THAT’S How Ya Do It!

After attending the debacle Friday night and then reading that Francisco Liriano had been scratched from his Saturday start in favor of Anthony Swarzak, who would be facing off with Jared Weaver, I can’t say I was optimistic about the possibility of witnessing a Twins win Saturday night.

Silly me.

OF COURSE this would be the circumstance under which the wins would put things together to pull out a W!

There was a great crowd on hand, reminding me a bit of the enthusiasm I felt during so many games last season. I think we all knew that the Twins were likely to have trouble scoring much off of Weaver, who’s had a pretty strong year, thus far. But Swarzak was every bit Weaver’s equal as the two pitchers matched one another almost pitch for pitch from one inning to the next.

Toward the 7th inning, Swarzak gave up a couple of pretty deep, well hit balls that found the gloves of Michael Cuddyer and Delmon Young. In fact, the defense tonight was very solid all night long. It hasn’t been often that we’ve been able to say that this year.

With one out in the 8th inning Peter Bourjos laced a line drive down the left field line for a double to ruin Swarzak’s no-hitter bid and the crowd immediately rose to give the young pitcher a huge standing ovation. As we sat down, the three 20-something women sitting to my left asked me why everyone had been cheering… they had no idea Swarzak had a no-hitter going. I’m not sure they even knew what a no-hitter was, to be honest. Ah well.

The guy to my right almost flipped out when Matt Capps entered the game to start the 9th inning on the mound for the Twins… but he stood and gave Capps an ovation with the rest of us after his hitless inning. Alex Burnett followed with a clean inning of relief, himself. (Where have THESE versions of those two pitchers been lately… and can we keep them a while?)

And then it was the bottom of the 10th. Lefty reliever Hisanori Takahashi took over for Weaver and struck Jason Kubel out looking before giving up a solid line drive single to Justin Morneau. Jason Repko ran for Morneau and righty Kevin Jepson took the mound for the Angels. Michael Cuddyer grounded a single past the SS in to left field and Delmon Young lined a single to center field. Unfortunately, Repko couldn’t get a jump on that single because there was a real chance it could have been snagged by the shortstop (I thought he was going to catch it from where I sat).

A lot of people around me were upset that Repko didn’t score, but to be honest, he HAD to make sure that ball got through. The LAST thing you want is to have him get doubled off 2B to end that inning. He still got to 3B and the bases were loaded with just one out and Danny Valencia at the plate.

The Angels used five infielders, all playing in on the grass, and just two outfielders, but it didn’t matter. Valencia lifted a fly ball to RF and right off the bat, everyone knew it was deep enough to score Repko from 3B. Torii Hunter jogged back a bit but he knew it didn’t matter whether he got to it or not and it landed well beyond Hunter. Game over.

The Twins celebrated on the field and you could just tell this was a win that made everyone feel good… players and fans alike.

I didn’t take as many pictures this trip as I usually do at games and many I did take are far from high quality, but I thought I would post a few anyway… hope you enjoy!

– JC

Pregame fraternization between Torii, Denard and Cuddy, as well as Justin and Russell Branyan

TC Bear fires tshirts in to the crowd

Anthony Swarzak was very, very good

Jared Weaver was also very, very good

Torii Hunter went hitless... but looked good doing it

An appreciative crowd gives Swarzak a standing ovation after he gives up the first Angels hit in the 8th inning

The Angels play a 5 man infield when the Twins loaded the bases in the 10th

Danny Valencia strokes a deep fly ball to right field...

... and the Twins celebrate a much-needed win!

GameChat – Angels @ Twins #2, 6:10pm, FOX & am1500

It’s been a phenomenally gorgious day so far.  However, it does appear that there are some storms headed our way so I have no idea what that will mean come game time. So cross your fingers everyone if you actually want to see this game.  Maybe we’ll get lucky and we’ll have a lead again in the 6th inning and then the storms will hit and the game will be called before the 8th inning meltdown?  Does that still count as optimism?

In other news, Francisco Liriano is out… sore shoulder… Swarzak is getting the start and somewhere, Kevin Slowey is kicking himself and cursing fate.  It just seems to be par for the course of this season doesn’t it?? *grumble*

Sadly, it also appears that Joe Nathan is going on the DL again as well. I’m sure the details of why this is necessary will be forthcoming.

Jim Thome is expected to get a cortisone shot in his shoulder tonight and hopes to play tomorrow, which sounds a bit odd to me since those shots don’t typically have that kind of immediate effect.

