GameChat – Indians @ Twins #4, 12:10pm

So… final game of the Indians series.. we break even if we win this today. Which would be VERY good.. at least we’d still be where we started on Monday and last night’s comeback win should be pretty good for morale.

Of course, the story for the day is still the hellish weather. I’m contributing this little bit of something a friend (several actually) shared on Facebook:

 

Yeah, you have to wonder if Cleveland keeps double checking their plane tickets to make sure they are in Minnesota.  This is the land of the frozen north right?? Welcome to summer in a state covered with water folks – we get humidity and heat.. and today the combo is still working against us.  At least it’s a bit better than both Monday and yesterday out there.  Humidity is actually dropping a tad already and yes, it’s over 90 but the heat index isn’t over 100.. yet.  They are saying there is supposed to be a BIG break in the weather tonight before the heat returns on the weekend.  It will be a gorgeous day tomorrow.. looking forward to one beautiful day at least!  Anyway, lets see what the boys have to work with after this tropical marathon. 

Interestingly, even though it’s a getaway day and the final game of the series, it seems that both teams are putting out their regular starting rotation of players – no one gets a day off – which I think is an indication how seriously both teams are taking this division battle.

Cleveland

@

Minnesota
Carrera, CF   Revere, CF
Cabrera, A, SS   Casilla, A, 2B
Hafner, DH   Mauer, 1B
Santana, C, C   Cuddyer, RF
LaPorta, 1B   Thome, DH
Cabrera, O, 2B   Valencia, 3B
Chisenhall, 3B   Young, D, LF
Kearns, RF   Nishioka, SS
Valbuena, LF   Butera, C
  Tomlin, P     Blackburn, P

 

 

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

R

H

E

Cleveland

0

0

0

3

0

1

0

0

1

5

8

0

Minnesota

2

0

0

2

0

0

0

3

x

7

13

1

 

WOOHOOOO!!!!  That was exciting, frustrating, dramatic baseball! There was passion, tragedy, aggravation, relief, miracles & errors – everything you want in a division race actually. It seemed as though each player had a moment you wanted to pat him on the back and then immediately followed by something that made you want to strangle him.. Butera was BRILLIANT throwing out base-stealers but a passed ball (which Blackburn totally misplayed at the base) let a run in. Speaking of Blackburn, it was a GREAT outing from Nick on a day that eats pitchers and spits them out but the 4th inning was PAINFUL and the aforementioned fielding goof cost an out that could have saved Butera’s error by getting an out. Yeah, it was Butera’s error but in my book, there is no excuse for a pitcher not getting an out because he’s on the wrong side of the base. But even after that, he came back out and pitched great again. So I’m granting both Butera and Blackburn rootbeer floats as a cooler/reward.

We also had some CRAZY miscues on the defense – like Revere getting to one of those ridiculous OF flies he catches up to and then missing the catch in the sun.  On the other hand, Joe played 1B today by his request and managed to use every inch of his 6’5+” frame to rescue errant throws on several occasions. One of my favorite moments of the game included a misthrow from Casilla to Mauer at 1B that Mauer seemed to miraculously dig up and get the out. Even Lexi knew he owed Mauer in a HUGE way because as the players entered the dugout, Casilla tackled Joe in an impromptu hug shocking Mauer and delighting the fans who witnessed the event via tv broadcast.  I’m hoping to find a pic of the event to share with you because the WTF posture from Mauer and the sheer ridiculousness of the activity will entertain us all. However, Lexi also had some really good AB’s and overall had a good game so both he and Mauer also get rootbeer floats for their efforts. Until I find a pic of the actual hug – here’s a pretty entertaining interview with Mauer where he & Casilla joke about the hug – there’s a clip of it right at the end.

Video: Mauer, Casilla talk 7-5 win

Thanks to Thrylos, we have a screen shot from the video!! Thanks Thry!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 But as was necessary last night, the game was tied and required late inning offensive heroics to get us back in the lead and eventually get us the win. You’ll never guess who got another terribly important bases-loaded hit to give us the lead… yeah, Danny Valencia. His team was also pretty excited about his efforts today because several of his teammates decided to gang-pie him in the postgame interview… yeah, he can have a rootbeer float too if he can ever get all the shaving cream out of his mouth but until then, he was voted todays unanimous BOD!

