Home Runs for Everyone!

July 7, 2010

Game 83: Twins 7 (45-38), Blue Jays 6 (41-43)

It probably didn’t come the way Ron Gardenhire would have drawn it up, especially considering that Carl Pavano was on the mound, but the Twins were able to out-home run one of the best home run-hitting teams in the league.

On a few occasions, it looked as though this might be another disappointing game for the Twins. First there was the four-run fifth inning for the Blue Jays that put the Twins down 5-2. Then, having fought hard to tie the game and ultimately take the lead on Joe Mauer’s first home run in ages, Pavano coughed the lead up on an Edwin Encarnacion home run.

Still, the Twins were able to win. If the offense can continue to score seven runs per game, this team will be okay. Pavano was not at his best on Tuesday, but the team was still able to pull out the victory – and the bullpen was able to hold on (something that was touch-and-go at best over the weekend).

All-in-all, a nice win to start a string of good play heading into the break (one can hope).

WPA Stars of the Game
1. Edwin Encarnacion
2. Denard Span
3. Delmon Young

Standings (through Tuesday)
1. Det 45-37, 380-375, -
2. Min 45-38, 389-341, 0.5
3. Chi 44-38, 359-353, 1.0
4. KC 38-46, 370-406, 8.0
5. Cle 33-50, 341-418, 12.5


Triple Triples II

July 7, 2010

It has been almost a week since Denard Span became the 29th player in major league baseball history to hit three triples. To put that in perspective, there have been 21 perfect games in major league history, so it is a feat just slightly more common than the perfect game.

The Minnesota/Washington franchise has been involved in five of those games – three times on the “right” side, including Span’s game.

The last time a member of the Minnesota Twins hit three triples in a game was on July 3, 1980 when Ken Landreaux did it against the Texas Rangers.

One of the more recent occurences came at the expense of the Twins. Lance Johnson, then with the Chicago White Sox, hit three triples in a 14-4 win late in the 1995 season.

Interestingly, all three events were home games for the Twins, one at each of the parks the team has called home.

Washington was involved twice, once when Joe Kuhel did it against the White Sox in 1937, and once when the Nats were the victims of Charlie Gehringer and the rest of the Tigers in a 21-5 loss in 1929. Since Gehringer had his three triples at Griffith Stadium, that makes four ballparks in franchise history that have played host to a three-triple game.


Past The Halfway Point

July 5, 2010

Game 82: Rays 7 (48-33), Twins 4 (44-38)

The mathematical halfway point of the season for the Twins came after the game on Saturday. I suppose it is appropriate that they lost games on both sides of that arbitrary milestone. I only half paid attention to Sunday’s game, and found myself wishing there was a World Cup match to pay attention to when the Twins fell in a six-run hole.

Moral victories are starting to get old, but I guess in this case it was good that the Twins were able to get the tying run to the plate. Perhaps this is the optimist in me, but I still think the Twins will eventually pull away from the pack. This lineup is too good – especially now that Jim Thome seems to have an everyday job as DH against right-handed pitching. This lineup will score runs, and the pitching (both starters and bullpen) will break the funk of the last month or so.

WPA Stars of the Game
1. Evan Longoria
2. James Shields
3. Grant Balfour

Standings (through Sunday)
1. Det 43-37, 361-361, -
2. Min 44-38, 382-335, -
3. Chi 42-38, 346-350, 1.0
4. KC 36-46, 361-400, 8.0
5. Cle 32-49, 331-403, 11.5


Meltdown

July 4, 2010

Game 81: Rays 8 (47-33), Twins 6 (44-37)

My kids both decided to meltdown at about the same time the Twins bullpen did on Saturday, so I may have been fortunate that I was only half paying attention when the 4-1 lead turned into an 8-4 deficit.

Things looked very good for the Twins early in the game, when Jim Thome put to rest the fears that the Twins would never hit home runs out of Target Field with two solo home runs – just enough to pass Harmon Killebrew on the all-time home run list. Justin Morneau added a two-run home run to make the lead 4-1.

After striking out 10 in seven innings pitched, Liriano came out of the game only to watch his dominant performance go to waste. Gardy, quoted by Joe Christensen, took it upon himself:

“No matter who I went to, it seemed to be the wrong move today, and I’ll take that one on myself,” Gardenhire said.

WPA Stars of the Game
1. Matt Joyce
2. Francisco Liriano
3. Carl Crawford

Standings (through Saturday)
1. Det 43-36, 360-356, -
2. Min 44-37, 378-328, -
3. Chi 41-38, 341-347, 1.0
4. KC 36-45, 361-389, 8.0
5. Cle 32-48, 330-400, 11.5


Fireworks

July 3, 2010

Game 80: Twins 2 (44-36), Rays 1 (46-33)

The fireworks, of course, appeared after the game at the Target Field. There was very little in the way of offense in the Twins’ 2-1 victory over the Rays. In fact, it was a nice pitcher’s duel. By the sixth inning, it figured to be a 1-0 game, but Delmon Young came through in the seventh, as did Jason Kubel and Danny Valencia, and the Twins beat David Price despite the fact that he had a no-hitter going into the middle innings.

Scott Baker conceded a run in the first, but settled down to provide the Twins with a very good start and win. If you take out Pavano’s performance on Thursday (which wasn’t terrible), that makes three consecutive good starts for Twins’ pitchers who had been struggling in the past few weeks. A good sign to be sure.

WPA Stars of the Game
1. Scott Baker
2. Danny Valencia
3. Delmon Young

Standings (through Friday)
1. Min 44-36, 372-320, -
2. Det 42-36, 354-352, 1.0
3. Chi 41-37, 340-344, 2.0
4. KC 35-45, 357-387, 9.0
5. Cle 31-48, 325-396, 12.5


Extra Inning Loss

July 2, 2010

Game 79: Rays 5 (46-32), Twins 4 (43-36); 10 innings

It was one of those games where the bullpen was the deciding factor. Delmon Young had an incredible game against his former team, but, in this case, it turned into a loss for the Twins.