Jose Mijares threw a couple of extended spring training innings Saturday and could be rejoining the Twins Monday. Have to wonder if that constitutes good news or bad news, but given the performance of the bullpen lately, it probably has to be considered good.

Oh yeah… one more thing… HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BABS!

– JC

ANGELS @ TWINS
Izturis, M, 2B Span, CF
Aybar, SS Casilla, A, 2B
Abreu, DH Kubel, DH
Hunter, To, RF Morneau, 1B
Callaspo, 3B Cuddyer, RF
Branyan, 1B Young, D, LF
Bourjos, CF Valencia, 3B
Mathis, C Rivera, R, C
Willits, LF Plouffe, SS
Weaver, P Swarzak, P

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 R H E
LA Angels 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1
Minnesota 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 6 0

Well that game was a lot better to watch than last night’s was!

That was a good old fashioned pitchers’ duel. Jared Weaver faced only two hitters beyond the minimum over nine innings, giving up just two hits to the Twins and Anthony Swarzak took a no-hitter in to the 8th inning, before giving up a one-out double to Peter Bourjos. It’s never easy losing your no-no, but at least it was a legit line drive double down the line. It would also turn out to be the only hit the Angels would get on the night.

Every fan in my section of Target Field was holding his/her breath when Matt Capps relieved Swarzak to start the 9th inning. Capps did a nice job, however and got a very nice ovation from the crowd as he walked off. Then it was Alex Burnett’s turn in the 10th and he, too, held the Angels at bay. Two hitless/scoreless innings from the bullpen! woo-hoooo!

It’s best not to push your luck though, and in the 10th inning, Danny Valencia lifted a fly ball over Torii Hunter’s head to score pinch runner Jason Repko from third base and the Twins had a much needed W!

Lots of baked goods to the guys who put together that little rally in the 10th (hits by Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer and Delmon Young preceded Valencia’s game winner), but the BOD can only be awarded to Anthony Swarzak!

Anthony Swarzak had no idea what kind of night was ahead of him as he toed the rubber in the 1st inning

Keep Hope Alive!

“You must not surrender. You may or may not get there, but just know that you’re qualified and you hold on and hold out. We must never surrender. [The Twins] will get better and better. Keep hope alive. Keep hope alive. Keep hope alive. On tomorrow night and beyond, keep hope alive.”

Jesse Jackson at 1988 DNC (AP Photo-Ron Edmonds)

This is what it has come to… I’m resorting to channeling my inner Jesse Jackson.

For those of you too young (or too politically/socially disinterested) to recall, The “Keep Hope Alive!” quote in the first paragraph was the closing line from Reverend Jackson’s speech to the 1988 Democratic National Convention in Atlanta and he was assuring us that “America” would get better, not specifically the Twins (but if the shoe fits, right?). I may not have agreed with Rev. Jackson’s politics a whole lot, but my goodness the man could work a crowd!

With all the gloom and doom in Twinsville these days, it occurs to me that maybe a little dose of Jackson-like oratory might just be what’s called for (setting aside, for the moment anyway, the inconvenient fact that at the time Rev. Jackson gave his 1988 speech, Michael Dukakis had about a 20 point lead on George H. W. Bush in the polls… so Jackson’s speech didn’t exactly motivate the Democratic faithful enough to drive Dukakis to the White House).

I’m not sure I’m the one to turn to for motivational oratory these days, however. I not only have not posted a lot of commentary here, lately, but I’ve all but completely stopped posting comments on other blogs and podcasts. It’s not that I’ve given up on the Twins. Quite the contrary. I believe that when the “real” Twins get healthy and join Denard Span and Jason Kubel in the line up, this team will bounce back.

What I have given up on are many so-called “Twins fans”. I understand the frustration because I feel it, too. I don’t particularly enjoy watching the Twins lose game after game any more than anyone else does.

But I simply can’t tolerate the volume of the insane (and often inane) opinions regarding the reasons for the Twins’ poor showing, thus far. I listen/read some of the stuff out there and I just want to yell, “It’s the injuries, stupid!” Seriously… does anyone with half a brain think that Bill Smith, Ron Gardenhire or any other member of the Twins management should have EXPECTED to have Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Joe Mauer, Delmon Young, Jim Thome, and Jason Repko all on the Disabled List at the same time?

