Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Time Warp

Twins 6, Tigers 5 (12 innings)

I've been running around asking my friends here in LA: "Were you watching the 1991 Worlds Series? No? Because every game was just like that!"

Well, 5 of the 7, anyway. When Alexi Casilla was thrown out at the plate in the bottom of the 10th, it was apparent that it was going to take an extraordinary effort from somebody to finish things off. Each team had to play most of the extra frames with defensive subs (Carlos Gomez, Clete Thomas) in for their 2nd-best hitters (Jason Kubel, Magglio Ordonez), with pinch runners (Alexi Casilla, Dan Kelly) in for their DHs (Brendan Harris, Carlos Guillen). And those scrub subs wound up getting some of the biggest hits of the game.

I had said that Scott Baker needed to keep the ball in the yard to give the Twins a chance. He didn't, and it's especially galling to me that the HR he allowed to Miguel Cabrera came on an 0-2 pitch, just after he'd gotten Cabrera to swing and miss at a breaking ball down. Why that pitch was anywhere near the strike zone, let alone up, I don't understand. The Twins pitchers did a terrible job of finishing guys off after they got 2 strikes on them. That's not going to take them very far against the Yankees.

Unlike the the Yankees, the Tigers only had a couple of bats to worry about in their lineup: Ordonez and Cabrera. Were the Twins taking extra care with them? Each had 2 H, a HR, and 2 RBI. As keyed up as Cabrera was over his adventures last weekend, I don't think it was necessary to throw him anything inside the margins of the strike zone. Again, more precision will be required vs. the Yankees.

I think Gardy panicked a bit going to the bullpen in the 7th. I was already thinking that extras might be likely, and he ended up burning 2 of his best relievers (Jon Rauch, Jose Mijares) on just 3 hitters. Yes, the leadoff walk to Brandon Inge was a bad thing, but Gerald Laird is a RH batter, and not a very good one. Why not let Baker face him and his impending bunt attempt? Bring in Mijares to turn around Ramon Santiago, if you want, but then you've still got Rauch to work a full inning (or 2) later on. Gardy's use of the bullpen in the 7th was the reason that Bobby Keppel was on the mound in the 11th and 12th.

But then Keppel, the 2nd-weakest guy available in the 'pen (I'd put him ahead of Manship, at this point), wriggled out of a bases-loaded, 1-out jam. Incredible. And in the bottom half, we found ourselves right where we were 53 weeks ago: the division on the line, the winning run in scoring position in extra innings, a man intentionally walked to get to Casilla. And, just as he did against Bobby Jenks last September, Casilla delivered, despite having just 19 PA in the last 5 weeks. Awesome.

It was a great game, to be sure. But the Twins will have to play even better if they're going to beat the Yankees.

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