Thursday, October 07, 2010

Felt Like A Win

Boy – it sure felt like a win. This was what you want. Actually, this is what you want any number of ways. Let’s count them, shall we?

1. Sabathia’s up to his old tricks, hitting a prime target on the Twins to send a message. (Not just a prime target, by the way, but an ex-teammate.) And instead, it backfires, as a Twins team leader gets his pound of flesh – times two. Not that Jabbathia would miss a few pounds of flesh.

2. Liriano messes up exactly the way he shouldn’t mess up – by walking the anemic-hitting Brett Gardner. Then, with Gardner running on the pitch, Jeter singles to left field but Gardner can’t advance to third because of the respect he needs to show to Delmon Young’s arm. Liriano induces three outs from the middle of the Yankees order as Target Field sways with … what exactly? Excitement? Passion? Those words capture the emotion, but not the force. I’m going to go with: Will. If Gardner takes the extra base, a run scores. Instead, the Yankees road gaffe saves the Twins a run.

3. Because Jabbathia has trouble oozing all the way to first base, Orlando Hudson manages to go first to third on a ground out to first base. A few pitches later he scores on a wild pitch. Another run that sloppy baseball cost the Yankees. The Twins coast through innings four and five with a 3-0 lead.

4. The second batter in the sixth inning, Mark Teixeira, doubles, but that’s what Teixeira is supposed to do against left-handers. The formula for survival is simple – take care of ARod, who is anemic against lefties. Then, limit the damage until you get to the latter half of the Yankees order. This is how any professional left-handed pitcher approaches this situation. It is nothing that the Twins ace cannot handle.

5. The collar has tightened. The game is 3-2 on a hit by Jorge Posada that cleared Orlando Hudson’s glove by ¾ of an inch. But now Curtis Granderson and his .215 career batting average against left-handers is up against Liriano, the Twins ace left-hander. The bleeding will be stopped, and the bullpen should be able to hold it from there, right?

6. The game is tied, the bases are loaded, and CC Sabathia has shown just how tired he is - throwing eight of his last nine pitches out of the strike zone. He’s facing a right-handed hitter that has hit .304 in the second half of the season, with a .363 on-base percentage. And of course, Target Field is as loud as it can get.

By the way, for those of you laying blame, don’t underestimate the damage that Hardy did in this game. Yes, he had a double early and displayed his solid defense. But in this at-bat, he watched (appropriately) strike one. Then Sabathia threw four straight pitches out of the strike zone, just like he had done for each of the previous two batters. And Hardy struck out on them.

7. The game is tied going into the last three innings, which means this game is going to be decided by the bullpens. Perfect. What’s more, the Twins best reliever also gets to face the top of the Yankees order, including two guys who have struggled against right-handers like him. That is exactly the match up the Twins were hoping for.

8. The Twins are down, but there are runners on first and second and Jim Thome strides to the plate – versus a right-handed pitcher? Yep. Because the Yankees had already used their only reliable left-hander, and because Young had singled off his the right-handed replacement, Thome was going to get his cuts against the Yankees third best right-handed reliever.

9. Against, the Yankees eighth inning setup man Kerry Wood, the Twins draw a walk and then luck out on an infield hit. Mariano Rivera isn’t warmed up yet, and so JJ Hardy gets his chance with speed on the basepaths.

Nine. That’s a nice number for a baseball game - but you could count more. Delmon Young’s fly ball to the edge of left field? Granderson’s double that was two feet short of a fly out? Teixeira’s home run that looked foul most of the way to the right field bleachers?

This felt like a win. And yet….

You might need to be a glutton for punishment to be a Vikings fan, but at least those losses only last three hours. A playoff series lasts days, and seemingly each day has at least a half dozen moments like these. Vikings fans at least get the band-aid ripped off fast. You’ve got to man up to be a baseball fan.

And you really, really, REALLY need to man up to be a Twins fan in the postseason. You’ve got a few hours left to prepare. Tonight let’s get something that does more than just FEEL like a win.


