GameChat – Tigers @ Twins #3, 1:10 pm

It’s finally here, the 81st and final home game for the Twins at Target Field. The last home game every year marks fans’ final opportunity ever to see their team as it is currently constituted. While obviously that’s a good thing when you’ve endured another 90+ loss season, it still means saying a good-bye to an as-yet undetermined number of “our guys.”

It’s also the Twins final opportunity to influence the MLB postseason since their final series of the year has them facing fellow also-rans from Toronto.

So, with the Vikings and the rest of the NFL playing this afternoon, not to mention the final day of Ryder Cup golf going on, why should anyone watch the Twins? Honestly, I’m the wrong person to ask because I’ll be watching the Vikings and the Ryder Cup, but then watching the Twins isn’t an option for me in Iowa anyway. But there are a couple of story lines to follow at Target Field. After all, we have the Tigers trying to keep ahead of the White Sox to represent the AL Central in the postseason and Joe Mauer trying to catch Miguel Cabrera for the AL batting title.

Beyond Target Field, the final few days of the MLB season are shaping up to provide some pretty incredible drama. I sure wish the Twins were playing a greater role in all of it, but it’s still going to be a pretty exciting few days to be a baseball fan.

TIGERS

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TWINS
Jackson, A, CF Span, CF
Berry, LF Revere, RF
Cabrera, Mi, 3B Mauer, C
Fielder, 1B Morneau, DH
Young, D, DH Doumit, LF
Dirks, RF Parmelee, 1B
Peralta, Jh, SS Plouffe, 3B
Avila, C Casilla, A, 2B
Infante, 2B Florimon, SS
_Sanchez, An, P   _Hendriks, P

 

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Flipping Fielder.. That was a fantastic start from Liam Hendriks and sadly because of a 2-run HR from Fielder off of Burton, he just doesn’t get the credit. But I would like it to at least be on record that he pitched 7 scoreless innings against the Tigers offense. That is really saying something.

Honestly, it was a well-played game from all sides. Alexi Casilla made a show of things stealing both 2nd & 3rd in the bottom of the 5th but ended up being stranded at 3rd.. *SIGH* LOB strikes again.

The lack of offensive production from the Tigers also means something else – the battle is even closer for that batting title. Cabrera is at .325 currently and Mauer is at .323 – which means the last few games are really going to matter. I would like to see something good come out of this season.

GameChat – Tigers @ Twins #2, 3:05pm FOX

crap, crap, crap, crap.. sorry guys.

I even KNEW that the game had been moved to 3:05! simply got involved in afternoon house work and forgot.

here you go!

PS. I’ll have to leave before the game is over but I’ll be back to close things out later tonight. I’ll double check any game commentary before I do so.

Detroit

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Minnesota
Jackson, A, CF Span, CF
Berry, LF Revere, LF
Cabrera, Mi, 3B Mauer, DH
Fielder, 1B Morneau, 1B
Young, D, DH Doumit, C
Dirks, RF Parmelee, RF
Peralta, Jh, SS Plouffe, 3B
Avila, C Carroll, 2B
Infante, 2B Florimon, SS
  Verlander, P   Walters, P

 

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PJ actually did a pretty good job today but he wasn’t very efficient with his pitch count so he got high before too long into the game but he whiffed Cabrera TWICE and Cabrera wasn’t happy with it either. Not that he thought he got robbed or anything – just wasn’t happy with the results of the AB. Kudos to PJ.

Verlander was NASTY but he almost always is which is what makes him such a great pitcher and so much fun to watch.

Otherwise, the game only got interesting in the 8th and wow.. but the rallying didn’t continue enough for the Twins to pull out a win. So the rubber match will be tomorrow. We’ll see what happens!

GameChat – Tigers @ Twins, 7:10pm

Happy Fan Appreciation Weekend! or something like that anyway.. they have all sorts of things going on at Target Field this weekend that may or may not have anything to do with baseball.

What I know for sure is that the Twins could not have ordered a better weekend weather-wise for the final home stand. It’s stunningly gorgeous outside for the end of September – will still be in the 70′s at first pitch and lovely sun. Minnesota really shines in the fall and I hope that everyone is taking advantage of it.

Of course, the real story of the day is that the Twins officially released Nishioka this afternoon – at his request. I think he has realized that they just aren’t going to put him in the big games if he can’t play the way we want him to and he has decided that he either can’t or isn’t willing to continue on the path he’s been on. I think it’s really a very good decision for both parties. The Twins are free & clear of the money he’d have been owned and I think he’ll be happier for the decision. Also, having this decided now means that they will have that dynamic removed as they are looking for off-season moves for the team.

