Wednesday, July 22, 2015

KOD 21 World Series : 06 Minnesota vs 91 Pittsburgh

In a battle of 2 first time KOD World Series managers, Pete Daly and his 06 Twins overcame a 3-0 series deficit to defeat Bill Schneider and his 91 Pirates team.  The 7 game set featured a couple close games, a couple blow outs and some fantastic individual performances.

GAME 1 @ Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, PA

Kyle Lohse vs Zane Smith

Pittsburgh wins 9-2
WP: Zane Smith (9-2)
LP: Kyle Lohse (0-2)
SV: none
HR: none

MVP: Zane Smith (WP, 9 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 7 K)

Minnesota came into the series with serious question marks in their rotation.  Johan Santana had been the best pitcher for most of the KOD season and Francisco Liriano has been very good but overused.  Which left the likes of Matt Garza, Kyle Lohse, Brad Radke, Carlos Silva and Brad Radke as those being looked at for multiple starts in the World Series.  Pittsburgh. on the other side of the field, was in much better shape with a solid group of dependable starters to turn to.  Game 1 showed the glaring differences in options as the Twins threw Lohse up against tough lefty Zane Smith.  Smith was dominant in his complete game performance and the Pirate bats made sure that the Pittsburgh fans left Three Rivers with plenty of optimism for the rest of the series.  Two runs in the 1st and the 3rd gave Pittsburgh some early breathing room and then a huge 5 run 6th inning put the game away.  Facing reliever Matt Guerrier,  the Pirates used a walk and 5 hits consecutively to do the damage.  The biggest hits being a 2 RBI double by Andy Van Slyke and a 2 RBI triple by Gary Varsho.   The Pirates had only 2 players (Slaught & Van Slyke) with 2 hit games but 3 with multi RBI games (Van Slyke,Varsho and Wehner)

Game 2 @ Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, PA
Boof Bonser vs John Smiley

Pittsburgh wins 7-3
WP: John Smiley (7-4)
LP: Boof Bonser (5-4)
SV: Bill Landrum (5)
HR: Andy Van Slyke 2(6,7)

MVP: John Smiley (WP, 8 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 8 K)

John Smiley was never in trouble in this one and Andy Van Slyke made sure that his pitcher never felt the added weight of a close game.  Van Slyke went deep in the bottom of the 1st for the first of his 2 home runs to get Pittsburgh off to a good start.  The Pirate OF then repeated this in his 2nd at bat with another 2 run homer off of Bonser.  The Pirate bats did not stop there as they welcomed reliever Jesse Crain to the game in the 7th with 3 more runs thanks to an error, a couple hits and a couple RBI ground outs.  The only bright spot for the Twins came in the 9th when the Pirates brought reliever Bob Patterson into the 7-0 game.   Patterson gave up a lead off single to Luis Castillo but then struck out big bats, Mauer and Morneau.  The pesky Twins did not fold though as Torii Hunter and Michael Cuddyer singled to get the Twins on the board.  An error on 3rd baseman John Wehner, his 4th in less than 2 games, followed by a single by Rondell White made the game 7-3 with the bases loaded and the game tying run in Jason Bartlett coming to the plate.  The Pirates turned to closer Bill Landrum to face Bartlett with the game on the line.  Landrum was up to the task as he got the Twin shortstop to ground to short for the game ending out.   Van Slyke (2-4, 2 HR, 5 RBI) was the leader of the 12 hit attack for the Pirates that sent them off to Minnesota with the 2-0 series lead.

Game 3 @ HHH Metrodome in Minneapolis, MN
Randy Tomlin vs Johan Santana

Pittsburgh wins 5-1
WP: Randy Tomlin (7-1)
LP: Johan Santana (9-3)
SV: none
HR: Barry Bonds (9), Steve Buechele (4), Jay Bell (6)

MVP: Randy Tomlin (WP, 9 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 8 K)

As the series travelled to Minnesota, the Twins fans finally felt they had the upper hand in the starting pitcher matchup.  After a run in the 3rd thanks to a Lloyd McClendon error at 1st and a Luis Castillo RBI single, the Metrodome was buzzing with confidence.  Santana, for his part, was cruising through the Pirate order that had carved up his teammates in games 1 and 2.   It wasn't until the 6th inning that the mood in the dome changed.  After a leadoff K of Jose Lind, Santana gave up a shot to Barry Bonds to tie up the game at 1.  Steve Buechele followed Bonds with another shot and in a matter of seconds that comfortable 1-0 lead became a 2-1 deficit.  Randy Tomlin never lost focus pitching in the shadow of Santana, and the 2 homers seemed to give him an extra push as he allowed just 2 more hits over the next 4 innings to make sure the 1 unearned run the Twins got in the 3rd was the only ones they would get all day.  The Pirates bats continued to get to Santana as Jay Bell went deep in the 7th and Bobby Bonilla doubled off reliever Pat Neshek in the 8th to score Santana's last 2 base runners.  The Twin faithful filed out of the Metrodome not only knowing they trailed 3-0 in the series but also with the realization that they had just seen their ace outpitched.

