Friday

Four Scores & DFTU


Hello again everybody...

It's the end of the week, but that's not even close to being foremost on my mind today. I've never been so pumped to write a blog before. Seriously, I lost sleep last night as I pondered the various ways I could approach what happened last night. In my seven and a half years at WCCO Radio, I don't think I've ever lost sleep over being excited for the next day at work. I've lost plenty dreading the next day at work, but never from excitement. Maybe I'm in the wrong business...

But that's another tangent. Today I've got to discuss what happened in the world of sports last night. Amazing stuff. I know that not everyone who reads this is a sports fan, and I respect that. But I honestly don't know how anybody could fail to get wrapped up in the excitement of last night. So I'll quit babbling and get right to it!

"Middle age is when you've met so many people that every new person you meet reminds you of someone else."
- Ogden Nash (1902 - 1971), American poet

First of all, let's discuss what happened last night...


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Minnesota Twins 7, Chicago White Sox 6 F-10
Holy crap what a baseball game this was. The Twins came into the game 2/3 of the way through the sweep they had to have if they wanted to have a solid shot at the playoffs. So the pressure was still squarely on their shoulders. And it showed in the 4th inning.

The Twins were leading 1-0 heading to the top of the 4th when the wheels seemed to come off. Orlando Cabrerra hit a solo shot off of Kevin Slowey to make it 1-1. Two batters later, Jim Thome hit a ball to deep right center that should have been caught. Only it wasn't because CF Carlos Gomez failed to call off RF Denard Span and the two ended up colliding while the ball dropped harmlessly to the turf. That, naturally, was followed by Paul Konerko grounding out to score another run.

Two batters after that, Alexi Ramirez reached on an infield single to score a third run. And two batters after that, Juan Uribe reached on a shot off of Slowey's arm. That was tough enough, but it was followed by a throwing error as Slowey tossed wide of first. That error scored 3 runs and suddenly it was 6-1 Chicago and you could've heard a pin drop in a stadium known for breaking decibel meters.

6-1. Oh my god. All that hard work. And just like that (insert snapping sound effect here) it seemed to all fall apart.

But this was when I remembered what's so beautiful about baseball: there's no clock. Whether it takes two hours and ten minutes, or four hours and ten minutes, a team has to record 27 outs. And until they do that, you can keep scoring runs. And it was in this spirit that I turned to WCCO Sports maven Mike Max and said, "Well at least they have five and a half innings to chip away at it." (Ask him, he'll confirm my story)

And chip away they did. Gomez made up for his top of the fourth gaffe by tripling-in Brian Buscher in the bottom of the fourth. That was immediately followed by a Denard Span double and suddenly it was 6-3. Never say die!

They tacked on another run in the 6th, which set up for the drama in the bottom of the 8th. By this time, I'd gotten back home from work and was able to watch the rest of the game in the comfort of the Sports Take home offices. Once again, it was the Gomez/Span-show as Carlos singled home Brendan Harris to make it 6-5. Span wasn't to be upstaged and tripled home Gomez to tie the game and suddenly Metrodome was rocking.

(Aside: My brother will want me to point out that after Span's triple, we were on the phone as he begged the Twins to get that run in - runner on 3rd, 1 out. I said, "can you conceive of a way they won't?" - assuming that either Alexi Casilla or Joe Mauer would come through. My brother immediately accused me of putting the whammy on the club. And after Casilla and Mauer failed to get the run in, my brother sent me several text messages which I can't reprint. Fortunately, my positivity won out in the end!)

Neither team scored in the 9th which sent them to extra innings. In the top of the 10th, Twins closer Joe Nathan came out for his second inning of work and promptly set the Sox down in order.

In the bottom of the 10th, the Twins won the game as only they can do. After a lead-off ground out, Nick Punto worked out a walk. Carlos Gomez grounded out to move Punto to second.

Then, on the first pitch to Denard Span, Chicago closer Bobby Jenks bounced one in front of catcher A.J. Pierzynski. The ball didn't get far away from A.J., but an alert Punto recognized the wild pitch, and knew A.J. couldn't throw me out on the base paths (I know that sounds like exaggeration for effect, but prior to last night, runners had attempted 102 steals on A.J. and he threw out exactly 11.... oof), and took 3rd.

Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen decided he didn't want Span to beat him and had him intentionally walked. That brought Alexi Casilla to the plate with runners on the corners and 2 outs. 'Lexi had 2 hits in the series coming into that at-bat, so it seemed like an astute move by Ozzie. It seemed that way right up until Casilla dumped a base hit into right field to score the game winning run.

I never saw the ball hit the ground. As soon as Casilla hit it, I knew it was going to be a hit and started jumping up and down, hooting and hollering in my apartment. My neighbors either thought that Rocky had returned, or that I had forgotten to take some important medication.

It was an incredible comeback to cap off a critical sweep and set the Twins up to win the division and make the playoffs in a year where most pundits (myself included) had written them off.

Wow.

Milwaukee Brewers 5, Pittsburgh Pirates 1 F-10/ NY Mets 7, Chicago Cubs 6
Prior to the Twins magical walk-off single, the Brewers came up with some walk-off wonder of their own. Tied at 1 with the Pirates in the 10th, the Brewers knew they had to win to keep pace with the Mets who'd already beaten the Cubs. Coaches and players will tell you that they don't scoreboard-watch. Hooey. I promise you every player, coach, trainer and equipment manager in the Brewers dugout was acutely aware of the Mets having won.

