Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Advantage Twins

It's amazing how much better things feel just from moving back into the Metrodome. As a fan, it's been hard to have much confidence that when you flipped on the tube over the last couple weeks you were going to see the Twins play well. Just seeing those gray uniforms gave you the sense that balls were going to be flying out of the park when a Twin was on the mound, and that their bats would be producing lots of grounders to second with runners on first.
But that sea of blue seats under the off-white artificial sky....suddenly the Twins are a good team again.
Tuesday night they were.
Credit is due to Ron Gardenhire. He had a decision to make at DH - Jason Kubel or Michael Cuddyer.
With righty Javier Vazquez on the mound, the standard option would be Kubel. But he entered the game 2 for 21 in his career against Vazquez, while Cuddyer was 12 for 31.
It seemed like just the kind of situation in which Gardy would outthink himself - go with the crusty, overrated veteran (yes, I'm calling Cuddyer all of those things) over the younger (but better) player.
But he didn't. He stuck with Kubel, who homered twice and tripled.
It's easy to credit him in hindsight. And I'm sure if Kubel had gone 0-for-4 many would've criticized Gardy for not going by the numbers. I myself would normally prefer going by the matchup stats, but with Cuddy less than 100 %, I was glad - yes, before the game - to see Kubel in the lineup (at this point Cuddyer is little more than a pinch-hitter, and it's unclear if he can even do that succesfully).
Hopefully the Twins didn't use up too many of their runs. I don't know if I belive in momentum in baseball, but they clearly seemed more ready to play than the Sox, and that's probably from being back at home. You get under the roof, and the Sox wilt while the Twins suddenly remember to be a good baseball team. And I don't think Ozzie Guillen's unpredictability seems to help them when they're in the Dome. He starts going crazy and his players just get swallowed up by the Dome quicker than usual.
So can they take it into Game 2? They have to. I really think the only way the Twins get in the playoffs is to run the table - 7 straight.
And Game 2 is the one to be nervous about. The Twins face Mark Buerhle, a lefty who they've occasionally hit hard, but also been dominated by many, many times.
He's 1-2 with a 5.79 ERA against the Twins in three starts this year - for his career he's 21-12 with a 3.85.
And longtime fans know, any time the Twins are going against a lefty - any lefty - there's a chance for one of those 1 run on 7 singles kind of nights.
The Twins counter with Nick Blackburn, who has an ERA of 10.22 over his last three starts, 6.57 over his last five. On the other hand, he has a 2.92 ERA in 13 starts at the Metrodome, so maybe he'll get back on track tonight.
He's gonna have to. As exciting as Tuesday's win was, it's just one win. They still have to win the next two.
Have to.

1 comment:

Lee Schoenbeck said...

what a series - my family doesn't even complain about me taking over the main tv and yelling like a crazy fan ---- tonight a win will be huge. But i do believe we have to run the table, and would then likely win the division by 1 1/2 games. The Sox are beating up there starters so bad, they can't handle the next three games with the Indians - if Ozzie really goes with the three pitcher rotation they say he is.