GameChat – Twins @ Indians #2, 6:05pm

Ok, game #2 in Cleveland – it would be great to follow up game #1 with another win. Liam gets another spot start. Last time, he did pretty well with that opportunity. Let’s see what he can do here!

Minnesota

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Cleveland
Dozier, 2B Bourn, CF
Herrmann, C, C Swisher, 1B
Morneau, 1B Kipnis, 2B
Willingham, DH Santana, C, DH
Doumit, RF Brantley, LF
Arcia, LF Cabrera, A, SS
Plouffe, 3B Gomes, Y, C
Thomas, C, CF Chisenhall, 3B
Florimon, SS Stubbs, RF
  Hendriks, P   McAllister, P

 

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4

5

6

7

8

9

R

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Minnesota

0

0

1

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0

0

0

1

0

2

5

1

Cleveland

2

0

2

0

3

0

0

0

x

7

9

0

there really just wasn’t much about tonight to be pleased with… I’m comfortable leaving my critique there. However, Brian Dozier still played great… but baseball is a team sport – no prizes for individual effort.

GameChat – Twins @ Indians, 6:05pm

Stupid east coast time zone.. hard to get here in time.

Here’s hoping Deduno’s arm holds up!

Minnesota

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Cleveland
Dozier, 2B Bourn, CF
Herrmann, C, C Swisher, 1B
Morneau, 1B Kipnis, 2B
Willingham, DH Santana, C, C
Doumit, RF Brantley, LF
Plouffe, 3B Cabrera, A, SS
Thomas, C, CF Giambi, DH
Ramirez, W, LF Chisenhall, 3B
Florimon, SS Stubbs, RF
  Deduno, P   Jimenez, U, P

 

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3

4

5

6

7

8

9

R

H

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Minnesota

0

2

0

0

0

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2

1

0

5

9

0

Cleveland

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

6

1

woohoooo!!!  so much hitting!! so many doubles!! really hard to argue with a game like that. It does make it hard to pick a BOD though because the boys really spread the offense around including some people who have struggled recently like Willingham..  But considering that my biggest worry going into this game was whether or not we would get any version at all of pre-injury Deduno, I made the executive decision to appoint HIM today’s BOD just for going out there and doing a great job!

Sam Deduno (Photo: Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

Sam Deduno (Photo: Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

GameChat – Twins @ Tigers #3, 12:05pm

And the rubber match is Albers vs Verlander. I actually wish I could watch this one…

but of course, it’s a day game, I’m at work, I can’t… *SIGH*

Minnesota

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Detroit
Dozier, 2B Jackson, A, CF
Herrmann, C, C Hunter, To, RF
Morneau, 1B Cabrera, M, 3B
Willingham, DH Fielder, 1B
Doumit, RF Martinez, V, DH
Plouffe, 3B Tuiasosopo, LF
Thomas, C, CF Infante, 2B
Ramirez, W, LF Iglesias, SS
Bernier, SS Holaday, C
  Albers, A, P   Verlander, P

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5

6

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8

9

R

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Minnesota

1

0

0

1

3

1

0

1

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7

11

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Detroit

0

0

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0

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0

0

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6

12

0

Well, what do you say to that… we actually took a series from Detroit IN Detroit with the rubber game against Verlander. That is certainly not something you’d expect and the whole reason you actually have to play the game of baseball – for reasons other than collecting individual player fantasy team stats…

For all that, I still wish I’d been able to see the game but since I didn’t and no one made any expectations known in the chat, I’m choosing Chris Herrmann as today’s BOD for that Double in the top of the 8th to bring Bernier home.

Chris Herrmann

Chris Herrmann

Hindsight is 20-20: Joe Mauer

Since Twins catcher Joe Mauer landed on the 7-day disabled list for concussion victims after taking several shots to the mask and helmet recently, there has been a great deal of renewed social media chatter about the Twins star’s future behind the plate.

In a rare moment of idleness Wednesday, I took note of a Tweet by Pioneer-Press Twins beat reporter Mike Berardino and it reminded me of a question I’ve been gnawing on from time to time for at least a couple of years now.

