September 2009

Game 3: Twins at Tigers 9/30

Twins (82-75)
2nd place in AL Central, 2 games back

Denard Span, CF
Orlando Cabrera, SS
Joe Mauer, C
Jason Kubel, RF
Michael Cuddyer, 1B
Delmon Young, LF
Jose Morales, DH
Matt Tolbert, 3B
Nick Punto, 2B
Pitching: RHP Carl Pavano (11=3-11, 4.86)

Tigers (84-73)
1st place in AL Central
Curtis Granderson, CF
Placido Polanco, 2B
Clete Thomas, RF
Miguel Cabrera, 1B
Magglio Ordonez, DH
Carlos Guillen, LF
Brandon Inge, 3B
Alex Avila, C
Ramon Santiago, SS
Pitching: RHP Eddie Bonine (0-1, 4.60)

A reminder you can follow me on Twitter  @kellythesier

More Thoughts on Game 1

Wow, that was a game. I thought game No. 163 last year might rank near the top of memorable games I’ve covered but I think this one tops it. Sorry I didn’t get to post more on the blog right after but I was working on trying to get the full game story up on the site.

Now here are some additional nuggets that I didn’t get in the game story…

  • Blackburn was very good but he really turned things around after the third inning. Although he allowed a leadoff hit in the fourth, he then retired 12 straight batters to finish his outing. Blackburn credited the change to making a mechanical adjustment that pitching coach Rick Anderson pointed out to him.

“Once we got those line out, hitters starting battling themselves,” Blackburn said. “In a way, kind of getting themselves out, taking defensive swings and not sure of what was coming. For the most part, they kept hitting the ball at people.”

  • Gardenhire acknowledged that his decision to leave left-hander Jose Mijares in to face Miguel Cabrera in the 8th inning was a little strange. Aftrer Mijares got Cabrera to fly out, Gardenhire then brought out right-hander Jon Rauch to face pinch-hitter Marcus Thames..

“We must look like whackos here — let our lefty face Cabrera,” Gardenhire said. “But he    was 0-for-3 off Mijares…I know it looked whacky. I felt whacky doing it.”

  • In addition to Span’ s stellar catch in the ninth, Gomez made an equally impressive running snag in center on Placido Polanco’s ball in the 10th. One that most outfielders might not make.

 Afterward, Gomez was asked about the catch. “Pretty good, eh?” he said with a smile.

Gomez also got at an-bat in the 10th after replacing Jason Kubel as a pinch-runner in the eighth. Gardenhire had him bunt with runners on first and second with no outs.

“I hit fourth in the lineup, and I have to bunt. Unbelievable,” Gomez
said, clearly having fun after the Twins win. “Come on,
man. That’s the 4-hole. They walk Mauer and pitch to Gomez.”

Game 1: Twins at Tigers 9/29

Everyone is back at Comerica Park and ready to try this again. It’s been relatively dry this morning and the hope is that it stays that way long enough to get in both games.

The Twins lineup is exactly the same as Monday night. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he arrived at the ballpark and just hit print again on his computer.

The only change for the Tigers was that they had Magglio Ordonez in right field when the
lineup was posted Monday, but now Clete Thomas is in right field. The guess is it’s because Ordonez will likely only play one game today.

Twins (81-74)
2nd place in AL Central, 2 games back

Denard Span, CF
Orlando Cabrera, SS
Joe Mauer, C
Jason Kubel, RF
Michael Cuddyer, 1B
Delmon Young, LF
Jose Morales, DH
Matt Tolbert, 3B
Nick Punto, 2B
Pitching: RHP Nick Blackburn (11-11, 4.18)

Tigers (83-72)
1st place in AL Central
Curtis Granderson, CF
Placido Polanco, 2B
Clete Thomas, RF
Miguel Cabrera, 1B
Aubrey Huff, DH
Carlos Guillen, LF
Gerald Laird, C
Brandon Inge, 3B
Ramon Santiago, SS
Pitching: RHP Rick Porcello (14-9, 4.14)

A reminder you can follow me on Twitter  @kellythesier

Windy and Wet: Twins at Tigers 9/28

It’s been raining off and on throughout the day in Detroit and the forecast sounds like that could continue throughout the night. The hope is just that it’s light enough for the game to be completed.

