Friday, October 08, 2004

Stunned

One bounce.
One choice.
One swing.

Baseball is a game of turning points, and last night the Twins made one too many turns. Simply put, yesterday’s 7-6 loss was one of the most bone-crushing, strength-sapping, emotionally draining games in franchise history. It was the worst nightmare of any Twins fan come to life. I could probably go on forever, but quite honestly, I don’t feel up to it. Instead, I’m going to quickly touch on a couple of relevant topics pertaining to last night’s game.

As utterly disappointing as the ending was, you have to admit that it was one of the most exciting games this team has played in years. Down by two runs to the Yankees with Mariano Rivera in the game? You might as well phone it in; that’s how good he usually is. But Corey Koskie delivered with an ├╝ber-clutch RBI double to conclude what was the team’s best at-bat this season, and it looked like the Twins might steal one in regulation. That hope was dashed in one moment: the bounce. If the Twins are playing in any other stadium in the major leagues, Koskie’s double rattles around in the corner, Rivas scores easily from first and the Twins take a 5-4 lead. Instead, it bounced into the stands, setting up a predictable Jason Kubel strikeout. Guzy couldn’t come through either and the Twins had to be content with a tie.

Fast forward to the 12th inning. Torii Hunter (who would have been the game’s hero had the outcome been different) has put the Twins ahead by a run, and Ron Gardenhire has a choice to make. Does he leave in his closer for an unprecedented third consecutive inning, simply because he’s the closer and it’s a save situation? Or does he go to a fresh Jesse Crain out of the bullpen? Hindsight is 20/20, so we all know what the right choice would have been, but at the time it wasn’t quite as obvious. Had Nathan been able to get the job done, Gardy would look like a genius today, but it didn’t happen. If the Yankees win this series we’ll undoubtedly hear the Grady Little comparisons (in fact we’re already hearing them now), but I think that is unfair. I disagree with Joe Morgan (the TV commentator last night) about a great many things, but he hit the nail on the head: Gardy took a chance and it backfired on him, simple as that. Ever hear the old saying “you play with fire, you get burned”? Gardy’s getting treated for some major third degree burns about now.

As much as it pains me to admit, the Yankees deserve a little credit as well. They knew Nathan was gassed, and they made him throw strikes. And when that strike finally came, A-Rod hammered it. In just about any other ballpark that’s a three-run homer, so it was no cheap double. It seems Rodriguez has finally earned the respect of the Yankee faithful.

We don’t yet know the ramifications of this game. Can the Twins bounce back in Game 3? I’m skeptical. I know these guys are big leaguers, but there are simply so many factors working against them. The Yankees have their swagger back, while the Twins are on their heels. Plus, the Yanks get to face Carlos Silva, who will need to pitch out of his mind to avoid a shelling on Friday. Going back to the Dome with a split seemed acceptable before the series began, but now I’m not so sure. A lot of things will have to go right for the Twins to win this series, and it’s going to be an uphill battle. Everything rests on the shoulders of Silva right now. Let’s hope he’s up to it.

Sorry about the truncated length of today’s post. When you follow a team so closely for so long, you can’t help but invest your emotions in that team. When something like yesterday happens, it’s tough to take.

The Twins are off today, so be sure and check this space again tomorrow as we’ll have an in-depth look at Game 3. In the meantime, stay strong and hope for the best.

-Ryan Maus
twinsfan21@msn.com

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