Friday

DFTU & Peek at the Picks


Hello again everybody...

Welcome to the end of another week. It's a steamer here in Minnesota and we're staring down the barrel of our second consecutive day of severe weather. But tomorrow's still Saturday and that's always going to make today okay by me!

Today I'm catching up on a few of the regular Sports Take segments. We'll kick it off with the DFTU where I'll explain why wins last night by both my Favorite Teams were so important. And then it's the weekly Peek at the Picks segment. Enjoy!

“The rhythm of the weekend, with its birth, its planned gaieties, and its announced end, followed the rhythm of life and was a substitute for it.”
- F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896 - 1940), American Writer


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We kick things off with everybody's favorite segment: Dan's Favorite Teams Update!

Minnesota Twins: The Twins are 51-41, in second place in the AL Central and 2.5 games behind the Chicago White Sox.

It was a rough beginning of the week for me. The Twins got swept by the Boston Red Sox (whom I hate). It started out well enough. The Twins dropped a 1-0 decision to the Red Sox (whom I hate) Monday night in one of the best games I've seen all year. It was one of those well-pitched, crisply-played games that you hate to see either team lose. Unless one of those teams is Boston (whom I hate), in which case I'd always like to see them lose. But they didn't. Still, I didn't feel so bad since both teams played really well.

After that, things got bad in a hurry. The Twins held a 5-2 lead going into the 8th inning Tuesday night, but the bullpen came unglued and they lost 6-5. That one stung. But then just to add insult to injury, after jumping out to a 3-0 lead, the wheels came completely off the Twins wagon as the Red Sox (whom I hate) held in-game batting practice on the Twins pitching staff and completed the sweep with an 18-5 victory.

So in the end, it not only felt like you just got beat up by the bully on the playground, but he threw in an atomic wedgie at the end to really humiliate you. Not good.

Immediately following the Boston (whom I hate) series, the Twins boarded a plane for Detroit where they played a rare Thursday, start-of-a-series day-game. One of the beauties of baseball is that no matter how poorly you played the day before, there's always another game tomorrow. Another opportunity to erase those bad memories. But it's a double-edged sword. If you're on a bad streak where you could really use a day off to rest and re-group, there's also always another game tomorrow.

In this case, things worked out well for the Twins. They got behind 6-2 in the early goings against Detroit. But this time the bullpen came through and held down the Tigers while the offense put together enough runs to send the game to extra innings, where MVP candidate (yes, he's a candidate now) Justin Morneau hit a game-winning home run in the 11th.

So not only were the Twins able to end their mini-losing streak, but they did so in a way that immediately corrected the problems they'd been having over the last three games.

I'll admit it. I was in full-on panic mode after the sweep by Boston (whom I hate). But the boys reminded me why one series does not a season make. Thanks boys. I needed that!

The Twins continue their 4-game series with the Tigers through the weekend before the All-Star Break. And then the Twins actually get a 4-day break before starting a weekend series at home versus the Rangers (and the potential Home Run Derby winner, Josh Hamilton. Seriously, if you can see this guy take BP, go do it).

Arizona Diamondbacks: The D'backs are 46-46, in first place in the NL West and 1 game ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

First of all, I'd like to say, "Kudos!" to D'back G.M. Josh Byrnes for announcing that the Snakes will not be pursuing free-agent outfielder Barry Bonds. You just made a significant portion of your fan-base very happy Mr. Byrnes. Thank you!

That being said, Arizona is still in need of some significant line-up help. LF Eric Byrnes likely won't be back this season. And may the good Lord bless C Chris Snyder who's on the DL with what's been described as a "fractured testicle". Now I have no idea how you fracture something that doesn't contain a bone, but damn that sounds painful! Get well soon Chris! And now RF Justin Upton is out with a sore oblique muscle which could lead to a DL stint for him.

So clearly, the D'backs need some offensive help in a big way. And a little help in the bullpen wouldn't hurt either. Look for some serious movement not too long after the All-Star Break.

Last night Arizona also came up with a big win. Dan Haren pitched a brilliant game, carrying a 2-0 lead into the 9th. After allowing a couple of base-runners, he was lifted in favor of closer Brandon Lyon, who promptly blew the save and allowed the Nationals to tie up the game and send it to extra innings. In the 10th inning the Snakes' offense came through with 3 runs to give Arizona a 5-2 lead. That lead was promptly blown by Tony Pena in the bottom of the 10th when Washington tied it up again.