Here’s Berardino’s Tweet:

Twitter contest: Most insightful comment re: Mauer situation/future will be immortalized on next Twinsights blog at http://twincities.com

It took some doing to get my thoughts on the subject reduced to under 140 characters (right now, somewhere, CapitalBabs is laughing at the suggestion I could even get my thoughts trimmed to the 1,400 words my typical blog posts seem to run, much less 140 characters – someone punch her in the arm for me, will ya?). Anyway, my response:

@MikeBerardino Wonder if Mauer is an anomaly ‘cuz most catchers can’t hit or ‘cuz most orgs won’t let their best hitters stay at catcher.

Of course, I knew full well that I never have the most insightful thought or comment concerning any subject, so my chances of winning Berardino’s “contest” and attaining the immortality of being featured in his Twinsights blog were practically nil.

Then I remembered – I have my own blog!

I know I haven’t written much about the Twins the past couple of months, but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t, right?

There’s no doubt that much of the value the Twins placed on Joe Mauer when they agreed to pay him $23 million per year for eight years back in March of 2010 was because he was not only pretty decent with a piece of lumber in his hands, but also played a “premium” position. Frankly, baseball hadn’t seen a catcher as proficient as Mauer at hitting a baseball in almost forever.

Joe Mauer

Sure, he’d be a pretty good hitter if he played any other position, too, but as a catcher, he gave the Twins an edge over every other team in baseball at that position. That’s what made him worth, in the team’s view, such a large pile of money over so many years. (That and the sideburns, of course.)

Speculation about whether Mauer would or should eventually move out from behind the plate began long before he started getting the big bucks. Guys his size simply are not catchers. They’re first basemen, designated hitters and corner outfielders (usually poor fielding ones, at that).

From various reports, Mauer has always prided himself on his defensive abilities behind the dish and perhaps even resisted any attempts from within the organization to suggest he consider a move. That’s admirable. Whether it’s wise is another question, though.

Last season, Mauer began playing a few games at first base. With Justin Morneau’s future in the Twins organization clearly in doubt, there’s plenty of speculation that Mauer will be the Twins’ primary first baseman perhaps as early as 2014.

While I try not to be overly critical of the people running the Twins’ front office, I’m also not so naïve as to think they can do no wrong. In that vein, and with the admission that I’m being guilty of Monday morning quarterbacking to an enormous degree, I have to pose this question:

Should the Twins have pulled Mauer out from behind the plate years ago, probably during the brief time he spent in the lower minor leagues, and taught him to play a position that was… well… safer?

That essentially brings us back to the question I posed in my reply to Mike Berardino.

Does Mauer’s offensive proficiency stand out among the game’s other catchers because he’s so good at hitting a baseball or is it because most other organizations won’t allow their top hitting prospects to catch, regardless of whether that’s what the did in high school or college or wherever they spent their time before arriving at the Twins’ complex in Fort Myers for the first time?

Even the Twins have been known to move a top bat out from behind the plate. After all, wasn’t Justin Morneau a catcher, too?

Catching is dangerous. I figured that out by the time I was nine years old. That’s about the first time I heard my baseball coaching dad refer to catchers’ gear as, “the tools of ignorance.” Sure it’s a cliché, but here’s the thing about clichés: they usually get to be clichés by being true.

In youth leagues and even high school, catchers were often among the best overall athletes on whatever team I happened to play on. Come to think of it, most of the catchers I threw to in those days were also either football players or wrestlers. Tough guys, all of them, and most of them hit pretty well, too. I suppose that’s because good athletes that age who figure out they can’t hit usually stop playing baseball.

MauerST11kBut I have to tell you, if I ran a professional baseball organization and it turned out that a guy I signed really had a knack for putting the sweet spot of a bat on to a baseball on a consistent basis, I’d burn his catcher’s mitt and tell him to shag fly balls or take some infield because his catching days are over.

I’d do that when he was 19 or 21, not when he was 30.

I kind of shake my head a bit when I read fans suggesting Mauer should simply convert to third base, “next year.”

I just don’t think people have any concept of what it takes to be a proficient… or even an adequate… third baseman at the Major League level.

