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2003 Rewind: Game One Hundred Forty


Date:  Friday, September 5.

Batting stars:  A. J. Pierzynski was 2-for-3 with two runs.  Cristian Guzman was 2-for-4 with a triple and four RBIs.  Jacque Jones was 2-for-4 with a stolen base, his thirteenth.  Matthew LeCroy was 1-for-4 with a home run, his sixteenth.

Pitching stars:  Juan Rincon pitched three perfect innings, striking out two.  LaTroy Hawkins pitched a scoreless inning, giving up one hit.  Eddie Guardado pitched a scoreless inning, giving up one hit and striking out one.

Opposition stars:  Michael Young was 3-for-4 with a grand slam, his thirteenth homer.  Jason Jones was 2-for-4 with a double.  Alex Rodriguez was 2-for-4 with a home run, his forty-first.  Shane Spencer was 2-for-5.

The game:  The Twins led all the way, but there were some uneasy moments.  Shannon Stewart led off the bottom of the first with a double, was bunted to third, and scored on a sacrifice fly to give the Twins a 1-0 lead.  In the second Jones singled, Corey Koskie walked, Pierzynski and Guzman had RBI singles, and a sacrifice fly made it 4-0 Twins.

The Rangers got on the board in the third.  Three singles loaded the bases, a ground out scored one, and a wild pitch scored another, cutting the lead to 4-2.  But the Twins came roaring back in the bottom of the third.  Jones singled, Koskie walked, Pierzynski singled to load the bases, and Guzman brought them all home on a four-run triple-plus-error, putting the Twins up 8-2.  With Johan Santana on the mound, it looked like an easy win for the Twins.

But Texas had something to say about that.  In the fourth a double and two walks loaded the bases with one out.  Young then hit a grand slam.  Later in the inning Rodriguez homered, and the lead was suddenly down to 8-7.

But as happened so many times in this season, the Twins bullpen came in and shut down the opposition.  The Rangers could come up with only two singles after that, one in the eighth and one in the ninth, and neither man got past first base.  The Twins got some insurance in the sixth.  Rivas tripled and scored on a sacrifice fly, and LeCroy homered later in the inning.

WP:  Rincon (4-6).  LP:  Mickey Callaway (1-6).  S:  None.

Notes:  Stewart was in left with Jones in right.  Doug Mientkiewicz returned to the lineup at first base.

Stewart was 1-for-3 and was batting .312.  Jones was batting .306.   Pierzynski was at .304.

Santana's string of excellent performances came crashing to a halt.  He struck out six in four innings, but allowed seven runs on eight hits and two walks.

Hawkins lowered his ERA to 2.00.

The Twins scored three runs on sacrifice flies.  I have no idea what the record is--I'm sure it's more than three--but three by one team in one game is at least somewhat unusual.

This was the one season of Jason Jones' major league career.  He played in forty games and batted .215/.298/.355.  He had hit all through the minors, and continued to hit in AAA in 2004.  His total minor league numbers were .286/.375/.458, and those numbers are not skewed by huge numbers in the low minors or anything.  The Rangers didn't have a super outfield in 2003--yes, they had Juan Gonzalez, but they also had Shane Spencer and Ryan Christenson.  In 2004 their outfield was David Dellucci, Laynce Nix, and Kevin Mench.  He was a corner outfielder, which limited him some, but still.  There was obviously something the Rangers didn't like about him, and apparently other teams saw it, too.  He retired after spending 2004 in AAA at age twenty-seven.  It seems like he should've gotten more of a chance, but as we've observed before, no one ever promised that baseball or life would be fair.

It was the third straight win for the Twins.  Chicago and Kansas City both won, too, so the Twins did not gain any ground.

Record:  The Twins were 74-66, tied for first with Chicago in the American League Central, 1.5 games ahead of third-place Kansas City.

2003 Rewind: Game Four


Date:  Friday, April 4.

Batting stars:  Doug Mientkiewicz was 2-for-3 with a home run, a double, a walk, and two runs.  Bobby Kielty was 1-for-3 with a walk.

