August 2008


Twins postgame: Goodbye West Coast edition

Sunday, August 31st, 2008

OAKLAND — I’m ready to hand the baton to La Velle for the final leg of this four-city road trip. A few leftover tidbits that didn’t make it into my gamer or notebook, which should also be posted shortly:

(*) Scott Baker (8-4) earned his first victory since July 26, holding the A’s to one run on six hits in six innings. He was 0-1 in his previous six starts, despite pitching well in three of those.

(*) Granted it was a 10-1 game, and the adrenaline might not have been pumping for Eddie Guardado, but his third appearance in this incarnation with the Twins wasn’t much better than his second.

After retiring the side in his first appearance, Guardado has allowed eight of the 11 batters he’s faced to reach base.

(*) Boof Bonser, meanwhile, was hitting 96-97 mph on the stadium radar gun, and he froze Eric Patterson with a nasty 85-mph hook to end the eighth. Bonser retired all four batters he faced, just like his last outing, and lowered his ERA to 6.06.

“Boof came in and threw the heck out of the ball,” Gardy said. “The ball was coming out of his hand pretty good. He’s going to be big for us down to the end of the season.”

Sunday pregame: Mauer and Redmond in the lineup

Sunday, August 31st, 2008

OAKLAND — The Twins are 4-6 on this road trip and have suffered three walkoff defeats and another loss (last Sunday in Anaheim), when the lead changed in the opponent’s final inning at the plate.

Yet, the Twins are still sitting a half-game behind the White Sox. It’s possible they could leave for Toronto today sitting atop the AL Central, though the Red Sox would have to cooperate again.

Joe Mauer is in the lineup at DH today with Mike Redmond at catcher. In two days, Manager Ron Gardenhire will have an extra catcher on the bench in Ryan Jorgensen, but doing this today speaks to the importance of this game.

“We’ve gotta win a ballgame, and Mauer’s been swinging pretty good,” Gardy said.

Update (3:30 p.m.): OK, scratch that thought about first place. The White Sox just finished a 4-2 victory at Boston.

Twins (76-60)

1. Denard Span, CF
2. Nick Punto, SS
3. Joe Mauer, DH
4. Justin Morneau, 1B
5. Jason Kubel, RF
6. Delmon Young, LF
7. Mike Redmond, C
8. Brian Buscher, 3B
9. Alexi Casilla, 2B

Starting pitcher: RH Scott Baker (7-4, 3.75 ERA)

Athletics (63-73)

1. Rajai Davis, CF
2. Ryan Sweeney, RF
3. Bobby Crosby, SS
4. Jack Cust, DH
5. Kurt Suzuki, C
6. Daric Barton, 1B
7. Jack Hannahan, 3B
8. Aaron Cunningham, LF
9. Eric Patterson, 2B

Starting pitcher: LH Greg Smith (6-13, 3.90 ERA)

McAfee Colisuem. First pitch: 3:05 p.m.

Twins postgame: The bunt debacle edition

Sunday, August 31st, 2008

OAKLAND – As you can imagine, the Twins’ clubhouse was whisper quiet after their 3-2 loss Saturday night.

Joe Nathan sat by his locker and answered every question the media asked. Then he walked across the clubhouse and sat by Brendan Harris’ locker to discuss the woulda-coulda-shouldas of that disastrous last play.

After doing the postgame interviews, I came some conclusions:

1)    Nathan made the right decision going to third. With a good throw and catch, Bobby Crosby is out.

2)    It’s a tough play for Harris because a third baseman’s first step on a bunt is toward the ball. He has to read it quickly, and retreat to third the instant he realizes Nathan’s got it. Nathan’s fastball is 94-mph, so you can imagine what it’s like catching that from 45 feet.

3)    Nathan needed to make a better throw. It was knee-high and to Harris’ backhand side. The play was scored Sacrifice, E1 — the right call.

4)    With quicker reflexes, Harris could have made a big catch. He reached awkwardly for the ball instead of turning his glove to the backhand side. But he was also off-balance, and Bobby Crosby was bearing down on him with his spikes.

HOW RARE WAS THIS?

Someone reminded me this was Nathan’s first loss since July 19, 2007 against Detroit.

Nathan said next time, he hopes the team isn’t in that situation. He said he wasn’t sharp against the first two hitters. Bobby Crosby singled on a 3-2 pitch. And Nathan hit Emil Brown with a 1-1 fastball.

“Very tough loss after getting to the ninth with our closer,” Manager Ron Gardenhire said.

HARRIS’ BAD DREAM

As bad as Harris felt about the last play, I think he felt worse about his night at the plate. He left six on base. He grounded into a double play and struck out looking twice. Oakland probably should have turned two on Harris’ first grounder, too.

“I was sitting out there in the ninth,” Harris said, “going, ‘Well, I left a small village on base, but at least we can close it out with a win.’ “

It wasn’t to be.