 

 

The REAL joy comes in the fact that for now, the Twins are once again 5.5 Games back in the division race and set to take on the newly division-leading Detroit Tigers. The boys should have great morale and motivation to bring every ounce of their ability and luck to continuing the upward climb for the season. *crosses fingers, toes, hair & whatever while holding breath*

ABC’s of Righthanded Relief Options

There seems to be consensus across Twinsville that a bit of help in the righthanded relief pitching category may be called for. Since the Twins online community rarely reaches anything resembling “consensus” on any subject, this much agreement must mean there’s a real need, right?

I know we keep reading about how Twins GM Bill Smith and his staff are discussing options for addressing the team’s bullpen issues.

So what’s the hold up? I guess I could understand if Bill decided to wait until this stretch of games against the Indians and Tigers is finished before giving up even a bit of minor league talent in trade, you know… just in case the Twins were going to lose eight straight. Then again, perhaps that bullpen help might make that kind of losing streak less likely.

Maybe it’s just too difficult to identify pitchers who could help the Twins?

In any event, here at Knuckleballs, we’re always trying to help out. So, with a little research (in fact VERY little research), I’ve come up with a list of righthanded relievers for Bill and his buddies to peruse.

The word on the street is that it should be a “buyer’s market” for shoppers in the market for righthanded relievers. With that in mind, I went “shopping”… and to keep it simple, I tried to come up with one option for each letter of the alphabet, looking pretty much only at guys who are currently toiling for teams that are likely “sellers”.

Let me say up front that I was not successful. There are simply no legitimate (or even somewhat less than legitimate) options for righthanded bullpen arms beginning with the letters O, T, V, X or Y. (Hey, I came up with a U and a Z, whaddya want?!) To make up for that, I threw in a few extras for some of the other letters.

No, not all of these pitchers are likely to be available. Some of them are young enough and cheap enough that their current teams will want to hang on to them. Some of them would come with high price tags (either in talent to be exchanged or salary… or both) that the Twins aren’t likely to want to meet. And no, I’m certainly not advocating for all of them.

But with a very few exceptions, you could make a case that these guys would be an improvement over the long line of ugliness that has traipsed to the mound from the Twins bullpen lately. Don’t believe me? Look up the stat lines on these guys and compare them to Alex Burnett and the other righties that Gardy’s tried to get some middle innings out of this season.

(By the way… if it turns out a couple of these guys are lefties, are on the DL, or retired 12 years ago … well… sorry. There were a lot of names to come up with here!)

Let’s begin.

A – Mike Adams SD

B – Grant Balfour OAK or perhaps Matt Belisle COL

C – Tyler Clippard WAS would be nice, but he won’t come cheap. Fortunately, the Nats have another “C”… Todd Coffey

D – Octavio Dotel TOR

E – Marco Estrada WAS

F – Jason Frasor TOR

G – Matt Guerrier LAD (hey, if people seem to want Jon Rauch back, why not Shaggy?)

H – Blake Hawksworth LAD or perhaps Greg Holland KC

I – Jason Isringhausen NYM

J – Jim Johnson BAL

K – Hong-Chih Kuo LAD (yeah I had to REALLY stretch for a K)

L – Matt Lindstrom COL or maybe Wilton Lopez HOU

M – Ryan Mattheus WAS or Mark Melancon HOU or even Edward Mujica FLA

N – Leo Nunez FLA yeah… I know, it’s not gonna happen. Guess we could always get back Pat Neshek SD

Jon Rauch

O -Nada

P – Bobby Parnell NYM

Q – Chad Qualls SD

R – Jon Rauch TOR or, if you just can’t get your head right with that, Fernando Rodriguez HOU

S – Drew Storen WAS or Jeff Samardzija ChC (but we know we’d rather have Joakim Soria KC)

T -Nope

U – Koji Uehara BAL

V -Uhuh

W – Michael Wuertz OAK (a Minnesota boy, I believe) or maybe Blake Wood KC

X -YeahRight

Y – Surprisingly, nobody… seems Cy Young is no longer pitching

Z – Brad Ziegler OAK

So, there ya go Bill… Happy shopping!

– JC

GameChat – Indians @ Twins #3, 7:10pm

Wow, I thought sitting through YESTERDAY’s games was a hot deal.  It’s like some little blond girl is staring at a dopplar screen and saying “it’s baaaa-aack.” We’re looking at temps around 95 degrees for game start time and given the ridiculous levels of humidity, the heat index says 117 degrees. Yeah, that’s even worse than it was yesterday.  At least they are only playing one game today – too bad it’s after the last three. At least the evening looks clear for any more storms so we shouldn’t have to deal with any rain delays.

