GOTW: 1959 Senators at Yankees

September 2, 2009

The lack of excitement for the 1959 Yankees was apparent from John Drebinger’s lead in the New York Times:

The Yankees returned to the Stadium for their long-awaited September home stand last night with nothing more exciting to offer a crowd of 15,010 than a battle for third place.

The Yankees, having dominated the American League for more than a decade, were in an unfamiliar spot to be sure. Though it was beyond disappointing in New York, it was a position that the Washington fans would have gladly traded to be in, having failed to get north of fifth place in the AL since the middle 1940’s.

Pedro Ramos 12-15 4.04 ERA 200.2 IP 46 BB 81 K
vs
Duke Maas 12-6 4.50 ERA 118 IP 48 BB 58 K

More from Drebinger’s story:

With Pedro Ramos on the mound, the Nats waged a stubborn fight, taking the lead against Duke Maas in the fifth and not letting Casey Stengel’s bombers draw even until the seventh.

Yogi Berra finally put the Yankees ahead with a two-run homer in the eighth inning, the veteran’s 18th of the season. Washington wasn’t finished yet, however:

And even after Yogi’s number 18 with Tony Kubek on base had put the Yanks ahead in the eighth, the Nats still weren’t quitting. They ripped into Jim Coates for three hits in the ninth, the lead off shot being a two-bagger by Harmon Killebrew.

That, incidentally, was the Killer’s only hit of the evening. But it did pace on tally home and for a moment Stengel was in quite a dither, what with only one out and runners on first and second.

But Coates was allowed to shoot his way out of difficulty and this he did by retiring the next two, and he received credit for the victory.

The final score was 4-3 in favor of the Yankees, who evened their record at 66-66 with the win.


GOTW: 2003 Twins at Indians

August 20, 2009

Wednesday August 20, 2003

For the bulk of the summer of 2003, the Twins found themselves behind in the AL Central Standings. After running away with the division in 2002 with relative ease, the team had hit several speed bumps in 2003. Heading into the break, the Twins were 44-49, in third place in the division, 7.5 games behind surprising Kansas City and half a game behind second place Chicago.

The Shannon Stewart trade the day after the break seemed to provide a spark, however. The team rattled off five consecutive wins out of the break to even their record at .500. The Twins slowly continued to chip into the Royals’ lead. After taking two out of three from the Royals, and with a win in the first game in Cleveland on August 19, the Twins were as close as they had been since July 2 – just 1.5 games out of first place.

The Indians were heading in the exact opposite direction. After dominating the division for almost a decade, they found themselves 18 games below the .500 mark, and well out of contention.

The pitching matchup for game two of the series:

Brad Radke 8-10 5.09 ERA 25 BB 91 K
vs
Brian Anderson 9-9 3.83 ERA 30 BB 67 K

From LENIII’s game story:

The examples were everywhere Wednesday night during the Twins’ 4-3 victory over the Indians: The team is serious about returning to first place in the American League Central Division.

There was Dustan Mohr dropping down a key two-strike sacrifice bunt. There was Torii Hunter making an unexpected dash home on a popup just beyond the infield. And there was Brad Radke grinding through an admittedly sluggish outing.

And three Cleveland errors that led to three Twins runs made the Twins’ effort pay off.

“It was kind of an ugly win,” Radke said.

The Twins also have had more than their share of ugly losses this season but they now are only one-half game back in the Central traffic jam.

Kansas City leads Chicago by percentage points but comes to the Metrodome this weekend for four games against a focused Twins team.

“I’m like a pit bull,” said Hunter, who scored the winning run after tagging up from third on the popup in the seventh inning. “When I taste blood, I’m locked in on you. We are all locked in right now.”

The Twins went 4-1 on the road trip and are 21-12 since the All-Star break. As a result of this surge, the Twins are seeking to return to first place for the first time since June 30. They have spent 52 days in third place but are a victory away from moving up.

“There were guys who didn’t think we would be where we’re at now and were writing us off,” outfielder Jacque Jones said. “We were going to take it one game at a time.