Go to spring training and watch the time players and their coaches put in over on the minor league infields in the back of the Twins complex working on the nuances of fielding. Sneak in to a minor league ballpark three or four hours before game time and watch as managers and coaches teach infielders how to shave a critical split second off the process of fielding a ball, getting it out of the glove and delivering it to first base.

Could Joe Mauer learn to do all that? I’ve seen enough of him to know better than to bet against him in any endeavor involving a ball made of leather, but it’s not a given that he could make a seamless conversion. Yes, I say that fully aware that guys like Johnny Bench pulled off that switch.

My point is simply that I think the time to make that move is years earlier, when the growing pains can take place in places like Elizabethton and Cedar Rapids, not in front of 38,000 people at Target Field.

More importantly, adopting the philosophy of protecting your best hitting prospects would mean you don’t subject them to a decade of unnecessary jarring foul balls off the noggin and you can focus on developing defense-first catchers throughout your organization.

I wouldn’t wish that kind of physical punishment on anyone, but so long as the game is going to need a catcher, I’d rather the guy I’m risking back there hit like Drew Butera than Joe Mauer, especially when the alternative seems to always be seeing a couple of Butera-like hitters elsewhere on the field, anyway.

I think it’s quite possible that catchers may become the running backs of Major League Baseball, in that they’ll be among the best pure athletes in the game, but will have, on average, the shortest careers. Just as there’s almost no way to fully protect the health of running backs in a game where it’s the job of huge men to hit them as hard as possible and take their legs out from under them, it’s also unlikely that there’s any way to make catching safe from blows to the head.

Seeing Morneau and Denard Span, not to mention Corey Koskie before them, go through some difficult times with concussions, it’s clear that there’s no way to completely protect your best ballplayers from the risk of concussion. But it’s pretty evident to me that the risk is far greater for catchers.

I hope Joe Mauer’s days as a catcher are nearing an end.

And I hope the next time the Twins sign a catching prospect who can hit like Mauer, I’m watching him play another position by the time he comes through Cedar Rapids on his way to the Show.

GameChat – Twins @ Tigers #2, 6:05pm

You’ve likely already heard the news but Mauer is on the 7-day Concussion DL.

He’ll be back and it’s not like we don’t have other catchers…

Minnesota

@

Detroit
Dozier, 2B Jackson, A, CF
Herrmann, C, RF Hunter, To, RF
Morneau, DH Cabrera, M, 3B
Doumit, C Fielder, 1B
Colabello, 1B Martinez, V, DH
Plouffe, 3B Dirks, LF
Thomas, C, CF Infante, 2B
Ramirez, W, LF Iglesias, SS
Florimon, SS Holaday, C
  Correia, P   Sanchez, An, P
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Minnesota 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 6 2
Detroit 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 3 x 7 13 0

Well that was an interesting game right up to the point where runs started getting scored. Can’t blame this one on Kevin Correia, folks. He did his part. – JC

GameChat – Twins @ Tigers, 6:05pm

Sorry guys! Since it’s Tuesday, I’m not actually here but I popped in and saw we didn’t have a chat yet so here you go!

Mauer was a late scratch because he experienced some dizziness during BP today after taking a couple foul tips to the head recently. We’ll see how long he’s out.

Minnesota

@

Detroit
Dozier, 2B Jackson, A, CF
Herrmann, C, RF Hunter, To, RF
Willingham, DH Cabrera, M, 3B
Morneau, 1B Fielder, 1B
Doumit, C Martinez, V, DH
Ramirez, W, LF Dirks, LF
Plouffe, 3B Infante, 2B
Thomas, C, CF Pena, B, C
Florimon, SS Iglesias, SS
  Pelfrey, P   Porcello, P
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Minnesota 0 0 0 3 2 1 0 0 0 6 10 0
Detroit 0 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 0 3 11 0

It’s not often the Twins get outhit, but win because they had better pitching.

It’s even less often that they accomplish that against the Tigers. Mike Pelfrey had a good start and the bullpen, while not perfect, was good enough.

