It has been an amazing week to be a Minnesota sports fan. The Twins come back from three games back with four games left to tie the Detroit Tigers and force a one game playoff. Then the Vikings hosted the Green Bay Packers on Monday Night Football as Brett Favre took on his former team for the first time since his departure.
The Vikings beat the Packers, then the Twins won in dramatic fashion in extra innings to win the American League Central Division for the fifth year this decade.
I was fortunate enough to attend the Twins game on Sunday and the experience was amazing, so I will go through what I loved and loathed about the experience from Sunday and watching the game on Tuesday.
Loved: The amount of fans that showed up to cheer for their Twins in what could have been their last game at the Metrodome on Sunday. It was amazing to witness such a crowd that showed our Twins so much support throughout the crucial game.
Loathed: The jacked up parking prices for the last game of the season. I realize it is a good opportunity to make some easy cash, but show some love for the fans and keep the price the same as the other regular season games.
Loved: The intensity from the fans throughout the game. Whether it was Carl Pavano striking out a batter to end the inning, or Jason Kubel hitting a three run bomb to put the Twins on top, they were going nuts throughout the entire game.
Loathed: Watching Detroit take an early lead on the White Sox. I wasn’t the only one scoreboard watching throughout the game, everyone in the stadium was hoping for an amazing comeback for the White Sox in the later innings.
Loved: The way the crowd erupted when the Sox scored three on Detroit. Too bad for the Twins hitter who just grounded out, but the crowd obviously wasn’t cheering for that, we were all happy the Sox were making it a game.
Loathed: The Royals making it interesting by scoring three in the sixth and loading the bases to keep everyone on the edge of their seats in a tight race. Luckily Jon Rauch was able to strike out the Royals’ best hitter Billy Butler to end the inning.
Loved: The Twins hitting five home runs in the game. I don’t think the Twins have hit five home runs in the last 10 games I have gone to let alone in a single game. It made for an amazing experience and seeing multiple homer games for two different players was awesome.
Loathed: Watching some fans leave after the Twins had it wrapped up and Detroit had beat the White Sox. It is an amazing game to attend with a big ceremony with many Twins greats after the game. You needed to see it!
Loved: Being able to see many of the great Twins that have played in the Dome. Many of the greats that won our two world champions were in attendance and we were all showed replays of their historic efforts to lead those two Twins teams to the championships. Seeing them and hearing how much the fans love them for it was just amazing.
Loathed: How they kept talking about it being the last game at the Dome. I know the ceremony was put together before the Twins’ amazing comeback, but they kept talking about how this was it for indoor baseball and how much they are looking forward to outdoor baseball in Minnesota.
News flash, the Twins are in the playoffs and have more to play here in Minnesota!
Loved: Seeing many players from this decade, not just the greats. People like Jacque Jones, Corey Koskie, and Brad Radke who were not great players, but they helped lead many Twins teams to division titles and created many memories for the fans. It was good to see they have not been forgotten in Minnesota and fans showed their appreciation for them at the game.
Loathed: Torii Hunter’s short thank you to being voted to the All-Metrodome Team. I know you are busy helping your team make it to the playoffs, but the fans here in Minnesota absolutely love you Torii. It was amazing watching you play for the Twins throughout the years and maybe it’s just me, but I was expecting a much longer and some Torii humor involved.
Loved: Watching the final ten Metrodome’s greatest moments. Many of the moments had former players and managers involved looking back on what happened before, during, or after the moments and it added to the excitement as a fan.
Loathed: Seeing Justin Morneau in uniform. It was actually depressing seeing the 2006 American League Most Valuable Player in uniform again but not being able to play. He has been so crucial to this team for many years and it just felt weird being in the midst of a playoff run without him at first base and at the plate.
Loved: The crowd’s reaction to the announcement of both Joe Mauer, and Kirby Puckett. Minnesota will never forget possibly Minnesota’s favorite athlete of all time and we all appreciate his accomplishments and dedication he had to the Twins organization.
Minnesota has been looking for someone to cherish and love like we all did in Puckett since his career ended and passing away.
Torii was able to provide that to some extent, but no one like the hometown boy Joe Mauer has. People absolutely love him and not one person in the state of Minnesota wants to see him in another uniform. It is amazing to see how fans love both of these men.
I will now move on to Tuesday’s game against the Tigers.
