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Alright, I truly don’t know what more to write or say about the Twins run of late. Going 16-4 over your final 20 games to reach a tie with the team you’ve been chasing… that just doesn’t happen, does it? And yet, it did. That’s exactly what has happened. And as I have had to say here several times the last couple of weeks, I so love being completely wrong. I have counted the Twins out too many times, and I think logically so. But logic doesn’t always win, and the Twins have defied all logic. Three weeks ago, the team was seven games behind the Tigers, and five games below .500. They are no ten games over .500 (86-76) and in a tie with the Tigers.
Going into this final weekend, the Twins had to win all three games if the Tigers won just one game. And that’s what happened. The Twins got a very good start from Jeff Manship on Friday night. It was his first big league win. On Saturday, Nick Blackburn outdueled Zack Greinke for seven innings on short rest. On Sunday, Carl Pavano came back on short rest and earned another win. The offense certainly showed up, scoring 31 runs in the three games against the Royals. Jason Kubel, Delmon Young, Michael Cuddyer, Matt Tolbert and Orlando Cabrera all came up with huge, timely hits. Joe Mauer was pitched around quite a bit, and he and Denard Span just continued to get on base. The bullpen struggled a bit, no question, but they have been solid for the most part too.
The Tigers were beaten on Friday night and Saturday by the White Sox, but they had Justin Verlander ready to go on Sunday, and he came through with his 19th win. Ryan Raburn went 3-4 with a walk and two home runs. Even Magglio Ordonez contributed with a 4-4 day.
That sets up a second consecutive one-game playoff game for the Twins. Last year it was against the White Sox. This year it will be against the Tigers. Last year, it was in Chicago. This year, the Twins will host the game.
Post Game Tribute
Although I listened to most of the game on the radio, I was home in time to watch most of the post game introductions. It was so fun, and at times emotional, to watch all of the current and former Twins players be introduced. Here are a few things I thought or noticed:
- Seeing some of those guys who were on the 1987 and 1991 teams come back again was very cool. Seeing guys like Tom Brunansky, Randy Bush, Gary Gaetti, Greg Gagne, Al Newman, Steve Lombardozzi, Gene Larkin, Chili Davis and Juan Berenguer brought back a lot of great memories.
- How about the ovations that were given to the guys who played for the Twins earlier this decade? Jacque Jones, Corey Koskie and even Denny Hocking were greeted with loud applause.
- All I kept wondering was how much former players who were on winning teams are appreciated. Guys like Koskie or Bruno or Gags, or Lombo, are still considered heroes around here.
- It was great to see Pat Neshek and Boof Bonser participate despite rehabbing in Ft. Myers the entire season.
- Joe Nathan, Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer seemed to love being part of the All-Metrodome team, especially Mauer who had to have followed all of the players mentioned.
- I can’t help but wonder how some of the younger Twins players, like Jeff Manship, Armando Gabino or even Denard Span, Delmon Young or Carlos Gomez understand what was going on there. I know we have heard how Ron Gardenhire is encouraging his players to make sure they’re understanding and appreciating and truly enjoying this pennant race. But that type of program has to give those young players and appreciation for what they’ve got and those who came before them!
- All but four players on the All-Metrodome team were in attendance. Torii Hunter is playing with the Angels, but he left a video message. Johan Santana hasn’t played with the Mets but must not have been allowed to attend. He left a nice message. Chuck Knoblauch was charged with domestic assault about a week ago, so he was unable to attend.
- Of course, Kirby Puckett was also not there. A video tribute was incredibly touching, and left many fans in tears. John Gordon was the emcee, and he was clearly choked up. That was perfectly understandable!
- Puckett’s son was the person who removed the number one from left field. The Twins have been counting down the number of games remaining in the Metrodome for the last two seasons. Another touching moment.
- I couldn’t help but wonder how old a person would have to be to really appreciate and remember the players and the World Series from 1987 or 1991. I was in 7th grade for the ’87 World Series. I was a junior in high school for the ’91 season. I just can’t help but wonder if anyone under the age of 30 can really understand and remember those seasons.
- Likewise, how old does someone have to be to really understand how good Kirby Puckett was? He hasn’t played since 1995, so that’s 14 years, and you figure no one under the age of at least seven, maybe ten, really probably understood. So, does anyone under the age of 25 really understand what Kirby Puckett was to the Twins and on the baseball field? How do you explain his impact to someone younger than 25? I’m not certain. He never won an MVP award like Justin Morneau. He won just one batting title, whereas Joe Mauer has already won three. Mauer may soon surpass Puckett in the hearts and minds of those of us old enough to remember him, his talent, his power, his speed, his defense and much more. But Mauer doesn’t not have the personality, the charisma, the ‘it’ factor that Puckett had, and he probably never will. I don’t know. I think it is an interesting question.
Anyway, here are some other quick notes I would like to post while researching:
- Jason Kubel came into the game hitting .296 with 96 RBI. The assumption would normally be that he would fall just short of two impressive milestones. Well, a 3-4 day with two, three-run home runs certain helps. He ended Sunday with a .300 batting average and 102 RBI. Obviously he can’t have RBI taken away, but because Tuesday’s game will count as a regular season game, Kubel will hopefully be able to maintain that .300 average.
- Delmon Young also homered twice on Sunday, both solo home runs. I think the two home runs took a combined three seconds to leave the ballpark. Young now has 12 home runs on the season. He has been on a tear. He has at least two hits in each of the last five Twins games. He is 11-21 in those five games. In the three games this weekend, he went 6-11 with a double, three home runs and ten RBI. I would say that is showing up!
- Joe Mauer went 0-3 with two walks in the game. According to Travis Aune, Mauer will win the AL batting title this year, unless he goes 0-15 on Tuesday.
- Nick Blackburn officially is a Big Game pitcher in my mind. After an incredible first half this year, he was horrible in July and August. But he has come up huge in his past four games. In those four starts, he is 2-0. He has given up five runs over 27.1 innings. And his start on Saturday, on short rest, was the most impressive.
- Carl Pavano also pitched on Sunday on short rest. He pitched well enough for 5.2 innings for his 14th win of the season.
- On Tuesday at 4:00 central time, it will be Scott Baker taking the mound against Rick Porcello.
So Monday is an off day. Twins fans probably need it. I guess we could watch the Vikings and Packers on Monday Night Football. However, be sure to join me for the SethSpeaks.net NIGHTLY Minnesota Twins podcast at 9:00 central time. Please note that this is a different time from the last two weeks when I have been starting at 10:00 central time. I am hoping to have a few guests join me.
If you have any questions, comments or predictions, leave them in the Comments section.