September 2008

Are the Twins ready for what’s about to hit them?

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

Joe C. and Jim Souhan are at the mike tonight for the show at The Cell. And while I often embrace the,`You don’t know what’s going to going to happen when you get to the ballpark,’ thing, I just don’t know how the Twins can pull this one off.

I have my reasons:

1.The game was sold out within a hour. It will be the most hostile environment many Twins players will have experienced to this point in their careers. I have NOT forgotten the 2003 All-Star Game in Chicago, when fans booed Eddie Guardado mercilessly during introductions.

2. The Sox have called it a black out game. They have urged all fans to dress in black and will hand out black, `Sox Pride’ towels. The place will rock.

3. The Sox hate playing in the Dome to the point where they feel they the Twins can’t beat them at The Cell. I’m not kidding. Sox officials told me last week that they can’t wait until the Twins move out the Dome because the Twins get away with bloops and chop hits and luck – I guess they’ve forgotten the 90-something horseshoes they had up their rears in 2005.

But they are convinced that the Twins are a different team out of the Dome. I agree. The home-road splits back that up. But it’s not because of bloop hits, it’s because their pitchers – especially the relievers – have been awful at times on the road.

4. The Sox hate losing to the Twins. Read this…and this. The Sox talk more stuff about the Twins than any team I know. They will be fired up. Expect A. J. Pierzynski to be at his best tonight.

5. Weather. It’s expected to be in the 60′s with wind gusts up to 30 mph blowing toward center-right center. Not good for Blackburn, who’s has left the ball up too much in recent starts. He did pitch better against the White Sox at the Dome, but he’ll need to be better tonight.

6. Nick Blackburn. Is he ready for what he’s about to experience? Sox fans will be all over him. Ozzie Guiilen talks like his team is about to make mincemeat out of him. Blackburn was 0-2 with 7.20 ERA in The Cell this season. The wind is blowing the WRONG way. He’s got to keep the ball down and mix his pitches – and the batting champion catcher needs to make sure he does that!

If Blackburn and the Twins can pull this off, it will be one of the greatest wins in club history. I have purchased a ticket to Tampa to cover Wednesday’s workout before Game One of the ALDS. 

I would like to use it.

Stakeout at the Dome, wondering if Howard stole my material…and watching Kevin Slowey play catch

Monday, September 29th, 2008

I’m in the Metrodome pressbox in my grubbiest clothing just in case the White Sox lose and the Twins start popping corks. But everything is on hold now that the Sox-Tigers game is in a rain delay.

Joe C. e-mailed from The Cell that it won’t be totally clear until 6 p.m., so they might have to play among raindrops once the game begins.

I have some programming notes:

1. The Sox-Tigers game can be heard on AM690 The Score once it begins.

2. Dick Stockton, Ron Darling  and Harold Reynolds will call the Twins-White Sox play-in game (if necessary) on Tuesday. Marc Fein will report from the field. 

3. Dan Orsillo, Reynolds and Fein will work the first two games of the Rays ALDS.

Now, I was about to lay out a few reasons why the Tigers should be motivated to beat the Sox today. Unfortunately, I mentioned my reasons on KFAN during the P.A. and Dubay Show.

Funny, just when I get ready to blog my thoughts, I noticed that Howard Sinker has a list of reasons – and the first four are exactly what I said on the air – Gary Sheffield going for 500 career homers, Miguel Cabrera going for the RBI title. Freddy Garcia pitching for a 2009 contract and Curtis Granderson being from Chicago.

Makes you go hmmmmm.

Was Howard listening to the show and decided to steal my material? That’s what I’m going with! The only other possibility would be that Howard and I think alike, and that thought makes me want to take a shower.

I feel like I’ve been had.

Anyway, Twins fans should hope that more than a handful of Tigers are motivated to win today. Because if they aren’t, that means they might have tied one on last night….

1:55 update: The Dome is slowly being converted to football because the Gophers play host to Indiana this week. Jose Mijares just showed up and the field and walked around for a few minutes. He better watch out. If Tim Brewster sees him, he might try to enroll him.

4:41 update: Kevin Slowey, who was struck on the wrist Saturday by a Juan Uribe line drive, just finished playing catch in the outfield with Scott Baker while team trainer Rick McWane looked on. The two threw to each other for about 10 minutes before Slowey left and Baker threw against a wall.

It’s a good sign that Slowey can play a little catch. We’ll have more on this later…

Twins-Royals postgame thoughts

Saturday, September 27th, 2008

The race: The White Sox are down 7-1 as I write this, so it looks looks like the Twins blew another chance to increase their lead in the division.

I get the feeling there will be a game on Tuesday at The Cell.

Heartbreaking Royals: Kansas City is familiar with being the spoiler. The Royals went into Detroit in late September, 2006 and swept the Tigers, allowing the Twins to snatch the division title on the final day of the regular season.

Torii Hunter tried to send them champagne in appreciation, but the MLB fun police busted him.

But here are the Royals again, making it hard for the Twins to reach the postseason.

“They come in here. They are not in the playoff race,” Twins outfielder Denard Span said. “But they are playing hard.”

Five-n-Fly: Glen Perkins gave up one run over five innings on Saturday – but needed 85 pitches to do so.

“I wish I could have gone deeper and given my team a better chance,” he said.

At least he was O.K. after really struggling his past four starts. The Twins used Monday’s off-day to skip his turn in the rotation, which may have come at the right time.

