Friday, April 23, 2004

Running Game Summary: Twins vs. Royals 4/23

Note: The following was done during the Twins vs. Royals game on Friday on Channel 45 KSTC. I did it for fun and for the benefit of the people in over in the DTFC who couldn't get the game on TV. It's really long, so don't feel obligated to read it all or anything, unless you were unsure about something that happened during the game. I included a few points of analysis, as well as describing the events during the game, and my own reactions. I wrote it in real time, so some parts may seem a bit haphazard (as they have not been edited after the fact). It was a great win for the Twins, although the Royals bullpen kind of handed it to them on a silver platter! Enjoy.

A little bit of a different look for the lineup tonight. Stewart gets the day off (slight injury) and has been replaced by Michael Ryan in both the leadoff spot and leftfield. Curious decision by Gardy to lead off Ryan, as I don't think he is your prototypical leadoff hitter by any stretch of the word. Offerman is DHing once again, which is disappointing. I agree with John that Cuddyer should be getting some more at-bats, and tonight seems like a perfect opportunity. No other surprises in the rest of the lineup. For the Royals, Sweeney isn’t in the lineup. Kyle Lohse is probably relieved; Sweeney has hit an absolute bomb off him last week. He looks like he’s gonna hit the ball out every time he steps up to the plate. For fun, I'm totaling the number of Victory Sports ads that appear during tonight's telecast. There were two already before the game.
# of Victory Sports ads so far: 2

1st inning: The Twins go in order in the first. Appier slipped on a tough comebacker… it’s been raining all day, so conditions could be tough. Graffinino leads off the game with a single, but is promptly picked off by Lohse. Where was he going with Beltran at the plate? I realize the Royals want to get something going, but don’t do it with your best hitter (and Twins killer) in the box. It just doesn’t make sense to me. Beltran flies out and Gonzalez works a walk. Stairs walks on four pitches; Lohse is all over the place so far. Not a good sign, but hopefully he’ll find it soon.

This is what happens when you fall behind in the count. Randa worked a 2-2 count, and Lohse grooved a fastball that he smacked for an RBI double. Maybe Rick Anderson can calm him down here.

Lohse falls behind Harvey 3-0 but is able to get a ground ball that Guzie makes a nice play on to retire the side. 1-0 KC after one inning complete.

2nd: Koskie leads off the inning with a nice AB and rips a double down the line. Good to see Koskie aggressively attacking once again. In a strange turn of events, Appier is forced to leave the game after pitching to Koskie. Dick and Bert are speculating that the injury was caused by the funky play he made on Mientkiewicz in the first. We’ll have to wait and see for more. Jimmy Gobble comes out of the pen to relieve him. This is still good news for Twins fans, as we roughed Gobble up pretty good as well last week. Poor Offerman though: he was 8-18 lifetime against Appier. Jones also had some good stats against Appier

Damn Offerman- chases a high fastball and can’t do his job done (get Koskie over to third). But no need to fear! Jacque Jones comes through (against a lefty even!) and drives home Koskie with a solid single to right. Sweet Lew, who looks at menacing as Sweeney right now, flies out to left. You could make a good case for Lew as AL player of the month. He stacks up extremely well against everyone else in the league. Blanco flies out to end the mini-threat.

In the bottom of 2, Bert starts off by spouting some crap about how it takes the visiting pitcher some time to become accustomed to pitching off the mound, because the bullpens are so enclosed. Bert, you don’t need to make any excuses for Lohse. He’s a big boy now.

Wow. The ancient Benito Santiago pokes a pitch about 6 inches off the plate into right for a single, but is promptly erased on a fielder’s choice. KC then tries a little small ball and pulls off a successful hit-and-run with the rookie SS Blanco. One of the cheapest base hits you will ever see, but it was a very tough pitch to get the bat on. Nice job by the rook.