Pitching stars:  Johan Santana struck out two in a scoreless inning, giving up one hit.  Mike Fetters pitched a perfect inning.

Opposition stars:  Tanyon Sturtze pitched 6.2 innings, giving up two runs (one earned) on four hits and two walks and struck out one.  Josh Phelps was 2-for-3 with a home run and a walk.  Vernon Wells was 2-for-4 with two home runs and four RBIs.  Frank Catalanotto was 2-for-5 with a home run.  Jeff Tam pitched two shutout innings, giving up a hit.

The game:  The Twins missed a chance in the first.  Jacque Jones led off with a single, was bunted to second, and stole third with one out.  Torii Hunter then hit back to the pitcher and Jones was thrown out at the plate, presumably on a contact play.  It cost them, because Phelps led off the second with a home run, putting the Blue Jays up 1-0.  It went to 2-0 in the second, as Toronto scored on singles by Carlos Delgado and Phelps and an error.

The Twins got on the board in the fifth.  Mientkiewicz walked and went to second on a ground out.  Luis Rivas then reached on an error and Mientkiewicz scored, cutting the lead to 2-1.  The Blue Jays responded immediately, with Catalanotto and Wells leading off the sixth with back-to-back homers to give Toronto a 4-1 lead.

The Blue Jays put it out of reach in the seventh.  Mike Bordick and Shannon Stewart walked and Wells hit a two-out three-run homer, putting Toronto up 7-1.  Mientkiewicz homered leading off the eighth, but the Twins never threatened to get back into the game.

WP:  Sturtze (1-0).  LP:  Rick Reed (0-1).  S:  None.

Notes:  Michael Cuddyer was at third base in place of Corey Koskie.  Bobby Kielty was in right field.

The Twins did not make any lineup substitutions.

Reed pitched pretty well for five innings, but the back-to-back homers gave him a line of six innings, four runs, six hits, one walk, and two strikeouts.   The big seventh came off Tony Fiore.  Fiore had pitched well for the Twins in 2002, but would not repeat that in 2003.

I remembered Vernon Wells as a Twins killer.  He wasn't, really.  He did fine against them, but not that much differently from the way he hit against everyone.  Against the Twins he batted .290/.321/.446, for an OPS of .767.  For his career, he batted .270/.319/.459, for an OPS of .778.

Tanyon Sturtze pitched a long time for someone who wasn't very good.  He had a good game here, obviously.  Maybe he was one of those guys who, in Bill James' phrase, pitched well just often enough to fool people into pitching him some more.  He was in the majors for parts of twelve seasons and went 40-44, 5.19, 1.53 WHIP in 797 innings.  He appeared in 272 games, starting 84 of them.  Excluding "seasons" in which he pitched fewer than ten innings, his lowest season ERA was 4.42.  He had only three seasons in which he had an ERA under five.  His numbers in AAA were 38-30, 4.71, 1.49 WHIP, so it's not like he just couldn't make the jump to the bigs.  In fact, his numbers in AA are 13-18, 4.33, 1.49 WHIP.  Even in high-A, he had an ERA of 3.84, but a WHIP of 1.45.  I've written this so many times you're probably tired of reading it, but it just frustrates me that guys like this get chance after chance after chance, long after they've proven they're never going to be good enough, while other guys put up great numbers in the high minors and get a cursory look or none at all.  I guess nobody said baseball, or life itself, was going to be fair.

Despite my hopes, the Twins would not go 162-0 in 2003.

Record:  The Twins were 3-1, in second place in the American League Central, one game behind Kansas City.

Random Rewind: 1977, Game Fifty


Date:  Saturday, June 4.

Batting star:  Larry Hisle was 3-for-4 with a home run (his twelfth) and a double.

Pitching star:  Tom Burgmeier pitched a perfect inning.