After yesterday’s performances though, I have to say that as long as Liriano holds it together for more than 5 innings, the problem is going to be OFFENSE. We simply have to see more guys hitting more often with men on base. Gotta start getting runs before the last inning of the game.. first rule in the baseball primer is: you win when you score more often than the other guys. If we’re able to win tonight and tomorrow, we’re at least back to where we started in relation to Cleveland. We fought pretty hard to get to the point where we were in striking distance. I would hate to see all that dissipate in a single series.

At any rate, thinking positively, I think we can do this. Win Twins!

Cleveland

@

Minnesota
Carrera, CF Revere, CF
Cabrera, O, 2B Casilla, A, 2B
Cabrera, A, SS Mauer, 1B
Santana, C, 1B Cuddyer, RF
LaPorta, DH Thome, DH
Kearns, RF Valencia, 3B
Hannahan, 3B Young, D, LF
Marson, C Nishioka, SS
Buck, T, LF Butera, C
  Masterson, P   Liriano, P
  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Cleveland 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 5 1
Minnesota 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 2 6 0

I have to say that game didn’t exactly come with the offensive outburst I think many of us have been hoping to see, but a win is a win and the guys certainly came through with a big ninth-inning come-from-behind walk-off win over the ‘Toons.

Frankie wasn’t exactly efficient, but he survived six innings of 1-run pitching and the bullpen arms of Dumatrait, Capps and Perkins were just about perfect, so can’t give anything but praise to the pitching staff tonight. They also got some excellent defense from their team mates behind them, as well.

But at the end, when it was needed the most, Michael Cuddyer doubled and then read Danny Valencia’s game-winning base hit perfectly to score from second base behind Joe Mauer. So Cuddy and Danny V are our co-BODs tonight! – JC

Danny Valencia

Michael Cuddyer

Looking For The Big O

No… not THAT “Big O”. This is a baseball blog, get your mind out of the gutter!

(Image: Declan Burke)

Although, that said, the Twins and their fans could certainly use a little tension release right now. You can feel the stress building already. All it took was that doubleheader loss on Monday to the ‘Toons and all of a sudden, blood pressures are elevated all over Twinsville.

Everyone wants to know who’s to blame. Scott Baker for not giving the team enough advance notice that his elbow remained sore? The bullpen for giving up a few runs? Anthony Swarzak and Scott Diamond for not shutting down the Tribe hitters? Or do we just fall back on the “first rule of leadership” and declare it to all be Gardy’s fault?

For me, it’s “none of the above”. I’m looking straight at the Twins’ hitters and I’m concerned that we aren’t seeing the offense we’re going to need to see to keep the momentum that’s been built up over the past several weeks.

During the first half of July, leading up to the AllStar Break, the Twins won seven of 10 games. During that stretch, they outscored opponents 60-45, which thankfully makes doing the math easy. They averaged 6 runs each game. In fact, there were only two games in which they scored fewer than five runs (and they won one of those games).

After the break, it looked like the Twins would pick up right where they left off, beating the Royals 8-4 on Thursday. In the five games since that night, however, the assbats have apparently returned.

In the past five games, Twins hitters have a combined .231 batting average and an on-base percentage of just .272. That’s not good. But what’s even worse is that they have hit just .121 with runners in scoring position. Looking at that, it’s hardly a surprise that the Twins have not put up five runs on the board in any of those five games. Given that Joe Mauer seems to be coming back to form and hitting the ball well, I’m afraid to even look at what happens to those stats if you pull his numbers out.

Almost everything I’ve read lately has been about the state of the Twins’ pitching. The closer situation. Possible trade targets for bullpen help. Whether Slowey should be brought back to the rotation. How seriously is Baker hurt? Should Gibson get his shot? That’s all fine, friends, go ahead and fret about the bullpen and by all means, worry about Scott Baker’s elbow and the inconsistency of the rest of the rotation.

But the guys with the sticks need to start doing their jobs again or nothing else will matter.

– JC

GameChat – Indians @ Twins #2, 7:10pm

Let’s see how the guys have recovered from this afternoon’s exertions.

Welcome to Minnesota Scott Diamond – give it your best and we’ll sure appreciate it! We apologize for the resemblance to hell since it’s usually quite beautiful in Minnesota in the summer.

Since I actually get to ATTEND the game tonight (in place of yesterday) I would really like to see us get the win tonight and just pretend that today is a wash.