Game 4 @ HHH Metrodome in Minneapolis, MN
Doug Drabek vs Francisco Liriano

Minnesota wins 7-1
WP: Francisco Liriano (7-4)
LP: Doug Drabek (4-6)
SV: none
HR: Steve Buechele (5), Torii Hunter (9)

MVP: Franisco Liriano (WP, 7 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 7 K)

The desperation of the Twins was evident as soon as the starters headed out to the bullpen before the game to get loosened up.  Minnesota had been non committal after game 3 as to who would be getting the ball to start game 4.  Carlos Silva and Matt Garza were both rumored to be in the running.  But 1 hour before game time, it was young left hander Francisco Liriano heading out to get ready for the potential elimination game.  Liriano had been shut down near the end of the regular season and despite being told he would only be used sparingly in the playoffs out the pen, the Twins had found themselves needing him for multiple key starts in their playoff run.  Liriano didn't show any sort of fatigue in this one as he pitched 7 solid innings and didn't allow the Pirated on the board until the 6th.  Doug Drabek matched zeroes with Liriano until the 5th when the Twins scored 4 led by a double by Joe Mauer, a 2 RBI triple by Jason Bartlett and an RBI single by Nick Punto.  Torii Hunyer added an insurance run in the 6th with a solo home run, then 3 Twin relievers combined to pitch the final 2 innings to close out the game.  The Twins finally found themselves on the board in the series with win #1 but the pitching matchups going forward still looked tough on paper.  

Game 5 @ Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, PA
Zane Smith vs Brad Radke

Minnesota wins 2-1
WP: Joe Nathan (4-2)
LP: Stan Belinda (5-4)
SV: none
HR: Rondell White (1)

MVP: Rondell White (1-4, 1 RBI, 1 Run, Walk off HR in bottom of 9th)

As we headed to game 5, this series was still looking for its signature game.  With game 1 starter Zane Smith going for Pittsburgh, Minnesota called on Brad Radke.  Pittsburgh jumped on Radke in the 1st with a run when an Andy Van Slyke double plated Orlando Merced.  But, Radke (5.1 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 2 K) would rebound to silence the Pirate bats the rest of his time on the mound.  Smith (7.2 IP, 10 H, 0 ER, 1 K) would be equally stingy for the Bucs benefiting from 3 HUGE double plays in the early going to quell Twin rallies.  In the 5th though, it would be that same defense that allowed the Twins to tie up the game at 1.  Jay Bell booted a routine grounder by Nick Punto and the next batter, Mike Redmond, delivered an RBI single to score Punto and even the score.   After that each team threatened but could not push across anything until the Twins came to bat in the bottom of the 9th.  Stan Belinda had finished out the 8th in relief of Zane Smith and he continued on the hill for Pittsburgh.   Rondell White was due up for the Twins to start the inning.  Minnesota thought long and hard about pinch hitting for White but the options were not much better and Rondell was sent up to get things started.  But instead he decided to end it with 1 swing of the bat, sending a 1-1 pitch 399 feet to left center field much to the delight of the sold out Metrodome crowd.  Amazingly, it was the 1st homer of the KOD season for White, but it could not have come at a better time.  The wining pitcher on the night was Joe Nathan.  Nathan, normally a 3 out closer, was brought in to the tie game in the 8th inning with the Twins season in the balance.  Nathan was outstanding, allowing just 1 hit and 1 walk over the 2 innings, picking up his 4th win of the season.  The Twins had little time to celebrate the huge win though as they needed to catch a flight back to Pittsburgh with game 6 and 7 looming.  The 21st edition of the KOD World Series finally had an instant classic of a game and the series which looked to possibly be over in 4, was headed to atleast a game 6.

Game 6 @ Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, PA
Boof Bonser vs John Smiley

Minnesota wins 11-4
WP: Matt Guerrier (1-0)
LP: John Smiley (7-5)
SV: none
HR: Justin Morneau (19), Jay Bell (7)

Game MVP: Michael Cuddyer (3-5, 2 2B, 2 R, 4 RBI)

  The Twins might have felt a great rush of adrenaline following a big game 5 win, but handing the ball to Boof Bonser to face John Smiley has a way of deflating a team very quickly.  This was a pitching rematch from game 2 and the Pirates had dominated that game from start to finish.  The Twins looked for a different outcome in this and started great pushing across a run in the 1st inning.  Singles by Nick Punto and Mike Redmond followed by a Justin Morneau sac fly got the Twins on the board first.  That lead was short lived though as the Pirates would get to Bonser in the 2nd.  It was clear that Bonser's arm was just about shot from the accumulation of regular season and post season innings he had been asked to throw.  Bobby Bonilla singled, Mike LaValliere walked and Jay Bell deposited Bonser's 2nd pitch into the left field bleachers for a 3 run HR to quickly put the Bucs on top 3-1.  If the Twins offense felt added pressure, they did not show it by bouncing back for 4 big runs in the top of the 3rd inning.   The Twins relied on the big bats of Cuddyer ( 2 run 2B) and Morneau (2 run HR) to reclaim their lead and gain a little confidence against Smith.  Another offensive outburst in the 5th was led by another RBI double by Cuddyer and an RBI single by Redmond.  Matt Guerrier (WP, 3 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 3 K) was outstanding in relief of Bonser (1 IP, 4 H, 3 R) and allowed the Twins offense to take over the game.  In all, the Twins bullpen threw 8 innings, allowing just 4 hits and 1 run, while fanning 6 batters.  The Twins 17 hit attack was led by Cuddyer and Morneau (3-4, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R). 

