GameChat – Twins @ A’s #2, 2:35 pm, FSN & am1500

Well the Twins have had two previous three game winning streaks this season – I don’t think we have ever done more than that yet – and I would really like to see today make the third. Who knows if we have any chance of getting back into the realm of competitive opportunity this season but I would just like to approach EVERY game with a must-win attitude. Get it done Boys.

Minnesota @ Oakland
Span, CF Crisp, CF
Plouffe, SS Barton, D, 1B
Kubel, RF Sweeney, R, LF
Morneau, DH Matsui, H, DH
Cuddyer, 1B Suzuki, K, C
Valencia, 3B DeJesus, D, RF
Young, D, LF Ellis, M, 2B
Rivera, Re, C Kouzmanoff, 3B
Casilla, A, 2B Pennington, SS
Blackburn, P Ross, P

 

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Minnesota 1 1 0 0 2 0 0 6 1 11 16 3
Oakland 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 6 0

 

WOOOHOOOO!!!  The Twins no longer have the worst record in baseball! Today’s win officially moved them past the Astros.  And wow, was that a fun game to watch. The boys remembered how to use the bats and the pitching was ON! I really miss that kind of baseball.  Lots of people contributed today but the eventual BOD debate came down Justin Morneau, who really is starting to get his rhythm back, and Nick Blackburn, who followed up his last three consecutive quality starts with another gem.  We finally said, why are we arguing about this?

They’re BOTH today’s BODs!  Congrats!

Justin Morneau

 

Nick Blackburn

GameChat – Twins @ A’s #1, 9:05pm, FSN & am1500

The Twins continue their road trip down the left coast as they open another two-game series against an AL West foe tonight. Oakland hasn’t been great… they have won two more games than they’ve lost… but they’ve managed to turn that mediocrity in to a first place tie at the top of the AL West standings. Then again, right now I wouldn’t mind seeing some mediocrity out of the Twins. It would definitely be a step in the right direction.

Let’s see if ‘Stache can hold the Athletics in check and then maybe hope a few hits start dropping in. Here’s tonight’s lineup.

TWINS @ ATHLETICS
Span, CF DeJesus, D, RF
Plouffe, SS Barton, D, 1B
Kubel, DH Willingham, LF
Morneau, 1B Matsui, H, DH
Cuddyer, RF Suzuki, K, C
Valencia, 3B Sweeney, R, CF
Revere, LF Ellis, M, 2B
Butera, C Kouzmanoff, 3B
Casilla, A, 2B Pennington, SS
Pavano, P McCarthy, P
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 R H E
Minnesota 1 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 4 10 1
Oakland 0 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 3 8 1

Hey hey! That’s two in a row, boys and girls! This one took 10 innings to accomplish, but it’s a win… on the road even!

We saw the Carl Pavano we have been hoping to see all season… not overpowering, by any means, but effective. He gave up just 1 earned run over seven innings of work. He certainly deserves kudos and perhaps even a nice basket of baked goods for his work.

As a matter of fact, every pitcher who toed the rubber for the Twins tonight earned our respect and praise. Glen Perkins not only worked a clean 8th inning, giving up just one hit and striking out two hitters, but he also returned in the 9th inning to retire Hideki Matsui before stepping aside in favor of Joe Nathan. Twitchy gave up a hit and a walk, but he managed to escape the 9th inning without being touched for a run, sending the game to extra innings, which was good enough to earn Joe the win. Matt Capps pitched a perfect 10th inning for his 7th save.

But while the pitching staff certainly had some support in the GameChat for BOD consideration, that honor went to shortstop Trevor Plouffe in a split decision. Plouffe’s throwing error in the second inning resulted in two unearned runs for Oakland, but Trevor wasted no time making up for his mistake by driving in two runs in the top of the 3rd to allow the Twins to regain the lead. Then, for an encore, Plouffe drove in the game winning run for the Twins in the top of the 10th inning with a sacrifice fly. Those three ribbies were enough to earn Plouffe the Knuckleballs Boyfriend of the Day award!

- JC

Trevor Plouffe

True Heroes Never Die

Yes, this is a second Harmon Killebrew memorial post at Knuckleballs, but I just feel compelled to share my own thoughts about Harmon.

I was three years old in the summer of 1959 when my dad got a coaching job in southern Minnesota. Two years later, the Washington Senators relocated to the Twin Cities and, with them, came Harmon Killebrew. To a young boy like me at the time, Killebrew was larger than life. My family might only make one or two trips a year up to see games at Metropolitan Stadium, but we watched Killebrew and his team mates on television every summer, all summer long.