“We were getting bombarded by our own papers, our own media, sometimes by our own coaches. But we keep coming back, and that’s the type of team we have.”

The Twins spent the early afternoon watching the Yankees-Royals game on television. It was entertaining in that Kansas City battled back before losing 8-7. There was little emotion in the clubhouse when the game ended, because the Twins knew it would mean nothing if they lost to the Indians.

Hunter, however, whispered “Thank you” when the Yankees closed out the victory.

A few hours later, teammates and coaches were shouting thank-you’s at Hunter for his heads-up play.

Mohr had just moved Hunter and A.J. Pierzynski to second and third with a nifty two-strike sacrifice bunt. Cristian Guzman lifted a high popup behind second base. Second baseman John McDonald made the play, but his momentum took him a few steps to his right.

Hunter took off for home as soon as McDonald caught the ball, and he dived past catcher Tim Laker’s tag. Laker couldn’t believe Hunter was ruled safe, argued the call and was ejected by plate umpire Scott Nelson.

Before Laker left the field, he tossed his glove and mask toward home plate, then threw a stool that was near his dugout. It was the second time in five days that Hunter scored a controversial run, leading to a catcher ejection and a tantrum.

“You have to take chances,” Hunter said. “If you make an out, everyone is going to talk about you.”

Radke (9-10) gave up three runs on four hits in the first inning, then scattered four hits over the next six innings before handing the ball to the bullpen and packing his bags for a victorious flight home and a chance to return to first place.

“It came pretty easy for us last year,” Radke said of winning the division title. “This is kind of new, to tell you the truth. A couple of years ago, we had a great first half and we fell off the table the second half. This is kind of new for us, not having led like we did last year.

“We’re a little behind and it’s going to be fun this weekend.”

The Twins were just a half game out following the win. Still, it would be a couple more weeks before they would actually find themselves in first place. On September 3 the Twins beat the Angels to move into a tie for first. It wasn’t until September 15th, however, that they found themselves on top of the division alone. They didn’t look back after that point, cruising to the team’s second consecutive division title by going 25-11 after the August 20 game.


GOTW 1968: Pascual v Kaat

August 12, 2009

Monday August 12, 1968

Neither the Twins or the Senators were contenders by early August of 1968. The Twins were 54-59, good for 6th place, 18 1/2 games behind the first-place Tigers, and fresh off a three-game sweep of the Yankees in the Bronx. Washington had been in last place since June 11, and were 30 1/2 games out of first place.

Though the game meant very little in the grand scheme of the pennant race, it was an intriguing pitching  match up. Both men were members of the original Washington American League Franchise, and both had also pitched for the Twins.

Jim Kaat was 29-years-old and in the midst of his 10th major league season. He was two seasons removed from his 25-win campaign in 1966, but came into the game just 8-8 with a 3.23 ERA – a number that looks good but was in context of a 2.98 AL League ERA.

Camilo Pascual was 34-years-old and in his 13th major league season. He had pitched for the Twins as recently as 1966, until he was traded in the offseason in a deal that brought Ron Kline to Minnesota. At the time, it looked as though his career as an effective pitcher might be over. Pascual rebounded a bit after the trade, however, and had at least two good years left. Since leaving the Twins, Pascual had a 1-3 record in games against his former team. He came into the August 12 game with a 10-6 record and a 2.70 ERA.

The two former teammates exchanged zeroes for the first five innings. From the AP account:

A bases-loaded sacrifice fly by Cap Peterson, a pinch-hitter, in the sixth inning broke up a scoreless duel between Pascual and Jim Kaat…

The Senators loaded the bases with none out in the sixth on singles by Ken McMullen, Frank Howard, and Brant Alyea.

Pascual then helped his own cause with an RBI single off of Twins reliever Al Worthington in the ninth inning. The final count for Pascual in the 2-0 win, 9 IP 5 H 0 R 1 BB 3 K.