Now after having two game-winning leads blown in a matter of two innings, there are two ways to look at he situation. One, a team could say, "this just isn't our day" and fold up shop and head for the plane for Philly. Or two, a team could view this as an opportunity. The line-up could say, "Okay, our bullpen is having a bad day. They've picked us up before. Today we're going to win one for them." And that's just what they did. The D'backs came out in the 11th and put 2 more runs up on the board and this time, Chad Qualls made it stick.

Those are the kinds of wins that can galvanize a team. When hitters can pick up pitchers who've failed, or pitchers can pick up hitters who've failed, or even when bullpens can pick up starters who've failed, it can inspire the other players to pick up their game. "That guy saved my butt, so next time I have a chance to save his, I'm going to bear down and try that much harder."

Look, the Nationals are god-awful. They're a team that a division-leader should beat like a drum. But I still hope that this kind of win can be a benchmark for the rest of the season. I hope that's a game that can be pointed to at the end of the year as the game where guys started playing for each other which is what you have to have to be successful.

Yes, I just got done saying that one series (and by extension, one game) doesn't make a season. But one game can be a starting point for a solid run. And I hope that was it for the D'backs.

Arizona heads to Philly for 3 starting tonight. Then they also enjoy 4-days off for the All-Star break before hosting a critical series against the Dodgers.

Finally for this week, let's take a Peek at the Picks!

NL East: Philadelphia Phillies, 50-43 (Dan's Pick: NY Mets, 1.5 Games Back)
Don't look now, but I think Johan Santana just started his traditional second-half surge. He pitched 5 brilliant innings Wednesday night before being removed after a rain delay. And don't underestimate the motivating power of getting left off the All-Star team. If he gets hot, the Mets could grab first place sooner than later.

NL Central: Chicago Cubs, 55-37 (DP: Cubs)
In response to Milwaukee's trade for CC (he doesn't want the periods anymore) Sabathia, the Cubs picked up Rich Harden from the A's. The Cardinals are hanging in there, but this could soon be a 2-team race for the Central. And with the moves the Cubs and Brewers have made, it should be a fun race to watch.

NL West: Arizona Diamondbacks, 46-46 (DP: D'backs)
Covered this earlier. But the series with the Dodgers after the All-Star break looms very large.

AL East: Tampa Bay Rays, 55-36 (DP: Boston Red Sox (whom I hate), 1.5 GB)
The Rays have lost 4 in a row, and the Red Sox (whom I hate) are coming off their sweep of the Twins. Now the Rays know what it feels like to have a target squarely on their backs. We'll see how they respond.

AL Central: Chicago White Sox, 53-38 (DP: Detroit Tigers, 7 games back)
I'd still like to see the Tigers cut that to 5 or so by the All-Star break to really feel like they're in contention. Then again, they're playing the Twins, so scratch that last! Detroit's made gains of late, but they've still got quite the mountain to climb if they're going to fulfill the promise of my picks!

AL West: Los Angeles Angels, 55-37 (DP: Seattle Mariners, 19 GB)
Okay, time for a contest. Email me at: dcook93@yahoo.com and tell me how many games back you think the Mariners will finish. And as a tie-breaker, what they're final record will be. I have no idea what the winner will get, but I'll come up with something!

That's it for this week. I'm back with you on Monday to talk All-Star festivities. Until then, thanks for reading!

2 comments:

  1. Good stuff as always, Dan.

    The Twins have corrected their wayward ways during the Red Sox series (whom you hate), and taken three in a row from the lowly Tigers.

    I must admit, I was one that answered your poll earlier in the year that thought the Twins would be .500 at best. With mediocre pitching and sporatic hitting, I just didn't see the Twinks being better than average. Maybe there is still hope.

    It's good to see your beloved D-Backs have slipped below the best thing since sliced-bread status. The NL West is much like the AL West. Always the Bridemaid but never the Bride. It was, however, great to see the Snakes take down the Yanks in 2001. Schilling and Johnson? What a combo!

    Looking forward to your next entry.

    Peace,

    G

    ReplyDelete