Another Snappers Shutout

I have no idea exactly why Twins GM Terry Ryan is in Cedar Rapids watching his organization’s Class A affiliate this weekend, but if he’s here to evaluate the Beloit Snappers’ pitching, he has to like what he’s seen in the first two games!

Pitcher Tim Shibuya and 3B Miguel Sano

The Snappers’ hitters provided plenty of support in Friday night’s 7-0 shutout, but Tim Shibuya wasn’t as fortunate on Saturday night. Like David Hurlbut the night before, Shibuya gave up just one hit before giving way to his bullpen. But Shibuya left after his six innings of work with the Snappers clinging to just a 1-0 lead as Kernels starting pitcher Austin Wood was having a pretty fair night on the mound, as well.

In the end, that one run was enough for the Snappers to come away with a 1-0 win.

The only run of the game was put on the board when Tyler Grimes worked a one-out walk in the third inning and came around to score on JD Williams’ RBI double down the left field line. Steve Liddle had a solid night at the plate with three singles, but nobody else had more than one hit.

Shibuya managed only one strikeout in his six innings of work, but also only walked one hitter. Oddly, he hit as many batters (2) as he allowed hits and walks, combined. Clint Dempster relieved Shibuya to start the 7th inning and put together a couple of strong innings, striking out three Kernels in those innings. He came out for the 9th inning, as well, but couldn’t nail down the save.

After a Miguel Sano error was erased by a double play, Dempster gave up back-to-back base hits, putting runners at the corners. Corey Williams came on at that point and claimed the save by inducing a game ending groundout to second baseman Nate Roberts.

Over 5,000 fans at Perfect Game Field in Cedar Rapids

It was Autism Awareness Night at the ballpark in Cedar Rapids and the Kernels wore special jerseys for the occasion, which were auctioned off during the game. Yes, I claimed one for myself, taking it off the back of Kernels relief pitcher Stephen Tromblee, who was good enough to autograph the jersey after the game.

The game was a virtual sellout, with an announced attendance of 5,277 fans. Thanks to a fireworks show after the game (not to mention one heck of a pitchers’ duel), a significant percentage of the crowd stuck around for the whole game.

The Snappers and Kernels wrap up their series with an afternoon game on Sunday, starting at 2:05.

Let’s wrap up with a few more pictures from tonight’s game.

- JC

CF Jhon Gonclaves and Kernels catcher Abel Baker

C Matt Koch and Kernels 1B Frazier Hall

1B Drew Leachman

Pitcher Tim Shibuya

RF JD Williams following his RBI double, held on by Kernels SS Eric Stamets

My Autism Awareness Night jersey

 

GameChat – Twins @ Reds #2, 3:10 pm

Hey, we won yesterday! That’s pretty much all I know about the Twins lately. I’ve been terribly distracted by other things. But my parents did get the following cake for me on my birthday a couple days ago, so at least they realize my heart is still with the Twins even if my mind is elsewhere.

Twins Dairy Queen Cake, 6/21/2012

Minnesota

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Cincinnati
Span, CF Cozart, SS
Revere, RF Heisey, CF
Mauer, 1B Votto, 1B
Willingham, LF Phillips, B, 2B
Plouffe, 3B Bruce, RF
Doumit, C Rolen, 3B
Dozier, SS Frazier, LF
Carroll, 2B Hanigan, C
Duensing, P Cueto, P

Hmm. Not so great a game to watch today. *sigh*

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Minnesota

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Cincinnati

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A Snappers Pitching Gem

While the Twins were winning the opening game of their series with the Reds Friday night, I was spending just about a perfect night watching minor league baseball. The Beloit Snappers (the Twins’ Midwest League affiliate) opened the second half of their season here in Cedar Rapids against the Kernels.

Close to 20 scouts were easy to spot behind home plate

The temperature was right about 80 degrees with a slight breeze and there was a sizable crowd of a bit over 3,000 people in Memorial Stadium for the game. Among that crowd, I counted at least 18 scouts perched in seats directly behind home plate. It’s not at all unusual to see scouts at a MWL game, but I typically see 6-8 with their notebooks and radar guns, so seeing so many scouts in attendance is a bit unusual.

Terry Ryan (in the cap and white shirt)

Among that group was one familiar face, as well. Twins General Manager Terry Ryan was pretty easy to spot as he shook hands with a scout wearing a shirt with a Yankees logo and sat in a nearby seat.

The game itself was never at all competitive, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t interesting to watch. The Snappers scored a run in the first inning off of Kernels starting pitcher Cam Bedrosian (son of former MLB/Twins pitcher Steve Bedrosian). In fact, they scored a run off of Bedrosian in each of the first three innings and three more runs in the fourth inning.