 

Cleveland

@

Minnesota
Brantley, LF Revere, CF
Cabrera, A, SS Casilla, A, SS
Hafner, DH Mauer, C
Santana, C, 1B Cuddyer, 1B
Cabrera, O, 2B Young, D, DH
Kearns, RF Valencia, 3B
Hannahan, 3B Hughes, L, 2B
Marson, C Plouffe, RF
Carrera, CF Repko, LF
  Carmona, P   Diamond, P

 

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

Scott Diamond

Another pretty sorry offensive effort and a bit of defensive ineptitude thrown in for good measure.

Looking for silver linings, you have to tip your cap to Scott Diamond. He went 6 1/3 innings and gave up just 3 earned runs. Not bad for a guy called up for an emergency start when Scott Baker decided his elbow was still sore a day before his scheduled start. I’m not sure we’ll see Diamond take the mound again for the Twins, but he deserves an “attaboy” for his work in this game.

The Twins can’t keep losing games to the Division leaders like this, however. Losing both ends of this doubleheader puts some extra pressure on the guys the rest of this series and through the week. – JC

GameChat – Indians @ Twins, 12:10pm

Since Baker is officially on the DL now (eligible to come back on Friday), Swarzak gets today’s start. It would be really great if he could go deep into the game to keep as much of the bullpen as fresh as possible for tonight’s game with newbie Scott Diamond’s start BUT with this heat & humidity, I think it’s foolish to expect too much from either team honestly. But lets hope the warm weather contributes to Twins hits going out of the park (we don’t want any Cleveland ones doing that).

For those people actually able to WATCH the game rather than follow along on the radio or computer, the Twins are wearing those silly (IMO) green hats in honor of the Earth Day game that was rained out.

 

Cleveland

@

Minnesota
Brantley, LF   Revere, CF
Cabrera, A, SS   Casilla, A, 2B
Hafner, DH   Mauer, 1B
Santana, C, C   Cuddyer, RF
LaPorta, 1B   Thome, DH
Buck, T, RF   Young, D, LF
Valbuena, 2B   Valencia, 3B
Chisenhall, 3B   Butera, C
Carrera, CF   Nishioka, SS
  Huff, P     Swarzak, P

 

 

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

R

H

E

Cleveland

0

0

4

0

0

0

0

0

1

5

7

1

Minnesota

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

2

7

1

 

The story of this afternoon was really too little too late.  Swarzak mostly had a good game but the 3rd inning was not good for him and we ended up paying for it. Capps still struggled a little today which is sad but I really do want him to get back to his better self. Mauer is getting his bat back in gear but it’s not the power -ish swing yet. And Mijares actually had two hitless innings which given his recent history I think is nearly brilliant.

Hopefully the guys will find somewhere to cool off, shower, change and in general see if they can attempt to get refreshed before they come back out in a few hours.

GameChat – Royals @ Twins #4, 1:10pm

It’s hard not to look forward to the next eight games in seven days against the ‘Toons and Tigers, but the Twins need to focus on not letting today’s game against the Royals slip away. It’s important to win this series, too.

It sounds like it’s going to be another hot one at Target Field, so let’s hope everyone stays hydrated and comes out of this game healthy… and with another win!

ROYALS

@

TWINS
Getz, 2B   Revere, CF
Cabrera, Me, CF   Casilla, A, 2B
Gordon, LF   Mauer, C
Butler, DH   Cuddyer, 1B
Hosmer, 1B   Thome, DH
Francoeur, RF   Young, D, LF
Betemit, 3B   Valencia, 3B
Treanor, C   Plouffe, RF
Escobar, A, SS   Nishioka, SS
  _Paulino, F, P     _Duensing, P

 

 

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

R

H

E

Kansas City

1

0

0

0

0

0

2

0

0

3

7

1

Minnesota

1

0

0

0

0

3

0

0

x

4

8

1

 

Wow.. what a game! Starting at the end because we WON and that puts us 5 games back in the division (serious progress) Nathan got his 2nd Save in his third straight appearance in a solid and decisive way. It was a thing of beauty and for that he gets a tall frosty adult beverage of his choice to cut the heat.

Of course, the REAL story of the game was Jim Thome hitting the longest HR in Target Field so far – estimated at 490 ft – which gave him HR #596. It’s good to see him start to get to his rhythmn back. It’s even better when he drives in three runs in the process and gives us the win!  So for that, Jim Thome is today’s BOD!

 

 

As post-game news goes, Twins made several moves before tomorrow’s double-header & not all of them for good reasons.