Justin Morneau had a big night and he’s our consensus BOD! – JC

MorneauST11d

Jake Mauer has Kernels Focused on Postseason

Cedar Rapids Kernels manager Jake Mauer has been in a unique situation for the past couple of months, since his Kernels nailed down a Midwest League postseason berth by finishing second in the MWL’s Western Division during the first half of the season.

Travis Harrison and Manager Jake Mauer

Travis Harrison and Manager Jake Mauer

Only in minor league baseball is a manager occasionally faced with the challenge of keeping his roster focused on winning games even after locking up a spot in the postseason with 70 games remaining on the regular season schedule.

Recently, Mauer talked about that challenge as well as the steps he and his coaching staff are taking to prepare for the Midwest League playoffs that begin for the Kernels on September 4.

“We’re a lot different team than we were at the beginning of the year,” Mauer pointed out. “Obviously, (Byron) Buxton and (Dalton) Hicks and (JD) Williams were a big part and they’ve moved up, along with some of our pitchers, (Steven) Gruver and (Tyler) Jones and (Tyler) Duffey. That’s kind of what happens and how the nature of the beast is.

“But you’re getting a chance to see (Max) Kepler a little more and you’re getting to see (Joel) Licon on an everyday basis. (Jonathan) Murphy’s another guy that came up and has been helping us. (Mike) Gonzales is kind of on the comeback trail a little bit here, but a guy with a little bit of experience. So we’ve been fortunate. When we’ve lost some guys, we’ve been able to get some pretty good guys to replace them.”

If you compare the final standings in the first half of the MWL season with the current standings, you’ll see what can happen as team rosters change over significantly.

The Beloit Snappers slipped past the Kernels in the final few days of the first half to claim first place in the league’s Western Division, but the Snappers now sit several games under .500 in the second half. Yet, the Snappers have fared far better than the Fort Wayne Tincaps, who won the Eastern Division in the first half. The Tincaps have been struggling to escape the cellar of their Division during the season’s second half.

While Mauer’s Kernels have had significant roster turnover, as well (only nine of the Opening Day Kernels remain on the current 25-man roster), Cedar Rapids has managed to continue competing at a high level. They have held or shared first place in the West for all but four days since the All-Star break reset.

Mauer believes much of the reason can be found on the pitcher’s mound.

“Really, our pitching has been the key this second half. The pitching has been way better. Guys are throwing the ball over the plate,” said the manager.

Mauer pointed out that, while his team lost several effective pitchers to promotion, the replacements have stepped right in and done the job.

“Adding a (Madison) Boer and a (Brian) Gilbert to the back end of the pen, that’s two pretty reliable guys. (Alex) Muren has been pretty steady the whole year,” said Mauer, adding, “Our starters are doing a pretty good job. (Tim) Atherton has done a wonderful job starting. (Josue) Montanez has been a lot better.”

Of course, talking about pitching brings up another topic rather unique to the world of a minor league coaching staff.

A number of the Kernels’ most reliable starting pitchers this season are putting more innings on their young arms than they ever have before. This is particularly true of guys who spent last season as relief pitchers or pitched in some combination of high school/college and short-season leagues. Pitchers such as Mason Melotakis, Brett Lee and Jose Berrios who have been cornerstones of the rotation much of the season are seeing their innings limited down the stretch.

That has required Mauer and pitching coach Gary Lucas to find other guys to plug in to the starting rotation and part of the Kernels’ continued success can be attributed to how those pitchers have performed.

Jose Berrios

Jose Berrios

“They’ve been real good,” said Mauer. “Atherton has been excellent, throwing more strikes and still striking guys out like he has been. Berrios has gotten better, Brett Lee’s been great. He had a little scare there with that elbow thing (Lee spent a week on the Disabled List after being struck on the elbow by a batted ball), but he seems to be OK. We’re going to have to keep an eye on him a little bit. I don’t think you’ll see a complete game until, hopefully, the fourth.”

Was that Mauer tipping his hand concerning his plans for the starting pitching assignment in the first playoff game on September 4?

Mauer would only admit that they’re starting to think about who will be starting those postseason games.