It’s not surprising that he became my hero… my sports idol. He was the player I wanted to be “like”. But then, he was the guy we all wanted to be like. While we kids didn’t probably notice it so much at the time, his gentle and gracious demeanor towards media, fans and pretty much everyone he encountered probably resulted in him being the guy our parents hoped we would all grow up to be “like”.

Through the subsequent decades, we’ve seen one superstar after another capture our attention (and the attention of our kids) with their remarkable talents, only to turn out to be the kind of person off the field that we would never want our children to idolize. Charles Barkley even made a lot of money from his “I am not a role model” mantra.

As parents,  we’ve had to constantly remind our children that their sports heroes are “human” and they may not always be the nicest guys off the field. Spend even a single day at any Major League spring training camp (yes, including the Twins’) and you’re going to see examples of what I’m talking about. We all have had to remind our kids that their sports heroes are not “real” heroes. It’s OK to love the way they play a game, but “real” heroes are people who live their lives up to certain ethical standards and just because a person can hit a baseball 450 feet, we can’t assume he lives his life in a manner worthy of being considered a hero.

I’ve always felt a bit sad for all the kids who have grown up worshiping this home run hitter or that quarterback or this other power forward, only to realize as they get older that their hero actually was more than a little bit of a jerk. It’s just sad when a kid eventually even feels embarrassed for having admired a particular superstar. Maybe he used drugs. Maybe he abused his wife or kids, or maybe he was just a really crappy human being. I suppose there’s a lesson to be learned by kids in that situation that helps them understand the nature of human frailties. If so, it’s a lesson I’m glad I never had to learn… at least in that manner.

My hero understood and embraced his place as a role model. I’m sure Harmon Killebrew made mistakes in his life. We all do. But I’m not aware of any sports figure of his stature who has had a reputation for class and graciousness the way Killebrew has. Listen to his team mates. Listen to current players who were privileged to spend time around him as they came up in the Twins organization. Listen to people in the Twins organization that he worked with. Listen to members of the media.

I’m midway through my sixth decade on this earth and I’m still as proud as I’ve ever been to say Harmon Killebrew was my hero.

Harmon lost his battle with cancer this week and that means we won’t see him at Target Field any more, other than in a bronzed likeness. It means those of us who make the trip to spring training won’t see him around the batting cage talking with today’s players. It’s sad and our thoughts and prayers are with his family as they mourn his passing.

But Harmon will live on. When you get a legible autograph from Michael Cuddyer or one of the other Twins players that Killebrew taught to sign their names properly, Harmon will be there. When you come away from a night at a Twins Caravan impressed with how “fan friendly” the Twins players were, Harmon was there. Whenever you see an athlete conduct him or her self with class and willingly and openly embrace his or her place as a role model for young fans, Harmon will be there.

Harmon Killebrew was my hero. He was a real hero. Real heroes live on in the hearts and lives of the millions of people they touched during their time among us.

Real heroes never die.

-JC

(Photo: @MinnesotaTwins)

 

GameChat – Twins @ Mariners #2, 9:10, FSN & am1500

The game itself doesn’t start until later but FSN will begin broadcasting at 8 pm with a memorial for Harmon Killebrew – ESPN radio will begin their tribute to him at 8:40. Seattle has lowered the flags in the park to half staff to honor and there will be a video tribute and a moment of silence before the game begines.

Obviously, Killebrew’s passing will be a major discussion point – not entirely excluding the fact that the Twins play of late hasn’t been worth talking about – so we’ll just embrace it. If anyone has a particular story they would like to share, I encourage them to do so! The Twins will be sporting a 3 patch on their uniforms in addition to the memorials they are planning at Target Field.  Even though there are innumerable writeups in honor of Killer, I think people should read an additional memorial from Harmon’s colleagues this afternoon: Twins Legends Remember

photo courtesy of @MinnesotaTwins

 

 

Minnesota @ Seattle
Span, CF   Suzuki, I, RF
Tolbert, SS   Figgins, 3B
Kubel, DH   Smoak, 1B
Morneau, 1B   Olivo, C
Cuddyer, RF   Cust, DH
Valencia, 3B   Wilson, Ja, 2B
Revere, LF   Wilson, M, LF
Rivera, Re, C   Ryan, Br, SS
Casilla, A, 2B   Saunders, CF
  Liriano, P     Hernandez, F, P

 

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Minnesota 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 3 1
Seattle 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 3 0

 

Well, goodness! THAT hasn’t happened in awhile! Whether or not the Twins won this one for The Killer or just got lucky on a couple questionable calls and took advantage of good pitching/bad pitching – it all just doesn’t matter. They won. They broke a freakishly long losing streak. They didn’t hit too much but they hit enough… AND they did play pretty aggressively on the base paths which I do like to see. And Michael Cuddyer gets a new pen for all those signatures he spent so much time improving with Harmon because of being the RBI man tonight.