As for tonight’s game, the Tigers currently have a solid 2 game lead on the White Sox. Do I think we could change that by beating them each of the three games? No, looking at the math, I don’t think so. So, let’s hope that a) the offense remembers what they do with the sticks and how to run smart baseball b) the defense doesn’t get caught bird-watching or anything silly like that and c) Diamond goes out there and does what we know Scotty really knows how to do… and I admit that a little Tiger Circus never fails to disappoint on the entertainment scale…

Detroit

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Minnesota
Jackson, A, CF Span, CF
Infante, 2B Revere, RF
Cabrera, Mi, 3B Mauer, C
Fielder, 1B Morneau, 1B
Young, D, DH Doumit, DH
Peralta, Jh, SS Plouffe, 3B
Dirks, LF Carson, LF
Garcia, A, RF Escobar, 2B
Laird, C Florimon, SS
  Smyly, P   Diamond, P

 

 

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What do you know? That was a FUN game! We managed to meet Cabrera head on and still never let him score (especially off a better-than-his-average throw from Ben Revere to home plate).

The fun started with a fantastically pitched game from Scott Diamond. That is quite the lineup and he did very well. It should make him feel good about his chances for next year. It’s really a nice way for him to be looking at the end of the season with performances like this.  He went 7 scoreless innings and then tagged by Omar Infante in the 8th but Burton finished that well.  Then Perk got one of the quickest Saves all season. To our pitching staff tonight, my husband says, “have a Summit on me, it’s National Drink A Beer Day!”

But the vote for BOD was unanimous – Ryan Doumit. He just did a brilliant job with the stick tonight. He just sewed it up with a crucial double, a home run and all 4 RBI belong to him. Yep. No debate.

Ryan Doumit

Minnesota Twins Podcast – Talk to Contact – Episode 6

Episode 6 of the Twins related baseball podcast,  Talk To Contact, is now available for download via iTunes or by clicking here.

Episode 5 was pretty excellent, if I do say so myself, and in the 6th edition of the podcast Paul and I discuss why the Twins always seem to lay down against the Yankees, Sam Deduno as a possible starter for 2013, and make prognostications for the rest of this season and the post-season awards. We also make mention of Sconnie Beer, Miguel Sano, a possible shake up in the coaching staff and Colonel Sanders of KFC fame.
You can follow Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) or read his writing at the  Puckett’s Pond.

-ERolfPleiss

Hawkeyes & Gophers Battle for a Pig

It’s been a few days since I really had much to write about concerning the Twins. I still don’t have much to write about concerning the Twins.

So let’s talk football.

As I’ve written here often, I’m a season ticket holder for Iowa Hawkeyes football. I realize that most of the time almost none of the people reading this blog care about the Hawks, but it’s my blog (partially, anyway), so I’ll write about them when I feel like it, regardless.

This week, however, there’s an off-chance some of our Minnesota-based readers might actually care about Iowa football, since Iowa City is about to be invaded by the golden rodents from the University of Minnesota.

It hasn’t really been this long since Floyd of Rosedale resided in Iowa… it just seems like it. (Photo: The Gazette)

It does seem odd that this game is being played so early in the year. Usually, our respective teams have battled through a number of ups and downs over the course of the entire season before facing off to see who gets to keep Floyd of Rosedale for the next year.

But things change. Iowa now has a Thanksgiving-weekend season finale scheduled against the new kids on the Big Ten block, the Cornhuskers, so Iowa/Minnesota has become the first conference game for both schools.

I understand folks up north are pleased with this year’s Gophers. They’re 4-0, so one would hope their fans are pleased.

Fans in Iowa are less pleased, to say the least, with our Hawkeyes, who sit at 2-2 through the non-conference part of the schedule. The Hawks pretty much sleepwalked through the season opener against Northern Illinois in Soldier Field, but escaped with a win. They failed to wake up for at least another week and lost their intra-state game with Iowa State. The Hawks did manage to avoid losing to traditional FCS powerhouse Northern Iowa. They weren’t so fortunate last week, botching an on-side kick attempt by Central Michigan and losing the game on a CMU last-second field goal.

Most Hawk fans weren’t really expecting much more than a .500 season this year, but even those projections didn’t include entering B1G play at 2-2. It could be a long year down here. That said, people here do get fired up for the border wars, so the environment should be pretty well charged up.

