May 18, 2003

Sweeping up the weekend

I went to the Twins/White Sox game on Saturday night. Believe it or not, it was my first "live" game of the season.

Joe Mays (aka "Johan's Oppressor") started for the Twins and pitched very well. He cruised through the first 6 innings, allowing only 3 hits, two of which were the infield variety involving Luis Rivas (surprise, surprise). Mays ran into some trouble in the 7th, allowing another infield single (not involving Rivas) and then, with 2 outs in the inning, 3 straight singles, the third of which scored Chicago's first run.

And just like that, Joe Mays' day was over. Ron Gardenhire yanked him with the bases loaded and 2 outs in the 7th and brought in J.C. Romero, the Twins' any time, any place reliever. Romero needed only one pitch to get D'Angelo Jimenez to hit an inning-ending pop-up and the Twins were out of trouble in the 7th and still clinging to a 2-1 lead.

That was the last threat by the White Sox, as they went down 1-2-3 in the 8th and 1-2-3 in the 9th. The Twins added a run in the 8th and won the game 3-1.

Besides seeing the Twins beat the White Sox, I also got a chance to the see the greatest catch I have ever witnessed in person. In that troublesome 7th inning for Mays, Carlos Lee hit a deeeep drive to centerfield. As soon as it left the bat, a couple of White Sox fans sitting by me yelled out: "There it goes! Yeah baby!" It was high, it was deep and appeared to be heading way over the fence. Of course, I forgot we had Torii Hunter.

Quite frankly, that picture doesn't even do it justice. That yellow line is where the wall ends. As you can see, Torii was a good two feet above the wall when he made the grab. It wasn't one of those "he robbed him of a homer" balls that was probably going to bounce off the top of the wall anyway. It was one of those "he robbed him of a homer" balls that was going to land 10 feet beyond the fence in straightaway centerfield.

If there was such a defensive stat as "Home Runs Saved" I think Torii Hunter would lead all of baseball, and his save on Saturday night was the best of the many I have seen from him in his career. Torii got a standing ovation and the game actually was held up for several moments because no one would sit down and no one would stop clapping. Well, except for those White Sox fans sitting by me, they were sitting and definitely not clapping.

It really was quite incredible for Hunter to be able to not only sprint full-speed to the wall in centerfield, but to be able to then leap several feet into the air in the middle of a dead sprint. It's a catch that I think could only have been properly appreciated live and I'd say the 23,000 in attendance would probably agree.

While Minnesota's centerfielder was making a highlight-reel catch, Chicago's centerfielder was actually their all-star right fielder, Magglio Ordonez. Their normal centerfielder, Willie Harris, separated his shoulder making a diving catch in Friday's game, so Magglio slid one spot over and patrolled centerfield. This wasn't a completely new thing for Ordonez, who played 1 game in CF in 2001 and 22 games there in 1998. Plus, I am pretty sure he played a lot of centerfield in the minors. Still, it was interesting.

With Ordonez starting in centerfield, Armando Rios started in right field, which struck me as strange, since Rios has actually started 12 games in centerfield for the Sox this year. I wondered why, if the Sox thought Ordonez was better to handle centerfield than Rios Saturday night, they haven't been starting Ordonez in CF instead of Rios the whole year?

On that same note, if Ordonez is able to play at least an adequate CF, why not just forget about playing guys like Rios and Willie Harris out there at all, and stick Ordonez in CF full-time? This would allow them to get Brian Daubach's bat in the lineup in right field, which would be a huge boost over the contributions of Rios and Harris (and Aaron Rowand, before they sent him down to Triple-A).

Of course, after I thought that, the Sox did exactly what I had in mind during Sunday's game, starting Ordonez in CF and Daubach in RF. It'll be interesting to see if they continue to do this while Harris is out and perhaps even more interesting to see what they do once Harris is ready to return to the lineup. I don't know enough about Ordonez's defense in CF to say either way, but if the Sox feel he can handle the position, I'd run with it and get the offensive boost that would come with their new outfield alignment.

A few other notes from my trip to the Dome...

The Twins have got a great thing going before the game with their "plaza" outside the Dome. It feels sort of like the state fair, with games for kids to play, food to eat and beer to drink. Plus, they had a live band doing covers of "Creed," "Three Doors Down," "Nickelback" and some other modern rock bands before Saturday's game and they were really good (although, sadly, I can't remember their name). It was fun to just sit outside the ballpark, relax in the good weather and listen to some good music.

