October 8, 2010

ALDS Game 2: Yankees 5, Twins 2

At this point writing about postseason losses to the Yankees has me feeling like Bill Murray's character in Groundhog Day, except there's no Andie MacDowell to hit on while going through the same frustrating story over and over again. I'm not sure what's left to say, really, but here are some notes from Game 2 of the ALDS ...

• For all the media-fueled talk of Francisco Liriano being untrustworthy in big games and Carl Pavano being less likely to implode they basically turned in identical performances versus New York. Liriano struck out seven and allowed four runs on nine baserunners in 5.2 innings, while Pavano struck out three and allowed four runs on 11 baserunners in six innings. Unfortunately neither performance was particularly good.

• Of course, Pavano's line (and the game in general) would've looked much different had home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt called what appeared to be a pretty obvious strike three on Lance Berkman in the seventh inning. Instead he called it a ball and Berkman connected on a go-ahead (and ultimately game-winning) double on the next pitch. Berkman later came around to score, putting the Yankees up 4-2.

Via replays and various pitch location charts the call was perhaps somewhat less obvious than it initially appeared, but Pavano's pitch was pretty clearly a strike and even more clearly was a pitch that's almost always called a strike. However, it was also far from the only questionable ball/strike call Wendelstedt made all night and in fact his strike zone was wildly inconsistent for both sides and ... well, let's say "unique." Plus, in Game 1 a bad call went the Twins' way.

• From the moment Ron Gardenhire left the dugout there was absolutely zero that doubt he'd end up getting tossed from the game. Typically pitching coach Rick Anderson makes all trips to the mound that don't involve a pitching change and Gardenhire has a long history of incidents with Wendelstedt, so clearly he headed out there with the intention of venting his frustration with the umpire and perhaps even with the goal of getting tossed.

Jon Rauch deserves some praise for wriggling out of the bases-loaded, one-out jam against Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano in the seventh inning, just as he probably deserved more praise than he received during the regular season for converting 21-of-25 save opportunities before the closer role was yanked away and for his 3.12 ERA and 41-to-16 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 57.2 innings overall.

• Lost in the talk of pitching matchups and rotation orders is that the Twins' lineup has been inept during the 2-11 playoff stretch against New York, scoring 3, 1, 1, 1, 2, 6, 4, 5, 2, 3, 1, 4, and 2 runs. That works out to 2.8 runs per game, which won't equal many wins regardless of the pitching. To put that in some context, the average AL team scored 4.5 runs per game this year. Against the Yankees the Twins have more than four runs twice in 13 playoff games.

• Coming into the series I felt that two factors being somewhat overlooked were the strength of the Yankees' bullpen even beyond Mariano Rivera and how facing four left-handed starters in five games put the Twins at a big disadvantage because they relied so much on left-handed bats Joe Mauer, Jim Thome, and Jason Kubel. Both factors have sadly played out pretty much as expected in the first two games. They face a right-handed starter Saturday in Phil Hughes.

• I'll be co-hosting "Twins Wrap" on 1500-ESPN following (hopefully) both games in New York, talking with Darren Wolfson and taking phone calls starting about an hour after the final out. Win or lose the shows will likely last for at least an hour and maybe two hours, so I'd definitely love to hear from some AG.com readers, if only for the sake of my sanity.


  1. Not sick of losing to the Yankees.

    Just sick of losing in the postseason.

    Comment by Neil — October 7, 2010 @ 10:20 pm

  2. Sadly Somethings never change. Ever since we started this playoff run lefties have owned us. The right handers tried to step up but Cuddy in game 1 and Delmon tonight. But with lefties struggling they have to in the same night. So we will win 9-3 Saturday and be shut down on Sunday
    Go Rangers

    Comment by Snoz22 — October 7, 2010 @ 10:29 pm

  3. Same old, same old. It’s gotten to a point where it’s beyond my ability to explain it rationally.

    Comment by Adam — October 7, 2010 @ 10:38 pm

  4. I don’t know how you can complain about that call on Berkman, and link to pitch location charts no less, and completely ignore that “strike 1” was way outside and an as bad if not worse call. Those calls go both ways in a game.