With things being what they are in the respective camps, however, I would imagine we’ll be seeing a bit more maroon in Kinnick Stadium this Saturday than has been the case over the past decade or so. Minnesota hasn’t played here since 2009 and the Gophers have won both of the two most recent games up at TCF Stadium. Ticket prices on StubHub have been dropping all week, so there should be no shortage of opportunities for the Minnesota faithful to attend the game.

So, in the interest of sportsmanship, I thought I would share a few inside tips for my Minnesota friends that might be considering a trip to Iowa City for the game.

Parking: Unless you’ve managed to get a hold of a premium parking permit from one of the big-givers, don’t even think about trying to park near Kinnick Stadium. You’ll just get frustrated by being told, “you can’t park here.” We aren’t picking on you because you’re from Minnesota, honest (though I’d be fine with that if it were the case). Most of the rest of us can’t park there, either.

Here’s what I tell virtually everyone who asks me about parking for an Iowa Game: “I take the train and you should, too.” It’s called the Hawkeye Express and it runs every half hour (top and bottom of the hour) from the Clarion Suites/IHOP location toward the west end of Coralville. There’s a lot of free parking room there and even more up in the south parking lot of Coral Ridge Mall, just 2 blocks away. It’s about a 10 minute train ride that drops you off near the Southwest corner of Kinnick Stadium. Trips to the stadium start at 8:00 am and return trips start at the beginning of the 4th quarter, with the last train leaving 90 minutes after the final gun. 

The Hawkeye Express unloading passengers near Kinnick Stadium

The price is $12 per person round trip (children 12 and under ride free, but DO need a ticket). There’s a ticket booth beside the IHOP restaurant, but the lines can get pretty long there and, for those parking in the Coral Ridge Mall parking lot, you’ll walk right by a “Black and Gold Shop” which I believe will sell you train tickets, as well. Of course, you’ll have to go inside and be surrounded by black and gold for a few minutes, but you should probably get used to that anyway.

If you feel you really must park and walk, I suggest the Finkbine Golf Course Lots. Plan on about a 20 minute walk.

Tailgating: You can actually tailgate in the parking lots used by the Hawkeye Express, but there’s plenty of food and drink to be had once you get up to the stadium, too. Check out Melrose Avenue (along the south end zone of Kinnick, to the right of where the train drops you off) for food stands set up in the front yards of the houses along Melrose facing the stadium.

One word of warning: while having a beer is allowed within the space of your own tailgating area, wandering the parking lots and streets of the area with open containers is prohibited. They’ve clamped down on enforcing this a bit in recent years.

Trash talking: I think it’s pretty juvenile to wander around the tailgating lots before a game and talk trash to the fans of the home team. I do understand, however, that some people take some pleasure in that kind of thing. If you’re one of those people, here’s my advice: Be creative. Think outside the box.

If the best you can do is taunt Iowa fans with, “your team/quarterback/coach sucks!” you’ll probably get nothing more than a shrug from a lot of Iowa fans right now. In fact, there’s a good number who would probably respond by offering you a beer and inviting you to sit down while they tell you just how much they agree with you. Not the response you were hoping for, but you may get a beer out of it anyway.

Speed Limits: On your way down to Iowa City, you’re probably going to be driving through Cedar Rapids in I-380. If so, you will see speed limit signs alerting you to the fact that the limit is 55 mph through most of the city, especially the S-curve through downtown. You may also note that the signs alert you to the fact that speeds are “photo-enforced.” They aren’t kidding.

Traffic Camera along I-380 in Cedar Rapids (Photo: Jim Slosiarek, The Gazette)

There are cameras installed at several points along I-380 in Cedar Rapids. If you’re going 5 mph over the posted speed limit, you’ll probably be fine. If you’re going 10 mph over the speed limit, you’re going to GET fined. You will get a nice letter in the mail in a few days advising you how to pay your fine. The process has withstood court challenges and there are reciprocity agreements supposedly in place with most other states, so ignoring the issue is likely to just make things more expensive for you in the long run. Maybe you can figure out a way to avoid paying the tickets, but seriously, it’s just easier to ease up on the gas as you go through Cedar Rapids. By the way, the Iowa Highway Patrol is out in full force along all of I-380 on game days, as well.

Yanno what? On second thought… forget what I just said about the speeding thing. Our local economy can use all the help it can get.

