Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Twins/Mariners - Game 1
Since the Twins play in Seattle tonight (and the next two nights), that means LATE starts and even more important, LATE finishes. Starting to write a blog entry after a game finishes at midnight makes absolutely no sense. So, what I will be doing tonight (and possibly the next two nights), is doing some in-game blogging. I will likely post what happens in each half-inning for those who are not able to stay awake this late to watch it. But it won't just be standard play-by-play, it will involve opinion and other thoughts. And, sprinkled throughout the posting, I will add some links to other stories or articles. I definitely encourage and welcome people to check back throughout the game and even leave some Comments below. Let's get a running in-game chat going in the Comments. I will be checking them from time to time to answer any questions readers may have.
Let's start today by taking a look at the starting lineups:
2B Luis Castillo
LF Jason Tyner
C Joe Mauer
RF Michael Cuddyer
1B Justin Morneau
CF Torii Hunter
DH Jason Kubel
3B Luis Rodriguez
SS Jason Bartlett
3B Adrian Beltre
DH Jose Vidro
LF Raul Ibanez
1B Richie Sexson
RF Jose Guillen
C Kenji Johjima
SS Yunieski Betancourt
2B Jose Lopez
The pitching matchup is Ramon Ortiz, who has had two excellent starts with the Twins to start his Minnesota career, against Jeff Weaver. How does Weaver continue to get paid to pitch? I mean seriously, did anyone really think that he would pitch well in Seattle? Granted, he may be a little better than his 31.50 ERA would indicate, but not a whole lot!
Well, the "Pirahnas" are hitting more like goldfish so far this year. (Man! I am sick of the pirahnas term!) Is anyone really surprised? Thankfully, Nick Punto is currently being replaced in the lineup by Luis Rodriguez. OK, it is only because Punto has a sprained ankle, but you have to look at that as a positive. Thankfully the Twins 3-6 hitters are hitting well, and Kubel has been hitting well of late, but a little more power will appear soon. Aaron Gleeman did a nice job of summarizing some Twins stats today through the team's first two weeks.
I am predicting a monster 2007 season from Ichiro, and he is just starting to hit now. He is in a contract season, and he absolutely wants to get out of Seattle. Look at what Adrian Beltre did during his contract year. I expect Richie Sexson to have another solid season this year. Raul Ibanez is vastly underrated. So is Kenji Johjima who could be baseball's fourth best catcher (behind Joe Mauer, Brian McCann and a healthy Victor Martinez).
The key to this game is for Ortiz to start out by putting a few zeroes on the board. He needs to maintain the intensity and concentration that he had against the Yankees. The M's lineup isn't Yankee strong, but there are enough guys who can hurt you if you take even one inning off.
By the way, if you want a great, very interesting article to read if you aren't watching the game, please check out "Barry Metropolis's" account of a talk that Twins GM Terry Ryan gave to some law students at the University of Minnesota. Very candid! My favorite part:
First he talked about Ramon Ortiz. It was interesting to learn that the Twins and Ortiz’s agent had been in negotiation since November of 2006, and that when negotiations began, Ortiz was asking for three years, $20 million. When he stated Ortiz’s final deal, he did so with a little smirk, indicating he knew who won that negotiation. Ryan moved on to Ponson, mentioning his checkered past. “He punched a judge,” Ryan stated bluntly, again to strong laughter among law students.
Minor League Update - Rochester's game at Pawtucket was Rained out tonight. New Britain's game at Binghamton was Snowed Out. Man, I can't wait until I can just do some complete Twins Minor league updates. That said, Ft. Myers and Beloit are both finishing up their games and when they are complete, I will update you! By the way, one of our readers "Tim" will be writing a blog that will talk about the New Britain Rockcats.
Top of the 1st - Jeff Weaver is 6-5 and just 200 pounds. He is so skinny. He reminds me of that kicker on The Replacements, you know, "He's Wiry!" Luis Castillo led off by striking out on the seventh pitch of the at bat. Speaking of too skinny, Jason Tyner is now in the batter's box. He says that he thinks he will hit at least one, if not two, home runs this season. Ummm... OK. But, he did rip a liner over 2B and rolled to the gap for a double. Joe Mauer then seemingly broke a bat and slapped a double right down the 3B line on a tough two strike pitch. Michael Cuddyer came up. Slider at 78... Cuddyer way out in front. Slider at 78... Cuddyer way out in front. Slider at 78... hung... Cuddyer drilled a triple off the wall in left field. I was sure it was gone when it was hit. That was the definition of a hanging slider! Twins up 2-0! Justin Morneau then hit a hard ground ball that Jose Lopez snagged, nearly on the infield grass, holding Cuddyer at 3B and getting the second out. On the first pitch, Torii Hunter hit a liner that took about 1.5 second to land in Ibanez's glove for the third out. Good first inning!