Right now it’s close to 6:00 ET, crews have the tarp half off and are working on the mound. I guess that’s a good sign. Of course, even if the rain lets up there is going to be plenty of wind so both starters — Rick Porcello and Nick Blackburn — will try to have their sinkers working tonight.

One big thing to note today is that FS North has decided to pick up Thursday’s contest so all four of the Twins-Tigers games will be broadcast locally in the Twin Cities. For those of you watching nationally, MLB Network is televising tonight, Tuesday and Thursday. ESPN will have Wednesday’s contest.

Twins (80-74)
2nd place in AL Central, 2 games back

Denard Span, CF
Orlando Cabrera, SS
Joe Mauer, C
Jason Kubel, RF
Michael Cuddyer, 1B
Delmon Young, LF
Jose Morales, DH
Matt Tolbert, 3B
Nick Punto, 2B
Pitching: RHP Nick Blackburn (11-11, 4.18)

Tigers (83-72)
1st place in AL Central
Curtis Granderson, CF
Placido Polanco, 2B
Magglio Ordonez, RF
Miguel Cabrera, 1B
Aubrey Huff, DH
Carlos Guillen, LF
Gerald Laird, C
Brandon Inge, 3B
Ramon Santiago, SS
Pitching: RHP Rick Porcello (14-9, 4.14)

A reminder you can follow me on Twitter  @kellythesier

Twins’ Challenge — Beat Greinke 9/27

The Twins aren’t in danger today of looking ahead to their four-game series with the Tigers. That’s because they have a big enough challenge on their hands in trying to find a way to beat Royals ace and Cy Young candidate Zack Greinke.

It will mark the first time that the Twins have seen Greinke this season. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire didn’t try to make any alterations to his lineup just to find a way to beat Greinke, after all his club has outscored their opponents 80-40 over their last 12 games as they’ve gone 11-1. AndGardenhire pointed out that his team has stepped against big game pitchers already this season.

“Listen, we beat [Roy] Halladay in Toronto,” Gardenhire
said referring to the Twins win on Sept. 9. “He’s as good as they get. You’ve gotta beat the good ones. If
you get to the playoffs, you’re going to face really good ones. So it’s
a nice little run for you against a very good pitcher, but we’re not
going to try to get too innovative here and start screwing with a
lineup that’s been working.”

Twins (80-73)
2nd place in AL Central, 2 games back

Denard Span, CF
Orlando Cabrera, SS
Joe Mauer, DH
Jason Kubel, RF
Michael Cuddyer, 1B
Delmon Young, LF
Jose Morales, C
Matt Tolbert, 3B
Nick Punto, 2B
Pitching: LHP Francisco Liriano (5-12, 5.75)

Royals (63-92)
5th place in AL Central, 20.5 games back
Willie Bloomquist, LF
Mitch Maier, CF
Billy Butler, 1B
Brayan Pena, DH
Alberto Callaspo, 3B
Miguel Olivo, C
Mark Teahen, RF
Yuniesky Betancourt, SS
Luis Hernandez, 2B
Pitching: RHP Zack Greinke (15-8, 2.08)

A reminder you can follow me on Twitter  @kellythesier

Another day in a pennant race: Twins at Royals 9/26

The Twins will try for their fifth straight win and their 11th win in their last 12 games when they face Royals left-hander Lenny DiNardo on Saturday night in Kansas City.

Scott Baker will take the hill for the Twins. Baker has been one of the Twins better starters in the second half and they hope that he can deliver a strong outing again in yet another must-win situation for the club.

No huge news during manager Ron Gardenhire’s pre-game session. Only one lineup change today. Brendan Harris gets the nod as the DH. Gardenhire said yesterday that he likes the way Harris has been swinging against left-handed pitching.