Game time Saturday is 11:00 am. See you there!

- JC

GameChat – Yankees @ Twins #3, 12:10pm

FINAL game against the Yankees this year! After the very entertaining Twins win last night, they have whetted my appetite for another win. I was proud of Esmerling last night and I’m hoping that Deduno can pull off similar magic today.

oh yeah, and if the Twins offense can make a mockery of Capt. Cheeseburger, I’ll just call that gravy. *GRIN*

NY Yankees

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Minnesota
Suzuki, I, RF Span, CF
Jeter, SS Revere, RF
Cano, 2B Mauer, DH
Swisher, 1B Doumit, C
Granderson, CF Parmelee, 1B
Chavez, Er, 3B Carson, LF
Ibanez, DH Carroll, 3B
Stewart, C, C Casilla, A, 2B
Dickerson, LF Florimon, SS
  Sabathia, P   Deduno, P
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
NY Yankees 0 0 6 0 0 2 0 0 0 8 11 0
Minnesota 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 2 7 0

Since this game took place while I was working and I have no idea whatsoever what happened, I’m just going to observe that Sam Deduno obviously had some kind of health/injury issue and the new kid, Chris Herrmann got his first MLB hit so no matter what else happens in his career, he will always at least have a MLB batting average… and that ain’t bad.

Other than that, it looks like CC had his way with the Twins again. At least the guys got one out of three this series. – JC

GameChat – Yankees @ Twins #2, 7:10pm

so.. Phil Hughes has kind of been on a roll lately – he’s trying for win #17 this season. I would love to see him not quite get there.

Of course, that means our offense will have to do something about that..

and who knows what we’ll get from Vasquez up against the Yankee lineup.

Let’s try this again. It might really be a good idea to win this game tonight because I don’t think we want to rely on the chances of beating Captain Cheeseburger on Wednesday to avoid a Yankee series sweep.

If there was any roster news today, I’m unaware of it… just haven’t been in the loop on news today, sorry. – JC

NY Yankees

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Minnesota
Jeter, SS Span, CF
Suzuki, I, RF Revere, LF
Rodriguez, Al, 3B Mauer, C
Cano, DH Morneau, 1B
Swisher, 1B Doumit, DH
Granderson, CF Parmelee, RF
Martin, C Plouffe, 3B
Ibanez, LF Carroll, 2B
Nix, J, 2B Florimon, SS
  Hughes, P, P   Vasquez, P
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
NY Yankees 0 0 0 2 0 0 1 0 1 4 9 0
Minnesota 0 0 0 1 0 0 4 0 x 5 8 0

Yes, I know the Twins have lost 90 games and are playing out the season, but it’s still fun to beat the Yankees, right?

Esmerling Vasquez threw a nice six innings of baseball. The bullpen wasn’t perfect tonight, but they managed to keep things from getting out of control long enough for the bats in the lineup to put together a four-run 7th inning and hang on for a 5-4 Twins win.

Denard Span had a big two-out double in that inning, followed by an RBI single by Joe Mauer. Mauer had three hits in the game. I was apparently the only person in GameChat still awake at the end of the game and I couldn’t decide between the two for the BOD award so we’re going to let them split it. – JC

Denard Span

GameChat – Yankees @ Twins, 7:10pm

Getting the roster news out of the way, the Twins have activated Matt Capps off the DL. If I’m being honest, I’m not terribly excited about that but I really just need to get over it.

That being said, he’s probably the only pitcher on the roster that the Yankees have even heard of…

I ALWAYS want to beat the Yankees. ALWAYS. But I do have to admit that the battle with the Orioles has been about the only baseball story I have found interesting this September. Could make for an even more interesting October.

NY Yankees

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Minnesota
Jeter, SS Span, CF
Suzuki, I, RF Revere, RF
Rodriguez, Al, DH Mauer, 1B
Cano, 2B Willingham, LF
Swisher, 1B Morneau, DH
Granderson, CF Doumit, C
Ibanez, LF Plouffe, 3B
Martin, C Carroll, 2B
Chavez, Er, 3B Florimon, SS
  Pettitte, P   Hendriks, P

 

 

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As my husband said: “The #mnTwins really need to remove the chapter about the Yankees being unbeatable from the New Player Orientation Packet. #planahead.

The little bit of offense they got going in the bottom of the 9th was just not enough to battle through the lead that the Yankees had built up – too little, too late.