    Comment by PeteyNice — October 7, 2010 @ 10:41 pm

  5. PeteyNice,

    The difference is that Wendelstedt was calling that outside pitch almost the entire game, so it’s not as if he randomly decided to call a normally wide pitch a strike. As inconsistent as he was, he at least established that pitchers were going to get that outside pitch to lefties. The 2-2 pitch to Berkman shouldn’t have been in question.

    Comment by Scott — October 7, 2010 @ 11:07 pm

  6. One stat leaps out at me. Seven different Yankees have RBIs, vs. 3 for the Twins.

    Comment by duane — October 7, 2010 @ 11:14 pm

  7. I was at the game and Pavano was dodging bullets all night. All the people around me kept looking at his pitch counts and say, Christ, they’re going to leave him in there because he hasn’t thrown enough pitches and hasn’t given up a ton of runs… it bit them in the ass. Predictably so.

    Comment by MC — October 7, 2010 @ 11:16 pm

  8. It’s pretty easy to explain, really. MLB wants the Yankees to be dominant, and have a salary structure designed to keep them that way. They won’t win every time, but they are only doing what baseball’s structure is designed for them to do.

    Comment by Jason — October 7, 2010 @ 11:21 pm

  9. Both you and Souhan mentioned Groundhog day in your write up of the game. Ruh Roh.

    Comment by Micah — October 8, 2010 @ 5:18 am

  10. “Both you and Souhan mentioned Groundhog day in your write up of the game. Ruh Roh.”

    Coincidence? I think not..Twins, 0 world titles since that movie came out.

    Comment by Pat — October 8, 2010 @ 6:02 am

  11. Aaron, you’ve probably already seen it but thought I’d comment on it anyways. Fangraphs has the strike chart against lefties in the game last night, and it looks like he called ALL pitches inside balls essentially while giving like 6 inches to the outside. Still hurts that he missed that one in particular but I think he was just consistently BAD

    Comment by Robert — October 8, 2010 @ 6:54 am

  12. Last night I actually said, “stupid baseball, 162 games just to get your heart ripped out every year.” And I meant it. Some will say, “at least they make the playoffs”, and I suppose that is nice, but at some point the difference between getting swept in the playoffs versus not making the playoffs, in terms of fan frustration, is nil, or at least negligible. I feel that the Twins have rolled me right up to that precipice and given me a nice, hard shove over the edge. Right now, just like Pirates fans and Mets fans and Cubs fans, I feel that the Twins have zero chance of winning a World Series anytime soon. What’s so great about a few extra games in October?

    AG, I feel kind of sorry for you, having to go on the radio and talk about the Twins. All I want to do is ignore baseball for a while and hope against hope that we don’t have another Phillies v Yankees World Series.

    Comment by Ted — October 8, 2010 @ 7:33 am

  13. @Scott

    Exactly. And it wasn’t in question. It was a ball. In exchange for giving both pitchers several inches outside against lefties, he took it away on the inside. Look at the charts for the whole game. That was consistent all night. Why would you have any reason to expect it to change? If you are going to say that the “strike 1” was a strike because it was a strike all night then you can’t complain about “ball 2” being a ball since it was a ball all night as well.

    Comment by PeteyNice — October 8, 2010 @ 7:37 am

  14. Whenever I start feeling sad and disappointed, I force myself to harken back to 1972-1986 and 1993-2001. As painful as it feels right now, this is MUCH better than those two stretches … Pat Meares or Willie Norwood, anyone?

