April 11, 2006

Twins 7, Athletics 6

I'm not sure that the seventh game of any season can really be a crucial one, but last night's game came as close to that as possible. The Twins fell behind 4-0 in the second inning as Brad Radke once again spotted the other team way too many runs way too early, and it appeared as though the Twins were headed for a 1-6 start.

But Radke righted the ship, as he often does, and the Twins' offense did some damage for the first time since scoring 13 runs in the second game of the year. It wasn't the prettiest game, but any time the Twins feel like scoring seven runs against one of the best pitchers (and defenses) in the league, I'll certainly take it. For some reason 2-5 feels a whole lot better than 1-6.

Some notes on the home opener ...

  • The biggest hit of the night belonged to Tony Batista, who came through with a three-run homer to cap off Danny Haren's disastrous third inning. After Juan Castro led off the inning by flying out to right field, the Twins went single, double, single, single, strikeout, homer, single. Then Castro came up again and made his second out of the inning to end things, but not before six runs crossed the plate.

    Batista added a double off the baggy in right field later and played solid defense at third base, and now owns a .200/.273/.600 hitting line for the season. Will hitting a key homer every couple weeks outweigh making an out three-fourths of the time and costing the team runs defensively? We'll see, I suppose. At the very least Batista's good days are memorable, whereas his bad days just sort of blend in.

  • After a rough Twins debut, Luis Castillo has looked very impressive both offensively and defensively. I love his approach at the plate, because he isn't bothered by falling behind in the count and rarely gives the pitcher an easy out. With that said, I'm a little worried about his legs. Castillo seems to run hard on only a fraction of his grounders, which is somewhat shocking to see from a guy whose game is based so much on hitting singles.

    He also passed up what seemed to be a perfect running opportunity in the first inning, with Joe Mauer at the plate and the highly susceptible battery of Haren and Jason Kendall trying to hold him. It almost cost the Twins too, because Mauer hit a grounder to second base that would have been a double play if Mark Ellis hadn't bobbled it. I'm not necessarily against Castillo running very little this season, but I think most fans will be surprised by how few stolen base attempts he ends up with.

  • Michael Cuddyer went 1-for-4 and made a nice catch in right field, but he also provided a great example of why he's been such an infuriating player to watch over the years. With a runner on first base and two outs in the second inning, Cuddyer worked the count full against Haren and then took a fastball right over the middle of the plate for strike three. Perhaps he was looking for an off-speed pitch and simply couldn't pull the trigger, but that's a situation that has come up far too often with Cuddyer.

    I'm all for being patient, but in Cuddyer's case it often seems as though he's at the plate specifically looking for a walk. A big part of being patient is to get yourself into favorable counts where you are likely to see a hittable pitch. Cuddyer gets into those counts and tries to coax another ball out of the pitcher, rather than focusing on driving something into the gap while still being willing to lay off a borderline pitch. I think that approach is part of why he's been such a disappointment.

  • Mauer continues to be a stud, going 2-for-4 with two RBIs while taking two extra bases with his legs. Mauer went from first to third when he recognized that Rondell White's blooper was going to fall in front of center fielder Mark Kotsay, and later stretched a long single to right-center into a sliding double. Also, the sideburns are in midseason form and he continues to sound like a shy 13-year-old boy in postgame interviews.
  • Radke is now 2-0 despite having a 5.54 ERA and giving up four runs in each of his two starts. Why? Because he's had the good fortune of being on the mound for the two games that the Twins' bats came alive for. The Twins have averaged 10 runs in Radke's two starts, but just 2.8 runs in the other five games. As Joe Morgan always says, some pitchers just know how to win.
  • I'm sad to say that my various gloom and doom predictions for Jesse Crain seem to be coming true. Crain has missed more bats so far this year than he did last season, but he remains far too hittable for a guy with his stuff. At this point he is simply trying to throw a 95 MPH fastball past every hitter, on every pitch. That'll work some of the time, and maybe even most of the time, but when it doesn't work things will get ugly.

    Crain has very little movement on his fastball, and regardless of how hard you throw good major-league hitters can catch up to something that is arrow straight. He also seems very hesitant to rely on his off-speed pitches despite the fact that they can be effective. Crain will be a key test for pitching coach Rick Anderson, because if he's struggling and Juan Rincon's elbow isn't quite right, suddenly the bullpen isn't such a strength.

  • Twins color commentator Bert Blyleven had my favorite line of the game. As Bobby Crosby hit a line drive off Joe Nathan with two outs in the ninth inning and the camera flashed to center field to see if it would be a hit, Blyleven calmly said: "We got a man out there." Sure enough, it was game over.
  • * * * * * * * * * *

    I was interviewed by the local ABC news affiliate yesterday and the piece ran during the six o'clock news last night, as sort of a lead-in to the home opener. You can watch the video by clicking here.

    As with Sports Illustrated, where I was interviewed over the course of several days for an article that was about 500 words, I was amazed by how much time and effort goes into producing what was basically a one-minute video. I was also surprised by the quick turnaround time -- they contacted me in the morning, came to my house to do the interview during the afternoon, and ran it at dinner time.

    I've learned that I'm infinitely more comfortable being interviewed for TV than radio. The thing yesterday was painless and I taped another interview with a different local station earlier this month that was a similarly pleasant experience. Meanwhile, I get asked to do various radio shows across the country every week and have turned down all of them. There is something about not seeing who I'm speaking to that freaks me out.

    I would gladly do TV interviews every day, but the thought of calling into a single radio show scares the hell out of me. Even stranger, the idea of sitting in the studio to do a radio interview is very appealing and I actually wouldn't mind getting into radio at some point. I've also turned down numerous print interviews that would have been done over the phone, so I'm thinking that's the real root of my phobia. In other words, if you didn't realize I was crazy before today, now it's official.

    The funny thing is that if anyone is suited for radio rather than TV, it's me. My general happiness with how yesterday's piece turned out is overshadowed by how ridiculously fat I looked in one of the shots. I can blame some of it on wearing a really baggy shirt and having horrible posture, but it was still depressing to see after I was feeling good about losing 45 pounds. Oh well, back to the elliptical machine!

    No Comments

    No comments yet.

    Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.