Pitcher David Hurlbut and first baseman Steven Liddle

Snappers starting pitcher David Hurlbut gave up a single to the second Kernels batter he faced in the first inning… and that would turn out to be the final hit that a Snapper pitcher would give up all night. Hurlbut threw seven shutout innings, walked three hitters and struck out four. Tim Atherton and Corey Williams each added an inning of relief without giving up a hit, as well.

Snappers hitters, on the other hand, racked up 11 hits on their way to a 7-0 win to start off the second half of their MWL season. The only extra base hits for the Snappers on the night were RBI doubles by Nate Hanson, Steve Liddle and Tyler Grimes. Twins top prospect Miguel Sano had a single in four ABs, with one walk and one strikeout on the night.

In fact, the Snapper lineup avoided getting even their first strikeout through six innings. We’ll try to disregard the fact that once the first K got recorded, Kernel relief pitcher Carmine Giardina sat down five Snappers in just the 7th and 8th innings, alone.

A sizable number of the fans in attendance were wearing Twins gear, as is usually the case when the Snappers come to town. I’m still holding out some hope that the Twins will strike an affiliate deal with the local ballclub starting next year. I continue to hear from pretty reliable local sources that there is some level of mutual interest, so we’ll see how that works out after the season.

Yes, I really did ask Terry Ryan for his autograph

After the game, I did approach Terry Ryan just to have him sign the scorecard I’d been keeping of the game. I expected him to either decline or reluctantly sign and walk away, but instead he not only signed my scorecard but initiated a short conversation. He asked if I lived in Cedar Rapids and how I came to be a Twins fan. I told him about having grown up the son of a HS baseball coach in Albert Lea and that my picture is hanging in the Albert Lea Applebees restaurant to prove it. He laughed and said he’d have to stop there some time and check it out. It was just a brief chat, but he couldn’t have been more gracious.

The Snappers will be back at it here on Saturday night and I’ll likely be there taking in the game, as well. The two teams were even accommodating enough to schedule an afternoon game on Sunday so I have a chance to watch that game, too, before I have to catch a flight to Florida Sunday evening.

I’ll add a few more pictures I took at the game below, for your viewing pleasure. (Fellow bloggers, feel free to pilfer them to post in your blogs, as you may find cause to do.)

- JC

Second baseman Adam Bryant

Shortstop Tyler Grimes

Catcher Matt Koch

First baseman Steven Liddle

Rightfielder Wang-Wei Lin

Leftfielder Nate Roberts

Third baseman Miguel Sano

That’s enough for tonight. I’ll probably snap a few more either Saturday or Sunday.

GameChat – Twins @ Reds, 6:10 pm

 

Three decades ago, the Reds were the MLB affiliate of our Cedar Rapids Midwest League team so we tended to follow the players that came through town on their way to Major League careers. Reggie Sanders and Rob Dibble are just a couple of names that come to mind as having pretty memorable minor league seasons here. For the past 20 years, however, our local club has been affiliated with the Angels and I admit I haven’t paid a nickel’s worth of attention to the Reds.

So to recognize this obscure fact, tonight I’m opening up the GameChat here and then heading to the local ballpark to watch our Kernels take on the Beloit Snappers (the Twins’ MWL affiliate), rather than hanging around to follow the Twins game with those Cincinnati Reds. But for those of you who come around for the GameChat, I hope you enjoy the game!

TWINS

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REDS
Span, CF Cozart, SS
Revere, RF Heisey, CF
Willingham, LF Votto, 1B
Morneau, 1B Phillips, B, 2B
Plouffe, 3B Bruce, RF
Doumit, C Ludwick, LF
Dozier, SS Rolen, 3B
Carroll, 2B Mesoraco, C
Blackburn, P Bailey, H, P

 

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Can you believe it!??! I got to watch half a game of Twins baseball and they WON! I know, who would have guessed!

Blackburn only went 5 innings but he still got the win because the bullpen did a fantastic job of just shutting the door once they came out. For that, the entire bullpen gets access to the pastry buffet. Help yourself boys, we’re darn proud of you.

Congrats to Ben Revere for a great outting in front of his family – don’t really know the story (maybe he’s local) but that is just because I wasn’t really paying attention. But that being said, if you can give those who care about you a good show? yeah, that is an exciting time.

But today’s BOD goes to Ryan Doumit who kicked BUTT offensively while catching the game as well. His line says it all:

4 AB, 2 Runs, 4 Hits, 1 HR

That is enough for anyone on this team lately – good for you Doum!