    Comment by marietta mouthpiece — October 8, 2010 @ 7:40 am

  15. I disagree with the “at least we made the playoffs” point of view. Cubs and Pirates fans never belived that they would even be in the running this year. During the years where the Twins really sucked, I actually enjoyed the game more. In 2010 they were starting multiple gold glovers, had two MVP’s and solid pitching. I realistically thought the Twins had a shot at 100 wins. Throw away/getaway lineups along with leaving Yong in the 7/8 hole early in the year really bothered me. I would love to be on a bowling team with GArdy and I am sure he is a great guy; he will never win a WS as the Twins manager and I will not follow the Twins next season if he is the manager. Oh, I’ll check a box score every now and then but I will not watch every single game on MLB extra innings or MLB.com like I do now. Like Charley Brown trying to kick the football, I just can’t take the predictable dissapointment any longer.

    Comment by Large Canine — October 8, 2010 @ 8:02 am

  16. I think we find out after the series that Thome’s back is much worse than we initially knew. The man is really struggling up there.

    Comment by AlexO — October 8, 2010 @ 8:19 am

  17. I’d rather go 7 years between playoff appearances and win a WS than this. This is just stupidly depressing.

    Look, they won’t draft a pitcher that strikes guys out. They can’t develop hitters. This is a team built to beat up on bad teams, win against good teams, and lose against great teams. Just look a this roster, and ask yourself who you are “afraid of”. Cuddy, Kubel, Young—hahahaha. Only Thome is a guy any pitcher should fear. As good as Mauer is, he has no power.

    The pitchers? They will eat up bad hitters, but if you can’t make people swing and miss, you can’t beat the best teams.

    But, as Aaron points out, it is the offense. Until they actually draft (since they won’t trade for a guy in his prime, and all their money is now tied up in a singles/doubles hitter) and develop legitimate hitters, this team is going nowhere.

    Comment by mike wants WINS — October 8, 2010 @ 8:30 am

  18. Gardy leaves his starters in too long when they are clearly done, as if it is to prove something. Maybe it is the macho starter thing, or not wanting to be on the hook for choosing a reliever that doesn’t work out. A shorter leash would have given the Twins more playoff victories the past 10 years. Mauer is not challenged enough for the way he calls games.

    None of this is a surprise. Money is much better spent on aces than position players if you want playoff victories. Sorry, but Liriano doesn’t count because he does not have a large fuel tank. That said, put me down as cool with regular season only entertainment.

    Comment by brian — October 8, 2010 @ 8:42 am

  19. Am I reading the strike zone chart wrong or did the Twins get a lot of calls their way for their pitchers?

    Comment by Algonad — October 8, 2010 @ 8:45 am

  20. “I’d rather go 7 years between playoff appearances and win a WS than this.”

    You can always root for the Royals. Have fun with that.

    Fortunately it is just a game. What can you do about it?Enjoy the season!

    Comment by spoof bonser — October 8, 2010 @ 9:06 am

  21. I missed it, when did the Royal win the WS?

    Comment by mike wants WINS — October 8, 2010 @ 9:10 am

  22. I can no longer feel feelings…

    Comment by Owen — October 8, 2010 @ 9:10 am

  23. It’s not the pitching, it’s the lineup. You can’t win a playoff series against solid pitching and the #1 defense with 3 runs per game. Not having Morneau is huge. Not having another solid right-handed bat is huge. While Thome was a really good get, we needed a right-handed hitter of his caliber. If they could run, that would be even better. Credit where due to Cuddyer and Young (and even Hudson), but where the hell is some spark on the rest of the team? Mauer has shown absolutely no fire in the belly at all. Flailing at first pitch balls? He has looked like a deer in the headlights this entire series. There is no killer instinct on this team at all. Not without Morneau anyway.

    Comment by herb — October 8, 2010 @ 9:15 am

  24. Chin up fellas!

    It ain’t over yet. Officially.