Game 6 @ Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, PA
Johan Santana vs Randy Tomlin

Minnesota wins 6-3
WP: Johan Santana (10-3)
LP: Randy Tomlin (7-2)
SV: Joe Nathan (21)
HR: Michael Cuddyer (8), Bobby Bonilla (5)

MVP: Michael Cuddyer (4-4, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R)

Johan Santana had been given the ball in big games throughout the playoffs for the Minnesota Twins and despite pitching well in most, he had yet to close out a series for his team.  This deciding game would be different for the dominant southpaw.  Santana (6.2 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 6 K) pitched extremely well en route to his KOD leading 10th victory.  His Twins teammates handed him a 3 run lead with a rally in the 3rd inning led by RBI hits by Cuddyer, Hunter and Bartlett.  A solo home run by Bobby Bonilla in the 5th gave the home town Pirates a little hope, but Santana wouldn't let them put together any sort of extended attack.  Cuddyer then made sure that his team would complete its improbable 4 game comeback in the series by driving in a run in the 7th followed by a 2 run HR in the 9th.  The Pirates would score single runs in the 7th and 9th and did threaten in the 9th.  With a run in to make it 6-3, the Pirates put 2 on wuth 2 outs against Joe Nathan.  Orlando Merced, representing the tying run, came to the plate with Barry Bonds on 1st and Gary Varsho at 3rd.  Nathan, who had entered the game in the 8th and had thrown over 40 pitches, was left in to face Merced.  Unfortunately for the Pittsburgh faithful, Nathan overpowered Merced with 3 straight fastballs and the extinguishing any hope of a comeback.  Nathan's 21st KOD save eliminated the Pirates leaving the 2006 Minnesota Twins as the last team standing in the tournament. 

Michael Cuddyer  12-29, 2 2B, 1 HR, 5 R, 8 RBI *** KOD Playoff MVP
Justin Morneau       8-28, 3 2B, 1 HR, 4 R, 4 RBI
Torii Hunter            8-26, 1 2B, 1 HR, 3 R, 3 RBI

Johan Santana    2 G, 1-1, 14 IP, 14 K, 4.50 ERA, .226 BAA
Joe Nathan         2 G, 1W 1SV, 4 IP, 3 K, 2.25 ERA, .154 BAA
Jesse Crain         4 G, 0W 0 SV, 4.2 IP, 2 K, 1.93 ERA, .167 BAA

Jay Bell             8-26, 2 HR, 2 R, 6 RBI
Barry Bonds      9-29, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 6 R, 3 RBI

Zane Smith       2 G, 1-0, 16.2 IP, 8 K, 1.08 ERA, .242 BAA
Randy Tomlin   2 G, 1-1, 14 IP, 11 K, 1.93 ERA, .212 BAA


Friday, July 3, 2015

On to the KOD 21 Championship for the 2006 Minnesota Twins

It was a back and forth 7 game thriller, but the Twins unlikely run to the KOD 21 title continues.  The Twins had chances to put the scrappy 86 Angels away early but ended up needing all 7 games and all 9 innings of that deciding game in order to finally eliminate California lead by manager Douglas Zaner. 

GAME 1 @ Anaheim Stadium, Anaheim, CA
Brad Radke vs Mike Witt

Minnesota wins 4-2

WP: Radke (4-4)
LP: Witt (7-5)
SV: Joe Nathan (19)
HR: None
MVP: Nick Punto (4-4, 2 RBI)

With the pitching matchup favoring the Angels, it was very important for the Twins to strike first.  And they did in the 2nd inning, by putting together 5 singles highlighted by RBI grounders by Michael Cuddyer and Jason Bartlett.  They threatened to add a 3rd run, but Bartlett was thrown out at the plate by CF Gary Pettis after a single by Jason Tyner to end the inning.   Brad Radke (5 2/3 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 3 K) was on his game keeping the Angels hitters in check before turning it over to the bullpen with a 4-2 lead.  The Twins bullpen, which has been a strength all season, was once again up to the challenge.  Matt Guerrier, Dennys Reyes, Pat Neshek and Nathan combined to get the final 10 outs of the game allowing just 2 hits and a walk to preserve the win for Radke.  The Twins offense was able to pound out 15 hits against Angels ace Witt, but somehow were only able to push across 4 runs.  Luckily, that was enough to take the opening game of this ALCS.

GAME 2 @ Anaheim Stadium, Anaheim, CA
Johan Santana vs Don Sutton

Minnesota wins 5-2
WP: Santana (9-1)
LP: Sutton (6-3)
SV: Joe Nathan (20)
HR:Justin Morneau (17),Torii Hunter (8),Joe Mauer (6),George Hendrick (1)
MVP: Nathan (1 2/3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, SAVE)

The California Angels were able to make Santana (6 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 4 BB, 8 K,) work extremely hard over his 6 innings of work.  But Santana was up to the task and left the game with a 4-1 lead after throwing 113 pitches in his 6 innings of work.  Solo shots by Hunter and Morneau off of starter Sutton, coupled with 2 runs the Twins scratched out in the 3rd, were more than enough for the Twins on this day.  A Hendrick solo shot to centerfield was the lone run pushed across while Santana was on the mound.   The Angels did threatem in the 5th inning when Dick Schofield walked, Gary Pettis singled and Bobby Grich walked to load the bases with 1 out.  Santana settled down and struck out Doug DeCinces and Wally Joyner to keep the Angels from cutting into the lead.   The Twins bullpen again was left to record the final 9 outs of a close game and other than an unearned run in the 7th they were up to the challenge once again.  Nathan was particularly impressive recording the last 5 outs to record his 20th save of the KOD season.