Speaking of good weather, how badly do I wish the Twins played in a different stadium?! It was perfect Saturday night. Mid-70s, not a cloud in the sky, no wind. Absolutely beautiful. Meanwhile, I was sitting inside a freaking dome! Ugh!

There is no food on this earth that can compete with a hot dog at a baseball game. I probably don't want to know what kind of meat is actually in them or what type of preparation goes into making them, but I'll gladly play naive and eat them every time I go to a game. I think the dogs at Twins' games are especially good, so I had two of them Saturday night.

One of my favorite things about going to a game at the Metrodome is the "Kiss Cam." The "Kiss Cam" is a thing the Twins do between innings, where they put various "couples" throughout the ballpark up on the Jumbotron, along with some heart graphics and the words "Kiss Cam" underneath them. The idea is that the people see themselves on the screen and are supposed to kiss. I wrote about one of my trips to the Dome for a game last season and had some thoughts on the "Kiss Cam":

You get the basic boyfriend/girlfriend kiss (they smile at each other and then do a medium length kiss on the lips).

The basic old married couple kiss (the husband is usually not aware they are on the screen, so the wife just grabs his face and kisses him on the cheek very quickly while the husband looks confused).

The newly married couple kiss (usually arms and tongues are involved, a Coke or Sprite is knocked over and the kiss takes a while).

The just friends/brother and sister non-kiss (the people try to pretend that they don't see themselves on screen and then try to play chicken with the camera, seeing if they can look like they are ignoring it longer than the camera can stay on them).

And finally you get the camera man's attempt at humor non-kiss (two big fat guys sitting next to each other or a couple of local sportswriters sitting in the press box - which is sometimes the same thing).

My favorite kiss from Saturday was when the camera focused on an elderly couple, probably in their 80s. The man noticed they were up on the screen and slowly started to move in on the woman, sort of like a guy trying to make the first move in a dark movie theatre or something. He just kept inching closer and closer and, just when the crowd thought it wasn't going to happen, the woman noticed she was on the screen, turned toward the guy and gave him a big smooch. They crowd loved it. Of course, the camera man thought it was a good idea to go back to the same couple a few seconds later, at which point the old guy repeated the same process of slowly and silently inching his way towards his bride. It was pretty funny.

With Friday night's 18-3 shellacking, Saturday's 3-1 win with me in attendance, and Sunday's come-from-behind win, the Twins swept the 3-game series against Chicago.

This brought to mind a little prediction I made way back on May 5th:

"Here's what the AL Central standings look like right now:
TEAM           W    L    GB

Kansas City 19 9 ---
Minnesota 15 15 5.0
Chicago 15 16 5.5

By the way, in case you are wondering, the Royals are just about done. I am predicting they will be out of 1st place by the middle of the month."

Well, yesterday was May 18th, so I missed "the middle of the month" by a couple of days. Still, here are the current standings in the AL Central:

TEAM           W    L    GB

Minnesota 25 18 ---
Kansas City 24 18 0.5
Chicago 20 23 5.0

Of course, this is where it gets really tough for the Twins. They have taken over first place, but their upcoming stretch of games is downright scary. Their next 15 games breakdown as follows:

3 at Oakland

3 at Seattle

2 vs Oakland

4 vs Seattle

3 at San Francisco

Ouch.

This may piss off some Royals fans, but I honestly don't see them as a threat anymore (and I really never did, which I've said before). With that in mind (and the way the White Sox are playing), I think that the Twins can run away with the division, just like they did last year, if they can somehow manage to go 6-9 or 7-8 over the next 15 games. That's easier said than done, of course.

By the way, the Twins are now 29-15 (.659) against the White Sox since 2001. Something to remember next time one of the boys in black starts running his mouth again.

Finally...

Every once in a while I like to give a little plug to a good new blog. I recently came across a new one called "Bryball." It's a little rough around the edges right now, but it's definitely worth checking out. So go head over there now (please)...

Bryball: Where Opinion Rounds the Bases

Today's picks:

Toronto (Lidle) -110 over Chicago (Wright)

Total to date: + $1,250

W/L record: 86-84 (Horrible, horrible day for picks on Friday. I went 0-5 and lost $565! Ouch.)

*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

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