Gardenhire also said that he might start Jose Morales behind the plate during Sunday’s afternoon contest with the Royals, allowing Joe Mauer to DH. That way he can keep Mauer’s bat in the lineup but still give his everyday catcher a needed rest for his legs and body.

One interesting note I didn’t get in my story last night was that the Twins are closing in on having four players with at least 90 RBIs — which would mark the first time in club history that’s happened. Jason Kubel and Joe Mauer each collected their 90th RBI on Friday night and Justin Morneau has 100 RBIs for the season. Michael Cuddyer currently is sitting at 88 RBIs after driving in two runs last night.

Twins (79-73)
2nd place in AL Central, 2 games back

Denard Span, CF
Orlando Cabrera, SS
Joe Mauer, C
Jason Kubel, RF
Michael Cuddyer, 1B
Delmon Young, LF
Brendan Harris, DH
Matt Tolbert, 3B
Nick Punto, 2B
Pitching: RHP Scott Baker (13-9, 4.43)

Royals (63-91)
4th place in AL Central, 19.5 games back
Willie Bloomquist, RF
Mitch Maier, LF
Billy Butler, 1B
Mike Jacobs, DH
Alberto Callaspo, 2B
Brayan Pena, C
Alex Gordon, 3B
Yuniesky Betancourt, SS
Josh Anderson, CF
Pitching: LHP Lenny Dinardo (0-1, 8.22)

A reminder you can follow me on Twitter  @kellythesier

Let’s Go Go White Sox?

It’s not very often that you see Twins fans rooting on the Chicago White Sox. OK, it almost NEVER happens.

But with the White Sox being the only team left to play the Tigers this season other than the Twins, Minnesota fans have to hope that Chicago can pick up its fair share of wins over Detroit down the stretch.

That’s why it’s no surprise that Gordon Beckham and Jake Peavy became instant favorites in Minnesota on Friday night. Beckham hit a two-run home run and Peavy threw seven scoreless innings to take a 2-0 win over Detroit in the series opener, cutting the Tigers lead to two games over the Twins in the AL Central with nine games left to play.

“I just got a text from someone saying the Twins fans are happy,” said Beckham after the contest.

While the White Sox have been eliminated from the race, they certainly understand the importance of them continuing to play hard over the final stretch of games as they can have an impact on the AL Central winner.

“We’re out, but we have to play very important games against Detroit,”
White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. “It’s not an important game for
us, but I think we continue to go out there and we continue to have a
job to do and win as many games as we can. We should prepare ourselves
mentally every day. We’ve got to continue to play the same way we
should be playing.”

And the White Sox have become aware that they can make a few more friends in Minnesota if they continue to win.

“As a matter of fact, I’ve got a guy who dates a girl in Minneapolis,
and I just got quite a bit of texts, and he said, ‘You guys are
popular,’” said Peavy. “He said we’re heroes there tonight.”

Liriano to start Sunday

It’s now official: Francisco Liriano will start Sunday’s series finale against the Royals.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire confirmed the news during his pre-game media session on Friday. He said that Liriano will likely throw somewhere between 60-80 pitches, but it will depend on how the left-hander is looking on the mound.

“More than anything else, we have to see how he’s feeling and how he’s doing physically,” Gardenhire said of Liriano.

Sunday will mark Liriano’s first start since Aug. 17, when he lasted two innings in Texas. Right after that start, he was placed on the 15-day disabled list with left arm fatigue. Liriano then moved to the bullpen when was he was activated earlier this month. In three relief appearances, Liriano posted a 4.76 ERA.

Gardenhire said that the coaching staff wanted to give Liriano, who is 5-12 with a 5.75 ERA this season, a chance to pitch again once he rested his tired arm. The plan was to give him a few more innings out of the ‘pen to regain his confidence and they never really intended on moving him back into the rotation. But with the club currently in a pennant race and short on starting options, the situation called for Liriano to get another opportunity, Gardenhire said.

