Notebook Dump (09.18.08)
Game: Twinks 4, Indians 6
Record: 82-69, 2nd place, 2.5 games behind CWS
The Quote: "The amateur psychologists needn't fret, though. With another heartbreaking loss Tuesday night, another young, inexperienced team dug itself a deeper hole in its division race. The Minnesota Twins are the new not-it team of 2008." - Jonah Keri, ESPN.com/Baseball Prospectus
The Inning: After given a clean slate following a two-run outburst in the top of seventh while chasing Cliff Lee from the game, the Twins held their bated breath the responsibility fell to the bullpen. This was a tall order. The previous night's extra innings coupled with Francisco Liriano's short outing had taxed an already exhausted relief corp. Plus coming into the game opponents were hitting .303/.372/.500 off the relief staff in the month of September.
The night before the relievers attempted to bail out Liriano after his 2 2/3 innings of work that resulted in eight runs. it nearly worked as Boof Bonser, Matt Guerrier and Craig Breslow combined to throw 4 1/3 shutout innings. The offense scrapped seven runs off of rookie starter Zach Jackson then took the lead from Rafael Betancourt in the eighth when Justin Morneau doubled home Denard Span and Delmon Young hit a sacrifice fly to score Joe Mauer. With one half-inning before the standard deployment of Joe Nathan in the ninth Ron Gardenhire had turned to Eddie Guardado as the last layer of defense. After getting Asdrubel Cabrera to flyout to center, Guardado quickly worked ahead of Grady Sizemore. In this instance, the odds were slightly tipped in Guardado's favor, who had limited lefties to a .218/.279/.372 batting line, and he attacked the strike zone with two quick strikes. With an 0-2 count Guardado tried to get Sizemore to chase back-to-back sliders out of the zone. Sizemore, an odd combination of both patience and whiffery, did not take the bait. Knotted at 2-and-2, Sizemore fought off two offspeed pitches before getting a 78 mph change that was elevated. Sizemore redirected the pitch down the right field line that ricocheted off the foul pole to tie the game at nine.
"I'll take the blame for this," said Guardado after the game. "But you just have to keep your chin up. Like I tell the youngsters, as long as you keep playing this game, the things are going to happen. You just don't want them to happen now because you are in the middle of the pennant race and this is real tight."
Twenty-four hours later the Twins were left to pick through the scrap heap of a bullpen to hold the surging Indians. Gardenhire selected Jose Mijares to face Grady Sizemore and the top of the Indian order in the seventh. Mijares had impressed the manager in his three scoreless outings since his September call up, his 92 mph fastball was complemented nicely with an 82 mph slider, certain to keep left-handed batters off-balanced. In his rehabilitation in the minor leagues Mijares worked 36 2/3 innings in Rookie, high-A and AA ball posting a 41/11 K/BB ratio. Sizemore stole an infield hit off of a 92 mph fastball on a 1-1 count. Mijares, all 230 pounds of him, hopped of the mound to field a Jamey Carroll bunt and threw to second to erase Sizemore. With Shin-Soo Choo batting, Mijares grounded a slider and Mauer threw wildly efforts to catch Carroll only to allow him to advance to third, the Twins were facing a familar situation in having a runner in scoring position with less than two outs. Recollecting himself, Mijares iced Choo with a 94 mph fastball that cut the plate in half. With one out to go and the right-handed batting Jhonny Paralta approaching the plate, Gardenhire went to Matt Guerrier.
As noted, Guerrier contributed to the scoreless 4 1/3 innings on Tuesday which was particular reaffirming because as of late he had been a liability. Before August 1st Guerrier had tossed 53 2/3 innings while surrendering just six home runs and kept hitters at a low .245/.317/.384 batting line. In 14 2/3 innings since August 1st, Guerrier had given up four home runs and opponents batted .368/.449/.588. To say that he had a dead arm would be an understatement. Without any other options, Gardenhire continues to run him out to the mound in high leverage situations. Just like the one awaiting him at the plate.
All indications suggested that Peralta would be a good match for Guerrier. In the month of September, Peralta had been 13-for-57 with just three extra base hits. Peralta hit his fourth extra base hit in September in the fourth inning off of Scott Baker in the form of his 22nd home run of the season. Unable to get ahead of Peralta, Guerrier flipped a 2-2 curve that hung for the Indians' shortstop. Peralta rocketed a line drive for a double that scored Carroll and regained the lead for the Indians. With the lead vanquished (and Mijares' 0.00 era a thing of the past), Guerrier went to work on a left-handed batting Victor Martinez. Like his battle with Peralta, Guerrier failed to start with a first pitch strike but followed with a high fastball to even the count. With the count 1-1, Guerrier again tried to flip another curve. Martinez ripped it to right for a double, trading places with Peralta at second giving the Indians their sixth and final run of the game.