LIRIANO NOTABLES

Francisco Liriano didn’t allow a walk for the first time in six starts since returning from Class AAA Rochester, and this was just the second time he completed seven innings.

He is 4-0 with a 1.23 ERA in this six starts.

MORE ON THE SEPTEMBER CALLUPS

With Boof Bonser moving into more of a late-inning role, I think Philip Humber will become the long man.

Jose Mijares is a very interesting choice. Terry Ryan has been scouting Class AA New Britain and supported the decision to promote the hardthrowing lefthander.

Bobby Korecky gives the bullpen another righthanded option, too.

Jason Pridie can play all threeoutfield spots. The Twins could use Jason Kubel to pinch hit for Carlos Gomez, for example, and then use Jason Pridie to run and play either center or right, interchangeably like Denard Span.

Matt Macri is another rigthhanded hitting option at third base and he could also play first base, allowing Justin Morneau to DH.

Ryan Jorgensen, I don’t know much about, but he’s a third catcher, which will make Gardy more comfortable about using Joe Mauer as a DH on his scheduled days off.

More on those guys Sunday, as the Twins try to salvage a split.

Twins announce September callups

Saturday, August 30th, 2008

OAKLAND — The Twins just announced their September minor-league callups: pitchers Bobby Korecky, Philip Humber, Jose Mijares; infielders Matt Tolbert and Matt Macri, outfielder Jason Pridie and catcher Ryan Jorgensen.

All seven are expected to be in uniform Tuesday, when the Twins open a three-game series at Toronto.

Mijares and Tolbert will join the team from Class AA New Britain with the other five coming from Class AAA Rochester.

Tolbert, 26, is actually coming off the disabled list after having surgery in mid-May to repair a torn ligament in his left thumb.

Mijares, 23, is a surprising choice. The hard-throwing lefthander fractured his left elbow and injured his pitching shoulder in a car accident in Venezuela in January. But he rejoined the New Britain staff in early August and has posted a 2.63 ERA in 10 appearances.

Pridie, 24, came to the Twins from Tampa Bay with Delmon Young and Brendan Harris in the trade that sent Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett to the Rays.

Pridie competed with Carlos Gomez and Denard Span for the starting center field job in spring training. After getting sent down, Pridie batted just .142 in May but rebounded to bat .329 after the All-Star break.

Macri, 26, batted .367 in a 14-game stint with the Twins earlier this year and entered Saturday batting .253 for Rochester.

Korecky, 28, posted a 3.48 ERA in nine appearances with the Twins earlier this season and entered Saturday with a 2.84 ERA and 26 saves for Rochester.

Humber, 25, who came from the Mets in the Johan Santana trade, came on strong for Rochester late in the season, going 6-1 with a 2.67 ERA after the All-Star break.

Jorgensen, 29, was another surprising choice. He was batting .251 entering Saturday, but the Twins wanted a third catcher to back up Joe Mauer and Mike Redmond.

Twins pregame: March of the lefties

Saturday, August 30th, 2008

OAKLAND — The Twins will face their fifth consecutive lefthanded starting pitcher tonight, in Oakland’s Dallas Braden.

As we’ve reported, Oakland’s Greg Smith will make it six lefties in a row on Sunday.

Well, now the Blue Jays probables are out for the next series, and the Twins are scheduled to face lefthander David Purcey on Tuesday. That will make it seven in a row.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, no team has faced seven lefties in a row since the 1991 Mets.

Toronto is scheduled to use righthanders A.J. Burnett and Jesse Litsch to close out that series.

Updates to come…

Update (7:15 p.m.): Just heard the A’s are placing Frank Thomas on the DL. I will get the updated lineup to you shortly.

Update (7:55 p.m.): Thomas has a strained right quadriceps muscle. The A’s also activated righthanded pitcher Keith Foulke from the DL and selected outfielder Aaron Cunningham from Class AAA Sacramento.

They sent Friday’s starter, Dan Meyer, to Class AA Midland. I posted the new lineup below.

Twins (76-59)

1. Denard Span, RF
2. Nick Punto, SS
3. Joe Mauer, C
4. Justin Morneau, 1B
5. Jason Kubel, DH
6. Delmon Young, LF
7. Brendan Harris, 3B
8. Alexi Casilla, 2B
9. Carlos Gomez, CF

Starting pitcher: LH Francisco Liriano (4-3, 3.83 ERA)

Athletics (62-73)

1. Rajai Davis, CF
2. Kurt Suzuki, C
3. Bobby Crosby, SS
4. Emil Brown, LF
5. Ryan Sweeney, RF
6. Kurt Suzuki, C
7. Daric Barton, 1B
8. Cliff Pennington, 3B
9. Eric Patterson, 2B

Starting pitcher: LH Dallas Braden (4-3, 4.13 ERA)

McAfee Coliseum. First pitch: 8:07 p.m.