Sunday, August 22, 2004

Going for the Sweep

I'm finally done travelling this summer which means now I can sit back and enjoy the Twins drive toward their third straight playoffs. I had a great trip to New Zealand if anyone was wondering. It's a beautiful country but unfortunatly I didn't have regular internet use. I vaguelly knew what was going on with the team from the few minutes I had and little of it seemed to be good. I was shocked to discover on my second to last day there that one of the local cable networks had picked up the ESPN broadcast of the Twins and Yankees Wednesday night game. It was a great pleasure to learn that the Twins had rebounded from a 1 game lead to take the first two from the hated bombers.

Now that I'm back I'm trying my best to get caught up with everything. It makes it easier that the lead is back to 6 and the Twins have played very good baseball the last week. Today they go for the sweep of Cleveland. To ease my way back in I thought I would just post my thoughts on today's game as it is happening. It is a nice casual way for me to get back into my blogging stride.

Pregame -
Today the Twins go for the 3 game sweep of Cleveland and 7 game lead in the division. It's hard to sweep a division rival but the Twins have already done it to the White Sox this year. Brad Radke is on the mound for the Twins agaisnt the Indians ace, C.C Sabathia. Radke as usual should give the team a great chance to win while Sabathia may pose problems for the Twins. It should be a good matchup but this will be a tough one for the Twins to pull out. Jacque Jones is not in the lineup today against the tough lefty. As a result Ford is batting second and LeCroy gets to Dh.

1st Inning -
Smooth start for Radke, it is always good to see him get through the first inning. The Lew Ford double play was a buzzkill. Sabathia looks like he is trying to pick the corners. A bad sign for a pitcher who has recently had problems with the umpires, this should work in the Twins favor if they can resist the urge to chase pitchs. Hunter had a great first at bat laying off pitchs out of the zone. The continued to put pressure on the Indians by stealing second. Morneau is my favorite player to watch hit. Every swing could be a homerun, something us Twins fans have waited along time for. Even his outs, such as this flyout, go a long way.

2nd Inning -
Rough top of the inning for the Twins. Radke has some problems leaving his pitches up and they were pretty flat. He still should have been out of the inning without giving up a run but Guzman had a ball skip off of his glove that should have been the last out. The inning started off with a couple of bloop hits off the end of the Indians bats. The Indians hit the ball a little harder near the end of the inning. Radke needs to get his pitches down and pitch better if he's going to keep the Twins in the game. Guzman made a second mistake in the top of the fourth dropping a throw to second on a steal. He can be such a frustrating player when his head isn't in the game. Twins went down 123 in the bottom of the second.

Bottom of 3rd -
This is starting to look like it is going to be an exiting game. Neither pitcher is dominent today. The Twins got a run back on a Luis Rivas double and then steal of 3rd. Shannon Stewart then drove him in with a ground ball. The Twins then had a couple of hard hits off of Sabathia before the inning was over. While I love Rivas's aggresive base running, I'm wondering if it was a smart play. Stewart is probably the Twins best clutch hitter and Rivas was on second with only 1 out. The liklihood of Stewart getting a hit seems high to me. Regardless it worked out this time for the Twins but may be cause for concern in the future. Radke rebounded to pitch a strong top of the third.

4th -
Corey Koskie continues to carry this team on his back. His 21st homerun of the season tied this game at 2. It is amazing how this team always has someone step up and carry it on his back. Koskie, Hunter, Guzman, Mauer, Jones, Stewart and Ford have all stepped up at some point and gone on a hitting rampage. This helps to make up for the lack of a Manny Ramirez, Magglio Ordonez or any other star hitter in the lineup.

Bottom of 5th -
Twins baseball at its best. The got a few big hits, drew a walk and ran the bases aggresively to go ahead 4-2. Tori Hunter is playing almost as well as Corey Koskie right now. He had his second hit of the game while moving Lew Ford to third. Then on the Justin Morneau sac fly he advanced to second while Lew scored. Matt LeCroy finished the scoring by driving in Hunter with a single of his own. Hunter never let up, running hard all the way to home plate. This is how team's win ballgames and divisions. When the Twins play this way they look like a team that can compete in the World Series. It has been three years and its time to take the next step. Now Radke seems to be heating up with back to back 123 inning in the 5th and 6th. The Indians are going to have a tough time winning this game.

Bottom of 6th -
What did I say about Tori Hunter above? He just narrowly missed hitting a grand slam with a 3 run double. He hit on a 3-2 count after having fouled off several pitches. Sabathia self destructed in this inning, missing his spots, overthrowing the ball and afraid of his breaking ball. The Twins took advantage like good teams do. Meanwhile, stick a fork in the Indians, they are DONE! If they are swept as is likely to happen they have an almost insurmountable road to climb in the last month of the season. 7 games for a team as inexpierenced as they are against the 2 time defending division champs is near impossible to make up.

Scary Moment -
Following the Hunter double, Morneau was hit in the hand with a pitch. He was taken out of the game and to the hospital for X-Rays. Everyone should be holding their breath that they are negative. Losing him would be a huge blow to the lineup.

8th Inning
Radke pitched 7 very solid innings before giving way to JC Romero. Romero looked nasty albeit slightly erratic. Pitching a 123 8th inning. Uneventful bottom of the inning for the Twins. Stewart had a 1 out single against Bob Wickman. Wickman could have been a differance maker had he been healthy all year. Casey Blake made a great play at third to rob Lew. Once again punishing the Twins for letting him go.

Postgame -
The Twins have put themselves in the driver seat to win the division. Joe Nathan pitched the ninth and while he allowed a run looked to be his old self. This win and sweep of the series was huge for the Twins. They sent a message that it is still their time. Some key players appear to be getting hot just at the right time. The Twins have a tough schedule up ahead so they might need the 7 game pad, but if they continue to play so well they wont. The best thing to see this weekend was a solid performance from Kyle Lohse. He has been so inconsistent and it would be a huge boost if he could build off that start.