Top 10 Twins Highlights of 2010

30 Sep

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At 9:20 on Thursday morning, I will be on KFAN and to talk about the Twins. PA is away, so I’ll be talking with Judd Zulgad which should be a lot of fun!

Earlier in the week, we took a look at the Twins MVP candidates, Pitcher of the Year and their Rookie of the Year. With just four games remaining in the regular season, and the playoffs beginning in less than a week, it’s time to take a look back at the 2010 regular season and recap some of the highlights that stood out at the top of my mind. I’m certain I missed some moments, and I’m sure for each of you have some memories that stand out as highlights to you, maybe even some personal stories and highlights. So, after looking at my list, but sure to discuss your favorite moments from the 2010 Twins season in the comments section.

#10 – Butera Homers in Philadelphia

We held a monthly TwinsCentric Viewing Party. On this particular day, it was held at Park Tavern in St. Louis Park. It was a great opportunity to talk to a lot of the Twins fans and bloggers that were there because the Twins fell way behind early against the Philadelphia Phillies. But slowly the team came back. Late in the game, Joe Mauer hit a home run and somehow the Twins were tied. However, with a pitcher due up, there was only one pinch hitting option on the bench, Drew Butera. I recall Andrew Bryz-Gornia yelling, “Why is Butera batting?” One pitch later, Butera gave the Twins a lead by drilling a long, solo home run into the left field bleachers. Jon Rauch gave back the lead in the bottom of the inning, but the Twins went on to win one of the more exciting games of the season.

#9 – Ramos Makes Great First Impression

So he’s no longer with the organization… The debut of Wilson Ramos on May 2nd in Cleveland was quite impressive. In his first game with the Twins, he went 4-5, putting his name with Kirby Puckett as the only Twins with four hits in their big league debut. In an attempt to prove that he was more than just a one-game wonder, Ramos had three more hits in his second game. Sure, he really struggled following those two games and had a very disappointing 2010 AAA season before being dealt to the Nationals in the Matt Capps deal.

#8 – Welcome Back, Jacque

The Twins came to Target Field for two exhibition games against the St. Louis Cardinals in early April in preparation for the inaugural season at the new stadium. It was a great evening that saw Denard Span get a triple and a home run. But the highlight of those two games was the incredible, amazing and emotional standing ovation given both days to Jacque Jones. It was a tremendous gesture of gratitude by the fans to a member of the Twins family who was such a big part of the Twins return to prominence at the turn of the century. Jones was clearly embarrassed and moved by the moment. I know I had goose bumps.

#7 – Have a (Souvenir) Ball!

Maybe it’s the minor league follower that I am, but there are few things in baseball that I find greater than the first big league hit for players. When you think of the amount of work that the player put in during their amateur careers and then the journey through the minor league ranks, getting that first big league hit kind of makes it all real, official. This year, the Twins had first big league hits from six players. On April 22nd, Drew Butera singled to left field off of Cleveland’s Mitch Talbot. On May 2nd, Wilson Ramos singled to left against Cleveland’s David Huff. On May 21, Trevor Plouffe singled in his first at bat, driving in a run against Dave Bush of the Brewers. On June 3rd, Danny Valencia hit an infield single off of Felix Hernandez. On September 19th, Ben Revere singled up the middle off of Oakland’s Bobby Cramer.

#6 – Hughes Homers in First At Bat

You were probably wondering if I had forgotten that first Major League hit for infielder Luke Hughes. He was called up to the Twins in late April, primarily as a right-handed bat off the bench. On April 28th, he was given his first start in a game against the Detroit Tigers. His first plate appearance ended prematurely when Delmon Young was caught stealing. So, Hughes led off the 3rd inning and hit a long opposite field home run off of Max Scherzer. He became just the fifth Minnesota Twins player to hit a home run in his first at bat.

#5 – Speaking of First Home Runs

Danny Valencia started the 2010 season in Rochester. He had no home runs when he was promoted to the Twins in the first days of June. He remained homerless on the season until July 26th when, in the first inning against the Kansas City Royals, he hit a grand slam off of reigning Cy Young Award winner Zach Greinke. He became the first Twins player in team history to hit a grand slam for his first home run. Since that time, Valencia has added six more home runs and maintains a batting average well over .320 on the season.

#4 – Crain Closes Case in Chicago

Two weeks ago, the Twins went into Chicago for a three game series with a six game lead in the AL Central. Popular belief was that the White Sox needed to sweep the series if they were to have any shot at catching the Twins. In the first game of the series, the Twins were holding on to a slim one-run lead. In the 7th inning, Matt Guerrier let the first two batters on. Jesse Crain was summoned from the bullpen. He recorded the first out on a sacrifice bunt. After a walk to load the bases, Crain shut the door by striking out the Sox best hitter Paul Konerko, and their big-name acquisition Manny Ramirez. The Twins held on to win that game and swept the White Sox, leaving Chicago with a nine game lead. Maybe it is overstating it to say that that performance by Crain ended the Sox season. We don’t know what might have happened later in the game if Crain had given up a run or two. We don’t know what would have happened in subsequent days. We do know that after those strikeouts, the Sox quit and it was easy to see on the field. That’s why this is such a highlight for me.