Lohse gets a key strikeout of Graffinino on a very sharp breaking ball, but hangs an off-speed pitch to Beltran who lines a double down the right field line, scoring both runners. It’s been a tale of two innings thus far: in the first, Lohse was throwing too many fastballs. Here in the second, he’s throwing too many off-speed pitches (changes and curveballs). Not looking good thus far. Gonzo reaches out and pokes a curve into center to score Beltran and make it 4-1 KC. Gonzalez was fooled slightly but was able to keep his hands back despite bailing out a little.

Stairs walks for the second time already today, but Lohse is able to induce a flyout from Randa. Mike Ryan got a terrible jump on the ball but recovered soon enough to make a diving catch. Nice catch, but he shouldn’t have had to dive if he had gotten a better read.

Score after 2: 4-1 KC

3rd: Apparently, Appier re-injured his elbow. I don’t remember: was that elbow the reason he hadn’t pitched since last September? Guzie starts off the Twins with a nice single to left, but Ryan grounds weakly to second. Terrible baserunning play by Guzie: he ran right into the tag by the second baseman. You have to stop there and make him tag you, or somehow make it more difficult for them to turn two. Rivas has a nice idea by attempting a bunt for a base hit, but Gobble makes a nice play and nips him at first.

Dick and Bert have a nice conversation with Dave St. Peter, who talks about the ballpark bill in the Legislature. Naturally, the conversation quickly turns to Victory Sports.There is some speculation that the Victory Sports situation will hurt the hunt for a new ballpark; that would be a true tragedy. If I had to chose between watching the Twins on TV and a new park, I chose the new park every single time.

Meanwhile, Lohse has an impressive 1-2-3 inning. A couple of groundouts to Koskie, and a nice strikeout on a sharp breaking ball. Well, now we’ve talked about Victory on air but I’m still waiting for the next Victory Sports commercial! Come on Twins, don’t let me down! :)

After 3 complete: still 4-1 KC

4th: St. Peter now moves on to the next obligatory topic: Field Turf. Nothing new here; I agree with him when he says that the surface has already gotten much better since even the beginning of the season. I attended Opening Day and this past Wednesday, and the turf looked much more playable on Wednesday. Not nearly as “puffed up” as it looked on Opening Day.

In the meantime, Koskie shoots a one out double down the line, his second double of the game. Let’s see if Offerman can do something this time…nope. Jose grounds one up the middle, but Tony Graffanino makes a nice play and throws out the not-so-speedy Offerman at first. Jones pops out to end the inning. The Twins waste a nice scoring opportunity.

I thought perhaps Lohse had found his groove, but he leaves a fastball belt-high to Graffanino after retiring the previous batter, and Graffanino rips a double to left-center. I find myself agreeing with Dick and Bert: why not walk Beltran in this situation and set up the double play? The point is moot a couple of pitches later as Lohse throws a wild pitch that advances Graffanino to third. Nice effort by Blanco, but there was not much he could do. Beltran promptly drives him in with a sac fly to deep center. Just our luck, it seems. Gonzo flys out to end the inning, but the damage is done.

After 4: 5-1 KC

5th: The rain is coming down pretty hard now; perhaps we can get this game canceled before its official! It’s not likely, but I can hope, can’t I? Lew Ford, the Official Player of Twins Chatter, hits a hard ground ball to short that Andres Blanco makes a nice play in the hole to get Lew by a step. Snakebit! Blanco and Guzman are retired, and the game is now official. Dang.

The rain is now very noticeable on TV, but Lohse seems to be unaffected on the mound. I don’t know how long that will last however. His strike-ball ratio is actually pretty decent: about 60-37 or so. He is approaching the 100 pitch barrier, but I have a feeling Gardy will send him out for another one as he retires the Royals in order in the fifth. Let’s get some offense going here Twins!

After 5: still 5-1 KC

6th: The rain is really coming down hard now. If this keeps up that much longer, this game will not continue uninterrupted. Ryan leads off the inning with a single to right, but Rivas pops out to second base. However, Graffanino drops the easy popup! Strange, but the Royals obviously force Ryan at second. We could have really used something positive there by Louie.