GAME 3 @ Metrodome in Minneapolis, MN
Kirk McCaskill vs Carlos Silva

California wins 12-11
WP: Gary Lucas (1-0)
LP: Francisco Liriano (6-4)
SV: Donnie Moore (6)
HR:Jerry Narron (1),Reggie Jackson (6),Terry Tiffee (1),Justin Morneau (18)

MVP: Reggie Jackson (1-4, 1 HR, 3 RBI)

In a crazy game that saw each pitching staff blow a seemingly safe lead, the Angels continued the trend of the series of the visiting team winning.  Neither starter was able to make it past the 5th inning as both teams bats we certainly liking the conditions inside the dome.   The Angels jumped all over Silva by scoring runs in 3 of the first 4 innings for a total of 4 by the end of the 4th.  The big Angel hits coming on a double off the bat of Rick Burleson to score a run and a HR by Narron.  However, McCaskill struggled to pitch with that 4-0 lead, allowing 8 runs in the bottom of the 4th to put his team in a hole.  Terry Tiffe, in his 1st playoff appearance, hit a 3 run HR and Morneau hit a 2 run triple to lead the Twin attack.  Silva did not fare any better with lead than his pitching counterpart.  The Angels jumped right back on top in the 5th with 5 runs to make it 9-8.   Jackson hit a 2 run shot off Silva, then Rupert Jones drove in the go ahead runs with a bases clearing double off of reliver Matt Guerrier.  The teams would each put up 2 more runs in the 6th to make the score 11-10 which is where it stood heading to the bottom of the 8th inning.  The Twins threatened to push a game tying run across the plate in the 7th despite reliever Chuck Finley getting the first 2 outs to start the inning.  Mike Redmond got a pinch hit single, followed by a single by Jason Tyner.   Gary Lucas then relieved Finley and gave up a single to Nick Punto but George Hendrick was able to gun down Redmond from right field to save the lead.  However, the next inning the game was tied up when Morneau took Lucas deep down the RF line for a solo shot.  Minnesota reliver, Liriano had crusied through the 7th and 8th but a leadoff walk to Bobby Grich in the 9th would prove costly.  Bob Boone sacrificed Grich to 2nd which brought Pat Neshek in from the bullpen to face the top of the Angel order.  Neshek retired Pettis, but then allowed an RBI double to George Hendrick scoring Grich with what would prove to be the game winning run.  The Angels stayed with Lucas to get the 1st 2 out of the 9th but after a Tyner single. closer Donnie Moore was summoned to face Nick Punto.  Moore was able to get Punto to pop up to 3rd base to end the game and secure the 12-11 win for California.

GAME 4 @ Metrodome in Minneapolis, MN
Vern Ruhle vs Matt Garza

Minnesota wins 7-6 in 11 innings
WP: Joe Nathan (2-2_
LP:  Doug Corbett (2-2)
SV: none
HR: Dick Schofield (3), Bobby Grich (3)

 MVP: Nathan (3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 5 K, WIN)

Minnesota looked to take a commanding 3-1 victory and seemed to be on their way with a 6-3 lead heading into the late innings of this one.  Garza (5 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 4 K) was pretty good despite this being just his 3rd appearance in the KOD season.   Shannon Stewart (2-2 2 RBI) and Jason Bartlett (4-6 2 RBI) each had key hits off of Ruhle that helped build the lead for Minnesota.   Juan Rincon picked up for Garza after the 5th to add 2 quality innings as well, handing the back end of the Twins bullpen a 6-3 lead with just 6 outs left to record.  Lefty specialist, Reyes, was asked to face some right handed bats and the results were not what Minnesota was hoping for.  a Brian Downing single, Wally Joyner Sac Bunt and Rick Burleson single cut the lead to 6-4.  Then a Grich 2 run jack over the fence in left center knotted the game at 6 and had the Angels dugout feeling as the momentum of the series was finally shifting.  Joe Nathan was not about to let the Angels build on that though as the Twins called on their closer to pitch more than he had all season.  Nathan needed only 34 pitches but he went 3 full pressure filled innings without allowing a base runner, striking out 5 along the way.  Nathan's strong outing, allowed the Twins to finally mount an offense in the bottom of the 11th.  A leadoff single by Bartlett followed by a Sac Bunt by Luis Castillo and an intentional walk to Morneau brought up Joe Mauer.  Mauers' infield single loaded the bases and forced Angels reliever to face Torii Hunter with the game on the line.   Hunter took a 2-0 fastball from Corbett and drove it deep center field forcing Gary Pettis out of range to throw Bartlett out at the plate.  With the Twins finally stealing the 1st home team win in the series it was on to game 5 with a change to close out the seires.

GAME 5 @ Metrodome in Minneapolis, MN
Mike Witt vs Brad Radke

California wins 8-1
WP: Witt (8-5)
LP: Radke (4-5)
SV: none
HR:Rupert Jones (7), Reggie Jackson 2(8), Brian Downing (6)

MVP: Mike Witt (9 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 8 K, WIN)

In a rematch of the game 1 pitching matchup, it was Mike Witt's turn to shine in this one.  Witt was dominant from start to finish, pitching like the ace that Angel fans had look to all season long.   The Angels made sure Witt didn't feel the pressure of an elimination game by jumping out to a 3 run lead before the Twins even batted.   Gary Pettis left off with a dingle followed by a Rupert Jones 2 run homer.  A walk to Jack Howell and a Wally Joyner double gave Witt more runs than he would need before he had even thrown a pitch.  The Angels bats did not stop however adding single runs in the 3rd, 4th, 7th, 8th and 9th to cruise to an 8-1 win.   Reggie Jackson and Dick Schofield each had 3 hits while Jones pitched in with 3 RBI's.

