Metrodome Madness, Part 2: Twins/Tigers Didn’t Disappoint

October 6, 2009
This game really brought back memories of the Metrodomes heyday.  Kirby would be proud.

This game really brought back memories of the Metrodome's heyday. Kirby would be proud.

The game that I previewed here, proved to be the best game of the 2009 season, by far.  It may have been the best tiebreaker game in Major League history, and that includes a few gems.  It was a 12 inning masterpiece where its hard to think of a guy who played poorly.  Whenever someone made a bad play, they came back and made a good one seemingly seconds later.  In fact, the game was steeped in redemption, and it made for classic baseball.

Miguel Cabrera came in with a bit of a rap sheet, and owed something to the Detroit fans after a raucous weekend that included a lack of pounding baseballs and a surplus of pounding brews.  Cabrera hit a Scott Baker pitch roughly 8 miles for a 2-run jack in the 3rd inning to put the Tigers ahead 3-0, and the redemption began…

Rick Porcello and Scott Baker both pitched better than expected.  Porcello, at 20, showed he will be around for awhile.

Rick Porcello and Scott Baker both pitched better than expected. Porcello, at 20, showed he will be around for awhile.

In the bottom half, Rick Porcello (who pitched his ass off) pulled a boner with two outs on a pickoff play to first.  Matt Tolbert scored when the ball got away from Miguel.  Porcello pitched around Joe Mauer to load the bases, but came right after Jason Kubel and struck him out, celebrating as he ran off to the dugout.  Kubel redeemed himself with one of the longest homers I’ve seen at Hubert H. Humphrey in the 6th.

Ryan Raburn left his feet for a ball that Michael Cuddyer hit his way in the bottom of the 10th.  He missed the flair by a wide margin, and Cuddyer got around for a leadoff triple.  He would eventually score, but Raburn hosed Alexi Casilla on a sac fly turned double play later in the inning.  Alexi’s run would have ended the game.  Casilla failed to get back to third base to tag until after Raburn had caught the ball.

But alas, in this game of redemption, Casilla got his chance, too.  And he made the most of it by singling in Carlos Gomez on a grounder through the right side in the bottom of the 12th.  That hit won the game, and the Twins celebrated along with 55,000 fans.

They pulled up that curtain in right center for todays game, and the stadium has never looked better or been louder for a baseball game.

They pulled up that curtain in right center for today's game, and the stadium has never looked better or been louder for a baseball game.

The Metrodome was alive today.  And despite the fact that you could clearly make out the endzones up the first baseline and out in left field, the playing surface looked great.  The crew must have worked deep into last night getting this field ready after the Favre-fest, Monday.

It was one of those games where watching on TV was really not enough.  The longer it went, the more I wanted to be there.  They opened up the Metrodome’s top deck to make more room for fans, and it really changed the complexion of the ballpark, and the game.  I am happy to see the stadium go, but I am also happy it lived up to its potential in one of its final games.

In a game where no one played bad, it is usually hard to pick an MVP, but I think Nick Punto was the clear winner in this game.  Nick Punto really personified the Twins tonight.  There are very few “ballplayers” left in baseball, and this guy showed baseball fans what that term really means.

Punto rarely hands a clean uni in after a game...MVP of this game.

Punto rarely hands a clean uni in after a game...MVP of this game.

Punto went one for four.  Not so great, but the second baseman saw 32 pitches.  Grinding out at bats got Porcello out of the game and got the Twins deeper and deeper into the Tiger’s ‘pen until they pretty much ran out of guys.  Punto had a huge at bat in the 7th when he fought off a few pitches and grinded his way to a single.  Orlando Cabrera homered two batters later and the Twins took the lead.

In the 9th, Punto led off with another hard battle that led to a walk.  The Twins failed to get him around.  He came up the 11th with a chance to put the game away and did his job, hitting a ball hard to right that ended up leading to the Raburn-redemption double play at the plate.

Maybe the biggest and most telling play that Punto made on the night came in the top of the 12th with one out, and the bases loaded.  In a tie game, Brandon Inge hit a chopper toward the middle, and Punto swooped in and threw out Miguel Cabrera at the plate.  It was one of those plays that does not seem big, but if he hesitates at all, they get nobody out.  It was a “ballplayer’s” play.

So, Punto and the Twins won this one.  They earned the right to celebrate for ten minutes, hop on a flight, and realize they have no pitching against the Yankees at 6 PM tomorrow.

Gardenhire proved he could coach playoff baseball, tonight.

Gardenhire proved he could coach playoff baseball, tonight.