It has gotten so cold and rainy, Dougie Baseball is even wearing batting gloves! They don’t help him as he flys out to right. The ball is just not carrying at all tonight, and that is to be expected with the adverse conditions. Koskie is looking like Superman today- tonight is the first game he has had 2 extra base hits in the same game since June of last year! I know he was hurt last year, but that is an astounding stat! Unfortunately, the Twins waste the leadoff single by Ryan as Koskie flys out to center.

Aha! Another Victory Sports ad. That brings the grand total up to three! I’m thinking the final total will be 6 commercials by the time the game is over.
# of Victory Sports ads: 3

Lohse retires the leadoff man in the sixth, but Aaron Guiel ends an ugly 0-22 streak with a double down the leftfield line, the fourth double of the day for KC. Blanco lays down a nice drag bunt down the first base line. Dougie slips after he fields the ball, but I don’t think they have the speedy Blanco either way. The Twins can’t afford to fall any farther behind. Lohse gets a big popup from Graffanino and is lifted by Gardenhire in favor of Aaron Fultz. Lohse’s preliminary line: 5.2 innings pitched, 5 ER, 9 hits. I guess now he has thrown 100 pitches. Not great, but I was glad that he battled his way through to the sixth and saved our bullpen a bit.

Futlzy does his job quickly and retires the dangerous Beltran on a lazy fly to right. Let’s wake the bats up!

After 6 complete: 5-1 KC

7th: Offerman leads off the inning with a drive to right that Gonzo makes a nice running catch on. JJ lays down an impressive bunt single, and Santiago slipped as he fielded the ball. Lew Ford, official player of Twins Chatter, pops out in the infield. Here’s a stunning fact: Sweet Lew is 0-3 today! What gives Lew?! Blanco bloops a nice duck-snort (baseball slang for looping liner) over first base and reaches with a gift double, Jones advancing to third.

Dang it! Guzman puts a charge into one, but Beltran makes a nice over-the-shoulder catch in deep centerfield. This was our best chance yet to put a crooked number up on the scoreboard, but the Twinks once again go scoreless.

Futlz has a slighty counterintuitive inning in the 7th, retiring all three righties he faces but allowing the only lefty (Stairs) to reach base. I’m starting to doubt whether or not the Twins can mount a charge/comeback before the game is over.

After 7: still 5-1 KC

8th: Scott Sullivan is out to start the inning. Gobble did a stellar job out of the pen, with 6 scoreless innings of relief. Michael Ryan shoots a grounder to the hole on the left side, but Ryan hustles and beat’s Randa’s throw to first. Nick Punto is in to hit for Rivas- a good move by Gardy because I think Rivas would have no chance whatsoever against the side-winding Sullivan. Punto has a nice QAB (quality at-bat) and works Sullivan for a walk. Let’s see if Dougie can take advantage of the situation.

Minty swings and belts a long fly to deep center, but once again the expanded Kauffman Stadium keeps it in. I’m sure Gordo and Gladden were hyperventilating in the radio booth, telling audiences that that the ball was “Way back, Waaaaay back and… CAUGHT!” In actuality, it wasn’t even to the warning track. Ryan tags and goes to third. Punto steals 2nd on the next pitch without a throw.

Finally! Corey Koskie comes through in the clutch! He lines a triple into the right field corner, scoring two. What a game for Koskie! What a game for my two fantasy teams (on which I have Koskie)! Tony Pena yanks Sullivan for Curtis Leskanic. Can the KC bullpen implode again? We shall soon see…

Offerman really REALLY needs to get Corey home from third, but naturally he strikes out on three pitches. Terrible at-bat. I had hoped that a veteran like Jose could at least put the ball in play.