“Our bullpen’s been very good,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “Tonight we had a couple that didn’t get it done, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.” – quoted by Joe Christensen

Jon Rauch didn’t feel as if he missed any pitches.

“I got beat today,” Rauch said. “I thought I made good quality pitches. The pitch to Crawford was exactly where we wanted it, and he got the end of the bat on it, hit it up the middle. And the pitch to Longoria was a pitch that I thought hit the spot I needed, and I got beat. Sometimes that happens.”

Carl Pavano wanted to take the blame, however.

“You can point your finger at Jon [Rauch] — he gave up that one run — but early in the game, it’s my job to close the inning with two outs, and I couldn’t do that, and it cost us the game tonight,” Pavano said.

WPA Stars of the Game
1. Evan Longoria
2. Delmon Young
3. Rafael Soriano

Standings (through Thursday)
1. Min 43-36, 370-319, -
2. Det 41-36, 347-351, 1.0
3. Chi 40-37, 335-341, 2.0
4. KC 34-45, 355-386, 9.0
5. Cle 31-47, 325-393, 11.5


Slowey’s Turn

July 1, 2010

Game 78: Twins 5 (43-35), Tigers 1 (41-36)

After the last few weeks of bad pitching and bad play, the last 48 hours have been a nice reprieve. Really, if you could somehow take away the four-spot the Tigers put on Liriano in the first inning on Monday, this was a really nice series for the Twins. In the last two games they have outscored the Tigers 16-5. More importantly, they have done so with Nick Blackburn and Kevin Slowey on the mound – both with performances that are much improved over the last few weeks worth of starts. They have hit three home runs over the last three games (which doesn’t sound like much, but is a virtual cornucopia of home runs for this team at this park), and have hit the ball all over Target Field for extra base hits and with runners in scoring position.

Two days worth of success does not mean the season is turned around, but is has been a lot more fun to watch the last two games.

WPA Stars of the Game
1. Kevin Slowey
2. Justin Morneau
3. Miguel Cabrera

Standings (through Wednesday)
1. Min 43-35, 366-314, -
2. Det 41-36, 347-351, 1.5
3. Chi 40-37, 335-341, 2.5
4. KC 34-45, 355-386, 9.5
5. Cle 30-47, 319-392, 12.5


Triple Triples

June 30, 2010

Game 77: Twins 11 (42-35), Tigers 4 (41-35)

Things all seemed to come together for the Twins on Tuesday night.

Nick Blackburn, who was in danger of losing his job with a bad start, pitched well enough to live another day. He didn’t allow a bunch of early runs, and when he did run into trouble he was able to keep it under control. It helped, of course, that his team scored him 11 runs.

Target Field has gotten into this team’s head a bit, but perhaps the 11-run performance will help the hitters to relax a bit. Perhaps the ball doesn’t fly out of the part as easily as a hitter might want, but there is plenty of room for a gap hitter to unload in the park and run for while. Denard Span proved that with three triples, part of his 4-for-4 with five RBI evening.

In total, the home team had 13 hits, eight of which were of the extra-base variety. Jim Thome had another home run, his second in as many nights since he has became essentially an every day player.

More importantly, the team is back on top in the standings, and perhaps can use this performance as an occasion to regain some of its April swagger.

WPA Stars of the Game
1. Denard Span
2. Johnny Damon
3. Miguel Cabrera

Standings (through Tuesday)
1. Min 42-35, 361-313, -
2. Det 41-35, 346-346, 0.5
3. Chi 40-36, 329-334, 1.5
4. KC 33-45, 348-380, 9.0
5. Cle 29-47, 316-391, 12.5


Looking Up at the Tigers

June 29, 2010

Game 76: Tigers 7 (41-34), Twins 5 (41-35)

A team that digs itself a four run hole in the first inning rarely wins the game, and that was the case for the Twins in Monday night’s game against the Tigers. Francisco Liriano threw extended batting practice until about the seventh batter came to the plate. By the time he had it figured out, the Twins might as well have considered themselves a second-place team.

On the positive side, they didn’t roll over and die like they had so often over the past week on the road. The offense actually had fans believing that they might come back. Indeed, they were able to make it a game, but moral victories are pretty hollow at this point.

Highlights from the home team’s perspective were Jim Thome’s triple off the out-of-town scoreboard, his home run to the opposite field, and the guy who got to second base on kiss cam.

Now the Twins are in second place for the first time since early April, and only a game-and-a-half out of third place.

WPA Stars of the Game
1. Jim Thome
2. Jose Valverde
3. Ryan Rayburn

Standings (through Monday)
1. Det 41-34, 342-335, -
2. Min 41-35, 350-309, 0.5
3. Chi 39-36, 325-331, 2.0
4. KC 33-44, 345-376, 9.0
5. Cle 28-47, 311-387, 13.0


Back to Intraleague Play (Finally)

June 28, 2010

Game 75: Mets 6 (43-32), Twins 0 (41-34)

Well, that was a nightmarish trip through the National League. Looking on the bright side, the Twins are still in first place. That’s about all there is that is positive right now. That and Carl Pavano.

WPA Stars of the Game
1. Jeff Francoeur
2. Jon Niese
3. David Wright

Standings (through Sunday)
1. Min 41-34, 345-302, -
2. Det 40-34, 335-330, 0.5
3. Chi 39-35, 324-328, 1.5
4. KC 32-44, 342-375, 9.5
5. Cle 27-47, 309-386, 14.5


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