Minor League Update - Ft. Myers just finished their 5-0 loss to Lakeland. Tiger's uber-prospect Cameron Maybin hit his fourth homer of the young season. Ryan Mullins started for the Miracle and gave up just two runs on seven hits and a walk in six innings. He struck out six. Zach Ward then came in and gave up two more in his two innings. Josh Hill gave up a run in his inning. Erik Lis led the offense. He was 2-3 with a walk. Eli Tintor had a rough night. He went 0-4 with four strikeouts. He is now 5-37 on the season (.135). I'm not worried. He is too talented and works too hard. He will be just fine!
Bottom of the 1st - Ramon Ortiz throws a first-pitch fastball right down the middle. Ichiro unloaded on it, homering to dead centerfield to cut the Twins lead in half. Although it was his first homer allowed, it certainly will not be his last as he traditionally does give up homers. If most of them are solo, he will be just fine. He came back with a very nice at bat with Adrian Beltre, eventually getting him to ground out to 3B. But Jose Vidro hit the first pitch on the ground and into left field for a single. Raul Ibanez then got behind 0-2 before he hit into an inning-ending 1-6-3 double play.
Top of the 2nd - Jason Kubel led off by flying out to left field. Luis Rodriguez popped up to Beltre near the Twins dugout. Weaver went to a full count with both hitters. Jason Bartlett popped up weakly to right field to end the inning.
Minor League Update - The Beloit Snappers ended their losing streak tonight with a 5-2 win over Wisconsin. Danny Valencia continues to impress. He went 2-4 with his third home run. It led off the team's three-run sixth inning. Chris Parmalee went 1-3 with a triple, a walk and a stolen base. Danny Santiesteban, Yancarlos Ortiz and Brian Dinkelman each hit a double. Joe Benson was 0-4, but he also stole two bases. Cole DeVries started and gave up two runs (1 earned) on three hits and a walk in 4.1 innings. Armando Gabino then went the next 3.2 innings allowing only a walk and a hit. He got the Win. Danny Vais got the save with a perfect, two-strikeout inning.
Bottom of the 2nd - Richie Sexson led off the inning with a grounder to 3B for the first out. Ortiz continues to work inside (which is GREAT!). Unfortunately he hit Jose Guillen in the right hand with a fastball. Kenji Johjima then got jammed and grounded into an inning-ending double play. Twins 2, Mariners 1.
Top of the 3rd - Luis Castillo looked weak (as usual) in a ground out to the pitcher for the first out. Jason Tyner then hit a rocket that hit the bottom of the wall in right field. I lost my breath there again for a couple of seconds. I thought it was gone! I'll take the double! Joe Mauer fell behind 1-2 before lining a rocket one-hopper right at 2B for a ground out. Michael Cuddyer is up again. First pitch... slider... 78... way out in front... strike one. Second pitch... fastball... 88... foul tip. Third pitch... fastball... 95 (no way)... not called a strike for some reason. Fourth pitch... slider... 79... hanging on the inside corner... called third strike. Have I ever mentioned that not much annoys me more than called third strikes?? UGGH!
Bottom of the 3rd - Yuniesky Betancourt grounds out to Luis Rodriguez for the first out. Jose Lopez, who seemingly came out of nowhere at the beginning of 2006, grounded out to Luis Rodriguez for the second out. (six of the eight outs thus far have come on groundballs to Rodriguez at 3B) Ichiro made Luis Rodriguez dive to his left to make a great play and from his ... ummm... posterior, he threw him out to end the inning. (that's seven of the nine outs accountable to L-Rod! The other two came one the 1-6-3 double play.) Have I ever mentioned that I'm a big Luis Rodriguez supporter?
Top of the 4th - Justin Morneau, I wonder if he has plans after the game, grounded out to the SS, who was playing to the 2B side of 2B, for the first out. Torii Hunter drilled the first pitch over Ibanez's head in LF for yet another double, his 9th of the year! Jason Kubel grounded out to 2B for the second out of the inning. I guess some may say it was good because he advanced Hunter to 3B. I would rather the run just be driven in. Our hero, Luis Rodriguez then drilled a one-hopper to Sexson at 1B for the third out.
Question of the Night - Is Lucky Charms the greatest cereal of all time? I'm sitting here at almost 10:00 with a little bowl of Lucky Charms. It's so good. I guess Fruity Pebbles is close. Raisin Bran isn't bad, but I have to be in the right mood for it. Cap'n Crunch... with the Crunch Berries are good too. Any other nominations for best cereal of all-time?