Turns out the pressure brought out the best in the Crew. They loaded the bases for LF Ryan Braun in the bottom of the 10th. And Braun came through with a moonshot walk-off grand slam that kept the Brewers tied for the Wildcard lead.

Overkill? Perhaps, but Miller Park was rocking every bit as much as the Metrodome would be about a half an hour later.

Oh, and a note about where a playoff game would be played should the Brewers and Mets/Phillies end up tied for the Wildcard. Thanks go to David in Milwaukee who passed along the following:

Brewers lost coin flips to both Philadelphia and NY, so if need play-offs with either one will be an away game.

So there you have it. If necessary, the Twins and the Brewers could end up on the road for a play-in game.

Oregon State 27, USC 21
Call it the curse of the Sports Take Poll, I guess. The day the Poll debuted, the number one team in the country vomited all over themselves on the road and quite possibly put to rest any chance they had at the national title.

I didn't see too much of this game as I was engrossed in the Twins comeback. But I was able to catch some in snippets. And from what I saw, it was clear that USC came out flat and unprepared. And that comes down to coaching.

Everyone wants to anoint Pete Carroll as one of the top football coaches in the country. And it's certainly hard to argue with his recruiting record. But this is now the second year in a row that he's had a team favored to win it all, which has gone on the road and lost to a clearly inferior team. I'm not sure how he could allow that to happen, but he did.

And now the trick for USC is that they play in one of the worst conferences in the country. That means that there aren't any marquee wins left for them on their schedule. So unless a whole mess of teams lose 2 games, the Trojans may be on the outs when it comes time to pick two teams to play for the title.

Incredible. Nights like that don't come along often folks. I hope you caught a piece of it, because they don't get much more exciting than that!

Now it's time for everybody's favorite segment: Dan's Favorite Teams Update!

Minnesota Twins: The Twins are 87-72, in first place in the AL Central and one-half game ahead of the Chicago White Sox.

"In first place in the AL Central." If you'd asked me in April what the odds of me being able to type those words in relation to the Twins on September 26th were, I'd have said 100-1 minimum.

But here we are. The Twins have 3 regular season games left against the Kansas City Royals at Metrodome. The White Sox return home to face the Cleveland Indians for what could be their final 3 games.

I say "could be" because should the Twins or the White Sox finish with only a half-game lead, Chicago will have to play a make-up game with Detroit on Monday to even out the records. Should Minnesota and Chicago be tied after that, then a play-in game will take place in Chicago on Tuesday.

Being as Minnesota has no control over what happens in Chicago this weekend, they need to focus on their business against Kansas City. If they sweep the Royals, then any loss by Chicago hands Minnesota the division.

This is where I have a small bit of concern. The Sox series was so emotional that I'm concerned for the Twins' ability to refocus themselves for tonight's game against KC. Last night I envisioned a scenario where the Twins players went back up into their clubhouse hooting and hollering, cranking the music and celebrating. Then in the midst of that celebration, a veteran like Mike Redmond or Eddie Guardado would call for the music to be shut off and everybody to calm down. They'd announce that the Twins haven't won anything yet. There is still a job to do. There are still three games to be won. Enjoy last night, but then come back focused to whip up on the Royals tonight.

I hope that happened, I really do.

It's Fransico Liriano tonight, Glen Perkins tomorrow and Scott Baker (if necessary) on Sunday.

God I love baseball!

Arizona Diamondbacks: The D'backs are 79-80 and have been eliminated from the playoffs.

*sigh*

What can I say? I adopted this team because of family ties and my desire to see a team make the playoffs since I started the season believing it was impossible for the Twins to make it.

Turns out I was dead wrong.

It's especially disappointing for Arizona fans given the tremendous start the Snakes had. A brilliant April turned into a mediocre May which descended into a gawd-awful June. And it just got uglier from there.

I give D'backs management a lot of credit. They made moves and did just about all you could ask them to in order to get this team to the playoffs. But in the end it just wasn't enough.

So now Arizona enters an off-season with a lot of questions. Brandon Webb has a contract to be worked out. Eric Byrnes has to decide whether he'll be healthy enough to play again. Orlando Hudson is a free agent. And his departure could start a lot of shuffling of the D'back infield. Randy Johnson is a year older. And it needs to be decided whether Max Scherzer can be a major league starter or not.

It'll be a challenging off-season. And the decisions general manager Josh Byrnes makes will determine just how competitive this club is next year.

Wisconsin Badgers: The Badgers are 3-0 (0-0 in the Big Ten).

Wisconsin is coming off of a bye week, so there's not a lot to talk about. Other than what they're about to face.

Tomorrow marks the start of the Big Ten campaign for Bucky as they travel to Ann Arbor to face the "transitioning" Wolverines of Michigan. The Badgers enter the game as 6.5-point favorites. I can't argue with that.

Clearly Wisconsin has had a better non-conference journey than the Wolverines have had. But it's still a road-game in the Big 10. It's still the Big House. It's still Michigan. So I assume nothing.
Kickoff is at 2:30pm tomorrow. I'll be locked in.

That's it for this week folks. Hope you have a wonderful weekend. I'll be back on Monday, hopefully celebrating another Central Division championship! Until then, thanks for reading!

1 comment:

  1. I should know better then to give up on the Twins. I gave up after that 6 run debacle. Joe has always liked the Twins because they are "spunky".

    USC? The PAC 10 is so unbelievably mediocre (USC is the only team in the top 25 I believe) where others (say the Big 12 with 6 - 5 of them in the top 10) After this weekend I expect to see Nebraska in the 20-25 range.

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