But this time, it’s not Jacque Jones that picks Jose Offerman up, but Benito Santiago. He lets a Leskanic breaking ball slip between his legs, scoring Koskie from third! JJ quickly grounds out, but the Twins have made it a game once more. Best thing is, the Royals don’t have a closer to come in next inning! The score is now only 5-4 KC. (Another Victory Sports ad quickly follows, bringing the grand total up to 4).
# of Victory Sports Ads: 4

“Joa” Roa is in to start the bottom of the eigth for the Twins, but Santiago leads off the inning with a line-drive single to left. For some reason, Michael Ryan was playing about 20 feet from the fence in left and the single dropped in front of him. I realize we’re playing to prevent a double, but why so deep?

Guiel continues his “hot” hitting with a line drive single right past Roa. This is not what the Twins need right now; we need Roa to keep us within one run.

Obviously, runners at first and second is an obvious bunting situation. Not only that, but the Royals have rookie Blanco up at the plate. He squares to bunt, but pulls back and slaps a hard grounder to third! Koskie snares it and wins the race to third to force out Santiago. What a huge gaff by KC! I can’t believe Pena wouldn’t have him bunting in that situation! Graffanino then flys out to center, which would have undoubtedly scored Santiago from third. Gardy quickly pulls Roa and brings in J.C. to switch Beltran over to the right side of the plate.

I am very close to spouting off a solid stream of obscenities as J.C. walks Beltran to load the bases. Up steps Gonzo, who is 5-10 lifetime against J.C. Fortunately for my mental state, Gonzo pops out to Dougie on the first pitch to end the threat. Whew! We’re going to the ninth!

Score after 8 innings: 5-4 KC

Leskanic is back out there to start the ninth, and walks Lew on four pitches. Blanco, who is bunting for some reason (oh Gardy, ye of so little faith), pulls back on two consecutive strikes. The Twins try a hit-and-run, but Blanco’s popup lands in foul territory. Blanco’s gritty at-bat ends in a soft lineout to right. Guzie somehow, incredibly, works yet another walk from Leskanic, who is all over the place now. Can Michael Ryan take advantage?

YEAH!! Michael Ryan lines a base hit over second base to score Ford and send Guzie over to third! Ladies and Gentlemen, the Michael Ryan you saw last September is back with a vengeance!

It doesn’t matter which member of the Kansas City bullpen is pitching, as they’re all equally terrible. Reyes comes in and promptly walks Punto to load them up. Then, unbelievably, he walks Mientkiewicz on four straight! KC has four (count ‘em, 4!) walks this inning and the Twins take their first lead of the ballgame.

Corey Koskie, in the midst of a terrific game, quickly falls behind 0-2 but manages to lift a sac fly to center. Another huge plate appearance for Koskie, and he comes through once again. Ryan scores as Punto scampers over to third.

I officially cannot believe this: Reyes walks Offerman. Granted, it was a nice at-bat for Jose, but major league teams should not EVER walk five batters in the same inning. The Twins have scored three runs thus far yet have just one hit in the inning. Pena, obviously disgusted, pulls Reyes for Nate Field.

You can really see just how frustrated Pena is by the fact that he brought in a righthander (Field) to face Jacque Jones. That sure doesn’t happen too often. Jones flares one into short left, but Aaron Guiel makes a terrific sliding catch to save another couple runs. Dang it! The score is now 7-5 Twins after 8 and a half innings.

Gardy once again leaves J.C. in there to start the 9th inning, to face the left-handed hitter Stairs. This is the same manager that would bring in Eddie G. to start the 9th even if the league’s top three right-handed hitters were due up. J.C. does his job and gets Stairs to fly out to short center before Gardy brings in the “closer” Joe Nathan.

Nathan looks very impressive against his first batter Joe Randa, freezing him on a killer cutter right on the outside black. Great pich! My heart begins to flutter however as Ken Harvey lines a hanging breaking ball into right field for a single. It was unjustified, as Nathan gets Santiago to ground out harmlessly to Koskie. Twins Win, Twins Win!

Final Score: 7-5 Twins

I don't think there were many people reading this towards the end, but that's okay. It was kinda fun for me, and it's a great way to stay involved in the game (think of it as keeping score with words). Thanks for stopping by. If you think this is a good/bad idea, drop a comment below.