But this game really came down to the pitching. And since we never know exactly which Liriano we’re going to see on the mound on a given night, I was ecstatic to have 7 innings of (mostly) thrilling pitches from him. For that reason, FranKKKie was voted today’s BOD! (funny thing, we’re so out of the habit, almost everyone left without voting!)

 

 

RIP Harmon!

photo courtesy of Fox 9 News

It came much faster than any of us (except maybe Harmon himself) expected.

Harmon Killebrew died this morning at the age of 74 in Scottsdale, AZ with his family by his side.

All of baseball past, present & future will feel his loss. We here at Knuckleballs can only say how sorry we are to lose him & send the best thoughts & prayers to his family and friends. I highly recommend this piece from Joe Posnanski about the Gentleman Called Killer & see the video tribute below – they’ll both bring a tear to your eye.

[update] The Twins also just released Cuddyer’s weekly blog a day early because he wrote it after Harmon announced his hospice arrangment: He was able to paint a masterpiece. The Twins have also set up a page with his biography and an opportunity for fans to leave their own memories and messages. I highly encourage anyone who wants to seek out a bit more information or share with other fans to stop by: Harmon Killebrew, 1936-2011

Lastly, the grounds crew placed Harmon’s picture underneath home plate in Target Field today. It will reside there for the rest of the season. Let’s hope that it is an encouragement for all our Twins players to do a better job to get to home during games and to play worthy of his gaze.

photo courtesy of Molly Gallatin & the Twins Grounds Crew

GameChat: Minnesota @ Seattle #1, 9:10pm, FSN & am1500

Media reports are saying that Joe Mauer will be leaving Tuesday to head to Ft. Myers for “extended spring training” games and Tsuyoshi Nishioka has started “sprinting drills”. I’d like to feel more optimistic about the chances we’ll see Joe activated soon than I do. It’s just that we’ve been down this road before, yanno? But at this point, seeing anyone behind the plate for the Twins who can at least hit is weight would be encouraging!

Unfortunately, Kansas City Royals fans today got some sad news about one of their franchise favorites, pitcher-turned-broadcaster Paul Splittorf. Splittorf, who was a fixture on the mound for the Royals teams that were regularly winning the old AL Western Division in the late 1970s and early 1980s, has been diagnosed with both oral cancer and melanoma and his prognosis is not good. Twins fans can certainly relate and I’m sure I speak for all of us in expressing our sympathies to Royals fans, not to mention our heartfelt thoughts and prayers to Splittorf and his family.

Turning to tonight’s game…

It seems like just yesterday that we were all relieved that the Twins were finally ending a long road trip and returning to Target Field, where their fortunes would certainly turn around. It sounded good at the time.

Now our guys are back on the road. The good news, though, is that they are visiting the Mariners, who are struggling just about as much as the Twins are. Seattle has dropped six straight games (not as bad as the Twins’ 8 game losing streak, but it’s not good!), but they have rookie phenom Michael Pineda on the mound tonight, opposite Scott Baker for the Twins. It’s understandable if you aren’t familiar with Pineda, since there’s probably no team in baseball that gets less media attention outside their own market than the Mariners do. If you want to learn more about this guy before he faces off with the Twins, check out this USA Today article from a few days ago.

I don’t know how late I’ll be able to stay awake tonight, but let’s see if we can’t get things turned around and going in a more positive direction!

TWINS @ MARINERS
Span, CF Suzuki, I, RF
Plouffe, SS Figgins, 3B
Kubel, RF Smoak, 1B
Morneau, DH Cust, DH
Cuddyer, 1B Olivo, C
Young, D, LF Kennedy, A, 2B
Valencia, 3B Peguero, C, LF
Butera, C Rodriguez, L, SS
Casilla, A, 2B Saunders, CF
Baker, S, P Pineda, P

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Minnesota 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 2 4 0
Seattle 1 0 1 0 0 2 0 1 x 5 8 3

Let’s be fair and say that Michael Pineda has been shutting down a lot of teams, so give him his due. But the Twins aren’t even putting up a fight at this point. It’s sad to see. That’s nine straight, for those who are counting. The longest losing streak in over a dozen years. Ugh.

GameChat – Toronto @ Minnesota #3, 1:10 pm, usual broadcasts

Today’s news is that Jose Mijares is headed to the Disabled List after the game with elbow tenderness. It does make one wonder what changes that will mean in the various pitching roles, doesn’t it?