“Some of the things we have to start thinking about,” Mauer conceded, “Who are we going to use in the playoffs? Who’s going to be our starters? I think the young man we got, Sulbaran, is going to help us.” Miguel Sulbaran was obtained from the Dodgers organization in a trade recently.

“(Tim) Shibuya’s going to help us,” continued Mauer. “(Brandon) Bixler has done a nice job. Gilbert has been pretty dominant, thus far. Hopefully we can keep that going.”

Clearly, one ingredient a manager needs to keep his team competitive in both halves of a Class A season is talented replacements for the players promoted. But these are still young ballplayers, many just a year out of college or even high school, and a 140-game season can be a grind.

A couple of weeks ago, the Kernels went through a stretch where they lost six of eight games in series with Burlington and the Quad Cities. The club’s pitching, hitting and defense all seemed to collapse at the same time. Is it hard to keep a team focused when a postseason spot is locked up halfway through the year and some players are still wondering if/when they’ll be getting promoted?

The answer to that question is, “It shouldn’t be,” according to Mauer. “Every time you go out there, you should want to win the game. There’s a difference between wanting to win the game and doing things to help you win the game. In that stretch, Burlington and Quad Cities, they took it to us pretty good, but again we gave them a lot of opportunities, extending innings (with errors). That’s not going to do it.

“So you try to refocus. It shouldn’t have anything to do with whether you’re in (the postseason) or not, whether you’re playing for something or not. It should just have to do with you understanding what it takes to play every day and being a professional player.”

“When you get in the game, it’s time to (think about) we’ve got to win this game today,” continued Mauer. “We’ve got to win this inning, win this pitch. You can break it down as far as even pitch to pitch. If you do that, if you win every pitch, then you’re going to win just about every inning and you’re going to win a lot of your games and you’re going to get noticed and that’s how you get promoted. A lot of it is controlling what you can control.”

“There’s some guys in there (the clubhouse) that probably should be in Fort Myers,” Mauer acknowledged, “but they’re backlogged or whatever and they’re still here. Maybe they’re a little (ticked) and maybe they should be, but you’ve got to keep putting numbers up. You’ve got to keep doing your job and you’ve got to keep showing up every day.”

“It’s hard to tell,” what the specific problem was during that early August swoon, according to Mauer. “We just weren’t playing very good and it all just kept going downhill. It just kind of gets going that way and you’re going to go through phases throughout the year where you’re not going to be playing good and others where you’re going to be playing pretty good. What you try to do is you try to keep the focus be the same, whether you’re high or whether you’re low, it shouldn’t matter. Whether you’ve won eight in a row or lost eight in a row, your focus should be the same and that’s what you’re trying to teach.”

It’s not just the postseason success that the players are playing for, of course, and the manager acknowledged that fact, as well. The players and the Twins organization are already looking toward 2014.

“A lot of them are playing for a spot in Fort Myers next year and a lot of them are playing for a spot anywhere. That’s a reality,” said Mauer. “Those boys that are in (Elizabethton) and any guys that come in from (this year’s) draft generally are newer. They get a little more opportunity than some guys that have been around, where we’ve got a decent feeling of what they can and can’t do. We’re going to give these other guys some of those at-bats.

“You’re really playing for a job, whether it’s here (in Cedar Rapids), whether it’s in Fort Myers or wherever it might be. You’ve got to make an impact in these last two weeks.”

Mauer conceded that he’ll be managing the team a little differently headed in to the final couple of weeks of the regular season.

“I know we’re going to play some teams that are in the playoff chase, but we’ve got to get a little healthier for Wednesday, the fourth (of September – the first Kernels postseason game),” predicted Mauer. “The next week at Peoria and Quad Cities, we’ll probably rotate quite a few guys. When Peoria comes back here Sunday (August 25), we’ll try to get us cranked up again to where we’re getting ready and trying to get sharp again for the playoffs.

“I don’t like to sit my guys right before the playoffs. I’d like to do it this next week and then we can button some things up and hopefully, they’ve got enough rest and here we go.”

Evidence of the change has already become evident. For instance, Tyler Grimes, one of the Kernels’ catchers and a converted middle infielder had done nothing but catch and DH all season, until Friday night.

