Went to the Metrodome yesterday to take in game 1 of the ALDS between the Minnesota Twins and the Oakland As. I didn’t like what I saw. The Twins were useless against Zito which was bad enough, but Gardenhire made a few decisions that weren’t exactly “playoff caliber”. I expect some of you will think to yourselves, “here goes another ‘fan’ thinking he can outcoach the manager.” Hell, I might even think that way. Anyway, here are the problems I had with the Twins and some of the decisions that were made both in-game and more globally.
Inning 1. Luis Castillo ekes out a lead-off walk, from a very “walk-prone” pitcher in Barry Zito. Now is the time for “small ball”. Let Punto move him over to second with a bunt. Nope. Gardy sends him and he’s thrown out. I like a stolen base as mush as the next guy and if it’s successful you set a nice tone for the game, but there is also the inverse of that. A couple more pitches and were on to the second inning.
Inning 2. Make Zito actually throw a few pitches! A 1-2-3, eight pitch inning.
Inning 3. Eleven pitches this inning. Why is Phil Nevin in the lineup? He sucks against lefties (.243 for the season, .211 with the Twins), has really done nothing for the Twins (8-42, .190BA, 1HR, 4RBI), and is this team’s 2006 version of Bret Boone. Then I saw that he got two dingers off of Zito in Texas. OK. I understand. He still sucks.
Inning 4. Twelve pitches. Castillo gets another walk to lead off the inning and this time Gardy has Punto do what he should have in the first. It goes for naught however as Mauer slaps another ball into the ground and Cuddyer does nothing with his opportunity.
Inning 5. Thirteen pitches. White gets a two-out double and Mr. October, Phil Nevin, weakly pops out to end the inning.
Inning 6. Things are getting desperate. Bartlett pops out on one pitch. Castillo gets on base again — a single. Punto pops out on the FIRST PITCH. Mauer shows some discipline and gets a walk and then Cuddy ends things with a ground out.
Inning 7. Eight pitches. Someone (Rondell White) finally got to Zito with a homerun to left. Reyes and Neshek are warming up in the pen (this will be important later).
Inning 8. Bartlett takes five pitches to get a nice lead-off double. Castillo misses on a bunt and then he decides on his own to try to hit (this was confirmed by Gardenhire). He grounds out weakly on the third pitch to third. Three pitches later (Punto – 2, Mauer – 1), nada.
Inning 9 (top). Even after not getting Bartlett across in the eighth, the crowd was finally into the game and then… Jesse Crain — to meet Frank Thomas. Why? The Twins are down by one. The crowd is in the game. Neshek (a crowd favorite) is ready — and not someone Frank has seen much (0-1). To be fair, Crain had a decent September, but he’s got nothing that Thomas hasn’t seen. Neshek or Reyes were the right choices here. BOOM. As soon as it cleared the fence, you just knew the Twins…
Inning 9 (bottom). …would score a, now meaningless, run in the bottom of the ninth. Cuddyer got a dome-triple and scored on Hunter’s ground out. Throw in Morneau and Rondell White’s non-clutchness and you’ve got a 3-1 loss.
Did Santana pitch great? No. Did he pitch well enough to win? Maybe. If the Twins don’t start hitting and if Gardy doesn’t start treating this like the playoffs, it’s going to be a short playoffs season for the Minnesota 9.