I’m not sure how many of us will be around this afternoon for the GameChat, but here are the line ups. Let’s try to salvage one game of this series, shall we, boys?
- JC

BLUE JAYS @ TWINS
Escobar, Y, SS Span, CF
Patterson, C, LF Plouffe, SS
Bautista, J, RF Kubel, DH
Encarnacion, 1B Morneau, 1B
Hill, A, 2B Young, D, LF
Rivera, J, DH Cuddyer, RF
Davis, R, CF Valencia, 3B
McDonald, Jo, 3B Butera, C
Molina, J, C Casilla, A, 2B
Morrow, P Duensing, P
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Toronto 2 1 4 1 0 3 0 0 0 11 13 0
Minnesota 0 0 0 1 2 0 0 0 0 3 8 0

For a number of reasons, I didn’t get to see or hear much of the games this weekend and I’m actually not too upset about that. I’m not sure things can get any uglier for the Twins (though I thought that a week ago and they certainly did manage to get worse).

It’s approaching the time when some tough decisions are going to have to get made. Hitters aren’t hitting (only one Twins hitter had more than a single hit today… none other than Alexi Casilla. Go figure). Pitchers aren’t pitching. I’d say it’s time for Liriano or Duensing to head to the bullpen while Slowey takes a rotation spot, but I really don’t expect Kevin to be any better, at this point. Just a pretty sorry state of affairs right now.

UPDATE: Phil Mackey of 1500ESPN is reporting that the Twins are expected to recall LHP Phil Dumatrait and RHP Anthony Swarzak this evening. Mijares is going on the DL and we’ll be saying so long to Jim Hoey, as well.

- JC

GameChat: BlueJays @ Twins #2, 3:10pm, FSN & am1500

Things are just getting pretty desperate at this point in Twinsville. The inability of this team to score runs is reaching historic levels of ineptitude. I’m not even concerned any more with the team’s chances of winning the AL Central Division, I just want to start seeing some good baseball from them again. Let’s see if we can get something going today!

This is another one of those days when KL, Babs and I all have stuff going on that make it a challenge to be here when the line ups are released and get a chat post up, so I’m going to throw this post up a couple hours early and without line ups, but at least the Chatroll will be here for those of you who wish to congregate for the game.

- JC

BLUE JAYS @ TWINS
Escobar, Y, SS Span, CF
Patterson, C, LF Plouffe, SS
Bautista, J, RF Kubel, DH
Rivera, J, DH Morneau, 1B
Hill, A, 2B Young, D, LF
Arencibia, C Cuddyer, RF
Cooper, D, 1B Valencia, 3B
McDonald, Jo, 3B Hughes, L, 2B
Davis, R, CF Rivera, Re, C
Reyes, Jo, P Blackburn, P

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 R H E
Toronto 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 6 9 9 2
Minnesota 2 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 3 13 1

Another excellent starting pitching performance that gets wasted due to (a) lack of offensive support and (b) one really bad inning of relief pitching. It was encouraging to see Nick Blackburn pitch so well and 13 hits is almost a week’s worth of hitting for the Twins lately (even if 11 of those were singles… it was still nice to see the Cuddyer HR and the Morneau double that was almost a HR).  I guess we saw a slight flicker of what this team was supposed to be capable of today.

Jason Repko is rehabbing and Jim Thome is about to do the same, with Tsuyoshi Nishioka soon to follow. (I still don’t get the deal on Joe Mauer, but I suppose some day the facts about his mysterious malady will come out.)

GameChat: BlueJays @ Twins #1, 7:10pm, FSN am1500

I’m not sure where the others are, but I’m sitting out a delay at O’Hare airport in Chicago. Not sure how long I’ll be online, but I’ll at least put up the chat (a half hour late, perhaps) and someone can add the lineups later.

- JC


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Toronto 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 2 13 0
Minnesota 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 0

I was able to watch the last few innings of the game at O’Hare (funny how 4 hour delays give you time for that kinda thing). Not much to say that hasn’t been said elsewhere. It was good to see Delmon Young back in uniform, anyway. Sounds like Jim Thome may be returning soon, too. I don’t know if it will all be too little, too late, or not… but I’m pretty sure it will be more fun to watch these games when the rest of the “real” Twins get back on the field.

 

 

The Next Step for Harmon Killebrew

It breaks our hearts but Harmon Killebrew and the Twins announced this morning that the progression of his illness has now gone beyond the treatment stage. His doctors have informed him that there is nothing more they can do. He’ll be entering hospice care in order to spend his remaining days in the most comfortable way possible with his family.

I’m sure all of Twins Territory will share in sending him and his family all the best thoughts, prayers and good wishes we can. There are few players in the history of the game who have contributed to as many generations of their team as The Killer has. We can’t begin to thank him enough, not only for his time on the field as a Minnesota Twin but for all the investments into young (and some not so young) players who have followed him and to the residents of Minnesota and elsewhere. Harmon has always been known as a gentleman because of his respect for those around him. Not having him there to give the benefit of his life and experience is a huge loss for all of us.

Thanks again, Harmon!