    Comment by John P — October 8, 2010 @ 9:48 am

  25. I’m in the camp of those who are beginning to believe that getting my heart ripped out like the guy in that cheesy James Woods vampire movie. There is clearly more than just matchups going on here- the 62 Mets play the 55 Yankees 13 times they win ONE of those games! At least there’s a game at Mariucci tonight! Go UMASS!

    Comment by ganderson — October 8, 2010 @ 10:11 am

  26. I meant to say…I’m in the camp of those who are beginning to believe that this series is like getting my heart ripped out like the guy in that cheesy James Woods vampire movie. And…there is clearly more than just matchups going on here- the 62 Mets play the 55 Yankees 13 times they win ONE of those games! At least there’s a game at Mariucci tonight! Go UMASS!

    Comment by ganderson — October 8, 2010 @ 10:13 am

  27. Mike want wins, GREAT POST!

    Just who do you have confidence in in the bottom of the 8th, down by a couple or in the bottom of the 9th down 1 or tied to get the job done?! Casilla? Valencia? When these two are your choices, it is no wonder they have no chance… I am sick and tired of seeing these guys roll over so the Yanks (Oakland too) can rub their bellies and tickle them and look down at them because they are soooo cute…
    Screw them.
    I would rather see Rich Becker and Scott Stahoviak batting 3 and 4 for 5 years and then make a REAL RUN in the playoffs the next 2 years.

    Comment by theOW — October 8, 2010 @ 10:41 am

  28. I watched Tim Lincecum pitch for the first time ever last night. Man, is that guy fun to watch. And last night in a big game he came up very big. Unfortunately for the Twins, the last two nights in big games, Liriano and Pavano came up very, very small.

    You would think for $23 million a year you would get a guy who, if not carrying the team, would at least provide some kind of spark. I’m not really feeling it with two late and meaningless singles in nine at bats.

    I don’t know what the answer is. Last year we finished the season hot and laid an egg against the Yankees. This year we came in cold, but healthy and well-rested, with the same result.

    Comment by Pedro Munoz — October 8, 2010 @ 11:16 am

  29. Ump was wildly inconsistent for boths sides? Really? By my count of pitches in fangraphs:

    Balls Called as Strikes: Yanks pitchers: 14, Twins pitchers 2.

    Strikes called as balls: Yanks ptichers 4, Twins pitchers 5.

    Disparity obviously with Petitte “expanding the strike zone”, which is a euphamism for getting the calls.

    Comment by Doug — October 8, 2010 @ 12:14 pm

  30. At what point does Jason Kubel get called out? 1 for 14 last year–with 9 K’s(!)–and no hits so far this year. Out of his league in the playoffs. I’d like to see your comments Mr. Gleeman.

    Comment by Matt — October 8, 2010 @ 12:23 pm

  31. I think Capps – and how bad he has been – has been overlooked.
    Yes, the series is almsot certainly over, but I have way more faith in Fuentes – hell, even Rauch – over Capps right now.
    That would be the icing on the cake – Twins bring a lead into the 9th in game 3 and Capps blows it.

    PS – Mauer haters, you are idiots. Yes, he has been underwhelming this series, but you need to look at yourself in the mirror when you are bashing a sure fire first ballot hall of famer

    Comment by Jake — October 8, 2010 @ 12:28 pm

  32. @Doug
    Count again.


    Scroll down to see Pettitte and Pavano’s breakdown. Pavano is already in double digits.

    By contrast there are no “balls called strikes” for Pettitte.

    Comment by PeteyNice — October 8, 2010 @ 12:28 pm

  33. Matt, kubes stinks against lefties. He stinks worse against great lefties. It’s not his fault the Twins’ brass can’t find a RH OF that can hit at all….

    Comment by mike wants WINS — October 8, 2010 @ 12:32 pm

  34. To be disappointed with Mauer does not make one a “hater.” And I could care less right now if Joe is a first ballot HOFer. I won’t jump up and down like a school girl when he is announced for Cooperstown – I will, though, if he ever leads us to a World Series victory!