GOTW: 2008 White Sox at Twins

July 29, 2009

Tuesday July 29, 2008

Apart from the few weeks that the Twins were sitting on top of the AL Central in the early months of 2008, the Twins had essentially been chasing the White Sox for the division lead the bulk of the season. In early June, the Sox lead had swelled to six games over the Twins – thanks in part to a four-game sweep at the hands of the Sox from June 6-9, leading some to speculate that the Twins might become dealers by the trade deadline.

As has been the case for the bulk of the interleague era, however, the Twins revived their season hopes by crawling back into the race at the expense of the National League, going 14-4 in interleague games, including a 10-game winning against the likes of Milwaukee, Arizona, Washington, and San Diego. By the time the White Sox popped up on the schedule again in late July, the Twins were just two games back.

The Twins took the first game of the series on a Kevin Slowey shutout. With only a game separating them in the standings, the two teams met again for game two of the series in the Metrodome.

Clayton Richard CHW (0-0, 9.00 ERA, making his second career ML appearance)
vs
Glen Perkins MIN (7-3, 4.08 ERA, 46 K, 23 BB)

Here is Jim Souhan’s take on the big inning from the next day’s Star Tribune:

Want to know how the Twins — once nicknamed the “Little Piranhas” by White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen — have chewed Chicago’s lead to half a game?

All you had to do was watch the fifth inning of the Twins’ 6-5 victory Tuesday.

The Twins trailed the White Sox 4-0. They had managed three singles. They were facing talented young lefty Clayton Richard, whose slinging arm action had them befuddled.

Then one typically unconventional Twins rally changed the game. “That’s a typical Minnesota Twins baseball game — 25 bloopers and a big blast,” Guillen said. “That’s the way they play. They have that nickname for a reason.”

Here’s how the inning developed, and why this rally proved emblematic of the Twins’ surprising rise:

Mike Redmond, backup catcher, leads off. With so many key hitters, such as Jason Kubel and Craig Monroe, struggling against lefthanders, Redmond is acting as designated hitter for the second game in a row.

Only the Twins would use a guy with no homers and six RBI as their DH when the division lead is at stake in late July. But every time you ridicule the Twins for using Redmond as a No. 3 hitter — or a DH — he seems to get a big hit.

This time, he nudges a bloop toward center. Chicago’s Brian Anderson sprints in, dives … and watches the ball pop out of his glove for a hit. The Igniter is on first, from whence he could easily score on three or four hits.

Brendan Harris is playing at shortstop because Alexi Casilla hurt his finger, meaning Nick Punto had to be moved to second. Whenever Harris settles at one position the Twins move him, but he’s become an important bottom-of-the-order hitter the last couple of months, and now he draws a walk.

Brian Buscher, perhaps the most notable overachiever of all the Twins, grounds to second, moving the runners up.

Up comes Carlos Gomez, who ran into the wall in Cleveland so hard he missed three starts. Now he’s back in center and gets his second hit, a soft-serve single to center that scores Redmond.

“We don’t hit the ball that great, and I got three base hits,” Gomez said. “That happens.”

Denard Span, the only Twin who can compare to Joe Mauer in quality of at-bats, draws a walk. Span’s approach should make him the Twins’ leadoff hitter for years to come.

Punto, an original Piranha, pops out, and it’s up to Mauer.

In his first at-bat, Mauer hit into a double play. In his second, Richard struck him out on a high fastball, one of the rare times this year Mauer has looked overmatched.

This at-bat will be classic Mauer — he picks out a fastball and raps it sharply up the middle. It bounces off Richard’s leg and caroms for a single and an RBI.

Up comes Justin Morneau. He won Sunday’s game with a ninth-inning double. He hit a two-run homer on Monday. He is the Twins’ most valuable player, and he has acquired the ability to flail at pitches until he finally gets one he can handle. On a 2-2 count, he yanks a liner to the baggie, and Mauer looks like Gomez sprinting home from first.

Thus concludes a classic Twins rally — two bloops, two walks, a solid Mauer single and a Morneau blast adding up to five runs.