Opposition stars:  Bill Lee pitched a complete game, giving up two runs on six hits and no walks and striking out one.  Denny Doyle was 2-for-3 with a double, a walk, a stolen base (his second), and two runs.  Bernie Carbo was 2-for-3 with a double and a walk.  Fred Lynn was 2-for-5 with two RBIs.  Carlton Fisk was 2-for-5 with a stolen base, his fifth.

The game:  The Twins had men on first and third with none out in the second, but Butch Wynegar hit into a 6-2-5-3-6 double play to take them out of the inning.  The Red Sox got on the board in the third when Doyle doubled and Fred Lynn singled.  They made it 2-0 in the fourth when Carl Yastrzemski tripled and Carbo singled.

The Twins got on the board in the fourth when Hisle homered.  Boston got the run back in the fifth on two-out singles by Fisk and George Scott and a wild pitch.  They added a run in the seventh when Doyle singled, stole second, and scored on Lynn's single.  They got one more in the eighth when Carbo doubled, was bunted to third, and scored on a sacrifice fly.

The Twins got their second and last run in the eighth when Wynegar doubled and scored on a pair of ground outs.

WP:  Lee (3-1).  LP:  Paul Thormodsgard (3-2).

Notes:  The only change from their regular lineup is that Jerry Terrell was at third base in place of Mike Cubbage.  Terrell, who had a .295 OBP, was batting leadoff for some reason.  His career OBP was .288, so it's not like he was just in a temporary slump.  What makes it worse is that Lyman Bostock, who was batting .331 with an OBP of .399, was batting seventh.  I know some people say batting order doesn't make a lot of difference, but it seems like you should still try to take advantage of whatever little difference it makes.

Rod Carew was leading the team in batting at .376, despite going 0-for-4 in this game.  He would finish at .388.  For as great a hitter as he was, I don't remember Carew ever having a really long hitting streak.  My memory is that he tended to get his hits in bunches.  Obviously, when you bat .388 you're not getting a lot of 0-for-4s, but I suspect it was not as uncommon as one might expect.

Hisle was batting .328.  He would finish at .302 and lead the league in RBIs with 119.

Roy Smalley was batting just .210, and he would finish the season at only .231.  He was twenty-four in this season, and had not yet established himself as a batter.  He would bat .273 in 1978 and would go on to be a productive batter through 1983.

Thormodsgard pitched 5.2 innings, allowing three runs on seven hits and a walk and striking out one.  This was his only full season as a rotation starter.  He went 11-15, 4.62, 1.38 WHIP.  For a twenty-three-year-old who had been jumped from A ball, that's not awful.  It was as good as it would get for him, though.  He started 1978 in the rotation, but in twelve starts he went 1-6, 5.05, 1.49 and was sent back to AAA.  He pitched well in AAA for the Twins in 1978 and 1979 and for Philadelphia in 1980, but he never got another chance at the majors.  I'm sure there were reasons, but it seems like he did enough to deserve more of a chance than he got.  As we've observed many times, life and baseball are not always fair.

Carlton Fisk had 128 stolen bases in his career.  His high was seventeen, which he did twice, in 1982 and again in 1985, when he was thirty-seven.

Record:  The Twins were 31-19, in first place in the American League West, two games ahead of Chicago.  They would finish 84-77, in fourth place, 17.5 games behind Kansas City.

The Red Sox were 26-23, in third place in the American League East, two games behind Baltimore.  They would finish 97-64, tied for second, 2.5 games behind New York.

1991 Rewind: Game One Hundred Five


Date:  Saturday, August 3.

Batting stars:  Shane Mack was 3-for-5 with a home run (his thirteenth) and two runs.  Kirby Puckett was 3-for-5 with a double and two RBIs.  Brian Harper was 2-for-4 with a three-run homer, his sixth.  Chili Davis was 2-for-5.

Pitching star:  Rick Aguilera pitched 1.1 scoreless innings, giving up a hit and striking out one.