    Where are Gladden and Morris when you need them?

    Comment by Tovar — October 8, 2010 @ 1:08 pm

  35. tovar, anytime you say anything negative (or even positive about someone else) about someone you are a “hater”. Not sure why/how that is true….but that’s what people say on the interwebs all the time.

    Comment by mike wants WINS — October 8, 2010 @ 1:23 pm

  36. Jake,

    How’s this: Joe Mauer’s 2-9 performance in this series has been spectacular. He has truly carried the team on his shoulders. His 1 career playoff double was awesome, totally amazing. The 1 career playoff RBI he has was memorable, something I’ll never forget. When he does hit a playoff homerun one of these sweeps, it will no doubt make the loss more palatable. He is a future Hall of Famer, which means he should not be expected to elevate his game in the postseason.

    In fact, all of the Twins should be commended for their efforts in this series. They’ve tried pretty hard, most of them. They are really nice men and all you can do is try. They can’t be expected to win against the mean, genetically superior Yankees. Winning the AL Central was a tremendous accomplishment. The Twins all deserve pats on the back for such a monumental season.

    Comment by Arnold4321 — October 8, 2010 @ 1:35 pm

  37. I didn’t have an opportunity to watch last night’s game, but I’m kind of sick of watching Mauer get villified. Looking at the play-by-plays for the last two days, he’s only had runners on base in his at-bats in two at-bats, and just one that was in scoring position.

    Sure, if he gets on, it gives Delmon a chance to knock him in, but Joe hasn’t had any opportunities to make the kind of impact everyone supposedly wants from him. His squibber in game 1, along with Hudson’s heads-up baserunning lead to a run, so in some ways, he made his opportunities count when he had them. He just hasn’t had them.

    The lack of run production is extremely disappointing, but you can’t put it all on one player. The only thing more aggravating to me is when people complain about the “big contract money” he’s getting, which doesn’t actually even start until next year.

    These losses are not one player’s fault.

    Comment by Jeremy — October 8, 2010 @ 2:00 pm

  38. way too much of the pussy baby in these posts.
    Gardy ain’t the problem…. hitting with men in scoring position is the problem…
    If anything, this team “thinks” too much.
    But at the end of the day… its a miracle we got this far without Justin.

    Comment by longtimefan — October 8, 2010 @ 2:34 pm

  39. Who blamed only Mauer? Criticizing one player for his play does not imply that others are also not at fault.

    The point is, Mauer is the face of the franchise. He makes (next year), $23MM per year. IMPACT isn’t just RBI, it is getting hits. In his case, he’s not doing that (so far) when there are men on base, or when there are not men on base, at all.

    Comment by mike wants WINS — October 8, 2010 @ 2:37 pm

  40. Mauer is one of approximately 15 problems. However, as the “face of the franchise” and the team’s best player and supposed leader, he’s going to take a little more heat. A little more pressure comes with a $23 mil. contract. Sorry, that’s what happened.

    And @longtimefan, it is most definitely NOT a miracle we got this far without Morneau. That sort of excuse-manufacturing is the absolute last thing this franchise needs. For one thing, Morneau’s absence got Thome way more at bats than he otherwise would’ve, and I believe he led the league in OPS the 2nd half of the year.

    More importantly, though, the Twins have had every opportunity to win both of these games. Morneau may have helped, but they absolutely, unequivocally did NOT lose these playoff games because they didn’t have Morneau. They lost these games because they repeatedly failed in key situations, and the Yankees did not.

    Comment by Arnold4321 — October 8, 2010 @ 2:55 pm

  41. Regardless of the reasons/excuses for individual players struggling (Mauer = Knee, Thome = Back, Kubel = Can’t hit lefties)if your name is written in the lineup you are getting paid to be a professional hitter that gets the job done…even if it is against tough pitching. Right now the lefties in this lineup are not getting it done. Also, I would not say that Liriano and Pavano came up very, very small. They each gave up 4 runs to the Yankee lineup. Is it what you hope for? Obviously not, but they didn’t get lit up either. Both games were tied after 6 innings, and either team could have taken it. Somebody needs to man up and break through against these guys.