This is how the Twins can rank last in the league in home runs (Chicago is first) and yet fifth in runs scored, right behind the Mighty White Sox.

“We call that Twinsball,” Morneau said. “Chopper, 27-hopper up the middle, blooper, and somebody gets a big hit. It seems like we do that with the best of them. You don’t ask how. You ask how many.”

The Twins held on for a win despite a Nick Swisher solo home run off of Joe Nathan in the ninth inning. A Joe Mauer RBI single in the seventh inning had given the home team the cushion it needed to survive, and ultimately to draw in a dead heat with the Sox in the division race.

For those who want a more well-rounded discussion of the game, here is a link to the game log at WGOM.

Ed. I noticed that Souhan mentioned the Twins were 1/2 game back after this win – figured that was just a mistake on his part. Then I saw the 1/2 game mentioned at WGOM. For what it is worth, B-R lists both teams at 59-47 after play on July 29. MLB.com says Sox 59-46, Twins 59-47. So, by a 3-1 count it looks as though the Twins were within a half game after this win, not tied.


1985: Orioles at Twins

July 22, 2009

Monday July 22, 1985

Heading into a three-game series against the Orioles at the Metrodome in late July of 1985, the Twins had a record of 41-48, good for 7th in the AL West, 12 games behind division-leading California. The were fresh off losing three out of four to the Yankees at home. The Orioles came in with a 46-43 record, 4th in the AL East and 7.5 games behind Toronto.

The first game of the series came on an eventful Monday night at the Dome. The pitching matchup:

BAL Storm Davis 4-5 5.09 ERA 50 BB 50 K
MIN Mike Smithson 8-7 4.37 ERA 42 BB 69 K

As an aside, the combined heighth of the two starting pitchers was 13 feet.

The scoring started early when the O’s got to Smithson for two runs in the top of the first thanks to Eddie Murray’s two-run shot – his 14th home run of the year. The Twins made some noise in their half of the first, loading the bases only to have Randy Bush fly out to center to end the threat.

Minnesota loaded the bases again in the second inning, and this time were able to cash in. After Roy Smalley drew a walk with the bases loaded, Kent Hrbek hit a gand slam to deep center to give the Twins a 5-2 lead. It was Hrbek’s second grand slam in four games – he had hit a game-winning grand slam against the Yankees in the team’s only victory in their four-game series.

Hrbek’s slam represented the last of the Twins’ runs in the game. The Orioles chipped away with RBI singles in the sixth and seventh innings. Though they made the ballgame a one-run affair, the drama of this ballgame seemed to surround the managers. From the NYT:

Manager Earl Weaver was ejected in the third inning for arguing after Minnesota’s Randy Bush made a running catch of Fred Lynn’s line drive. Weaver spent several minutes arguing with the umpires, then, after he was ejected, marched out towards Bush in left field. Weaver was led out to the dugout by two umpires then bowed to the crowd. Minnesota manager Ray Miller announced his club would play the game under protest because his starter, Mike Smithson, was not allowed to warm up during the delay.

Ron Davis came on with two outs in the eighth inning and secured the one-run lead for the Twins, allowing the O’s only a two-out single in the ninth inning.

Box


Greatest Hits

April 10, 2008

Another day that has been full of things that are not writing about baseball (unfortunately). Here’s a best of post from last year remembering one of the greatest days in Twins history. I should be back to a regular schedule next week.

Sunday October 25, 1987

Twins 4, Cardinals 2

The Twins’ magic carpet took Minnesota to the moon Sunday night.

It was borne by the sound of 55,000 exploding voices in the Metrodome and hundreds of thousands more from border to border in one floor-stomping, chest-pounding declaration:

“We’re No. 1.”

And the moment Gary Gaetti fired to Kent Hrbek in the ninth inning to retire Willie McGee and beat the St. Louis Cardinals 4-2, The Celebration began.

