensive statistics, but I think it’s safe to say that if you aren’t hitting above .150, chances are none of your other fancy in-depth sabremetric offensive stats are going to be looking too good either.

If all people want to fret about is whether your middle infield or 4th and 5th starters or middle relievers are performing up to standards, then everyone is missing the giant elephant in the room. It’s only five games in to the season, but the problem right at this moment is not the middle infield… it’s the heart of the batting order.

Pardon me for continuing to channel my inner Nuke today, but it’s time for the studs on this team to start announcing their presence with some authority.

- JC