Loved: Seeing Baker bounce back after a rough third inning. It could have been worse than it was for the Twins ace, but he was able to keep his composure with the help of 55,000 fans cheering for him, and pitch six quality innings.
Loathed: Watching Denard Span at the plate. It just looked like he wasn’t playing his game at the plate last night. He was swinging wildly at first pitches, not working the count and keeping the at bat alive.
There is no doubt he will bounce back against the Yankees, but I was expecting good production from him after experiencing so much success against Detroit throughout the season.
Loved: Nick Punto’s on base percentage. Despite his struggles throughout his career hitting the ball, he has never been impatient at the plate, and his .336 OBP and ability to work the count was so valuable in this game.
He was patient in his at-bats and waited for pitches he liked, fought off tough pitches to keep the at bat alive, and was able to get on base. Even though many people don’t like the guy, he was extremely valuable to the team last night.
Loathed: Mauer being impatient at the plate. He swings at the first pitch only once out of every 20 at-bats. And it seemed like he did almost every time last night. It was very frustrating to see, because in big situations like that, the team needs their batting champ and probable Most Valuable Player to step up, and he didn’t seem like himself last night.
He did catch a hell of a game though and kept his pitchers calm through those high pressure situations.
Loved: All of Bill Smith’s midseason acquisitions playing an important and effective role in this one game playoff matchup. Orlando Cabrera hit an extremely clutch home run for the Twins to put them ahead, then turned a double play behind Nathan to keep the Tigers off the board in the ninth inning.
Jon Rauch got two very important outs and Mahay came in and struck out the very dangerous Curtis Granderson.
These performances sent away any doubt fans may have had about Smith’s actions late in the seasons because without these performances, the game could have played out very differently.
Loathed: The announcers blaming Brandon Inge’s lack of production in the second half on bad knees. The man played out of his mind in the first half and even got voted to the All-Star Game, then in the second half, he returned back to his normal self.
It is not because of bad knees and he did not have to “will” his way into the lineup every day. His drop in production was because he is Brandon Inge, not because of injuries. People commonly play through injuries, but people with injuries as bad was what they were talking about, usually don’t still play 160 games in a season.
Loved: Watching Joe Nathan work out of yet another jam with the help of some big defensive plays behind him.
With guys on first and third and no outs, it was not looking good for the All-Star closer but he showed why he is one of the best in the game by getting a big strikeout and then letting his defense take care of things by getting a line out double play behind him.
Loathed: Watching Twins manager Ron Gardenhire use up his best relief pitchers early in the game. Jon Rauch and Jose Mijares have been two of his best relief pitchers in the bullpen and he only used them against three hitters.
This left the game up to a very inconsistent Bobby Keppel making many fans very nervous about the ball game going any farther.
Loved: Seeing at least one more advantage of playing on the Metrodome turf when Ryan Raburn misplayed Cuddyer’s fly ball and the turf allowed the ball to roll all the way to the left field wall. There is no doubt that on grass, the ball would have died and Granderson would have been able to cut it off and reduce the damage to just a double.
Loathed: Watching Cabrera argue a first pitch strike in the 11th inning. The umpire was not calling a consistent plate all night and it was a frustrating situation but getting on his bad side at the beginning of a big at bat is not the way to go about things.
He went down looking on a pitch outside which he called because of Cabrera’s attitude at the beginning of the at-bat.
Loved: The young players coming through in the clutch. The Twins’ veterans had plenty of chances to end the game and they just were not coming through for the team.
So how do they respond, by putting up quality pitching out of the bullpen and Matt Tolbert tying the game back up with an RBI single in inning 11, Gomez leading off the 12th inning with a solid single, and then Alexi Casilla of all people driving him in with a walk off single in the bottom half of the inning off one of the best closers in the American League.
Loved: Watching the entire Twins team celebrate. They put together a historic run in September and came out on top in a one game play off against a division rival. It doesn’t get much better than that. Orlando Cabrera even claimed it was the greatest game he has ever played in.
I don’t believe that being that he has won a World Series, but seeing all the players unite in celebration in front of a crowd of over 55,000 people is unbelievable.
Now the Twins’ reward for winning the division is taking on the team with the best record in baseball, the New York Yankees. They have a tired staff, bullpen and lineup, and are huge underdogs, but lets hope the Twins can keep the magic coming, and bring a World Series to Minnesota in 2009.