It cascaded from the playing field where the Twins mobbed themselves in a primeval scream of glory, clutching, laughing and crying, and from the grandstand were the fans erupted in a feast of triumph and vindication. It came rolling out of the upper galleries like the boom of an ocean surf, and it flashed to the world on television in a wild swirl of white bandanas.

The champions of baseball. The World Series. No. 1.

-Jim Klobuchar, Star Tribune, 10/26/87

Minnesota finally had its World Championship; but early on it looked as though the Cardinals might spoil the party. A shaky-looking Frank Viola allowed three consecutive singles to start the second inning; the third of which, a base hit by Tony Pena, scored the game’s first run. With two outs in the inning, catcher Steve Lake hit the fourth single of the frame to score Willie McGee from third and to give the Cards a 2-0 lead.

The Twins were able to answer in the bottom of the second. The inning started when Don Baylor did what he did best, got hit by a pitch. Tom Brunansky singled Baylor to second, and with one out, Tim Laudner lined a single to left. Baylor was waved around third by Ron Gardenhire when the throw came in from Vince Coleman. Though replays later showed he slid under the tag, the ball beat Baylor and the “out” call was made. Fortunately, Steve Lombardozzi’s RBI single to center salvaged a run in the inning, cutting the St. Louis lead in half.

For a few innings, the umpires were the centers of attention. From Vancil’s game story:

Television replays showed that plate umpire Dave Phillips blew a call that took away a Twins run in the second. First-base umpire Lee Weyer missed two calls, one that resulted in a Twins run in the fifth and one that took St. Louis out of the sixth inning.

Despite the blown calls for both sides, there was little arguing. Al Michaels, calling the game for ABC, had his own theory. “It’s ridiculous to have an argument here. You can’t hear a man standing next to you.”

The first of the controversial calls that went against the Cardinals came in the fifth inning. With one out, Greg Gagne hit a chopper that first baseman Jim Lindeman. Lindeman fielded the ball and flipped it to Joe Magrane, who had hurried over to cover first. When Magrane took the throw, he clearly missed the bag with his first step, and took an awkward second step at the base. Though replays showed that he had the bag on the second attempt, the umpire didn’t see it, and Gagne was safe at first.

The play marked the end of Magrane’s night on the mound, and Danny Cox came in to try and get out of the inning with no damage. The first man he faced, however, Kirby Puckett, doubled to the gap in right-center, scoring Gagne all the way from first. Cox got out of trouble however, thanks mostly to the Twins base running. Puckett was caught stealing third for the second out, and the third out was made at home plate when Gaetti tried to score from second on a Baylor single to left, the second out Coleman’s arm had made at home.

Cox’s trouble continued in the sixth. After walking Brunansky and Hrbek, Cox was able to get Laudner to pop out. That brought Todd Worrell into the game, normally the Cardinal’s closer. Worrell walked pinch-hitter Roy Smalley to load the bases with one out. After a Dan Gladden strikeout, Gagne hit his second infield single of the game, this time to third, to score the go-ahead run. Worrell ended the inning by striking out Puckett. Though the Cards were down, they had wriggled out of two potentially big innings in a row, and only trailed by one.

While St. Louis pitchers struggled, Frank Viola was on cruise control. After allowing those two runs in the second, he retired 11 in a row before Tom Herr singled in the sixth. Herr was eventually picked off, and Viola allowed only one more hit, taking his team to the eighth inning.

The Twins added some insurance in the bottom of the eighth in the form of a Dan Gladden RBI double. With a 4-2 lead, Tom Kelly had a decision to make, though Kelly didn’t make it a particularly tough one.

“I told Frankie I was very proud of him,” Twins manager Tom Kelly said. “He did an outstanding job. He knows, like we all know, Jeff Reardon gets the ball in the ninth. That’s the way we’ve done it all year, and that’s the way we were going to do it tonight.

“We weren’t going to go away from our plan. When the ninth inning comes around, Reardon comes in. Frankie understands that’s the way we do it. I told him again, I was very very proud of him, but here comes Reardon.”

