Monday, August 16, 2004

Now THAT Was a Close One

If there is anyone else out there who is as inherently pessimistic as I am, hopefully you can sympathize with my plight.

Following the 8-2 and 7-1 butt-whuppings the Tribe unleashed on our offensively-challenged Twins Friday and Saturday, I thought it was all over.

Carlos Silva had pitched like crap, allowing seven(!) runs in only two(!) innings of work. Kyle Lohse nearly matched Silva's ineptitude the next day by allowing seven runs in five innings, including three in the first.

The Twins had managed to strand 26 runners on base and eke out three runs against the likes of Scott Elarton (he of the 8.00+ ERA) and Jake Westbrook (who has admittedly been pretty good this year). The Twins had just one hit with runners in scoring position in the series' first two games.

Things didn't start that well on Sunday, either. Mulholland threw a sure double-play ball into center field after facing just his second batter. The next batter (Matt Lawton) grounded into a DP which allowed Mulholland to escape with just one run allowed.

Predictably, the Twins made Indians' starter Chad Durbin look WAY better than he actually is through the game's first five innings. Durbin threw 106 pitches through five innings, walking four and hitting a batter. Yet, this team keeps finding new ways to NOT score runs. First and second no outs? Second and third no outs? Bases loaded one out? It really doesn't matter. I couldn't even bring myself to yell at the TV (something I usually relish) because this routine has become so commonplace of late.

Durbin would have leave the game after the fifth, but that hardly seemed to matter. With one out, Lew Ford had singled and Corey Koskie had connected with a rare double. Christian Guzman had followed with his usual plate appearance (a completely unproductive one, in this case a foul out). With two outs, it seemed inevitable that yet another once-promising rally would fall by the wayside. However, something would then take place that the gods did not foresee: a man named Jose Offerman came to the plate.

With two runners on base and TWO OUTS, no less, Offerman connected with the hit that may have saved the Twins' season for now--a two run double into the rightfield corner. For the series, the Twins on batted .083 with runners in scoring position (RISP), but that second hit was certainly a big one.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the tremendous job that Terry Mulholland in his eight innings. The Twins simply could not afford another short and/or terrible start, and Mulholland, with all his crafty veteran mojo, turned the clock back to 1993 for a day. He allowed just two runs (one earned, although the unearned run was his fault anyway) and shut down a lineup that had previously looked nearly invincible. No matter what he does from here on out, it looks like Terry Ryan outsmarted us all (fans and the rest of the league alike) when he signed Mulholland back in April. Sunday's game was HUGE for the Twins and the vet didn't choke like Lohse and Silva did.

Perhaps this win will also be the coming-out party for Corey Koskie. It was a game in which Koskie finally hit absolute rock-bottom by striking out twice in his first two at-bats, stranding five runners. His second strikeout was especially ugly, as it came on a curve in the dirt that everyone in the entire stadium knew was coming. After that embarrassing AB, Koskie's body language seemed much more determined his last three at-bats. He crushed a double in the sixth, lined a single in the eighth, and delivered the big blow in the tenth.

After J.C. escaped a jam in the bottom of the ninth, the Twins were left with the unenviable task of winning a game in extra innings on the road. Lew Ford was buzzed by a Rick White fastball that skimmed the top of his helmet. When Koskie fell behind in the count 1-2, I thought (pessimistically) that he would revert back to his old ways and flail at some off-speed pitch in the dirt. But White decided to challenge Koskie and he connected with a mammoth two-run homer to put the Twins up 4-2. The homer was even more impressive considering that if was against the wind and hit to one of the deepest parts of the park. The Nathanator would slam the door as usual in the bottom of the inning and the Twins flew out of Cleveland with their pride wounded but not shot.

More reactions from this weekend's series
As you can probably tell from the tone of this post, I was extremely disappointed overall by the Twins' performance over the weekend. To be sure, Cleveland played extremely well. They are a terrific hitting team, and when you make mistakes (Silva and Lohse made plenty) they turn into three-run homers, not just singles (or harmless foul balls in Torii Hunter's case). I don't like it when people say that this series made the Twins "stand up and take notice" of the Indians. I'm assuming that the Twins took the Indians very seriously even BEFORE this series began. They are very hot right now, but that doesn't change the fact that they are an extremely formidable opponent. Sunday's game did prove one thing: when the Twins get a good performance from their starting pitcher, they should have the edge over the Tribe. But anytime it's a slugfest between these two teams, the Indians will come out ahead almost every time. These teams do play each other 10 more times this season, so nothing has been decided just yet. If the Twins can start playing a little better they can still win this thing.

I know I rambled a tad in today's post, but I had a few things that I wanted to get off my chest. I appreciate that you stuck with me today, and I promise to be my normal self tomorrow. Tomorrow is an off-day, and I plan on using this space to look at some of the Twins' struggling hitters, most notably Hunter, Jones, Rivas, and Koskie. Be sure to stop by and check us out again. Have a good one.

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