But Congrats to Pedro Florimon on his first MLB Homerun! I wonder if they’ve found the ball yet…

YES to Yankee Killers & Iowa Boy Makes Good

There aren’t many years when I would look at the Twins schedule over the final week of the season, see a series with the Yankees, and be happy to see it, but that’s the case this year. The Twins are playing for virtually nothing other than the chance to be a spoiler, while the Yanks are clinging precariously to their perch atop the AL East standings.

The Twins no longer even have to worry about the whole, “will we lose 100 games?” thing anymore. The worst they can do now would be to repeat last season’s 99-loss debacle.

New York, on the other hand, has just a one-game lead over the Orioles and, in case anyone has forgotten, this year it matters whether they win their division or drop to a Wild Card spot. Twins fans likely have still not forgotten 2010, when the Yankees pretty much intentionally lost enough games down the stretch to hand the Rays the AL East title, in order to gain what they believed (and rightfully so) to be a more advantageous first round match-up against the Twins than they felt they would have against the Rangers.

This year, however, there’s a one-game “play-in” game that the Wild Card teams have to survive, just to move in to the “real” League Division Series.

And this year, the Twins have an opportunity to knock the Yankees off their pedestal before the postseason even gets underway.

At least a Yankee series is an excuse to post my favorite Yankee picture in our library

Of course, it won’t be easy. The Twins will send three starting pitchers to the mound this series that most Yankee fans have probably never even heard of. I’m not sure even the Yankee players have heard of Liam Hendriks, Esmerling Vasquez, and Sam Deduno. Deduno will be pitching on just three days’ rest, thanks to a very short 2.1 inning performance on Saturday. The Yankees pitchers are somewhat more familiar. Andy Pettitte goes tonight, followed by Phil Hughes and CC Sabathia.

So how can Twins fans even imagine our guys giving the Orioles any help this week? Why shouldn’t we expect the vaunted Yankee lineup to just steamroll the Twins’ AAA-level starting pitching?

First of all, this Yankee lineup will not be confused with the ’27 Yankees. In fact, it wouldn’t be confused with the 2010 Yankees. Some of the names are the same, but not all… and some that are the same are hardly looking like their younger versions.

Yes, Derek Jeter is still there, as are Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson. But Jeter, while still hitting for a very nice average, has been slowed a bit by an ankle injury recently and DH’d two of the three games against Oakland this past weekend. Cano is still as dangerous as ever, but A-Rod and Granderson are simply not performing like Yankee superstars are supposed to perform. On the other hand, Ichiro seems to have found new life lately. In fact, from what I’ve watched, if it weren’t for Ichiro, the Yankees would already be looking up at the O’s in the standings. 

But the rest of the Yankees batting order has been made up of names like Swisher and Nunez and Ibanez and McGhee and Nix and (Andruw) Jones and Martin and Stewart. Most of them may be very serviceable Major League ballplayers, but they will not (or at least should not) strike fear in the hearts of Twins pitchers… or even Red Wings pitchers.

Maybe all three Yankee starting pitchers will mow down Twins hitters and throw three consecutive complete games. We know the Twins are certainly capable of using nothing but assbats for several games in a row. If that happens, yes, this series could be real ugly. However, if any of the games turn in to bullpen battles, you have to like the Twins’ chances a bit more.

Maybe there are enough new Twins in the batting order who are not aware of the Clubhouse myth that the Yankees simply can not be beaten by the Twins… ever. If so, then maybe there’s a chance our guys could help out my “other favorite team,” the Orioles, this week.

I would love to see the Yankees have to survive a play-in game against the Athletics (or better yet, NOT survive that play-in game) just to move on to the ALDS. Admit it, so would you.

Iowa Boy Makes Good

BJ Hermsen

It just wouldn’t be right if I didn’t acknowledge and congratulate fellow Iowan and Twins minor league pitcher BJ Hermsen this week. Hermsen was named the Twins’ minor league organization’s Pitcher of the Year recently. Hermsen hails West Delaware HS, about an hour from Cedar Rapids and has quite a following in the area. During his tour with the Beloit Snappers on his way up the organizational ladder, Hermsen made a small number of starts in Cedar Rapids against the Kernels and the stands behind the visitors dugout were always packed with his friends, family and fans.

I met BJ and his dad during his first Spring Training after being drafted out of high school by the Twins and both men could not have been friendlier. It’s great to see good people get recognized and here’s hoping Hermsen continues to progress professionally and can “pitch in” to help the Twins fill out their rotation at some point in the future.

- JC