“[Jeff] Manship was a little bit overwhelmed,” Gardenhire said. “I
don’t think Frankie will be overwhelmed at all. He’s going to let it
fly. I don’t think the game itself is going to get to him whether he throws well or not. Because he’s not going to feel the pressure…I think he gives us a better chance.”

Welcome Back, Denard Span

Denard Span arrived at Kauffman Stadium on Friday afternoon to take part in early batting practice and see if he was indeed ready to return to the lineup four days after getting hit in the back of the helmet with a pitch.

Span didn’t do any hitting in early BP, but he ran around on the field and stood in for some bullpen sessions. Everything went well enough that he’s back manning center field and hitting leadoff for the first time since Monday in Chicago.

“I don’t feel dizzy or anything like that,” Span said.”I feel good and ready to go.”

Span stood in on two bullpen sessions — one by Francisco Liriano and another by Nick Blackburn — so he got to see both left-handed and right-handed pitching. The real test, he said, was seeing Liriano throw since it was left-hander Randy Williams who hit him with the 91 mph fastball.

“It was good just to see the ball coming out of his hand and at game speed,” Span said. “So tonight if a lefty does come in later in the game, I’ll be ready hopefully.”

After getting hit by the pitch, Span missed the final two contests in Chicago and then got another day of rest during the Twins’ off day on Thursday. Span said he never would have wanted to get that much time off if he hadn’t gotten hit by the pitch, but the three-day break has provided some benefits.

“I definitely feel a bit more fresh,” Span said. “Even in the cage, my hands felt a little quicker than they usually do at this time of the year.”

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has said that the biggest challenge for a hitter is getting back in the batter’s box for the first time after he’s been hit in the head. Since this was the first time it’s ever happened to Span, he doesn’t know exactly how he’ll react.

His hope is just that he can focus like it’s any normal at-bat.

“I’ve been praying that everything goes fine and any fears I have, once I get back in the box, won’t be going through my head,” Span said.

Here comes the next test: Twins at Royals 9/25

Following a day off on Thursday, the Twins now find themselves sitting three games back of the Tigers in the AL Central race.

The good news for the Twins is that their leadoff hitter, Denard Span, is back in the lineup for the first time since Monday when he was hit in the back of the helmet by a pitch. Span arrived for early batting practice and stood in on the bullpen sessions of Francisco Liriano and Nick Blackburn, giving him a chance to see both left-handed and right-handed pitching. Span said he feels ready to go and after a few days off, his body feels especially rested at this late point in the season.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said that Francisco Liriano is officially the starter for Sunday’s series finale in Kansas City. He’ll be matched up against Royals ace and Cy Young candidate Zack Greinke.

But first up for the Twins is a big test tonight against right-hander Robinson Tejada. In four starts since being moved to the rotation from the bullpen earlier this month, Tejada is 3-0 with a 0.81 ERA. That includes two wins over the Tigers.

Also an interesting note from the Elias Sports Bureau: Dating back to Aug. 31, right-handed hitters are a combined 0-for-39 against Tejada. It’s the longest consecutive hitless at-bats by right-handed batters against any pitcher this season.

Twins (79-73)
2nd place in AL Central, 3 games back

Denard Span, CF
Orlando Cabrera, SS
Joe Mauer, C
Jason Kubel, RF
Michael Cuddyer, 1B
Delmon Young, LF
Jose Morales, DH
Matt Tolbert, 3B
Nick Punto, 2B
Pitching: RHP Carl Pavano (12-11, 4.82)

Royals (63-90)
4th place in AL Central, 19.5 games back
Willie Bloomquist, RF
Mitch Maier, LF
Billy Butler, 1B
Mike Jacobs, DH
Alberto Callaspo, 2B
John Buck, C
Alex Gordon, 3B
Yuniesky Betancourt, SS
Josh Anderson, CF
Pitching: RHP Robinson Tejada (4-1, 2.94)

A reminder you can follow me on Twitter  @kellythesier

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