Opposition stars:  Dave Henderson was 3-for-5 with three home runs, his twentieth, twenty-first, and twenty-second.  Mark McGwire was 2-for-3 with a home run (his sixteenth), a double, and a walk.  Harold Baines was 1-for-1 with a home run, his fourteenth.  Jose Canseco was 1-for-5 with a home run, his twenty-ninth.

The game:  Henderson hit a home run in the first inning to give the Athletics a 1-0 lead.  They loaded the bases with two out in the inning but could do no further damage.  In the third Henderson struck again, making it 2-0.  Again Oakland threatened later in the inning, putting men on second and third with two out, but they again could not score.  Henderson hit yet another home run in the fifth, making the score 3-0.  In the sixth, McGwire hit a home run to increase the lead to 4-0.  In the seventh Canseco hit a home run to boost the lead to 5-0.

It looked bad, but the Twins came back in a big way in the eighth.  With one out Greg Gagne walked and Mack singled.  Chuck Knoblauch had an RBI double and Puckett delivered a two-run single, cutting the margin to 5-3.  Kent Hrbek walked and Davis had an RBI single to make it 5-4.  Harper then stepped up and hit a three-run homer.  It killed the rally, but it gave the Twins the lead at 7-5.

Baines hit a pinch-hit home run in the bottom of the eighth to cut the lead to 7-6.  The Twins got the run back in the ninth on Mack's home run.  The Athletics got a two-out single in the bottom of the ninth to bring the tying run to the plate, but Brook Jacoby flied out to end the game.

WP:  Steve Bedrosian (4-2).  LP:  Joe Klink (8-3).  S:  Aguilera (28).

Notes:  Mack was in left field in place of Dan Gladden, with Gene Larkin in right.  Mack also batted leadoff.  Gladden pinch-ran for Larkin in the eighth and stayed in the game in left field, with Mack moving to right.

Puckett raised his average back up to .331.  Harper went up to .315.  Terry Leach retired both batters he faced to make his ERA 2.82.  Aguilera lowered his ERA to 2.64.

Mack's batting average went up to .296, the highest it had been to this point in the season.

The Twins were able to keep Rickey Henderson completely off the base paths this game, as he went 0-for-5.

Oakland had ten hits.  Six of them were home runs, all solo home runs.  They also had two doubles and two singles.  They stranded eight runners and went 0-for-5 with men in scoring position.  I don't know what the record is for having all of your runs come on solo homers (which don't hurt you), but I would have to think that six is at least in the ball park, so to speak.

David West started for the Twins.  He pitched well other than the home runs, but his line is 5.1 innings, four runs, seven hits, four walks, and six strikeouts.  The Athletics starter was Joe Slusarski.  He pitched well for seven innings, but unfortunately for him he also started the eighth.  That makes his line 7.1 innings, four runs, nine hits, one walk, one strikeout.

This was Slusarski's rookie season.  He's another guy who got chance after chance despite not doing anything.  In 1991 he made 19 starts and went 5-7, 5.27, 1.58 WHIP.  In 1992 he made 14 starts and went 5-5, 5.45, 1.47 WHIP.  He made only two appearances in 1993 and none in 1994.  He was with Milwaukee in 1995 for 12 appearances out of the bullpen and went 1-1, 5.40, 1.80 WHIP.  He next appeared in the majors in 1991 with Houston for 3 games.  In 2000 he had his best major league season, going 2-7, 4.21, 1.33 WHIP in 54 relief outings.  In 2001 he made 12 appearances for Houston and Atlanta, going 0-1, 9.00, 1.81 WHIP.  Add it all together and he was 13-21, 5.18, 1.53 WHIP.  He appeared in 118 games, 34 starts.  His AAA numbers are 34-36, 4.12, 1.36 WHIP, not awful but not particularly impressive, either.  It's yet another case of how some guys get chance after chance without ever showing they deserve it, while other guys star in AAA and at most get one brief major league shot.

The White Sox lost to Baltimore 6-3, so the Twins gained a game.

Record:  The Twins were 62-43, in first place in the American League West, three games ahead of Chicago.

