Thursday, September 30, 2004

Laying an Egg in the Bronx

I’ve decided to take a day off from our extended “Playoff Previews” feature to focus on a hodge-podge of current events a little. The 2004 Central champs were swept by the Yankees in yesterday’s doubleheader, losing 5-3 and 5-4. As the Geek points out today, may people out there will be quick to point to the possible repercussions of Tuesday’s 0-fer. First of all, it caused the team to lose its hold on home field advantage in the ALDS (the Angels won and are now tied with the Twins). Secondly, many pundits will claim that the Twins cannot win in Yankee Stadium, which is where they quite possibly will open the playoffs next week.

I would like to address both of those issues. I, for one, still firmly believe that the Twins will open at home in the ALDS. Anaheim is hot right now, yes, but Radke will take care of business tonight and the Twins will take two of three from the Indians this weekend. However, our home field hopes are indeed becoming questionable. However, don’t lose hope: the 1987 World Champions went 0-5 after clinching the division, yet still managed to turn it around in the ALCS.

A Streak is Broken
Johan Santana’s amazing streak of 12 consecutive starts with a win ended yesterday, thanks to J.C. Romero’s latest entry into his patented “implosion mode”. Ever since Game 5 of the 2002 ALCS, J.C. has been prone to the big inning, a highly undesirable trait for a reliever. Had Johan been allowed to pitch his normal seven or eight innings (which I’m not saying he should have), the Twins would have probably won the game.

In any event, today’s sweep, while disappointing, is pretty meaningless. Yeah, we’d like to stick it to the Yankees every chance we get, but the Twins played two competitive games today (more than we’ve been able say in previous meetings with the Yanks) and simply came out on the short end of the stick. Jason Kubel played extremely well, and Kyle Lohse did not. Hopefully today’s outing will officially eliminate Lohse from any consideration for a playoff start.

The Predictable Case of LaTroy Hawkins
Having watched LaTroy Hawkins pitch for the better part of nine seasons, we all know what he’s capable of. LaTroy struggled as a starter for so many years, yet the Twins kept giving him chances until he finally discovered himself in 2000. In 2001, he was anointed the team’s closer and almost single-handedly dashed the team’s playoff aspirations with his legendary meltdown in the second half of that year. The next two seasons, LaTroy was arguably the best setup man in the game, posting ERAs of 2.13 and 1.86. Despite the fact that he was grossly overpaid for many years by the Twins, LaTroy chose to make his contract negotiations (or lack thereof) a public issue last season, creating a noticeable distraction in the Twins’ clubhouse. This winter, he signed a 3-year, $12 million contract with the Cubs before the Twins could even make an offer.

Eventually, you knew the Cubs were going to play with fire. When closer Joe Borowski went down earlier this year, Hawkins became the closer by default. Twins fans everywhere knew the perils of this decision: LaTroy does not pitch well in the ninth inning for some reason. Thus far, Hawkins has not disappointed Twins fans in their assessment. He has blown 9 of 33 save opportunities this season, including three of his last five (last night being the latest). If the Cubs don’t make the playoffs, look for LaTroy to become the latest scapegoat on the South Side this winter.

That’s all I’ve got for today. I’m resting up tonight in preparation for a high-quality post tomorrow, which may end up being the biggest day in the history of this blog. Stay tuned, and don’t forget to check us out as you’re reading your morning paper…


Playoff Perspectives

The Twins were swept in a doubleheader by the Yankees, who’s magic number in the division is down to one.

Red Sox lost 9-4 to Tampa Bay, now 4 GB New York.

Anaheim beat Texas 8-7 in 11 innings to take the AL West division lead and tie the Twins in the race for home field advantage in the ALDS. The Rangers are 4 GB.

Oakland lost 4-2 to Seattle and is now 1 GB behind the Angels.
Note - Ichiro had a single and is now 2 hits shy of 257 with four games remaining.

National League

Chicago lost 4-3 to the Reds in 12 innings and is now .5 GB Houston for the NL Wild Card.
Note – Adam Dunn hit a game-winning double off LaTroy Hawkins to win the game.
Houston beat St. Louis 6-4, now leads in the NL Wild Card race.
San Francisco lost 4-3 to San Diego in 10 innings, fall .5 GB the Astros in the Wild Card and 3 GB the Dodgers in the NL West.
Note – The winning run scored on a sac fly when former Twin Dustan Mohr tripped over the bullpen mound while catching the ball.