Friday, October 01, 2004

Divisional Déjà vu?

Yesterday’s 6-4 loss to those damn New York Yankees was the most pivotal game our Twins have played in the past 10 days, and it was extremely disappointing on many different levels. Let me count the ways:

1. Three different Twins pitchers blew three different leads: Radke blew a two-run lead in the fourth, J.C. Romero blew a one-run lead for Radke (again) in the sixth, and Grant Balfour blew another one-run lead in the seventh. Except for Juan Rincon (who threw two impressive hitless innings) the Twins bullpen has looked very vulnerable the last few games, which is definitely not a good sign going into next week. Romero in particular is a troubling case, as he allowed yet another home run to a lefty, which will absolutely KILL you in Yankee Stadium.

2. Despite pitching pretty well, Brad Radke was unable to earn his elusive 12th win of the season and must instead settle for a record of 11-8. I know wins and losses aren’t everything, but doesn’t a guy who finishes the regular season with the league’s 5th best ERA deserve far more than 11 wins, especially in this offensive era? The only positive is that it might keep his free agent asking price down this winter…

3. Most importantly, yesterday’s loss means that the Twins no longer control their own fate as it pertains to home field advantage in the ALDS. Oakland, Anaheim, and the Twins now have identical 90-69 records, and the Twins do not own the tiebreaker (head-to-head record) with either team. That means in order to avoid traveling to the Bronx once again this year, the Twins must sweep the Indians this week and hope neither Oakland nor Anaheim sweeps each other. Up until yesterday, I was fairly optimistic that the Twins would gain home field, but now it seems an unlikely possibility. The fact that the team was the Yankees who swept the Twins doesn’t help either; the Bombers are cocky enough as it is and don’t need any more reassurance of their perceived superiority.

Bullpen Blues

Here are some alarming stats for you to chew on: in his eight appearance since his team-record scoreless streak ended on September 12, J.C. Romero has thrown 6 1/3 innings, allowed 12 runs (9 earned), 12 hits, walked 8 batters, and has surrendered 3 home runs (one each his past three outings). In that span his ERA has risen a solid 2.59 to a mediocre 3.48. Those numbers, frankly, are amazingly bad and cause for extreme concern for Gardenhire and the Twins. We all know how fragile J.C.’s psyche is, and it has been well documented that mental barriers have been a huge part of his struggles over the past two years. You could plainly see Romero’s frustration as he left the mound last night (you could also read it on his lips), which is a bad, bad sign.

However, what is to be done? The postseason begins next Tuesday, and there is no room for head cases come October. J.C. is an extremely talented pitcher with great stuff, but can he be trusted to regain his composure without another wake-up call back in AAA? Obviously Rochester isn’t an option at this point, which makes the timing of J.C.’s current meltdown extremely inconvenient. Can Gardy safely use J.C. in the playoffs? Or should other options (like Crain or Mulholland) be explored? There is no doubt that it is imperative Gardy send J.C. out there once or twice against the Indians this weekend, because right now I have no confidence in his abilities. LaVelle E. Neal is reporting that AAA pitching coach Bobby Cuellar is going to work with J.C. this weekend. Hopefully something clicks, because this team will be hurting without its key lefty in the ‘pen next week.

That’s all the Twins Chattering I’ve got for you all today. Yesterday, I hinted that today would be a monumental day, but I was mistaken. That monumental event has been moved to Tuesday, which promises to be a fine day indeed. I will also have a little bonus material posted here for Saturday, so you are all invited to stop by and check that out as well. Have a good one.

-Ryan M.

Playoff Perspectives

Twins lost 6-4 to the Yankees, who have clinched the AL East outright. The Twins are now 90-69 and tied for the second-best record among AL division leaders.

Oakland defeated Seattle 3-2 on a 9th inning Bobby Crosby home run. The Athletics moved into a first place tie with…

Anaheim, who lost to Texas 6-3. The A’s and Angels are both 90-69. The two teams will play each other for three games this weekend, with the winner of the series taking the AL West crown. If either team sweeps, they will also have home field advantage in the ALDS.

Boston did not play but is assured the AL Wild Card.

National League

Los Angeles defeated Colorado 4-2 in 11 innings. They are 3 GA of San Francisco in the NL West. Their magic number is 1 as they host the Giants this weekend for three games.

San Francisco beat San Diego 4-1. The Giants are 3 GB Los Angeles in the NL West and tied for the Wild Card tie with Houston.
Note – Jerome Williams, pitching for the first time in 2 months, threw 7 strong innings.

Houston did not play, remains tied with SF for Wild Card. They host Colorado this weekend.

Chicago lost their third straight game to Cincinnati 2-1 in 12 innings. The Cubs are 1 GB Houston and San Francisco in the Wild Card race.
Note – Mark Prior threw his best game of the season, 9 IP w/1 ER, in the losing effort.

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