1991 Rewind: Game Ninety-two


Date:  Saturday, July 20.

Batting stars:  Kirby Puckett was 2-for-4 with a two-run homer (his twelfth) and a walk.  Junior Ortiz was 2-for-4.

Pitching stars:  Scott Erickson pitched seven shutout innings, giving up seven hits and a walk and striking out one.  Mark Guthrie struck out three in two shutout innings, giving up one hit.

Opposition stars:  Mike Gardiner pitched 7.1 innings, giving up three runs (two earned) on five hits and four walks and striking out two.  Mo Vaughn was 2-for-3 with a walk.  Wade Boggs was 2-for-4 with a double.

The game:  With one out in the first, Chuck Knoblauch reached on an error and Puckett followed with a two-run homer, putting the Twins up 2-0.  The Twins started the second with two walks, but a caught stealing helped take them out of the inning.  The Red Sox got a pair of singles in the third, but a double play helped take them out of the inning.

The Twins missed a chance to break the game open in the fourth.  With one out, Ortiz and Greg Gagne singled and Randy Bush walked, loading the bases.  The Twins got one run on a ground out, but that was it, so the lead was only 3-0.

Boston missed a chance in the sixth.  Boggs led off with a double, but was thrown out trying to stretch it into a triple.  Jody Reed then singled and Vaughn walked, but a pair of ground outs ended the inning.  They never really threatened again.  The Twins added two runs in the ninth when Shane Mack doubled, went to third on a ground out, and scored on a fielder's choice.  Singles by Jarvis Brown and Knoblauch produced another run, making it 5-0.

WP:  Erickson (13-3).  LP:  Gardiner (3-4).  S:  Guthrie (1).

Notes:  Bush started in left field in place of Dan Gladden, with Mack in right.  Again, Tom Kelly usually did that the other way, but the configuration of Fenway Park apparently changed his mind.  With Erickson pitching, Ortiz was again behind the plate in place of Brian Harper.

Brown came in for defense in the seventh in place of Bush.  Brown went to right, with Mack moving to left.  Al Newman pinch-hit for Mike Pagliarulo in the eighth and stayed in the game at third base.

Puckett raised his average to .326.  Erickson lowered his ERA to 2.02.

Erickson was incredibly efficient, throwing just sixty-five pitches in seven innings.  That was obviously much easier on his arm.  Had he been able to do that all season, he might not have had the struggles he had later in the year, but of course, something like that is not really sustainable.

Puckett had an eleven game hitting streak.  He was 18-for-46 in that span.  His average had only gone from .316 to .326, and in fact his average went down a little in the first three games of the streak, when he went 3-for-12.

This was the first save of Guthrie's career.  He would have two for the season and fourteen for his career.  He would make only two more starts in his career, both in 1994.

Mike Gardiner is one of those guys who kept getting chances in the majors despite the fact that he never did anything there.  He appeared in five games in 1990 and went 0-2, 10.66.  Despite that, he got 22 starts in 1991, going 9-10, 4.85.  in 1992 he went 4-10, 4.75 in 28 games, 18 of them starts.  He moved to the bullpen in 1993 and appeared in 34 games combined for Montreal and Detroit, going 2-3, 4.93.  1994 was his best season, as he was 2-2, 3.97.  In 1995 he went 0-0, 14.59 and then he was done as a big-leaguer.  For his career, he was 17-27, 5.21, 1.48 WHIP in 393.2 innings (136 games, 46 starts).  His AAA numbers were 34-22, 4.07, so it's not like he was blowing people away there, either.  I'm sure he's a nice guy--he wouldn't have gotten all those chances if he wasn't.  But it always bugs me to see a guy like this, who's never done anything in the majors, get chance after chance after chance, while other guys do well in AAA year after year and can't get the call.

The Twins had won three in a row and four of five.  The White Sox beat Milwaukee 7-6 in ten innings, so the Twins lead remained the same.

Record:  The Twins were 54-38, in first place in the American League West, 4.5 games ahead of Chicago.