5/6/07 vs. Minnesota
5/6/07 vs. Minnesota
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A win is a win. Getting to the 7th with a 4-0 lead and doing it the way we did, made the end of my day incredibly disappointing from a performance standpoint, but the win negates most of it and as usual the bullpen clutches up and completes the game and the series on a high note.
Splitting the first two games while only scoring 3 runs is a testament to how well we are pitching right now. Wake was dominating in the first game, and had to be, and with any luck Julian could have beaten Santana in game two. The Twins bullpen is every bit as good as anyone else’s in the league and they spun 4 scoreless innings to get game two.
On the bus ride into Minnesota Thursday night David made the statement that he was guaranteeing a home run on Friday, and as usual he backed it up.
You never feel comfortable going against a guy that is struggling or not pitching well because it always seems those guys ‘find it’ on the oddest nights against the best teams. Sidney had shut down Tampa in his last start (one of the better hitting teams in baseball this year, and if they find a way to keep that nucleus together they’ll hit for the next few years) and I was curious to see how he’d bounce back into this game.We grabbed one in the first which is always nice.
Warmups went fine and I felt good going into this one.
Started Castillo off fastball for strike one, change up ball and then left a fastball up and over the plate that he singled to left on to start the game. Tyner hit an 0-1 split to second but Castillo got a jump so I had a runner on 2nd and one out with the meat of the lineup coming up. I had an idea that Mauer and Cuddyer would both be out today since I’d heard Joe was getting an MRI this morning and I knew Mike was still hurting. No small thing to take those two bats out of this lineup. I also thought it might force them to try and make some things happen on the bases. Ron manages this team a lot like an NL club when it comes to putting runners in motion and hit and runs.
Tori fouled off two fastballs in to run the count to 1-2 and we threw a real good split for a swing and a miss for strike three. Started Morneau off with a cutter in for a foul ball. He took a fastball away for strike two. He didn’t chase the 0-2 high fastball and I think the next fastball away caught him trying to guess along as he took it for strike three.
I haven’t faced many of these guys much, and even though I have a long history with Cirillo I hadn’t faced him in years. I spent some time watching our old AB’s and we went in with a game plan combining our history with our advanced scouting report. He fouled off strike one, and we got him on a two seamer for a ground out on the next pitch. Kubel swung at a curve ball in the dirt to start his AB and then took a fast ball away for strike two. We climbed the ladder on the inner half and got a chase on an 0-2 fastball for the second out. I started Redmond off with a fastball strike.
Followed that with a change up that Tim called a ball but I thought it had a lot of plat. Tim Tschida is one of the better guys and better umpires in the game. You can always count on him to bust his butt to get it right. He called a strike on Mike Lowell that was a ball tonight and made sure to let Mike know he had missed the pitch. You just can’t get mad or argue with guys like that. They’re working hard and trying to get them all right, that’s all you can ask.
Count goes to 2-2 and Mike lays off a curve ball down and I end up walking him on a fastball away. Borderline pitch that I’d love to have get called but looking at it on video it was not a strike. Rodriguez fouls off a first pitch fastball and then takes a change up for strike two. We end the AB by throwing another good split for swinging strike three.
Bartlett leads off the third by hitting a ball as close to my face as I’ve ever seen. First pitch fastball that was supposed to be somewhere other than middle of the plate. Not sure how it didn’t hit me. Castillo runs the count to 1-2 after fouling off a split and then we get in good and jam him for a pop up to Lowell for the first out. Tyner takes a fastball strike and then fouls off the cutter in for strike two. Jason wants a high fastball now. I attempt it but instead lock up the hitter and the catcher by throwing the ball on the inside corner for a called strike three. Hunter ends the inning fast by popping up a first pitch split to center.
I tell ‘Tek I want to start Morneau off with a change up in the fourth. I’m pretty comfortable that we are getting ahead fastball, and teams will tend to get more aggressive the second and third times through off of me. That doesn’t mean you stop throwing first pitch fastballs, it just means you need to locate better. We do throw a change to start the AB and he promptly lines it off the baggie in right. JD plays it perfectly and holds him to a single. For as good as I feel and with the command I have it seems like I’ve pitched this entire game from the stretch. Not just that but it’s the third inning of four that the leadoff hitter has gotten on. A surefire recipe for disaster if you don’t execute.
Cirillo goes 0-2 on a fastball and slider and then hits a fast ball away to right for the first out.Kubel gets to 2-1 by taking a 1-1 split and then hits a short fly to left on a good fastball away for the second out. Mike Redmond, who’ve I’ve faced 10 times in my career before today (5-10 with 0 k’s) is up next. You only had to watch his AB versus Paps the other night to know his approach. Much like Paul Loduca, when the count gets deeper he’s doing everything he can to make contact and not strike out. The goal I had was to make sure that ahead in the count I didn’t over throw the ball. We get to 0-2 with fastballs in and out and then I throw a split that breaks from the middle to down and in.