“I think it was mainly giving my arm a chance to take a break,” Perkins said. “The way I felt today, I haven’t felt since August.”

I still think Perkins can be a good starter, but he has to figure out how to get through the batting order one more time. He’s got the stuff. And it’s head-scratching how there were times this year in which he’s had comfortable leads but lost them.

Soria the closer: Royals fans have given closer Joakim Soria a nickname that hasn’t caught on nationally: `The Mexicutioner.’

Soria normally has a super nasty breaking ball but didn’t have it on Saturday. Span said the last time he faced Soria, he threw something that was indescribable.

Span and Alexi Casilla opened the ninth with walks. I’m sitting in the pressbox thinking, `He doesn’t have it today.’ But Mauer hits into his 21st double play of the season (he entered the day 10th in the AL) and Morneau is in a mess at the plate.

Twins-Royals: Throwdown or letdown?

Friday, September 26th, 2008

The Twins are coming off of one of the greatest regular-season games in recent years. Will they keep the pedal jammed on the floor against the improving Royals?

Will have updates later, and will get you posted on Indians lefty Cliff Lee. There’s word of him having a sore neck and being unable to pitch Sunday against the Sox.

Then again, Two wins by the Twins and two losses by the Sox, and it doesn’t matter.

 Update: The MRI on Kevin Slowey’s right wrist showed no major damage. The next step is to work the swelling or the soreness down and see how it feels when he tries to throw.

Slowey is holding out hope that he’ll quickly enough to throw in the bullpen and be available to pitch on Tuesday if needed. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, however, is being cautious and mentioned Nick Blackburn as a candidate to start Tuesday if that game is necessary.

Joe Mauer was nicked up by foul balls yesterday but said he’s good to go. It still will be interesting to see what Gardy does with Saturday’s lineup.

Kansas City’s David DeJesus could miss the series with a sore right hip flexor.

And, if you’re wondering if Cleveland isn’t motivated to beat Chicago this weekend, don’t be. Players from the 2005 team still remember how the Sox came to town at the end of that year and swept them to knock them from the playoffs – and Ozzie Guillen making a choking sign at them.

Here’s a preview story on the Sox-Tribe series.

Update; Brian Buscher left today’s game because of dizziness and was replaced by Brendan Harris.

Programming note: I will be a guest on Rosen’s Sports Sunday this week to break down the Twins’ furious finish. Please tune in.

Royals (73-86)

  1. Mike Aviles, SS
  2. Alberto Callaspo, 2B
  3. Jose Guillen, RF
  4. Ryan Shealy, 1B
  5. Mark Teahen, LF
  6. Billy Butler, DH
  7. Alex Gordon, 3B
  8. Miguel Olivo, C
  9. Mitch Maier, CF

Pitching: Kyle Davies

Twins (87-72)

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

Pitching: Francisco Liriano

Expected attendance: 35,000

Random thoughts after a mind-numbing night

Friday, September 26th, 2008

The White Sox are a mess: There were a lot of long faces in the White Sox clubhouse after last night’s game.

Jim Thome stood in the entrance of the trainer’s room with the look my father used to give me when I broke his curfew. 

A.J. Pierzynski, in between expletives, said their game plan was to accept that Joe Mauer would get his hits but they wanted to shut down Justin Morneau and Jason Kubel. A.J., forgetting Kubel’s big game on Tuesday, felt they did just that.

“They just dinked and dunked us. Found some holes when they needed to,” he said.

Paul Konerko tried to stay upbeat, stressing that the intensity the Sox showed on Thursday needs to be repeated over the final three games of the season.

I want to see them try to pull that off.

Chicago is starting Javier Vazquez on Saturday and Mark Buehrle on Sunday – both on three day’s rest. Vazquez was terrible when he did it earlier this month. Buehrle was only O.K.

The Dome: When the Twins tied the game in the eighth inning Thursday, it was louder in the Dome that it was for any of the playoff games I’ve covered there. People weren’t just clapping, they were screaming their heads off and jumping like crazy.

When Denard Span’s triple scored Carlos Gomez, we saw trash being thrown in the air. It was truly unbelievable. My adrenaline was pumping pretty good, and it was hard to remain focused.

When the Sox pitched out with Alexi Casilla at the plate, I told Joe C., “Tony LaRussa would call the squeeze now.” When Span took off for home on the next pitch, I said, “and so does Gardy!” 

If Casilla gets that bunt down, we all have an easier deadline. But it wasn’t quite the time for Casilla to be a hero.

Gomez, from zero to a hero: Carlos Gomez was partially to blame for Chicago’s six-run fourth when he took off and crashed into Span in right-center as Span had called for and was about to jump up and catch Jim Thome’s deep fly ball.

But I think Gomez redeemed himself with a four-hit night during which he reminded everyone that he may be the fastest man in baseball. I don’t think Usain Bolt knows how to run around bases, so I would consider taking Gomez in a race from home to third.

“A lot of people in the league  would like to have him in the nine-hole,” Guillen said of Gomez. “He has a chance to be something special.”

Kevin Slowey: Tough luck for Slowey on his wrist injury. Think about how he had the composure to try to throw to first despite all that pain? We should know more about his injury by game time tonight. MRI’s normally are taken in the morning then Twins doctors read them when they arrive at the park in the late afternoon. I’m hoping they look at them earlier but not expecting it.