GAME 6 @ Anaheim Stadium, Anaheim, CA
Johan Santana vs Don Sutton

California wins 5-3
WP: Sutton (7-3)
LP: Santana (9-2)
SV: Gary Lucas (3)
HR:Michael Cuddyer (7)
MVP: Bob Boone (1-2, 1 2B, 3 RBI)

With the best pitcher in KOD on the mound for Minnesota and a 3-1 series lead, the chances of a California comeback seemed unlikely, but someone forget to tell the Angel hitters.  Santana (8 IP, 11H, 5 R, 3 K) was hit hard by the same California lineup he had silenced in game 2.   Bobby Grich drove in Dick Schofield in the 3rd inning to give California a 1-0 lead but that was short lived as Minnesota responded with 3 off of Sutton in the top of 4.  The big blow coming from Cuddyer and his 3 run blast to right center.  The Twins were feeling like the series was within reach but the Angels had other plans.  In the bottom of the 6th put together 5 hits of Santana highlighted by RBI doubles by Brian Downing and Boone.  Staked to a 4-3 lead, the Angels turned to Gary Lucas to start the 7th. 
Lucas (3IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 K) was able to keep the pesky Twin hitters from getting any ideas of a comeback in their heads.   As Santana finished out the game for the Twins, their fans looked as though they had seen their championship dreams vanish.  The idea of tentative game 7 starter Carlos Silva strolling to the mound definitely did nothing to help.

GAME 7 @ Anaheim Stadium, Anaheim, CA
Francisco Liriano vs Kirk McCaskill

Minnesota wins 2-1

WP: Joe Nathan (3-2)
LP: McCaskill (8-4)
SV: none
HR: Joe Mauer (7), George Hendrick (2)
MVP: Francisco Liriano (7 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 8 K, WIN)

A classic pitcher's duel closed out this highly competitive, exciting 7 game American League Championship series.  The Twins made a last minute decision to go with Liriano as their game 7 starter despite the fact that he had been told he would be used strictly as a reliever over the last 2 series due to strain on his arm.  The young lefty proved more than capable allowing just 3 hits and 1 run while striking out 8 over his 7 innings.  However, one of the hits was a home run by Hendrick in the 4thinning that looked like it was going to be the game winner.  McCaskill (9 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 7 K) was cruising through the game limiting the Twins attack to just 3 singles over the first 8 innings.  With a 1 run lead and relievers Gary Lucas and Donnie Moore warming in the pen, McCaskill looked to do his own dirty work and close out the game and the series.  A ground out to lead off man Luis Castillo was played for the 1st out of the inning.  With the meat of the Twins order coming up McCaskill was still throwing hard and was left in.  Justin Morneau grounded a single between 3rd and short to bring the go ahead run to the plate in the person of Joe Mauer.  With the wind blowing out to right field, Mauer caught up to a 3-2 fastball and drove it over the right center field fence to amazingly put the Twins in the lead 2-1.  Joe Nathan, who had relieved Liriano to pitch the 8th, was now looking at the top of the Angels lineup needing 3 outs to send his team to the finals.  Nathan struck out Gary Pettis and Rupert Jones before giving up a single to Reggie Jackson.  With the tying run at 1st, Angel series hero, Hendrick came to the plate with hopes of launching another ball into the wind.  However, it was Nathan that won the battle forcing Hendrick to ground a ball to Jason Bartlett at short to end the game and the series.

Congratulations to Douglas Zanaer and his 1986 California Angels on a successful season and a great League Championship series.  The series took a lot out of my team as they are now limping into the World Series with several key players at or above the 125% usage mark.  It will take a minor miracle and some surprising pitching performances for the Twins to continue their improbable run from back to back play in games to World Series contender. 


Sunday, June 21, 2015

06 Minnesota wins tight 5 game series with 91 Toronto to advance to AL Championship

GM 1 @ Skydome in TORONTO
Boof Bonser vs Jimmy Key

06 Minnesota wins 8-1
WP: Bonser (4-3)
LP: Key (7-3)

HR: Justin Morneau (14), Mookie Wilson (2)
Game MVP: Bonser (7 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 8 K)

Minnesota comes out and jumps all over one of the top regular season starters in Key with 3 singles and a Sacrifice Fly to put 2 runs up in the 1st inning.  Minnesota has relied on a lot of singles from their light hitting little guys (Bartlett,Punto,Castillo,Tyner,Stewart) and timely power by Morneau and Mauer to sccount for their offense all season long.  And this game they definitely followed that game plan with 12 hits, 11 singles and a HR by Morneau.  Bartlett (4-5, 2 RBI) was a pest all day long including a big 2 RBI single in the 6th to push the lead to 7-1.  Bonser was brilliant on the day as he was never really in trouble allowing just the 1 run on a solo shot to Mookie Wilson in the 3rd. 

GM 2 @ Skydome in TORONTO
Brad Radke vs Juan Guzman

06 Minnesota wins 6-5
WP: Denny Reyes (2-1)
LP: Mike Timlin (2-2)
SV: Joe Nathan (18)

HR: Torii Hunter (7), Morneau (15), Michael Cuddyer (4), Kelly Gruber (10)
Game MVP: Morneau (2-4, 2 run, 3 RBI, 1 HR)

Toronto jumped out early in this one with 2 runs in the 3rd highlighted by a John Olerud 2 RBI single and then another run in the 3rd thanks to 3 singles by Devon White, Olerud and Kelly Gruber.  The Twins responded with their power game with a 2 run HR by Hunter in the 6th and a 3 run shot by Morneau in the 7th.  The Morneau HR was huge as Mike Timlin retired the 1st 2 batters he faced in the inning but then struggled allowing singles to Jason Tyner and Luis Castillo.  With Duane Ward scrambling to warm up in the bullpen, the Jays were forced to stick with Timlin to face Morneau.  Morneau made them pay by depositing the 3rd pitch he saw into the right field bleachers to give the Twins a 5-4 lead.  Michael Cuddyer would continue the power hitting for Minnesota with another homer in the 8th to push the lead to 6-4.  That run would prove important as Gruber led off the 8th inning with a HR off Pat Neshek.  But that would be the end of the offense for the Jays as Neshek settled down in the 8th and then Joe Nathan retired them in order in the 9th.

