Monday, April 21, 2008

Twins vs A's & Sea Lions vs. Seals

Frank: Well, “The Treat” (Francisco Liriano) got beat, again. On Friday night, Liriano was beaten by the Cleveland Indians for five innings and lost by the final score of 4-0. But the Minnesota Twins rebounded nicely against their Central Division rival, winning the last two games to take the series. As usual so far this year, the base runners had an active week:

The Twins are stealing a lot more bases this year than last; not surprisingly, given the additions of Carlos Gomez and Delmon Young. Manager Ron Gardenhire even had them running last week in Detroit despite the presence of Ivan Rodriguez, one of the best catchers ever at throwing potential base stealers out; we were 4-4 in the two games stealing against Rodriguez, and we continued the attack, stealing four more bases in seven attempts in the five games the rest of the week. But Gardy has always been a rather conservative manager. Will he reign in the running game at some point to avoid running into outs, or keep it flying when the Twins are not down by more than one?

Bert: The Twins, after the game yesterday, have hit a total of 9 home runs (That ranks second to last in the league, after yesterday’s home run by Brendan Harris, just the third Twins player to go deep. The Twins are also at or near the bottom of the league in several other offensive categories, but tied for first in stolen bases.) So we can tell by the first 19 games of the season that this year’s Twins team is not a power hitting team. So what the Twins need to do to win games is to run the bases aggressively. Stealing bases is their game right now until someone else other then Justin Morneau or Jason Kubel can show team staff that he has power (we will see if the homer hit by Harris yesterday opens the floodgates, since the Twins are still waiting for the productivity of several players--including Joe Mauer, Delmon Young, Mike Lamb and Craig Monroe—to show. They are also waiting for the return from injury of Michael Cuddyer. Expected to be one of the most productive hitters in the lineup, he has not swung a bat for the Twins in over two weeks; the team anxiously awaits his return.) The Twins cannot afford to sit back and expect the 3-run homer. With the way the Twins are hitting g right now, base stealing is their biggest weapon against an opponent and advancing aggressively on the bases is their key to victory. This includes going from first to third on a base hit, scoring from first on a double and staying in their game plan. Let's hope the offense shows more power as the weather gets warmer, but until then the team’s speed is a necessity.

Frank: Of course, when Bert answered these questions Saturday, he did not know that Frank Thomas, the veteran slugger who is a notorious Twins killer, would be released Sunday by the Toronto Blue Jays. The weather does not need to get warmer for Thomas to have power. Although, if the Twins do sign him, and he puts a hole in the roof on some summer day, that could certainly warm things up in the Metrodome. Could that be what Bert was talking about? The Twins pitching staff, most of it anyway, needs no reminders of Thomas; I asked Bert about the starters.

The starting pitching was a big concern heading into the season, and now the Twins have lost one of the original five to the DL. But even so, the rest of the starters have done well enough to ease most of the worries. However, a somewhat shaky turn through the starting rotation last week, which saw only one quality start, casued the Twins to come up short. The bullpen was uncharacteristically roughed up in two games in Detroit, but redeemed itself at home (one run in 16 1/3 innings). Don't you think that the refurbished offense, with all the new and improved hitters, should be able to pick up the pitching staff when it falters more than they did last week?

Bert: Teams throughout the summer months are going to have their ups and downs. Look at the Detroit Tigers, for example. Starting the season 0-7, and now they are playing better baseball as a team. Starting pitching is the key to any team’s success. The Twins starting staff has some good young arms, (am I calling Livan Hernandez young?) and there will be some growing pains. In today's game a starter is asked to get into the 7th inning and hopefully through the whole inning. If they can do that, then the bullpen will stay strong throughout the summer. Other then the 2-game series in Detroit the Twins bullpen has been exactly what we all expected going into the season and that's rock solid. If the starters falter in a game let's hope the offense can score enough runs to make up the inconsistency of the starter for that particular night.

Frank: The starting pitchers redeemed themselves too, in part, since I asked Bert these questions after the game Friday night. Solid starts by Nick Blackburn (that’s right, St. Nick) and Scott Baker, combining to allow one run, led to two victories over the weekend. So now we are ready to hit the road and take on the American League West:

The Twins are in Oakland this week. What will you and/or the players do in your off time in the Bay Area? As you and I both know, California pizza is not the best. But there are many other great culinary choices in that area; do you have a favorite restaurant out there? Ever been to Chinatown in San Francisco? How about North Beach, the wonderful Italian district with a lot of, surprisingly, wonderful Italians. I don't know much about the dining in Oakland, do you? Wherever you go, will you keep up your circling prowess on the day off by circling the area on the BART? I can hear the Bay Area now, saying "Circle me, BART!" Just wait till you get there.

Bert: The Twins stay in San Francisco when they play the Oakland A's. San Francisco is a city of many cultures and a fun place to visit. My trips to Oakland/ San Francisco have always included trips to Fishermen's Wharf. I love the view of the city overlooking the Bay and seeing Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge. When my wife Gayle is with me we will rent a car and go over the bridge to Sausalito and spend the afternoon there. We also love to go down to the wharf and visit the seals and the sea lions. We have actually had many funny conversations with those seals and sea lions. They all try to get on this one big rock fighting for space to lay and are consistently making their seal talk. I swear I saw my mother-in-law on one of those rocks once (I wanted to figure out which species Gayle’s mom resembles more closely, sea lions or seals, so I googled it: “How can you tell the difference? Sea lions have visible external ear flaps, and walk on their flippers while on land. Seals have small ear holes and they crawl on their bellies on land.”

Hmm . . . If I had to guess, I would think that she’d be more like a sea lion. But when Bert starts talking, I bet she wishes she had the small ear holes of a seal!) We have also taken the Alcatraz tour a few times and if any of you get a chance to go on this tour, do it. You will love it. To get to the stadium in Oakland, if I don’t rent a car, I take BART. I usually take the wrong train to get to the stadium in Oakland, so that is always an adventure. BART is a great way to get around the Bay Area. BART is just like the subway system is in New York, but a little cleaner and safer.

Texas is another story. Not much to do in Texas with the ballpark in Arlington. I do have a nephew that lives in the Dallas area so I have a chance to visit with him and his family. He is a high school baseball coach there and hopefully on Friday or Saturday I can watch his team play a game. And then he comes to the Texas Rangers Stadium to root on the Twins.

Frank: Gooood choice, but no relative of Bert’s can be all bad.

Watch the Twins on FSN North this week:
Tuesday: vs. Oakland at 8:30 PM
Wednesday: vs. Oakland at 8:30 PM
Friday: vs. Texas at 6:30 PM
Saturday: vs. Texas at 6:30 PM

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