Note - I got in late last night from the game and so parts of this post may be a little more rough than per usual. I wanted to get it up regardless and hope you don’t mind the jumbled parts. As always feel free to drop a comment or rant if you like, down below in the comments section or of course you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last night featured a match-up that on the surface looked to be fairly equal. Kevin Brown is being paid 15 million dollars and has plenty of playoff experience under his belt, including a World Series ring. Carlos Silva started 1 game before this year, is dirt cheap for the team to keep around and was making his first ever playoff appearance. Looking at it another way, Kevin Brown is an aging overpaid veteran, who not only has not been very good this year but also is a cancer in his own clubhouse and was immature enough to break his own hand less then a month ago. Carlos Silva, on the other hand, showed great resiliency in nailing down the third starter spot with an excellent September while pitching over 200 innings for the first time in his career. For some reason I liked our chances going into the game. For the first time I was able to see a playoff game in person; my seats were in left field row 33. Unfortunately the game did not go according to plan.
The first inning started off great as Silva didn’t give up a run and Jacque Jones homered to give the Twins an early lead. Then it all began to unravel. It started with a few innocent 2-out hits and ended with 3 runs on the board and Kyle Lohse warming up in the bullpen. The Twins were unable to shut the door on the Yankees rally as their hits landed just in front or out of reach of the fielders, all with two outs. To make things worse, much of the scoring came from the bottom of the Yankees order with both Miguel Cairo and Kenny Loften delivering big hits. These are the guys the Twins need to get out almost every time up.
As the Yankees scored they simultaneously were able to take the 54,000 fans out of the game. The crowd was not a factor until it was already to late in the 9th inning. 54,000 people is a lot of people to keep quiet for so long. The Dome was not sold out but it was pretty near capacity and they did lift the curtain. After the Yankees scored their 3 in the second the crowd seemed to already sense the inevitable. They did not stand or get overly loud even when the Twins had a chance to close the gap during a couple of missed scoring opportunities in the innings that followed. That can’t happen today if the Twins want to really show the Yankees what "Dome field" advantage is. When the crowd finally got back into it again in the 9th , the amount of noise was very high considering that a quarter of the crowd had already left early to get to their cars and beat traffic. Many people held up signs stating various derogatory Yankees statements. If we really want to show the Yankees that they suck, the Dome needs to be the loudest place on earth even if they are a couple of runs in the lead. Right now the Twins have lost 4 in a row in a place that they used to be thought of as a unbeatable at in the postseason.
The Twins had opportunities to score off Kevin Brown and failed to get the big hit they needed. While everything went right for the Yankees, the Twins were able to hit some balls hard right at people and Brown was able to work his way out of every jam. It’s hard to know what to blame on the Twins and what is luck's fault. The Twins are due some luck coming their way and that is why it is hard to properly judge Carlos Silva based on this outing. What needs to change if the Twins want to win today is that both Shannon Stewart and Justin Morneau absolutely have to be a bigger part of the offense. Stewart has struggled the past 2 games and Morneau has really not contributed much at all. The team can’t sit back and rely on Henry Blanco to drive in runs. Shannon Stewart sets the tone for the offense and when he is going, the rest of the offense is too. Morneau makes things happen both with his presence and his swing. It is important that the Twins get an early lead to put the pressure back on the Yankees, especially with Johan Santana going on short rest.
Santana will be pitching on short rest today in an elimination game. Together with Brad Radke he still gives the Twins a shot in this series. Going in, the Twins knew they had to win all of Santana’s starts and most of Radke’s. Radke has already lost and should be ready to go out and pitch much better on Sunday. There is a lot of pressure being placed on Santana and he has yet to prove he can deliver in an elimination game.
The team must have been worried about what they would get out of Carlos Silva. It was by no means a pretty start but it wasn’t terrible either. He did what he needed to do and had a couple of bad breaks. They probably left him in a little to long when he allowed the homer to Bernie Williams in the 6th but up until then he had been cruising since overcoming the 2nd inning.
Javier Vasquez is on the mound today for the Yankees which adds to the mismatch. Vasquez has really struggled coming into the playoffs and is only starting because Orlando Hernandez can’t. The Twins could not take advantage against Brown but they need to against Vasquez. Scoring runs off of him neutralizes the bullpen. They won't be able to bring Mariano Rivera in to shrink the game to 7 innings if they are already behind a couple of runs.
The Twins won a small battle by forcing the Yankees to bring Rivera into last night’s affair. Their little rally in the 9th not only excited the fans, it gave them much-needed momentum going into today’s game. From the stands Rivera did not look as un-hittable as he used to. He missed out on a day of rest which can only help the Twins. By bringing in Rivera, Torre showed that the Twins do scare him. I’m willing to bet Rivera has never given up 6 runs in an inning in his entire career. The Yankees were still 3 runs away from making it a save situation and yet he is was brought in to slam the door shut on the Yankees victory so that there was no chance it got away. The Yankees do not have a deep bullpen beyond Rivera and perhaps “Flash Gordon,” the Twins have just been unable to take advantage to this point. And the Yankees together with their “mystique” continue to get lucky as a result.
Late in the game last night both Torii Hunter and Corey Koskie were thrown out trying to do too much on the base paths. They were not smart base running plays because when a team is 6 runs down it needs base runners more then anything. Torii has been this teams igniter throughout these playoffs and was definitely trying to make things happen. Instead he should have stayed within himself and continued to put pressure on the Yankees. When you are giving away outs to a team you are helping them out more then you would have hurt them. Then again, if Torii was safe the dugout would have been fired up and the rally may have started 2 innings earlier with enough time for the Twins to come back. As for Koskie’s base running, I cannot defend it, it made no sense to me at all from the stands. He took off running, was almost safe but was definitely trying to stretch out a single.
The Yankees were able to get all of their run scoring out of the way yesterday and should be ready to be shut down by Santana today. The Twins still have a great shot at winning this series. If you think about it, all they have to do is win 2 in a row, something they did repeatedly during the regular season. They have their two aces on the mound for both of those games and so you have to like their chances. There are 3 keys for the Twins during the game this afternoon:
1. They must score early and put get the Yankees on their own heels.
2. Santana cannot feel the after affects of short rest and needs to give the team 6-7 great innings.
3. The crowd needs to be in the game, cheering and giving the Yankees hell.
I will of course be at the game once again and this time I am taking Ryan with me. You can’t see everything as clear as you would like from so far up in left but it is always a great feeling to be surrounded by so many Twins fans. I fully expect to lose my voice today and hope it is for a good reason.