GM 3 @ The Metrodome in MINNESOTA
Todd Stottlemyre vs Johan Santana

91 Toronto wins 4-3 in 10 innings
WP: Tom Henke (1-0)
LP: Jesse Crain (1-1)

HR: Cuddyer 2 (6)
Game MVP: Roberto Alomar (2-5, 2 runs, scored GW run)

Toronto had its back against the wall and looked out to the mound and saw the imposing figure of Twins lefty Johan Santana.  And while Santana (7 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 6 K) was on the mound the Jays looked to be intimidated and may have been planning for what to do after the KOD season wrapped up.  The Twins didn't give Santana much offense but the 2 runs they put up, highlighted by a Cuddyer HR in the 4th looked to be plenty.  Then, in what in hindsight looked like a terrible decision, Santana was pulled after the 7th after 102 pitches.  The Jays had put up an unearned run in the 6th after a key error at 3B by Tony Batista, followed by a walk to Olerud and then 2 sacrfices.  Minnesota had relied on its power bullpen all season long and it looked to close out the series the same way.  However, Toronto got a little bit of good luck and capitalized to turn the momentum of the series.  Left specialist Dennys Reyes was called on to start the 8th vs Alomar. Alomar grounded to short but Nick Punto booted the easy play to get the Jays some life.  Reyes then struck out Devon White before giving way to Neshek.  Neshek then induced what should have been an inning ending DP from Joe Carter but Punto, once again, let the ball play him and the Jays had runners at 1st and 2nd with 1 out.  With Dave Parker pinch hitting for Toronto, Carter and Alomar pulled off a double steal to get the Jays 2 runners in scoring position.  Parker then came though in the clutch with a 2 run single to give the Jays the 3-2 lead.  The lead looked like it would hold up but with Henke on to close out the game, Cuddyer smashed his 2nd HR of the game to tie the game up and send the game to extras.  Jesse Crain had pitched a scoreless 9th for the Twins so he was left out to start the 10th.  Alomar again proved to be a pest with a lead off single.  The Twins defense then failed them again, as defensive replacement Jason Castro booted another potential DP play at SS to allow the Jays to get the go ahead run to 2nd with no outs.  Joe Nathan was summoned from the pen to put the fire out but Toronto had other plans.  A ground out by Carter moved the runners up which led to an intentional walk to Parker to load the bases and set up the force.  Nathan, however, tried to bury a fastball in on Gruber but it ran too far in and nailed Gruber in the arm to force home Alomar with the go ahead run.   Henke was given a 2nd chance to close the game out and was up to the task by retiring the Twins 1-2-3 in the bottom of the 10th to preserve the win and extend the series.

GM 4 @ The Metrodome in MINNESOTA

Tom Candiotti vs Francisco Liriano

91 Toronto wins 5-0
WP: Candiotti (3-3)
LP: Liriano (6-3)

 HR: John Olerud (8)
Game MVP: Olerud (3-3, 2 runs, 3 RBI, 1 HR)

 Toronto fed off the energy they ended game 3 with and rode a great start by Candiotti to force this series back to Toronto.  Candiotti (6 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 5 K) had the knuckler dancing inside the Metrodome and the Twins hitters seemed mesmerized.  Liriano (5.1 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 4 BB, 6 K) was inefficient with his pitches, needing 114 pitches to get 1 out into the 6th.  The Jays patience and timely hitting, led by Olerud, was able to put up single runs in the 2nd, 3rd and 6th innings.  A couple doubles by Alomar and White off Matt Guerrier in the 7th followed by a solo shot by Olerud off of Guerrier in the 8th gave the Jays more than enough cushion.  MikeTimlin and David Wells were perfect in the 7th, 8th and 9th to close out the game and force a game 5.

GM 5 @ Skydome in TORONTO
Boof Bonser vs Jimmy Key

06 Minnesota wins 8-3
WP: Bonser (5-3)
LP: Key (7-4)

HR: Justin Morneau (16)
Game MVP: Michael Cuddyer (4-5, 2 2b, 2 RBI, 3 runs)

In a rematch of game 1's seemingly lopsided pitching matchup, the Jays once again handed the ball to their ace Jimmy Key while Minnesota looked for Boof Bonser to match his opening game magic.   This time around the Jays jumped on Bonser (6.2 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 5 K) early with a run in the 1st inning.  However, it could have been more when Gruber singled home Alomar followed by anothher single by Pat Tabler.  But, Torii Hunter cut Tabler's ball of in the gap and threw a strike to Joe Mauer to retire the slow running John Olerud at home to end the inning and limit the Jays to just 1 run.  Minnesota then came back in the top of the 2nd to take the lead thanks to a key double by Cuddyer and an RBI triple by Nick Punto.  The 3rd was more of the same for Minnesota as Morneau continued to smash the ball with another HR and a couple singles and ground out pushed the Twin lead to 4-1.  After a few quiet innings, the Twins offense picked up again in the 5th putting more hits together off Key (5.1 IP, 12 H, 6 ER),  This time it was a Cuddyer double and a Bartlett Sac Fly that drove home the runs and made it 6-1.  Unlike in game 1 however, the Toronto offense would not just lay down.  They would rally for 2 runs in the 7th chasing Bonser from the game.  Jesse Crain was able to keep it from getting any worse by retiring Joe Carter with 2 runners on to end the 7th at 6-3.  With the Twins pen doing its job in the 8th and the Twins extending their lead to 8-3 in the top of the 9th, all that was left to close out the series was another shut down 9th inning by closer Joe Nathan,  Despite it not being a save situation, Nathan was up to the task and retired the Jays to close out the series and eliminate the pesky Jays team. 
MIchael Cuddyer (MIN) 8-20, 3 HR, 5 RBI, 7 Runs, 6 XBH
Justin Morneau (MIN) 9-24, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 5 Runs
Roberto Alomar (TOR) 8-23, 2 RBI, 5 Runs
Boof Bonser (MIN) 2 wins, 13 2/3 IP, 10 H, 4 R, 13 K

Saturday, June 20, 2015

ALDS: Halos sweep Tribe

The Angels, last in the league in home runs during the regular season, hit nine home runs during this three game series! Cleveland, at the top in home runs during the regular season, hit zero!