Ryan Doumit

GameChat – Twins @ Pirates #3, 6:05pm

*crossing fingers* Hendriks has definitely been struggling again since coming up. Here’s hoping that he will be able to follow Liriano’s example from last night and kick some butt from the mound.

yeah, here’s hoping…

Minnesota

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Pittsburgh
Span, CF Presley, LF
Revere, RF Walker, 2B
Willingham, LF McCutchen, A, CF
Morneau, 1B Jones, G, RF
Plouffe, 3B McGehee, 1B
Doumit, C Alvarez, 3B
Dozier, SS Barajas, C
Casilla, A, 2B Harrison, SS
Hendriks, P McDonald, J, P
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Minnesota 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 6 1
Pittsburgh 1 3 0 0 0 2 3 0 x 9 12 1

At least the Twins were able to catch an early flight out of town, with the game not quite lasting two and a half hours.

James McDonald wasn’t really even challenged much by the Twins in his complete game win. Liam Hendriks, on the other hand, gave up all six runs to the Pirates. Then again, only half of those were earned runs, since three of them were scored after Brian Dozier’s error in the second inning gave the Pirates an extra out.

Justin Morneau managed a pair of hits off of McDonald, while Trevor Plouffe and Ryan Doumit worked together to account for the sole Twins run. Otherwise, the Twins’ offense was just that… offensive.

Ah well, on to Cincy! – JC

GameChat – Twins @ Pirates #2, 6:10 pm

Still no Joe.

I’m curious to see how Francisco Liriano fares tonight against a line up he hasn’t faced, at least since spring training. Sure would be nice to see “good” Frankie, tonight.

Speaking of Spring Training, did you see that the Twins and Lee County agreed on a contract that will keep the Twins at their current Spring Training site for the next 30 years? Cool. Hat tip to TwinsTrivia.com for the news!

TWINS

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PIRATES
Span, CF Tabata, LF
Revere, RF Harrison, RF
Willingham, LF McCutchen, A, CF
Morneau, 1B McGehee, 1B
Plouffe, 3B Walker, 2B
Dozier, SS Alvarez, 3B
Carroll, 2B Barmes, SS
Butera, C McKenry, C
Liriano, P Bedard, P
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Minnesota 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 2 7 0
Pittsburgh 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 5 0

There was lots to like about the game tonight, not the least of which, of course, is that the Twins WON the game!

Josh Willingham scored both Twins runs, with a double and a home run. Denard Span had what turned out to probably be a game-saving diving catch in the outfield and Brian Dozier also had a web gem of his own. Jared Burton put out a fire when he entered the game and Glen Perkins notched his first save of the season.

But the Boyfriend of the Day award goes to Francisco Liriano, who gave up just one run on four hits over 6 and 2/3 innings. He walked just two (and one was intentional) while striking out six Pirates. Well done, Frankie!

Francisco Liriano

GameChat – Twins @ Pirates 6:10pm

No Joe Mauer tonight, and no DH either as the Twins are on the road in a National League park to take on the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Hopefully Scott Diamond throws well (and hits well, too!) tonight and gives the bullpen another day off.

Here are the lineups:

Minnesota Twins

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Pittsburgh Pirates
Span, CF Tabata, LF
Revere, RF Harrison, RF
Willingham, LF McCutchen, A, CF
Morneau, 1B McGehee, 1B
Plouffe, 3B Walker, 2B
Doumit, C Alvarez, 3B
Dozier, SS Barajas, C
Carroll, 2B Barmes, SS
Diamond, P Correia, P

 

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Minnesota 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 2 8 0
Pittsburgh 1 0 0 0 1 2 3 0 x 7 12 0

Not a good sign when you’ve got your “best” pitcher in the opening game of a series and you lose that game 7-2. Ah well, we’ll see how things go Wednesday night. – JC
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Guest Post – Beloit Snappers Game Review

The following entry comes from one of our faithful Knuckleballs readers and regular GameChat participant Lecroy24fan.  Lecroy24fan chronicles his recent visit to the Twins Low Single-A Affiliate, the Beloit Snappers. Enjoy.

 

I was heading to  Elkhorn, WI this past weekend to visit my girlfriend, and we decided to head a half-hour down the road to Beloit on Saturday night to catch the Snappers game. Pohlman Field was really easy to find. When we arrived, it was posted that the game was moved up to 6:45 PM because of weather moving in. We walked up to the ticket booth and got Section C, Row 3, seats 1-2 for nine dollars apiece. Turns out the first Row was removed at some point, so we were to the right of home plate, second row. The section was covered by a net, so no foul balls could be had. I got to meet Chrissy Scaffidi, Director of Media and Community Relations, as well as PA Announcer extraordinaire

The game itself was a bad night for the Snappers, who were playing the Oakland A’s affiliate, the Burlington Bees. An 11-3 loss started ugly in the first and really got worse by the inning. SP Jason Wheeler just didn’t have it. He struggled through 5 innings, giving up seven runs, four of them earned. Tim Shibuya and Bart Carter also looked like they had nothing. Clint Dempster pitched the ninth and I felt like he was very dominant. Other than 2B Adam Bryant, who was 3 for 4 with a double and a triple, the bats were pretty quiet most of the night.  