Actually, Ron Gardenhire, by being cautious with his pitchers and matching up against hitters, really preserved his bullpen despite the long game.  None of his starters had to relieve, and the longest any of his guys threw in relief was Joe Nathan, going one and two-thirds.  Jim Leyland was not as cautious, and the Tigers would be in trouble if they were playing tomorrow.  Still, the Twins have a tall order tomorrow in the Bronx.

I hope you got to watch this game, if not, check out the highlights.  October baseball is finally here, and you could not have picked a better game to start things off.

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Tennessee Titans QB Controversy… Not so Fast

October 6, 2009
Kerry Collins taking a beating in the media, pretty much the story of his career.

Kerry Collins taking a beating in the media, pretty much the story of his career.

The Tennessee Titans were pummeled on Sunday.  Playing against the 1-2 Jacksonville Jaguars, the Titan’s defense was torched for 305 yards through the air and 137 yards on the ground.  Jeff Fisher’s offense was anemic, and the result was a 20 point loss, an 0-4 team, and a Tennessee franchise that is searching for answers.

Another Madden curse victim

Another Madden curse victim

It is pretty common for the blame to shift directly on the quarterback in situations like this.  Especially when said QB is not the guy originally intended to be under center.  The Vince Young experiment did not fail miserably, but he went off his rocker, and Kerry Collins has filled in quite admirably.  Now the fans and media are looking for a change.

Since taking over for Young last year, Collins has been more of a “game manager” than the prototypical passer that he was in the past.  Last season, en route to a 12-3 year, Collins averaged 167 yards per game passing.  His career average is around 210 yds/g.  This year the Titans have tried to throw the ball much more.  In fact, Collins is on pace to throw 200 more passes than last season, and his stats have suffered along with the Titans.

Collins threw 7 picks all of last season.  After 4 games he has thrown 6.  His completition percentage is about the same, but his aforementioned yds/g have increased by 40 yds.  This is pretty much the same offense the Titans had last year, yet they are trying to do it a different way.

Lendale lost 30 pounds by giving up Tequila, Titans fans wish hed start drinking again.

Lendale lost 30 pounds by giving up Tequila, Titans fans wish he'd start drinking again.

Tennessee has the leading rusher in the NFL in Chris Johnson with 434 yards, but Johnson has only put the ball in the endzone twice this season (both in a 197 yd performance in a loss to the Texans).  This was not an issue last year when Johnson got in nine times, but shared a redzone load with Lendale White who ended up with 15 TD’s in 200 rushing attempts.  White is on pace for less than 100 carries this season.

Another factor to look at is the Titan’s defense.  They are 24th in total defense through 4 games after being 7th last year.  More glaring is the weakness in the pass defense, after giving up less than 200 yds/game through the air in 2008, they are giving up 282 this year.  That is tied for last in the NFL.  The rush defense has been quite good, but this is a team giving up 27 points per game, and that is hard to overcome.

Up until this week, the Titans seemed like a team that was just going to play to the level of it’s opponents all season and find ways to lose.  An OT loss to Pittsburgh, a 3 point loss to the Texans, and a 7 point loss to the Jets followed that formula.  The 20 point loss to the Jaguars did not.

Vince Young may be a good change of pace, but looking at his numbers they are pretty similar to Collins’ this season, and Collins is playing poorly.  Young does add that athletic dimension that could spark the offense, but he also has 10 more picks in his career than TD’s and a career passer rating lower than Kerry Collins rating on the 2009 season.

Jeff Fishers mustache never disappoints, his 09 defense on the other hand...

Jeff Fisher's mustache never disappoints, his '09 defense on the other hand...

Jeff Fisher has said he will stick by Kerry Collins and at this point, that is the right call.  If the defense starts playing well, and the offense cannot win games, that is when the switch should be made.

The Titans have some work to do, but their defense is putting them in holes early.  Fisher just has to remember that the Titans won when they were a team of run-first, Kerry later.


Blue Duck Sports – Week 5 NFL Betting Guide

October 6, 2009

Blue Duck Sports – Week 5 NFL Betting Guide

Last weeks picks made me feel like Roy Williams being left out to dry on a high pass from Tony Romo.  Very hurt and a little confused.

Last weeks picks made me feel like Roy Williams being left out to dry on a high pass from Tony Romo. Very hurt and a little confused.

Okay, so last week was an awful week for picks.  Don’t lose faith.  Gambling addicts would offer you the term “variance” and move on.  I simply will say, it was a strange weekend, and I got unlucky (“if there was no luck involved I’d win every time!”).
What have I learned?

– While a teams defense may be awful, never EVER expect the Raiders to at least score a touchdown.