You can imagine the outcome. 86 California treated the Indians like a punching bag, thoroughly bashing any hopes of advancement for the 99 Cleveland team. Game One was close, going to extra innings before Bob Boone belted a home run in the 10th to win it. This was a forerunner of nightmarish sights to come for Cleveland fans.

Bob_Boone_CALGame One: “Boone Shot” Cleveland's Bartolo Colon carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning, and the Indians were up 2-0, thanks to a Kenny Lofton single in the fifth off Mike Witt and a fielder's choice groundout in the seventh after Witt loaded the bases. But Cleveland's joy in this game and in the series would be short-lived. California scored two in the bottom of the inning off a Jack Howell double after Colon had walked a pair, ending his day. The game remained tied at two apiece going into the 10th. California threatened in the eighth to untie it after singles from Boone and Downing, but Paul Assenmacher retired George Hendrick to end the threat.

However, in the bottom of the 10th, facing Paul Shuey, Bob Boone hit a long solo homer to center, 439 feet away, to win it for the Angels, Final: California 3, Cleveland 2.

Game Two: “Moe-Boone” More Bob Boone, who seems to love playing against Cleveland. Dave Burba was pounded for six runs in five innings as Boone and Doug DeCinces both homered for a commanding 5-1 Angels lead. It would only get worse for Cleveland as California would score five more times. Boonie went 4-for-4 with two homers in the game, while DeCinces bookended Boone's feat by also hitting a second homer. Don Sutton went six solid innings for the Angels, only allowing two runs, and got plenty of relief help from Doug Corbett and Terry Forster. Final: California 10, Cleveland 3.

Game Three: “Rupe-It-Up” Cleveland's hopes to stay inRuppert_Jones_CAL the series rested on aging veteran pitcher Charlie Nagy, in his ninth season, as the series shifted east to Jacobs Field. But Nagy was not up to the task. In fact, he was downright ugly. California scored five in the second, one in third, and five more in the fourth to put this one away very early. It was bombs away again for California, as Ruppert Jones hit two homers off Nagy and drove in five for the game, while Reggie Jackson also hit a solo drive to right off the battered pitcher.

Any chance Cleveland had to come back after Nagy's departure in the fourth were dashed by the strong pitching of California's Kirk McCaskill, who went eight innings, only giving up five hits and three cheap runs while striking out 10 Indians. The Angels' Wally Joyner added to the victory party by going 3-for-5, hitting two homers of his own and driving in three. At least Boone didn't get another homer in this game....Final: California 11, Cleveland 3.

With the Angels' sweep, they now face the winner of the Toronto-Minnesota series. Thanks to Douglas for an enjoyable afternoon of baseball for his moonshoot-hitting Angels bunch.

Joe Pryweller

NLDS: Braves outlast Nats

NLDS - 2014 Washington vs. 1998 Atlanta

In an exciting 5 game series, the Braves eked (love that word) out the win by taking the final 2 games of series. Let’s take a look back at some of the exciting moments of the NLDS.

Jayson_Werth_WASGame 1 – Washington 6 Atlanta 3

“Werth The Price of Admission”

Braves’ ace Greg Maddux continued his postseason struggles giving up 6 runs in 7 innings. What was more amazing was that he also allowed 4 homeruns. (In real life he only allowed 13 in 251 innings) All were solo shots. Jayson Werth (2), Anthony Rendon and Wilson Ramos were the long ball hitters.

Werth’s 1st homerun was in the top of the 1st. The Braves answered with 2 homeruns of their own in the bottom of the inning as Chipper Jones and Andres Galarraga went back-to-back off of Jordan Zimmermann. But Zimmerman settled down after that rocky start and held the Braves in check as he went 7.2 innings in picking up the win. Rafael Soriano picked up the save as hopes sank in the ATL.

Game 2 – Atlanta 5 Washington 1Tom_Glavine_ATL

“Tommy Boy”

In a must win game for the Braves, Tom Glavine outdueled Doug Fister to tie up the series at 1. Glavine went 7 innings allowing 1 run on 5 hits.

The game was tied at 1 all going into the bottom of the 7th. Glavine led off with a single to right. After retiring Andruw Jones on a deep fly to fence in left center, Walt Weiss singled and the Braves had runners at 1st and 2nd. Chipper Jones doubled off the wall to right center scoring pinch runner Curtis Pride and Weiss giving the Braves a 3-1 lead. They would add 2 more in the 8th to give them a much needed win.

Bryce_Harper_WASGame 3 – Washington 3 Atlanta 2 – 11 Innings

“Harper Valley RBI”

Atlanta looked to have this one in the bag. They scored single runs in the 1st and 2nd inning to take a quick 2-0 lead. John Smoltz had his strikeout pitch going as he struck out 12 in 5 innings. But the Nats batters made him work hard for those strikeouts and Manager Burnette had to make an early call to a questionable bullpen.

On the other hand Manger Weiss allowed Tanner Roarke to imitate those pitchers of yore as he went 9 innings while throwing 147 pitches. After those 2 early runs, he shut down the Braves bats to keep his team in the game.