#3 – Kubel Grand Slam Tops Yankees

The Yankees have had the Twins number in recent years. I don’t think anyone can deny that. When the Twins went to Yankees Stadium in mid-May, they lost the first two games to the Yankees. Nick Blackburn pitched well in the third game of the series, but found his team losing 3-1. But in the 8th inning, the Twins loaded the bases against Joba Chamberlain. Joe Girardi went to Mariano Rivera looking for a four-out save. Rivera walked Jim Thome to bring in a run and cut the lead to 3-2. Jason Kubel came to the plate and hit a line drive down the right field line that found itself landing just over the fence for a grand slam. The Twins held on for the win. Does it mean that the Twins had overcome whatever ailed them against the Yankees and in New York? I don’t know about that, but that was as exciting as it gets!!

#2 – Opening Day at Target Field

The Twins won their first game at Target Field 5-2 over the Boston Red Sox. The game seemed to be almost an afterthought. It was an incredible event. FSN started broadcasting before 6:00 in the morning. They told a bunch of stories. They showed batting practice. The pregame festivities were terrific. There was a fly over. Sure, Marco Scutaro tallied the first hit in Target Field history. Orlando Hudson had the first Twins hit. Michael Cuddyer drove in Denard Span for the first run in the stadium. Joe Mauer recorded the first extra base hit, a double. And Jason Kubel made a lot of people right when he was the first player to hit a home run at Target Field. It was just a tremendous day to be a Twins fan, the history coming together with the present, looking to an exciting future.

#1 – Thome Walks Off Against the White Sox

On August 17th, the Twins jumped out to a 4-0 lead after the first inning. By the fourth inning, Scott Baker had given the lead back. In the fifth inning, Delmon Young hit a solo homer to give the Twins a 5-4 lead, a lead they would hold until the top of the 9th. Matt Capps came in and gave up a solo home run to Alexei Ramirez. In the top of the 10th, Ramirez singled in another run to give the Sox a 6-5 lead. It had the potential to be a very difficult loss for the team at the time. Matt Thornton came out to pitch the 10th for the White Sox. He had already recorded four outs for the team. Young led off with a single which brought up Thome. On the first pitch, Thornton threw a slider that Thome missed by a foot. One the next pitch, he tried to sneak a fastball past his former teammate, and Thome didn’t miss it. Thome drilled a long blast well beyond the right field wall. A major celebration ensued. I was there, and I got a high-five from Khalid El-Amin. It was one of the most exciting games I have ever been at.

Just Missed The List:

Being at the first exhibition game and making my FSN debut, eating some nachos as Bert Blyleven noted that I was “stuffing my face.” That was terrific. The Long-Awaited Debut of Anthony Slama finally happened and he struck out two in his first inning. The night the Twins clinched the division was pretty cool too. It would have been better if the Twins would have been able to celebrate after their own win as opposed to waiting for the White Sox to lose (again) to the A’s in Oakland just a few minutes before midnight. But champagne celebrations certainly seem fun! Even if it is just celebrating being the best out of five teams.

And I’m certain that there are many more memories from the 2010 regular season that you will remind me of in the comment section. And hopefully, there will be plenty more playoff memories coming as well.

Share your favorite memories here.


4 Responses to “ Top 10 Twins Highlights of 2010”

  1. Steve Hoogland September 30, 2010 at 8:34 am #

    Great list and it’s fun to read about and recall those moments that we fondly remember about spring, summer and fall of 2010. Two others, I’d include somewhere in that top 10: Thome’s Labor Day blast off the top of the flag pole just for the “wow, did you see that” factor and Valencia’s 5-for-5 with his first HR, a grand slam of Greinke at KC. I’m convinced that night turned his season around.

  2. AW September 30, 2010 at 9:09 am #

    I’d also include in there, although not a top 10 moment, Mauer’s game at Kansas City where he recorded 5 hits and 7 RBIs.

  3. ILostMyJacque September 30, 2010 at 9:51 am #

    Thanks for #8. The Twins sure forgot about Jacque
    the rest of the season. That was quite a slap to
    leave him off the 40-man this September. He was
    also left out of the “50 Greatest Twins” celebration.
    What a joke.

  4. Aaron September 30, 2010 at 10:45 am #

    Great list. I don’t think I’d replace any of yours, but if we were doing 11-20, I’d like to add:

    (1) Twins walk off against the White Sox when Alex Rios throws the ball to nobody.
    (2) Mauer’s ridiculous “reaching behind the screen” catch
    (3) Twins beat the Rays on Kubel’s pop-up off the catwalk (gets extra points for the realization that “Hey, we don’t have to worry about that kind of crap happening at the Metrodome anymore!”)
    (4) Thome’s 12th inning home run in a 0-0 game vs. Cleveland
    (5) I would have to go back and look at the stats for a specific example, but one of Liriano’s awesome, Pitcher-of-the-Month starts from April/May where everyone realized he was about to become an ace again.

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