When Murphy left the game for precautionary reasons after being hit in the head by a pitch, second baseman Licon moved in to the outfield and Grimes entered the game as the new second baseman. The next night, Grimes started at second base, as well.

Tyler Grimes

Tyler Grimes

“(Grimes) is going to play some middle (infield) through these last two weeks here. He’s been an infielder his whole life, so he can still go out there. We’ll try to give some of our middle guys a little bit of a (rest),” said Mauer. “You’ll probably see guys like (Adam) Walker get another day off here. Kepler, (Niko) Goodrum, (Jorge) Polanco, guys like that, that have been playing a lot are going to get some rest. (Travis) Harrison is another one, too. Try to freshen them up and try to walk that delicate line between becoming stale and becoming fresh – sit guys for a maybe a day, maybe two days at the most, and get them back out there if you can.”

(NOTE: Polanco was placed on the 7-day Disabled list on Sunday, retroactive to Friday, August 16.)

There will be a few other, more subtle, changes that most fans won’t likely notice, as well, according to Mauer. “We probably won’t hit for as long or take infield as much, things like that. We’ll pick our spots with that. We’ll rest.”

The Kernels’ skipper was asked whether he thought there was an advantage entering the postseason, either to teams that qualified with their success in the first half of the season or with a playoff run at the end of the second half.

Mauer likened it to the NFL. “Those wildcard teams show up in the Super Bowl because you’re playing for your life every week. And that’s the intensity that you should have, even if you’re (already) in.”

Still, it’s nice to have the luxury of resting your players and setting up your pitching rotation the way you want it to start the postseason while the teams who have yet to qualify, as the manager puts it, “have to go pedal to the metal.”

“Each team is going to be different,” Mauer said. “You just try to feel the best you can. Gauge how you’re feeling health wise. Who’s doing what and who can help you. But you want to try and make sure you go in to September as ready as you can.”

At the end of the day, Mauer feels his group is going to be ready when the postseason begins.

“Yeah, we’re excited,” Mauer concluded, concerning his team’s chances in the playoffs. “We’ve got a good group and these kids have worked hard and the new additions have been doing a nice job. We’re happy with how we’re progressing and we’ll see how these last two weeks end up. Hopefully, we’re playing better two weeks from now, you don’t want to peak too soon. We want to be playing our best baseball in September.”

GameChat – Mets @ Twins (makeup), 1:10pm

sorry this is late guys.. I honestly wasn’t tracking that there was a makeup game today – of course I would have if the Twins ever updated their iCal program so the calendar in my phone was accurate… *sigh*

NY Mets

@

Minnesota
Young, E, LF   Dozier, 2B
Murphy, Dn, 2B   Mauer, C
Byrd, RF   Willingham, LF
Davis, I, 1B   Morneau, 1B
Brown, A, DH   Doumit, DH
Flores, W, 3B   Arcia, RF
d’Arnaud, T, C   Plouffe, 3B
Lagares, CF   Thomas, C, CF
Quintanilla, SS   Florimon, SS
  Gee, P     Gibson, P

GameChat – White Sox @ Twins, 1:10pm

Going to do the same thing I did yesterday – not sure who will be around for the game but I know I will not be so here’s a chat and if someone is around, they can add the lineups but here’s the just in case. I’m hoping that the Twins can do a little better today than they did last night.

Hope everyone is enjoying this practically perfect summer weekend!

WHITE SOX

@

TWINS
De Aza, CF Dozier, 2B
Beckham, G, 2B Mauer, DH
Ramirez, Al, SS Willingham, LF
Dunn, A, DH Morneau, 1B
Konerko, 1B Doumit, C
Garcia, A, RF Plouffe, 3B
Keppinger, 3B Arcia, RF
Viciedo, LF Ramirez, W, CF
Phegley, C Florimon, SS
  _Santiago, H, P   _Deduno, P

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R

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Chi White Sox

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5

8

3

Minnesota

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1

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

10

0

 

I didn’t see a single pitch of this game but given the score, I think I’m ok with that…