Tuesday, July 15, 2008

All Stars in New York

Frank: Quite a lot has happened with the Minnesota Twins since our last post. Since then – when the Twins were in the middle of a winning streak against National League teams – the Twins have won 12 of 17 games (eight of 10 division games). We closed out the first half of the season Sunday at 53-42 with a three-games-to-one series victory over the Detroit Tigers, clinching the season matchup versus the team many experts picked to win the American League Central Division. The Twins improved to 27-17 against division rivals, including an impressive 14-3 at home. We stand poised to battle for the division championship, and another trip to the playoffs, until the end of the regular season, currently 1.5 games behind the Chicago White Sox and 2.5 back in the wild card race. As we bid a fond farewell to the first half, it is time to shift our focus to the second half and the pennant race. One thing that should help us the rest of the year is our improved lineup, especially against left-handed pitchers:

The Twins seem to be hitting much better against left-handed pitchers. Is that your view too? Now that Nick Punto is settling in as the everyday shortstop, allowing Brendan Harris to platoon at third base with Brian Buscher, it's a pretty solid lineup for the Twins, against right-handers and left-handers. Don't you agree?

Bert: I always say on the air that the baseball season is like a roller coaster ride. So many ups and downs and that's the way it has been against left-handed pitchers throughout the season. Let's hope the success continues against lefties as well as
There have been so many combinations to the Twins infield throughout the season and it's nice to see the job that Alexi Casilla has done at second base and also the job Nick Punto has done at shortstop. Not only have these two players played highlight reel defense every night, but they both are producing at the plate as well. Brendan Harris did a great job at shortstop too, while Punto was on the disabled list, and now Gardenhire can use Harris at third base and other infield positions. Versatility is the key to the Twins infielders because most of them can play all the infield positions.

Frank: The annual All-Star Game will be played this week, at Yankee Stadium, and three Twins will be there. So I asked Bert about the team representatives:

Tuesday night Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, and Joe Nathan will represent the Twins in the Midsummer Classic, the annual All-Star Game. You participated in a few All-Star Games, did you not? What will it mean to these men? You were a pitcher, though, not a position player, so you were never subject to fan balloting, were you? This year Major League Baseball fans wised up enough to vote Joe Mauer into the first All-Star start of his career. What do you think this special honor means to Joe? Any chance that Morneau will get another crack at taking Ben Sheets or Brandon Webb deep? And what are the odds that Nathan will get into the game, with six closers among the 12 American League pitchers?

Bert: Yes, congratulations to Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, and Joe Nathan on their All-Star selection. The fans voted in Joe Mauer and talking to him he is very proud and elated that the fans voted him to start the game. It will be Joe's second All-Star Game as well as Justin's. Joe Nathan is making his third All-Star appearance. What an honor for these three players and I know, making two All-Star Games myself, they will have a blast, especially being part of the festivities at Yankee Stadium. Let's hope Mauer and Morneau get some hits and Nathan gets in the game and pitches a shutout inning. Maybe one of them will bring back to Minnesota the MVP Award from the game.
I just heard that Yankee great Bobby Murcer lost his battle to cancer and I just want send our condolences and prayers to the Murcer family. He was a great man that loved baseball and was a true Yankee!

Frank: I guess now is a pretty good time to go, since the attention of the baseball world is focused on the happenings at Yankee Stadium for the next couple of days. Last week the Twins played at historical Fenway Park in Boston, and I heard you during the telecast of a game there talking about some of your favorite things about the park. Now that you have had some time to reflect, can you list some of them for us? The All-Star Game will be played Tuesday night at the other great historical ballpark of the East, Yankee Stadium. Is it really closing after this year? What are your favorite memories from playing in these two great ballyards, The House where Ruth pitched (Fenway Park, as Babe Ruth pitched for the Boston Red Sox early in his career) and the House that Ruth Built (Yankee Stadium)?

Bert: It will be kind of sad knowing that after this baseball season that Yankee Stadium will be no more. Playing there for 20 years as an American Leaguer brings back a lot of memories. My first year in 1970, as a Twins pitcher, I started my second Major League game there. We lost 2-1 on a Horace Clarke 2-run home run in the fifth inning, but I got my first hit that day. It was a high chopper over the head of Yankee starter Mel Stottlemyre into centerfield. Over the years that high chopper as become a line drive that almost took Mel's head off!!!!!
Just like Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park brings my memories back to 1970, my rookie season. My first Major League start in Fenway Park was on Saturday, August 15 and it was the second game of a doubleheader. We lost the first game so I wanted to pitch well. But I lasted only 1/3 of inning! It would be my shortest start of the 685 Major League starts I had in my career! I walked the Red Sox leadoff hitter Mike Andrews, Reggie Smith hit a 2-run home run, Carl Yastrzemski followed with a home run, Rico Petrocelli struck out and Billy Conigliaro hit a double. That was it; I was out of the game. I ended up getting a no-decision as the offense picked me up but we still lost the game 11-7. The next day Luis Tiant started for us and he lasted only 1 and 1/3 innings. I came in to relieve in the second inning and pitched 5 2/3 innings and actually got the win as we won the game 9-6. I gave up three runs in this relief outing. So, in my first experience of pitching in Fenway Park, my pitching line was: 2 games, 1 start, 6 innings pitched, 8 hits, 3 walks, 5 strikeouts, 3 home runs allowed with a record of 1-0. What a great country!
Be safe and be kind to each other. Go Twins!

Frank: Bert forgot to mention that his strikeout during the brief Fenway debut, the only out he got, ended up putting him over the 3700 mark for his career (He fanned 3,701 in his 23 seasons in the Major Leagues.) Bert remains one of only five pitchers ever to accomplish that feat. Denard Span needs to lead off the order, if not replace struggling Carlos Gomez in center field. Span hits much better (.324 to .253) and gets on base much more often (.429 to .287), and he runs really well. He might not have the speed of Gomez (who does?), but Span does everything else that you want from a leadoff hitter much, much better. His next walk will tie him with Gomez, despite having 230 fewer at-bats! Span switching spots in the lineup with Gomez is the key thing that would help the Twins “Go” this week, and it’s a perfect time of year to make the switch!

Check out the Twins on FSN North this weekend:
Friday, July 18 vs. Texas: 6:30 PM
Saturday, July 19 vs. Texas: 5:30 PM

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