Defensively, there were five errors. C Jario Rodriguez made a low throw trying to catch a runner stealing in the first, with the runner moving to third after the ball rolled into CF. JD Williams dropped a routine fly in RF and SS AJ Pettersen had a bad throw to first.

The player I was there to see was 3B Miguel Sano. He made two errors, giving him 24 on the season. The first one was on a routine grounder he never got his glove down and it went right under and into LF. His second error was on a throw that was about two feet over 1B Steven Liddle‘s head. I saw quite a few things about Sano that concern me. Every throw he makes is very high. Every grounder he stutter steps, which makes turning double plays impossible. He’s looks like he’s using an outfielders glove, which is causing him to have major issues getting the ball out of his glove. That could be leading to the stutter steps he takes. I don’t understand why these issues haven’t been fixed by now.

After the game, there was a fireworks show, which happened as planned. The rain started towards the end of the fireworks, so we headed for the exit. I would recommend Pohlman Field to anybody looking to catch a minor league game.

Thanks for sending in the post, Lecroy24fan!  During his post Lecroy24fan mentioned that he had the opportunity to meet Chrissy Scaffidi who, among the other things she does for the Snappers, recently started a blog detailing her adventures in the Minor Leagues.  Definitely an interesting read for anyone interested in some behind-the-scenes action in the Midwest League. If you have a guest post idea of your own feel free to email one of us Knuckleballers or reach out to us in one of our GameChats and we will be more than happy to give you an audience.

-ERolfPleiss

Book Review: Harmon Killebrew: Ultimate Slugger

I recently received a review copy of Harmon Killebrew: Ultimate Slugger.  The book was written by Steve Aschburner with a foreword by Jim Thome and published by Triumph Books.

Steve Aschburner is a long time sports writer, covering all four major league sports and NCAA basketball.  His primary area of emphasis is NBA basketball, but between this book, and his 2008 work “The Good, the Bad & the Ugly: Minnesota Twins”, it is clear that he has a soft spot for America’s Pastime and the Minnesota Twins.

As a Twins fan not old enough to have seen Harmon Killebrew play for the Senators/Twins, nor old enough even to remember him calling games for the Twins on television, reading Ultimate Slugger provided an excellent opportunity to familiarize myself with one of the greatest men to ever play professional baseball.  Not only did I learn a lot about Killebrew, but I learned a lot about the game of baseball as it was played nearly 50 years ago.

The book is straight forward enough, it starts with a brief synopsis of Killebrew’s family lineage, includes some stories about Killebrew as a young kind, and then follows his career through his early days as a “Bonus Baby” in the 1950s right through his playing days and his strong presence with the Twins up until 2011.

The two things I liked best about Ultimate Slugger was the way Aschburner captured the spirit of Killebrew and the insights into Major League Baseball as it existed in the 50s and 60s.  Aschburner best captured Killebrew through interviews and stories from his life long friends.  He provided insight into the MLB gone-by with just enough statistical analysis to give you an idea of how the game was played and who the biggest players were, and throwing in some anecdotes that highlight the essence of the game.

One thing that particularly struck me was the story of how Harmon Killebrew’s first trip to the Major Leagues.  Killebrew joined the Washington Senators during a 19 game road trip.  A NINETEEN GAME ROAD TRIP (The Twins’ longest road trip in 2012 is 10 games, and that’s one of the longest road trips in MLB this year).  But when Killebrew joined the Senators on that road trip, it was not just the first time he’d been to a Major League game, but the first time he’d even seen a Major League stadium.  Because he was a “bonus baby” Killebrew did not have the benefit of Minor League seasoning, and his first two years he played sporadically, mostly being used as a pinch hitter or pinch runner.  Pretty interesting start for a man that would become an MLB icon.

The biggest drawback to the book is Aschburner’s writing style.  As a seasoned sports writer, his book reads more like a 230 page newspaper column than a regular biography.  Aschburner uses more than his fair share of hokey transitions and cliches to chronicle the life of Harmon Killebrew, but that’s really the only knock on the book.

If you’re a Twins fan looking to gain more insight into the life and stories that surrounded Harmon Killebrew you should definitely pick up a copy* of “Harmon Killebrew: Ultimate Slugger”.

*Knuckleballs will be running a contest during the upcoming All-Star break and giving away two copies of “Harmon Killebrew: Ultimate Slugger”.  Stay tuned!