The shaky Braves pen held the Nationals at bay until the fateful 9th inning. Still leading 2-0, Burnette brought in his closer Kerry Ligtenberg. Wilson Ramos led off the inning with a base hit. Manager Weiss surprisingly let Roarke bat, hoping the pitching magic would rub off onto his bat. Alas, that did not happen as Roarke struck out. Denard Span singled to put runners on the corners. Jayson Werth who led his club to a victory in game 1 doubled to wall in left to tie the game up. Ligtenberg struck out the final 2 hitters but the damage was done. So was the Braves bullpen.

An overworked Russ Springer came on to the pitch the 11th. Craig Stammen, another pitcher hitting for himself, led off with a double. Span singled putting runners on the corners with nobody out. After getting Werth to ground out to second, Bryce Harper lined a single to center to send the faithful home happy.

Nats lead 2-1with game 4 sure to be played in front of raucous Washington crowd.

Game 4 – Atlanta 4 Washington 0Andres_Galarraga_ATL

“El Ghatto Got ‘em”

This was the Denny Neagle and Andres Galarraga show. Neagle went 8.1 innings allowing only 5 hits before tiring in the 9th. This time Ligtenberg was able to get the final two outs sending this series back to Atlanta for the deciding game 5.

Galarraga hit a pair of 2 run homers, one in the 1st and the other one in the 6th to give the Braves all the runs they would need.

Greg_Maddux_ATLGame 5 – Atlanta 4 Washington 1

“Ace in the hole”

This game was scheduled to be played in the afternoon, but the Nationals charter ran into engine trouble and they did not arrive in Atlanta until 5 pm. This was a portend of things to come.

In a rematch of game 1, Jordan Zimmermann was up against Greg Maddux. And for 3.1 innings it looked like neither team would score. Then the fates intervened in favor of Atlanta. Zimmermann looked to twist his ankle as he landed awkwardly after striking out Chipper Jones. The Nats had to bring in Doug Fister on short rest.

The game remained scoreless until the 6th inning. Jayson Werth, yes that man again, took Maddux deep to give them 1-0 lead. Manager Burnette was getting worried as his ace was living up to the commercial that he and his teammate Tom Glavine made in the offseason, Chicks Dig the Long Ball.

Maddux settled down and the Braves bats finally came alive. In the bottom half of the 6th, Ozzie Guillen led off with a single. Chipper Jones doubled him in to tie the game. Javy Lopez singled home Jones and Michael Tucker followed with another RBI base hit and giving the Braves a 3-1 lead.

That was all that Maddux would need. He went the distance allowing only 1 run on 4 hits and no walks while striking out 6.


Chipper Jones was voted MVP of the NLDS.

Thanks to Marc Weiss for a great series that went down to the wire.

--submitted by Ron Burnette--

NLWC–“Oh, Danny Boy”–Nats 9, Jints 7

NL Wild Card Game
Schmidt vs Roark
WAS 9, SFG 7

Danny_Espinosa_WASIn a see saw battle where the lead changed hands 4 times, the Nats needed a dramatic comeback (4 runs in the 7th) to barely survive and advance.  Both starters were ineffective.  Washington lifted Tanner Roark after giving up 3 runs in 2.1 IP.  Replacement Stephen Strasburg (4 runs 3.2 IP) was worse as Washington dug themselves a deep hole.  The Nats nibbled their way back, but gave up a solo run in the the top of the 7th to once again go down by two.  Then in the bottom of the 7th they exploded for 4 unanswered runs with 2 out.  Danny Espinosa singled in two to tie the game and Denard Span did the same 2 batters later to put them up by two.  Blevins and Storen combined to hold the Jints scoreless in the 8th and Rafael Soriano walked the tightrope in the 9th to close the game out.  Washing sneaks by the Jints and advances to play the #1 seeded Braves.  Rumor has it that Strasburg was going to be left off the LDS roster.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

06 Twins advance thanks to gem by Francisco Liriano

@ HHH Metrodome in Minneapolis,MN

Francisco Liriano vs Aaron Sele

06 Minnesota - 8
00 Seattle - 2

WP: Liriano (6-2)
LP: Sele (2-6)

HR: Jay Buhner (13)
Game MVP: Joe Mauer 2-4, 2 2b, 2 RBI

  Francisco Liriano had been shifted back and forth from the rotation and the bullpen all season long, but with the stakes as high as they had been all season, he was at his best against a very good Seattle lineup.  Liriano (6.2 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 10 K) held the Mariners scoreless until the 7th inning and by that time his offense had backed him with 7 runs.  The Twins offense was lead by 3 hits, including a double and triple, by Michael Cuddyer and 2 hit games by Mauer, Nick Punto and Jason Tyner.  The scrappy Twins lineup was able to break a 0-0 tie in the bottom of the 5th by putting a 5 spot up on Mariner starter Sele (5 IP, 7 H, 5 R).  The key hits in the inning being an RBI single by Justin Morneau and a 2 RBI double by Mauer.  The Mariners offense never really got on track but they did show a little life in the 7th thanks to a 2 run bomb by Jay Buhner that chased Liriano from the game.  However, the stingy Twins bullpen was able to close out the rest of the game thanks to quality appearances by Dennys Reyes, Pat Neshek and Jesse Crain.  KOD save leader Joe Nathan was not needed to close this one out but he did warm up briefly in the 9th in case the potent Mariner offense threatened. 

Next up for the Twins will be a best of 5 series against the AL East winner 91 Toronto Blue Jays.   The Twins will need a starter other than Santana and Liriano to step up and perform or their playoff run may come to an end.

Congrats to Justin Ryan and his Mariner squad for overcoming an 8-14 start to the season to finish in the playoffs.