  1. Scott Baker has been put on the DL with a strained flexor muscle in his right arm – this is retroactive to July 7th.
  2. Matt Tolbert was optioned back to Rochester.
  3. Scott Diamond’s contract was picked up and he’ll come up to start tomorrow night’s game.
  4. Chuck James is also being called back up to add a fresh arm to the bullpen.

Don’t forget that there is a makeup game at 12:10 tomorrow before the regularly scheduled 7:10 game and that will likely still have extremely high temperatures & humidity which will make the double-header a real challenge for both teams. Hopefully, they won’t have have to deal with any serious storms in the process.

The Final Countdown: 70 Games

When we started this “Final Countdown” series, the Twins had 100 games remaining in their regular season schedule.

Our premise is simple… The Cleveland Indians will not win the AL Central Division Championship. That honor, from the outset of the season, has been predestined to go to the Tigers, the White Sox, or the Twins. Based on that reality, we created the REAL AL Central Standings, measuring how the Twins were doing against the BitchSox and Tigers only.

With 100 games left, the Twins trailed the Tigers by 10 games, meaning they would need to gain an average of 1 game on the leader in the REAL AL Central Standings every 10 games in order to catch up by game 162.

So here we are with 70 games left… let’s check in and see how our guys are doing.

TWINS GAMES REMAINING: 70

TEAM RECORD GB
Tigers 49-45 -
BitchSox 46-48 3
TWINS 43-49 5

Not bad. They would need to be no more than 7 games behind the leader to be on track and after Saturday evening’s games, they trail the Tigers by 5 games and the BitchSox by 3.

The next 10 games will certainly be interesting, as they lead us up to the non-waiver trade deadline. Keep up the good work, guys!

– JC

GameChat – Royals @ Twins #3, 6:10pm

First things first, the Twins are retiring Bert Blyleven’s number today and the festivities start at 5:30 if you are able to turn into FSN early.  For those who are watching from elsewhere and won’t have that coverage, I’m sure that there will be clips later on the Twins website and Kristie is at today’s game hopefully getting us some pictures from a first-hand view.

Secondly, the “official” word came down from Tom Pelissero on Twitter that Matt Capps is out at Closer and the assignment has been returned to Joe Nathan. I’m definitely in favor of tha move and that does NOT mean that I don’t think that Capps is a bad pitcher or should go to AAA. I just think he needs a little less pressure as he works through a fairly common for all pitchers downturn in his stability. Let the man go through hte same kind of “rehab” that Nathan did working through the beginning of this season and get him back to being a good pitcher.

Thirdly, just a reminder for Twins fans everywhere working off an original calendar: Monday is now a day/night split double header to make up for the earlier rainout with Cleveland.  The first game will be at 12:10 and the second at 7:10 as originally scheduled.

I would like to see Pavano be able to go out and do a solid outting and get us back into the win column – sadly, Blackburn did a good job last night but the offense is going to have to break out the bats if they want to get the W.

 

Kansas City

@

Minnesota
Getz, 2B Revere, CF
Cabrera, Me, CF Casilla, A, 2B
Gordon, LF Mauer, DH
Butler, DH Cuddyer, 1B
Hosmer, 1B Young, D, LF
Francoeur, RF Valencia, 3B
Moustakas, 3B Plouffe, RF
Pena, B, C Butera, C
Escobar, A, SS Nishioka, SS
  Francis, P   Pavano, P

It’s good to get back in the W column again, but this 4-3 win over the Royals seemed more difficult than it should have been. Nevertheless, as Nuke said, “winning is better than losing.”

The night got off to a great start with the Twins doing a great job on the ceremony retiring Bert Blyleven’s #28. It was well done, without dragging on the way some of those things do.

The Twins gave Carl Pavano some early run support, which is always appreciated by starting pitchers. Pavstache threw a nice game, though he called it an early night (for him) after just 97 pitches in seven innings. On the other hand, maybe it was just the heat and humidity. Glen Perkins K’d two in a perfect 8th inning and Joe Nathan, in his return to the closer role, gave up a lone single to close out the Royals in the 9th. All three pitchers deserve our thanks and a cold brew of their choice (assuming all the good beer in Minnesota hasn’t been pulled off the shelves due to the shutdown).

It was an odd night offensively for the Twins. Some infield hits. Some questionable defense by the Royals. Some odd baserunning. In the end, our GameChat’s Boyfriend of the Day award goes to the only guy to get more than one hit for the Twins… and the guy who came through with the game-winning 2-out RBI in the bottom of the 8th inning. Michael Cuddyer, you are our BOD! – JC

Michael Cuddyer

.