1. Minimizing the Flat At-Bats
One of my major contentions about the Twins' performance so far in this series against the Yankees is that they are not completely outmatched when they are on. Basically, when the guys are hitting the way that they have been coming down the stretch to get them to where they are now, I fully believe that they have the ability to go toe-to-toe with the Yankees.
But the major players on the team—the ones who have become crucial for wins (Kubel, Cuddyer, Cabrera)—have been flat. If you compare the numbers from the two division series games to the last two games they have played coming into the playoffs, there is a big, big difference. To prove my point, here are some numbers to crunch on...
This Series—10AB, 1R, 2H, 0HR, 0RBI
Previous Two Games—11AB, 3R, 4H, 1HR, 4RBI
This Series—10AB, 0R, 4H, 0HR 1RBI
Previous Two Games—10AB, 2R, 2H, 1HR, 2RBI
This Series—10AB, 0R, 1H, 0HR, 0RBI
Previous Two Games—8AB, 3R, 4H, 3HR, 7RBI
This Series—8AB, 1R, 0H, 0HR, 0RBI
Previous Two Games—10AB, 2R, 3H, 2HR, 2RBI
If you notice, no one in this series has really had a hot enough bat to get those RBI and HRs, something that was big for these guys coming down the stretch. If this was happening, the games would be a lot closer. Surprisingly in this series, it has been the unknowns—Harris, Tolbert, Span, and Punto—who have come up (relatively) big when it's counted.
When one big gun is flat, no problem. Others can usually pick up some of the slack. But when practically everyone is flat, that's a tall order for any team.
Without a doubt, Joe Nathan needs to put the other night behind him and show some fight. Even watching him "warm up" on TV for Game Two, I was a little uneasy about him. Something just didn't sit well when they would cut to shots of him in the bullpen.
Then he took the mound and we all know what happened there. I agree with what so many have said before: He looked like a scared little puppy. I really hope he can come back tonight and redeem himself.
As for Pavano starting, I must say that I've been extremely impressed with all the Twins starters as of late. Even Deunsing. They've managed to go hang in there with some tough competition and exceed everyone's expectations. I know Gardy gets a lot of kudos for the way he handles the team, but the other day the commentators were talking about how he lets his pitching coach call the shots as far as the pitching is concerned. So I guess he should get some kudos as well.
Overall, it makes me optimistic for next season. But of course, I hope the Twins extend their run, especially since I want to see Scott Baker pitch for Game Four. I remember watching him years ago when he was here in Rochester and being impressed by what he was doing.
3. Other "Stuff"
The Dome Crowd
I live in Rochester but on the day of the one game playoff versus Detroit, I wished I could have been at the Metrodome. The atmosphere there must've been amazing.
I'm sure a lot of fans are going to the game with the thought that it could be the last one there, but certainly they are all hoping that this group of scrappers can pull it out. And how awesome will it be for the crowd to go wild if the hometown boy somehow gets one over on the evil Yankees?
Yeah, it would suck if there were more bad calls that created even more controversy that takes away from the actual play of the game. Even the calls that might go in favor of the Twins I can do without because I don't want anyone to say that they needed help in order to beat the Yankees.
I know some have advocated keeping him in, but potential for defensive greatness aside, I haven't really heard any other good reasons. Even with Kubel's bat a little flat, I am less uneasy with him out in the field. And I still prefer Span and Young.