You want to know why the Twins can’t win more ballgames? Go back and read this post from Jim Mandelaro, in which he posts the opening day lineup for the Rochester Red Wings. Let me know if you find these names familiar… Ben Revere, Trevor Plouffe, Luke Hughes, Rene Tosoni, Rene Rivera. That’s right, five members of the Red Wings’ opening day lineup are currently getting regular playing time for the Minnesota Twins (and their opening day starting pitcher, Anthony Swarzak, made a brief cameo appearance for the Twins, as well). The Twins’ bullpen also has been littered with guys who started the season in Rochester.

I think we all have every reason to be surprised that the Minnesota Twins find themselves with the worst record in baseball, 11 games behind the leaders in the AL Central, as we reach mid-May.  But that’s just it… it’s not so much that the Twins are in that position… but rather the Rochester Red Wings are 11 games out in the AL Central and that really shouldn’t surprise anyone.

I know, I know… this is all just “making excuses” for the Twins’ ineptitude. That’s fine, if that’s how you choose to feel. But if you’re one of the people who refuse to acknowledge the role that injuries have played in the Twins’ results, thus far, then there’s a pretty good chance you’re just one of the “fans” who carry so much hate in your heart for everyone in authority with the Twins organization, that you actually come across as being happy about the team’s current struggles, because it allows you to pump up the volume on your “fire/trade/release everyone” rants. If that’s the kind of fan you are, congratulations, I guess. Enjoy yourself… but don’t expect me to listen to your BS.

Denard Span, one of the more prolific Tweeters on the Twins, posted this on Wednesday night: “Before I talk about the heat winning… If ur a genuine twins fan plz be positive and have faith in us bc we haven’t lost faith in ourselve”

Count me in, Denard.

Nobody associated with the Twins likes the way things are going right now and it’s fair to point out when players fail to perform up to expectations. But if you want to be fair, when you point out that six Twins are hitting below the “Mendoza Line” (.200 BA), you probably should also point out that only one of the six was expected to fill a starting role this season, while the others have had to fill in for injured regulars. And in the further interest of fairness, you could mention that three of the six were supposed to be playing in Rochester this season. But, hey… what fun is being “fair” when you can be negative?

This really isn’t rocket science and Tiger manager Jim Leyland knows it. “It’s pretty simple,” Leyland was quoted by media. “When your horses are at the vet, that’s not good. When they’re on the track, that’s good. Their horses will be on the track here shortly.”

I believe that when Mauer, Nishioka, Young, and Thome get back in the line up, this team will score runs. They will win games. Will it be enough to overcome this awful start? I don’t know. Maybe… maybe not. But they’ll be fun to watch again and I’ll enjoy doing so.

In other words, until then… Keep hope alive!

– JC

Twins History Lesson: May 17-23

UPDATE: I didn’t want to create a brand new post this morning, but as I was perusing through a few sites, I came across a couple of items that I thought others might enjoy. So, if you have a few minutes, check out:

This article by the PioneerPress’ Brian Murphy on Twins LOOGY, Ron Mahay. Did you know… Mahay came up through the Red Sox organization as an outfielder and made it to the Bigs in that capacity… and is one of two remaining “Replacement Players” who filled in during the strike of 1994-95… leading to him not being entitled to any licensing royalties from the MLBPA (and thus explaining the mysterious “Ryan Moss” in the Twins bullpen in the MLB 2K10 video game)… which led to him eventually having a closed-door “come-to-Jesus” meeting with Roger Clemens… which came shortly before throwing his first bullpen session (in Australia) and earning $20 bucks on a bet from his manager there (who promptly called the Sox and told them to make Mahay a pitcher)… leading to a nearly 10-year MLB career during which he’s played for 9 different teams, 5 of them (counting the Twins) twice. Yes, I know I’ve irritated some people by communicating my support for Mahay, but beware… after reading this article, I like the guy even more. Talk about persistence!

And over here in Curve for a Strike, we get to go along on a weekend’s worth of Twins games at the new Death Star, culminating in Kubel’s “cleansing breath” of a grand slam HR. Good stuff, along with accompanying pictures!

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This week sees the anniversaries of a few more Twins “firsts” as well as  several more noteworthy games in Twins history*.

May 17 has seen a couple of terrific performances over the years.

1963: Bob Allison became the first Twin to hit 3 home runs in one game. Hit hit a HR to LF, CF and RF in his final 3 ABs against the Tribe in an eventual 11-4 Twins win. Only 3 Twins have accomplished the same feat that Allison did. You may recognize their names: Killebrew, Oliva and Morneau.