– The Titans really suck.  It’s not a fluke.

– The Packers are not as good as everyone expected them to be.

– The Vikings are better than everyone expected them to be.

– The Chargers are a 2nd half team, but my god their defense is absolutely pathetic.  Merriman needs to take a few games off because he is embarassing himself.

So as we hit the 2nd quarter of the season things are starting to become a little clearer.

The Good/Elite teams are becoming clear:
Pats, Jets, Ravens, Colts, Giants, Viking, Saints.
There are quite a few mediocre teams and still some teams we are unsure of:
Bears, 49ers, Falcons, Eagles, Steelers.
Anyways, looking for a big rebound this week, though there are a LOT of favorites, and that’s dangerous.

Last Week: 3-9-1   Locks: 1-1    Season: 32-28-1  Season Locks: 4-3

Cowboys -9 vs Chiefs
The Chiefs have lost by 14 to the Ravens, 20 to the Eagles, and 11 to the Giants.  The Cowboys are not very good but they are usually able to beat up on weaker teams, having won by 13 vs the Bucs and 14 vs the Panthers.

Panthers -3.5 vs Redskins
The Redskins are the most under appreciated bad team in the league.  They are being over shadowed by the Chiefs, Raiders, Lions, Browns, Bucs, and the Rams.  The Redskins were able to beat the Rams by 2 (at home), lose by 5 to the Lions on the road, and squeak 3 by the Bucs at home.   They find themselves on the road against a team just on the cusp of being really bad.  The Panthers should be able to take care of business.

Giants -16 vs Raiders
This is a huge spread to gamble on, but the Raiders are awful, and the Giants are arguably the best team in the NFL.  Jamarcus Russell couldn’t score a touchdown against one of the worst defenses in the NFL last week (houston), I have faith that the Giants can make a win a blow out like they should be.

I guess having a strong arm ISN'T the key to be a good quarterback.  Take notes Al davis.

I guess having a strong arm ISN'T the key to being a good quarterback. Take notes Al davis.

Bengals vs Ravens OVER 42
The Bengals have combined with their opponents to score 55, 43, and 43 in the last 3 games.  While the Ravens have put up 62, 57, 37, and 48.  The smart money on this one is laying it on the over.

Browns +6 vs Bills
It’s tough to bet on the Bills at this point who have been proving that firing an offensive coordinator ~10 days before the start of the season is an awful idea.  I believe the Bills will win by a field goal as I know Eric Mangini is more than capable of putting together an 0-16 season.

Mangenius or King of Queens??

Mangenius or King of Queens??

Steelers -10.5 vs Lions
The Steelers have pulled off  a victory and 2 losses of 3 in the first 3 games, until last week when they embarassed a sad Chargers defense by 10 points.  The Lions have lost by 18 ,14, and 24, and snuck in a win over the Redskins.  The Lions have been historically good against the spread in the last 10 games when underdogs by 10+ with an 8-2 record in that time.  I’ll forego history on this one and go with the current trends.

49ers -2.5 vs Falcons
The 49ers are better than expected and this defense is thriving off the kick in the ass that Mike Singletary gave them.  The Falcons are good (and have been my pick for getting to the superbowl in the NFC) but I’m not sure they are good enough on defense to win this game.

Cardinals -5.5 vs Texans
Kurt Warner should have his way with the still porous Texans defense.  I think both teams suck, so it’s tough take either by more than a field goal, but I’ll trust in the grocery bagger this week.

Patriots -3 vs Broncos
Josh Mcdaniels will obviously know the ins and outs of the Patriots plays, but so will Bill Belichek.  If I had to choose which one that plays an advantage too, I’ll take the future hall of famer.  In addition to the obvious coaching advantage the Patriots are just flat out more talented than the Broncos, whose defense will face its first real test of the season against a Patriots offense starting to come together.

Bucs vs Eagles
No spread for this game yet.  I’d take the Eagles -8.5 with or without Mcnabb.

Jags vs Seahawks
No spread on this either.  Hasselbeck might be back this week, and that makes this a tough game to call.  The Jags showed life last week, and with no Hasselbeck I would be inclined to take the Jags -3.  I’ll update this and the Eagles game if a line becomes available.

Locks of the week:
Colts -3.5 vs Titans
The Jaguars blew out the Titans by 20 last week.
That’s really all you need to know.

Jets -2 vs Dolphins
Look for the dirty Sanchez to have a rebound game for the Jets.  The Dolphins should struggle to move the ball on the ground vs the Jets defense.  Forcing the game onto Henne’s arm which is not a good idea with the swarming Jets D.