Bottom of the 4th - Adrian Beltre grounds out to... you guessed it... Luis!!! Jose Vidro, who slapped his first inning single past a diving Lis, then made Torii Hunter run to the warning track in center for the second out. Raul Ibanez then grounded out to short to end the inning.
This game is going quickly... I haven't even had time to peruse for more articles to link to yet. And, since I've got my Land O'Lakes milk out, is there a dumber commercial theme than "The MVP of Milk"? That is horrible!
Top of the 5th - Jason Bartlett hit the first pitch to short, and before it got to Betancourt, it bounced way over his head for a single. Luis Castillo, on a full count with Bartlett running, singled to right field to advance Bartlett to 3B. That brings up the powerful Jason Tyner. I wonder if the outfielders are playing deeper in this plate appearance? (Blyleven tells us that they are still very shallow) With two strikes, Tyner singled past Sexson for a single (the term "pirahna" is used) to score Bartlett (Castillo to 2B). (Blyleven just used "pirahnas" twice, in back-to-back sentences!) Joe Mauer laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to advance the two runners. Believe me, it was not a sacrifice attempt (I REALLY hope!). He's the #3 hitter... swing the bat! Michael Cuddyer watches a first-pitch fastball right down the middle for a strike. The next pitch was a slider about 18-24 inches outside that he looked really bad on. The third pitch... another slider, this one about 24-36 inches outside. Strike three. That was a Hunter-esque at bat. Although we do see a lot of guessing from Cuddyer too. The Mariners decide to walk the MVP to get to Torii! After seeing a few fastballs that were somehow registering 97, 98 mph, Hunter got one of those hanging sliders on the inner part of the plate and deposited it over the left field fence for a grand slam. Jason Kubel then drilled a liner over Ichiro's head in CF for a double. Luis (!) grounded out to end the inning. What I see from Weaver is this... He has some good stuff, two or three above average pitches with a lot of movement. He just has no idea where it is going, or how to control it. He makes a LOT of mistakes, just horrible pitches and good teams and good hitters will take advantage of that. Twins 7, Mariners 1.
Trade for Jorge Cantu? - Nick M asks the question and gives his opinion. Cantu is just 25 years old. He did have a productive season a couple of years ago. He could play 3B, but as Terry Ryan says, his best defensive position is "DH." So, my vote is no thanks. First, he would cost more than he is worth, and second, let's just trust Terry Ryan at this point, trust Luis(!) and hope that Matt Moses and/or David Winfree are ready next year!
Bottom of the 5th - Richie Sexson leads off for the Mariners. He gets totally jammed but doubles down the left field line. Jose Guillen then ... BREAKING NEWS... BREAKING NEWS ... I just witnessed good effort from Luis Castillo. Seriously. I am still in shock as I type this. Castillo leapt high in the air to grab a weak line drive for the first out. Kenji Johjima had a good at bat but it ended with a weak fly out. Yuniesky Betancourt just saw what showed up as a 99 mph fastball. OK, if he throws 99, I expect Felix to hit about 108 tomorrow night. On the next pitch, a slider measured at 95 on the screen. Ridiculous! Betancourt grounded out to.. Luis (!) to end the inning.
Top of the 6th - Jeff Weaver is still in the game. Jason Bartlett grounded out to third base. Luis Castillo then bounced out weakly to first for the second out. Jason Tyner then grounded out to second base for the final out.
Bottom of the 6th - Jose Lopez leads off against Ramon Ortiz with a long homer to left field. Another solo homer. After falling behind Ichiro 3-1, he got him to pop up to left field. Adrian Beltre grounded out to second for the second out. Jose Vidro and Raul Ibanez hit back-to-back weak singles to centerfield. Richie Sexson grounded out to Luis (!) to end the inning.
That's it! I'm going to just sit back and watch the last few innings. I may stop back in the morning to give any updates that may be necessary.
UPDATE - Welp, I guess there was more game left after the 6th inning. In the Top of the 8th, Joe Mauer doubles with the bases loaded for two RBI. It was followed by a two run single by Michael Cuddyer. Torii Hunter tried to make a diving catch, similar to what Alfonso Soriano did the day before. He hurt himself and left the game, but I am guessing that was more precautionary with the Twins big lead. Ramon Ortiz is now 3-0 with a 2.05 ERA. Dennys Reyes and Pat Neshek each pitched a scoreless inning of relief. The Twins 2-3-4 hitters (Tyner, Mauer, Cuddyer) combined to go 8-14 with 7 RBI, five doubles and a triple. Not bad.
Tonight is the big Carlos Silva versus Felix Hernandez matchup. Any thoughts? Again, if you have any questions, please feel free to ask them in the Comments and I will check periodically and try to answer them. Check back tonight for more game-time blogging. Have a great day!
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