1998: The Twins were on the wrong end when David Wells of the Yankees threw the 13th perfect game in MLB history against the twins in a 4-0 win for the Evil Empire.

Likewise, May 18 has witnessed a couple of impressive games:

1969: You couldn’t blame Tiger AllStar battery Mickey Lolich and Bill Freehan if they said the 3rd inning of their game vs. the Twins on this date was the worst inning in their respective careers. In that one inning, Rod Carew stole 2B, 3B and home… and Cesar Tovar stole 3B and home the same inning, tying a MLB record.

1983: The Twins defeated the A’s 16-5 as they rolled off 18 hits (including 6 doubles and a HR) off of A’s pitching in the first 6 innings of the game, behind Frank Viola (who hadn’t won a game since August of the prior season). A’s third baseman Wayne Gross pitched the final 2 1/3 innings for the A’s… holding the Twins scoreless.

May 19, 1961 saw the first grand slam home run hit by a Minnesota Twin when Dan Dobbek went yard with bases loaded off of Kansas City A’s pitcher Ed Rakow.

We could write an entire post just listing the interesting events that have taken place on May 20 over the years. With some difficulty, I’ve culled them down to the following:

1962: Relief pitcher Ray Moore became the first Twins pitcher to both win and lose a game on the same day as he took the loss in the first game of a double header at Yankee Stadium and got the W in the second game.

1970: Rod Carew became the first Twin to hit for the cycle in a 10-5 victory over the Royals.

1984: The Twins lost 5-4 to Boston. Roger Clemens K’d 7 Twins in 7 innings for his first MLB win. He would go on to win a few more.

1989: Two Twins entered the record books during a 19-3 win over the Rangers in Arlington. Dan Gladden had 7 plate appearances in a 9 inning game, tying a record, and Randy Bush tied a Twins record with 8 RBI.

1994: Scott Erickson’s hot start to the season hit a road bump when he was scratched from his start after developing a stiff back warming up. Rookie Carlos Pulido, who hadn’t pitched in 10 days, got the start and retired 9 of the first 10 RedSox he faced. Meanwhile, the Twins forged a 10-0 lead through 3 innings and added 11 more runs in the 5th inning, on the way to a 21-2 win. The Twins offense was led by Kirby Puckett, who knocked in a career high 7 RBI in just 3 ABs. The next night, the Twins beat the RedSox again, on a 1-0 score.

1995: Rookie Marty Cordova tied a record for rookies by hitting a home run in his fifth consecutive game.

2005: Carlos Silva used only 74 pitches in a complete game win over the Brewers.

Besides being the day when (in 1999) the Twins acquired Kyle Lohse from the Cubs for Rick Aguilera (there were a couple of other players included as well), May 21 is perhaps best remembered as the date the Twins took the field in 2009 at US Cellular Field for the final game of road trip that had seen them drop four straight (2 in Extra Innings) to the Evil Empire and two more to the BitchSox. The Twins released a week’s worth of frustration on the Tidy Whities in a 20-1 win that was the worst defeat for Chicago in the franchise’s history.

May 22 has been just marginally more eventful:

1981: After 8 straight losses, John Goryl was fired as manager of the Twins and replaced by Billy Gardner. The Twins celebrated with a 7-0 shutout of KC.

2002: In what could have been an eventful day in Twins history, Governor Jesse Ventura signed a bill in to law approving financing of a new open-air stadium for the Twins. The Twins were eventually unable to meet the terms laid out in the deal and it expired. Almost 8 years later, the Twins are finally playing in their new ballpark.

2009: Michael Cuddyer became the second Twin to hit for the cycle in the 2009 season as he went 4-5 in an 11-3 win over the Brewers.

The week winds down with a bit of a slow date in Twins history, with May 23:

1991: The Twins wasted a 6-hit game by Kirby Puckett in a 10-6 Extra Inning loss to the Texas Rangers.

2009: Anthony Swarzak became the first Twins starting pitcher to record 7 scoreless innings in his MLB debut.

So that’s this upc0ming week in Twins history! Let’s see if the 2010 team can generate a few highlights this week that we can look back on in future years!

-JC

*We pull this information from a few different sources, including (but not necessarily limited to) Dave Wright’s excellent book, “162-0, The Greatest Wins!”, as well as some  internet sites like “Twins Trivia” and “National Pastime”.