    Comment by Dome Dog — October 8, 2010 @ 3:00 pm

  42. “Mauer is one of approximately 15 problems. However, as the “face of the franchise” and the team’s best player and supposed leader, he’s going to take a little more heat. A little more pressure comes with a $23 mil. contract. Sorry, that’s what happened.”

    Sweet, so like I said, you can apply that pressure in the post-season next year. Baby Jesus makes little more than half of that this year.

    Comment by Jeremy — October 8, 2010 @ 3:30 pm

  43. I agree about Rauch. He looked good. He had that 12 to 6 curve ball going that he had last year and earlier this year. That curve ball was the thing I remember most about him last year and the thing I’ve noticed was missing lately.

    It’s really obvious he’s shortened his stride since his knee problem. For awhile he was overstriding and landing off balance a lot. But he probably won’t be back next year.

    Thanks to Slappy Joe’s contract, the Twins won’t be keeping guys like Rauch, Fuentes, Hudson, Hardy, Guerrier, etc.

    That contract is going to be an albatros around this organization for years. All for a tall Ichiro.

    Comment by rover27 — October 8, 2010 @ 3:31 pm

  44. Jeremy, you’re right. This year, it’s reasonable that our 3-time batting champ, 1-time MVP, #3 hitter, and best player on the team goes 2 for 9 with 2 singles and an OPS of .444.

    Next year, though, he’d better perform.

    Comment by Arnold4321 — October 8, 2010 @ 3:37 pm

  45. For those of you who aren’t satisfied with a Division title, please realize that you sound like Yankees fans.

    Isn’t that why people find Yankees fans so irritating? The whole “anything less than a trip to the WS is a failure” angle?

    In fact, why not just switch your allegiance to the Yankees since you’ve clearly adopted their fans’ attitude. By the looks of the crowd the last two games, you wouldn’t be alone, and you have the added bonus of knowing the Yanks often come through here during October.

    Here’s hoping the Twins pull it out on Saturday, and if not, then well… we’ll try again next year.

    Comment by NicoSamuelson2 — October 8, 2010 @ 3:48 pm

  46. It’s too bad we won’t sign Joe Torre to manage this team next year.

    Comment by ML — October 8, 2010 @ 3:50 pm

  47. Nico, I was not aware there was a right way and a wrong way to be a fan.

    Comment by mike wants WINS — October 8, 2010 @ 4:04 pm

  48. For those of you completely satisfied with Division titles, please realize you sound like the Little League mom who emphasizes its not who wins or loses but whether or not you had fun out there.

    I hate the Yankees because they are always good. I am jealous of their fans because they’ve won 4 or 5 series in my lifetime. The “anything less than a trip to the WS is a failure” angle comes from their front office, their manager, and the players. As a result, they’ve won more WS than anyone.

    Nico, frankly I don’t understand what the hell you’re talking about.

    Comment by Arnold4321 — October 8, 2010 @ 4:05 pm

  49. The “anything less than a trip to the WS is a failure” has nothing to do with anything. The Yankees get to have a bigger payroll than any other team, by a large margin (more than twice the Twins). Baseball wants it this way, so the Twins suffer.

    The Twins WS victories in 87 and 91 made me a lifelong fan. Baseball’s lack of desire to fix their salary structure problems won’t change that for me.

    Go Twins!

    Comment by Jason — October 8, 2010 @ 7:49 pm

  50. I might just be the irrational eternal optimist here, but I still think that one big hit can open the floodgates and swing the series back. The Twins have hitters capable of turning things around.

    Comment by greg — October 8, 2010 @ 8:37 pm

Leave a comment