Hey, you’re not done. There is LOTS more great baseball stuff today, and you might want to soak it in. One way or the other, there isn’t a ton of baseball left this year.

Seth goes over the highlights of last night’s game and his thoughts.

Tonight’s game is a lot earlier, giving you absolutely no excuse to join me in celebrating/ranting about the game afterward. I’ll be on the patio at Sneaky Pete’s, assisting Justin Gaard in a postgame call-in show on KFAN AM 1130. Come in, talk Twins, and join me for a beer afterward. After tonight, I think we deserve it, don’t you?


Wylbur said...

You can "feel" good in one hand, and hold pennants in the other: which will be heavier?

It's fun to see great teams face each other and play well, but the end of the series will show a winner and a loser. One advances, and the other is done for the season. Don't sugarcoat that. We left two runners on base in two innings (7 and 8). We did not get the job done.

Ed Bast said...

I don't know, John, that felt that a painful, painful loss to me. And are you really going to blame our #9 hitter? If we need our #9 hitter to be a big run-producer, we are in trouble. How about Denard Span's 1-for-5? How about the Golden Boy going 1-for-5? Thome failing in 2 big at bats? Cuddy's awful strikeout in the eighth? Those guys, the well-paid so-called "leaders" of the team deserve much more blame than our #9 hitter.

SoCalTwinsfan said...

I saw a lot of great at-bats. Sabathia threw 110 pitches in six innings despite a wide strike zone. The Twins drew five walks with a wide zone, including the rookie with the bases loaded to tie the game. Unfortunately, there is a lot more failure than success for hitters in baseball. The Twins had two walks and two Ks with RISP. That is an excellent ratio. Five balls in play and no hits. That's a little bad luck there. The Twins just weren't able to get a threat going early in innings in the final six innings. The Twins started each of the first three innings with base runners and scored three runs. People want to place blame after a playoff loss, but if this was a regular-season game against any other team, you shrug your shoulders and say, "Oh well, go get 'em tomorrow."

Ed Bast said...

Socal, it isn't a regular season game. Stakes are magnified. So each of our 10 consecutive playoff losses was bad luck? It was bad luck that Liriano and Crain threw bad pitches and the Yanks luckily crushed them? It was bad luck that the Hardy, Thome, Cuddy, Mauer struck out on pitches out of the zone? It's not about bad luck. It's about the other team coming through pitching and hitting in key situations, and the Twins failing time and again. It's happened in nearly every one of the Twins last 10 losses.

Anonymous said...

Re: Ed Bast - So in a sport where, roughly speaking, failing seven times out of ten gets you into the Hall of Fame, once the playoffs start, you consider single at bats here and there blameworthy?

Re: Twins Geek - Sabathia had Thome 1-2, I highly doubt his intent was hit Thome, only to move him back, but he made a mistake and threw too far inside. He was not tryng to "hit a prime target on the Twins and send a message."

Ed Bast said...

Um, Anon, I suppose I could explain to you how everything in the postseason is magnified, but I'll go ahead an assume you know that. I'll remain confused as to your point.

My point is, every single time we play the Yankees in the playoffs, the same thing happens: they get clutch hits, and we don't. How anyone can attribute that to luck alone, I don't understand.

Quick: name a clutch playoff hit the Twins have had under Gardy.

Anonymous said...

Cuddyer deserves blame for last night's loss??? Now I've heard everything. And to conveniently leave Kubel out of the list of problems smacks of some sort of agenda. Speaking to posters not the Blogger

Ed Bast said...

My initial post was in response to John's notion that JJ Hardy killed us last night. I don't think you can expect too much from your #9 hitter.

To be clear, no individual hitter lost the game for us; rather it was a collective failure in the clutch that, for about the 15th straight playoff game, doomed us.

LT. COL. Fletcher Prouty said...

I dont know why everybody believes the yankees set up relievers are inferior to minnesota's? They strike out more batters, have more dominant stuff, rise to the occasion and the twins can never get key hits off them. The Twins on the other hand get killed in the late innings by the long ball EVERY time we play them! It's a complete fallacy!