Reardon retired the Cardinals in order in the top of the ninth, the last out coming on a Willie McGee grounder, Gaetti to Hrbek.

twins87.jpg

The Minnesota Twins are baseball’s champions.

Player of the Game and World Series MVP
viola.jpg
Frank Viola


GOTW: 9.26.1967

September 26, 2007

Tuesday September 26, 1967
Metropolitan Stadium
Bloomington, MN

California Angels (81-74) @ Minnesota Twins (90-68)

With less than a week left in the 1967 season, the Twins were tied for first place with the Boston Red Sox, while the Chicago White Sox were 0.5 games back, with the Detroit Tigers also on their heels 1.5 games back. The Twins actually held a slight lead before they lost to the Angels 9-2 the day before.

   California Angels             Minnesota Twins                      
1. A Rodriguez          3B    1. Z Versalles          SS
2. J Fregosi            SS    2. C Tovar              3B
3. R Reichardt          LF    3. H Killebrew          1B
4. B Morton             RF    4. T Oliva              RF
5. D Mincher            1B    5. B Allison            LF
6. W Held               CF    6. R Carew              2B
7. B Knoop              2B    7. T Uhlaender          CF
8. B Rodgers            C     8. J Zimmerman          C
9. J McGlothlin         P     9. J Kaat               P

Jim Kaat took the mound for the Twins. Kaat was just one year removed from his 25-win season, and was having another solid season, coming into the game with a 15-13 record and a 3.11 ERA.

Kaat was perfect through the first two innings, and the Twins offense got on the board in the bottom of the second inning. With one out, Bob Allison tripled off of Jim McGlothlin and later scored when Rod Carew knocked him in with a single.

The Angels answered in the top of the third in what was a nightmare inning for Kaat and the Twins. A lead off single by Bobby Knoop represented the first hit off of Kaat, who walked the next batter, Buck Rodgers. McGlothlin came to the plate batting .132/.179/.151, so the Twins figured to get at least an out before the lineup turned over. Swinging away, the Angels pitcher hit a grounder to the Kaat, who threw to Cesar Tovar at third to get the lead runner. Unfortunately, Tovar dropped the ball and the Angels had the bases loaded with nobody out.

Lead off man Aurelio Rodriguez made Kaat pay for the error by knocking a two-run single to center. Kaat finally got the first out, but loaded the bases again with one out by hitting Rick Reichardt with a pitch. This time it was clean-up man Bubba Morton that made the Twins pay for the mistake, though his infield single only scored one.

In the end, the third inning could have been worse for the Twins. With the bases loaded, Kaat settled down to strike the final two men out, and the Twins escaped only down 3-1. After the third, Kaat settled in, allowing just three more Angels to reach safely the rest of the game.

Bob Allison’s solo home run in the bottom of the fourth cut the lead to a single run, but the Twins remained down until the sixth inning. With Tovar at first and no outs, Harmon Killebrew smacked home run number 42 off of McGlothlin, the shot that gave the Twins the lead for good. A couple of unearned runs later in the inning pushed the home team’s lead to 6-3.

Killebrew hit one more home run in the seventh for good measure, his 43rd (tied for the league lead at the time) that wrapped up the scoring for the game. Kaat completed his 16th win by allowing just five hits and striking out 13 while walking only two Angels. The Twins, with the help of a Red Sox loss, took a one game lead in the American League.

AL      W   L    GB      WP      RS      RA
MIN    91  68     -     .572    663     574
BOS    90  69   1.0     .566    711     601
CHW    89  68   1.0     .567    526     473
DET    89  69   1.5     .563    661     567

Stars of the Game
1. Harmon Killebrew MIN 2-for-4, 2 HR, 3 RBI
2. Jim Kaat MIN W, CG, 2 ER, 5 H, 2 BB, 13 K
3. Bob Allison MIN 3-for-3, 3 R

Box

Unfortunately, as it turned out, this was the last victory for the Twins in 1967. They dropped the series finale against California the next day, then were swept in Boston in a two-game series in which they only needed to win one to take the pennant.


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