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.


Metrodome Madness: Playoff Play-in in the Twin Cities

October 5, 2009

Lets make the ceiling white, and make sure the turf looks freshly mowed.

Lets make the ceiling white, and make sure the turf looks freshly mowed. And oh yeah, try to scrub out the word "Vikings" up the first base line.

Detroit Looks to Close Down the Metrodome, Twins want to Give it a Playoff Sendoff

1 Game Playoff Play-in Blue Duck Preview

The Detroit Tigers have stumbled down the stretch and opened the door for the Minnesota Twins to give their notorious stadium one last chance at playoff glory.

Detroit has finished with a 4 and 6 record in the final ten games of the season including two key losses to the Twins in a series last week.  Minnesota countered with a 7 and 3 finish.  The Twin’s bats have been hot enough to carry a pretty weak pitching staff into a position to play October baseball.

So the stage is set for a one game playoff in Minnesota, and the stadium that is seeing its final days may be as big a factor as any one player in both team’s biggest game thus far in the 2009 campaign.  Lets look at the pitching matchups.

Scott Baker (RHP) Twins 15-9, 4.36 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 160 K, 46 BB, 184 H in 194.0 IP.

Rick Porcello (RHP) Tigers 14-9, 4.04 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 81 K, 50 BB, 172 H in 165 IP.

The pitchers match up pretty equally.  Neither guy has any playoff experience so you can’t really see any big game history other than the games in the last week or so.  Porcello lost to Minnesota in his last outing, but pitched effectively.  Baker’s got two straight wins, but has relied heavily on his bullpen in his starts.

You knw what? Look at you...You wanna kiss me

"You know what? Look at you...You wanna kiss me"

The Twins v. Rick Porcello…

This should worry Tiger’s fans.  Porcello has only pitched twice at the Metrodome, but he has a 6.30 ERA there, and a 6.60 ERA on turf in this, his rookie season.

Porcello had a 3.09 ERA going 1-2 in four starts against the Twins in ’09.  They hit .299 against the Righthander.  Not terrible numbers, but lets look a little deeper.

Delmon Young, getting attention for hitting something other than umpires.

Delmon Young, getting attention for hitting something other than umpires.

The Twins have hit .349 against him in Minnesota en route to two victories.  On May 5th, Porcello shut down the Twins over 7 innings at Comerica, but that was the first time they faced the New Jersey native.  The next time out, in Minnesota, Porcello lasted only 4 and a third and gave up 7 hits, and 6 runs (4 earned).

Jason Kubel and Delmon Young have been hot of late, and have to be chomping at the bit to see Porcello on the hill.  Delmon and Jason hit for a combined .600 avg off Porcello.  In the last 4 games of the season, Young is hitting .583 with 3 Homeruns, and 10 RBI’s.  Young is showing Twins fans his first signs of life since they gave up Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett for him.

If he gets the sinker to stay down, Porcello can limit the damage, but quieting the Twin’s bats has been impossible of late, and the bullpen will most likely get some work for Detroit on Tuesday.  Maybe Verlander coming in late?

Scott Baker v. the Detroit Tigers

Mauer and Baker will have their hand full against Miguel Cabrera and the Tigers.

Mauer and Baker will have their hand full against Miguel Cabrera and the Tigers.

If you are a Twins fan, and you are all excited after reading that, just relax for a second because the Scott Baker file doesn’t look much more promising.

Baker carries a 6.75 ERA against the Tigers this season.  He finished 1 and 1 in four starts against the divisional foes.  The Tigers hit for a .333 average against Baker, and many key guys in their lineup have solid numbers against the 28-year old.

Magglio Ordonez has 39 AB’s against Baker, and is hitting a cool .462 against him with only 1 strikeout.  Carlos Guillen  has a .462 OBP when facing Baker and Marcus Thames has 4 homers against him in just 26 AB’s.

At first glance, it looks as if Baker owns Curtis Granderson (.222 BA against, .255 OBP), but of his 10 hits in 45 AB’s against Baker, Curtis has a double, a triple, and 4 home runs.  So look for some pop right out of the gate on Tuesday.

Baker did not pitch well in September, but had a strong start his last time out.  Anything can happen in October, though.

She picked Ivan Drago in Rocky 4...

She picked Ivan Drago in Rocky 4...

Carebear’s Ms.Cleo Moment…

If you read my golf previews, you know I am terrible at predicting outcomes of games, but I am going to give this a shot.

It is October, and strange things happen in October.  I have a feeling both of these guys will step up and have solid starts.  Neither guy has been known to go deep into games so the bullpens will take this probably in the middle of the sixth.  The Twins have a much better ‘pen than the Tigers so you have to give them the advantage.

The Metrodome is going to be loud, and its going to bring back memories of the old Kent Hrbek, Kirby Puckett days.  Look for a 6-5 victory from the Twins.  Joe Nathan stops the Tigers in the ninth, and Delmon Young walks off in the bottom half.

No matter who wins this one, it has been nice to actually have a race in an otherwise uneventful late September.  Tune in because this could be the best game at the Metrodome since the Twins lost a heartbreaker to the Mariners when Griffey robbed Lou Collins of a dinger at the end of “Little Big League.”