June 25, 2004
At this point last year, the Minnesota Twins were 39-32, and 2.0 games ahead of the Kansas City Royals for first-place in the AL Central. As of today, the Twins are 40-31 this season, and 2.0 games ahead of the Chicago White Sox for first-place in the AL Central.
Given all the injuries (Mauer, Stewart, LeCroy, Koskie, Hunter) and Johan Santana's bad first two months, I think 40-31 is a great place to be. However, Chicago's offense scares the hell out of me and the Cleveland Indians are a much better team than I thought they would be this season.
Last year, most people thought it was going to be a two-team race between the Twins and White Sox, but the Royals wedged their way into things until the final month. This year might be much of the same, with the Indians taking the Royals' spot.
Taking the series from Boston, in Boston, was a big deal. I really thought the series had the potential for disaster, and I wouldn't have been surprised if the Twins dropped all three games. To win two out of three is just great.
Some thoughts on yesterday's game ...
I am not usually a fan of sacrifice bunting, but Jose Offerman's bunt in the top of the 10th inning was perfect in every way. First and foremost, it was a situation (extra innings, tie game, runner on second with no outs) that made a bunt the smart play. Beyond that, Offerman executed it perfectly.
He squared around from the very beginning, instead of waiting for the pitcher to start his motion like most bunters do. He didn't getting a running start before the bat actually made contact with the ball, which is another mistake many bunters make. And, most importantly, he truly sacrificed himself for the team by not attempting to get a hit out of the play. He simply wanted to trade Boston one out for one base advanced. Picture perfect all around, and he was rewarded when Lew Ford drove the go-ahead run in from third with a sacrifice fly.
Then Joe Nathan came in to close it out. Now, I hate the way closers are used today about as much as I hate bunting in most situations, but what Joe Nathan did yesterday was truly a save. He came into the game with a one-run lead, not one of those three-run advantages that anyone could close out 90% of the time.
And not only was it a one-run lead, Nathan had to face, in order, David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez and Nomar Garciaparra. After giving up a far-too-long-for-my-taste fly ball to right field to Ortiz, he struck Ramirez out on a nasty breaking ball diving down and away, and then got Nomar to foul out to Henry Blanco.
The shame of it all is that Brad Radke once again couldn't pick up a win. Radke now has a 3.22 ERA in 103.1 innings this year, including three runs in 6.2 innings yesterday. And he has four wins.
The guy who did get the win, Grant Balfour, pitched well, so it's not as if he wasn't deserving. Still, Radke's going to end up going 10-8 or something, and he deserves better. Balfour is a guy I've touted for a while now, and I've even said I wish the Twins would give him a chance as a starting pitcher, so it was nice to see him pitch well and stay out there for a while (2.1 innings of scoreless ball).
There was a huge deal made late last night and I have a big write-up of the trade over at The Hardball Times, so please go check that out ...
The Hardball Times: The Beltran Three-Way
Chicago (Prior) -140 over Chicago (Garland)
Montreal (Day) +110 over Toronto (Towers)
San Francisco (Schmidt) -130 over Oakland (Zito)
Atlanta (Ortiz) -100 over Baltimore (Lopez)
St. Louis (Williams) -140 over Kansas City (Reyes)
San Diego (Valdes) -100 over Seattle (Nageotte)
Total to date: -$2,705
W/L record: 110-147 (3-1 yesterday for +205.)
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