Not a bad spot to most hitters but it is to him. He almost decapitates me as well by lining the pitch back up the box. Frustrating result for a pitch I didn’t feel that bad about. Once again we get a first pitch out as Rodriguez grounds a first pitch back door slider to second to end the inning.
At this point I’ve thrown17 first pitch strikes to 17 hitters. That stat is a little deceiving because there were a few takes on fastballs that we left middle of the plate and didn’t hit spots. But knowing at this point that I am throwing strike one this often means I am going to need to make sure that location is the focus, regardless of the pitch. This team walks very little but they also will take a lot early in the count.
Bartlett starts off the fourth fouling a first pitch change he’s way out in front of and then hitting a fastball to second for the out. We get the count to 1-2 on Castillo and he does the same thing on a split that stays up a bit too much. Tyner takes a first pitch cutter in for a ball, then a change up for ball two. First 2-0 hole of the night. We throw fastball away for a strike and then he lunges on a 2-1 curve ball and hits a fly ball to center. Four innings after the game starts we finally have our first 1-2-3 inning.
Tori squares to bunt but lays off a curve ball strike to lead off the fifth.. Good thing he did because Mike was playing pretty deep at third. The 0-1 fastball was supposed to be a two seamer in but I threw it middle middle and he chops it in the hole to short. No chance for Alex to get him as the ball goes deep in the hole. Another leadoff hit.
Justin takes a back door slider for strike one, lays off a split, fouls off a fastball in and then fouls off a high fastball. We get him again on a fastball away for strike three looking. Cirillo takes a fastball ball and then we go slider. He hits one off the end of the bat that Dustin turns into an inning ending double play.
Six innings in the books and we are up 4-0. I am at 69 pitches and am feeling very good about my chances to be on the mound in the ninth for this game.
The seventh starts out great as we get Kubel looking at strike three after a mix of fastballs and splits run the count 2-2. We get Redmond to 2-2 and I overthrow a fastball away that he lines in the whole for a single.
My management of the game unravels at this point, for no good reason. One out, number nine hitter up and a four run lead. If you were to make a list of things that absolutely cannot, ever, under any circumstances happen, walking this hitter would be the clear cut number one thing on this list. Sure enough I don’t even make it close and walk him on a 3-1 fastball. My mistake here is not getting it together at that very moment. For 6 2/3 innings I’ve been as focused as I can be pitch to pitch, hitter to hitter, out to out. The game is still very much in hand here but even though it’s a lesson I’ve learned and relearned hundreds of times in the past 20 years it still for some reason, happens. Castillo goes to 1-2 and in my mind, instead of thinking and focusing on making that next pitch, I’m thinking about getting out of the inning. I know he doesn’t strike out much so I know the focus needs to be on locating whatever it is we are going to throw.
I can’t say why I wasn’t or why I didn’t, but I didn’t. He hits a fastball away, not a horrible pitch by any stretch, to left for a single. Here we are again, two outs, 4-0 game and I am literally one pitch away from ending the inning. Tyner takes ball one and then fouls off a fastball to go 1-1.
For the most part I’ve had a very good split all day long because the focus has been on finishing the pitch, executing it. The last thought to go through my head is as bad as I can make it. Instead of thinking ‘execute the pitch’ I’m thinking ‘don’t leave this ball up’, and I do. Split finger fastball belt high, pretty much middle of the plate and I’ve now let them get back into the game. Just a ridiculous ending to an outing that should not have gone this way.
The easy part of this is that there is absolutely no one to blame this on by myself. Tito comes to get me and the only thing I can do is utter a plethora of four letter words.
Okie comes in and continues his incredible run by getting Morneau to ground out to end the inning and Paps dominates the ninth to finish the game.
As I said earlier, the fact that we won is going to make it a whole lot easier to sleep over the next five days. We go three games and our staff gives up five runs, continuing a stretch where the whole staff is literally ‘pitching in’.
I happened to see the scoreboard during the game that the Yankees ended up getting Clemens. The media had much to say and ask about it after the game and my answer was the same as I think a lot of guys in our clubhouse; so what? Would it have been nice to pitch with Roger Clemens? Absolutely. Would he have helped us be a better team? I honestly don’t know. Julian has held his own in the 5th spot and we got a young left hander that went 7-2 last year in the big leagues that’s chomping at the bit to get back here. I am sure his signing was a pretty nice lift for them given the decimating injuries they’ve gone through to this point but I felt before the season, and even more so now, that this team is built to win a World Series as it’s comprised right now. We have the pieces, we have the chemistry and to this point we’ve had our health. If we stay somewhat healthy through the year then our fate will be totally on us. We don’t need anyone else to ‘get us over the hump’ or make that late push. This roster right now can win a World Series, but it’s going to fall on the players to make that happen.