Tag Archives: Carl Willis

1991 Rewind: Game One Hundred One

MINNESOTA 9, DETROIT 7 IN MINNESOTA

Date:  Tuesday, July 30.

Batting stars:  Shane Mack was 4-for-5 with two doubles.  Scott Leius was 3-for-4 with a double, two runs, and two RBIs.  Gene Larkin was 2-for-3 with two walks.  Chuck Knoblauch was 2-for-4 with a walk and two RBIs.  Kirby Puckett was 2-for-6 with a triple, a double, and two RBIs.

Pitching star:  Carl Willis pitched 4.1 scoreless innings of relief, giving up three hits and no walks and striking out two.

Opposition stars:  Lloyd Moseby was 3-for-5 with two doubles and three runs.  Mickey Tettleton was 2-for-4 with a walk.  Tony Phillips was 2-for-5.

The game:  It was wild early.  With one out in the top of the first, Scott Livingstone singled, Moseby doubled, and Cecil Fielder hit a two-run double to give the Tigers a 2-0 lead.  The Twins came back with three in the bottom of the first.  Dan Gladden walked, Knoblauch singled, Puckett hit a two-run triple, and a wild pitch gave the Twins a 3-2 lead.  It went to 4-2 in the second when Greg Gagne doubled, went to third on Gladden's single, and scored on a sacrifice fly.

Detroit went back in front in the third.  Moseby and Tettleton singled, Travis Fryman had an RBI double, and Rob Deer hit a two-run single to give the Tigers a 5-4 advantage.  The Twins got the lead back in the bottom of the third.  Larkin singled and scored from first on Leius' double.  An RBI single from Knoblauch put the Twins up 6-5.  They added two more in the fourth.  Mack singled and went to second on a wild pitch.  With two out, Leius singled and Junior Ortiz tripled to make it 8-5 Twins.  There was no more scoring until the seventh, when Chili Davis walked and scored from first on a Mack double, putting the Twins up 9-5.

The Tigers tried to mount a comeback in the ninth.  Tony Phillips led off with a single.  With one out Moseby had an RBI double to make it 9-6.  A wild pitch moved him to third and he scored on a ground out to cut the lead to 9-7.  But the tying run did not come to bat, as Tettleton grounded out to end the game.

WP:  Willis (6-2).  LP:  John Cerutti (1-3).  S:  None.

Notes:  Larkin was at first base in place of Kent Hrbek.  Junior Ortiz was behind the plate in place of Brian Harper.  Al Newman pinch-hit for Leius in the eighth and stayed in the game at third base.

Puckett was batting .332.  Leius raised his average to .303.  Willis lowered his ERA to 2.16.

There were no Great Scotts in this game, as neither starter lasted long.  Scott Erickson pitched three innings, allowing five runs on seven hits and two walks and striking out one.  His ERA went to 2.34.  Detroit starter Scott Aldred went only one-third on an inning, allowing three runs on three hits and two walks and striking out one.

Willis was really an unsung hero for the 1991 Twins.  When we think of that team, we think of Morris and Tapani and Erickson.  We think of Puckett and Hrbek and Chili Davis.  But Willis had fifteen games in which he pitched three innings or more out of the bullpen.  In those fifteen games, he allowed one or zero runs in twelve of them, two runs in two, and three runs in one.  In other words, in those fifteen games in which pitched three or more innings, he had an ERA of 1.95.  Saving the bullpen, keeping the Twins in games, allowing them to win some games they would not otherwise have won.  I'm not saying he was the team MVP, but he was certainly an important contributor.

The White Sox defeated Toronto 8-7, so the Twins did not gain any ground.

Record:  The Twins were 60-41, in first place in the American League West, three games ahead of Chicago.

1991 Rewind: Game Ninety-four

DETROIT 6, MINNESOTA 3 IN DETROIT

Date:  Tuesday, July 23.

Batting stars:  Kirby Puckett was 2-for-3.  Chili Davis was 2-for-4 with a double and two RBIs.

Pitching star:  Carl Willis pitched 2.2 scoreless innings, giving up a hit and a walk and striking out one.

Opposition stars:  Frank Tanana pitched six innings, giving up two runs on four hits and no walks and striking out two.  Lou Whitaker was 2-for-3 with two runs.  Cecil Fielder was 2-for-4 with two home runs (his twenty-fifth and twenty-sixth) and five RBIs.  Tony Phillips was 2-for-4 with a double.

The game:  Scott Leius and Chuck Knoblauch opened the game with singles.  Puckett bunted them up and a ground out scored a run, putting the Twins up 1-0.  That lead didn't last long.  In the bottom of the first, Whitaker singled and Fielder hit a two-run homer, putting the Tigers ahead 2-1.

The Twins tied it in the fourth, but could've had more.  Puckett singled and Davis doubled, putting men on second and third with none out.  Brian Harper hit a sacrifice fly to make it 2-2, but a strikeout and a fly out ended the inning.  Once again, the Tigers went right back in front.  In the bottom of the fourth, Rob Deer walked and scored from first on a Travis Fryman double to give Detroit a 3-2 advantage.

The Tigers took control in the fifth.  Phillips and Whitaker singled and Fielder hit a three-run homer, making the score 6-2.  The Twins got one back in the eighth.  Chuck Knoblauch walked, Puckett singled, and Davis had an RBI single.  The tying run was at bat with one out, but Harper and Shane Mack each grounded out to end the threat.

WP:  Tanana (7-6).  LP:  Allan Anderson (4-8).  SL  Mike Henneman (14).

Notes:  Mack remained in left field in place of Dan GladdenGene Larkin was in right.  Leius batted first.

In the seventh, Randy Bush pinch-hit for Greg Gagne, but due to a pitching change Al Newman pinch-hit for Bush.  He stayed in the game at shortstop.  Mike Pagliarulo pinch-hit for Leius in the ninth.

Puckett raised his average to .331.  Harper was 0-for-3 and fell to .321.  Willis lowered his ERA to 2.44.  Rick Aguilera pitched a third of an inning to drop his ERA to 2.93.

Jack Morris started, but pitched just 1.2 innings, allowing two runs on four hits and no walks and striking out one.  His ERA was 3.47.  I assume he came out due to injury.  The play-by-play on the play before he came out says "Single (line drive to P's right).  I don't know if it went off him or if perhaps he tweaked something trying to field it.  At any rate, he did not miss a start.  Anderson came in and pitched the next 3.1 innings, doing well until the three-run homer in the fifth.

It seems strange that, after starting the game with two singles, Puckett would then bunt.  My guess is that he did that on his own, but it still doesn't make a lot of sense to me.  They had a chance for a big inning, and he was at least arguably their best batter.  Bunting, even if he was bunting for a hit, does not seem like a good strategy at that point.

Willis came in to start the sixth.  He had gotten into some trouble int he seventh, but a double play ended the inning.  He then retired the first two batters in the eighth, and was removed for no obvious reason in favor of Aguilera.  Aguilera hadn't pitched since July 19, so I could understand the idea that he might need some work.  But then, why not give him an inning, rather than bringing him in with two out and none on in the last inning?  He threw six pitches, and could very well have just thrown one.  That's getting him some work?  It really seems strange.

The Twins did pretty well against  Frank Tanana for his career.  His record against them was 19-20, 4.49, 1.37 WHIP.  For his career he was 240-236, 3.66, 1.27 WHIP.  In 1991, however, Tanana did well against the Twins in two starts:  1-1, 3.86, 1.07 WHIP.  His season in 1991 was 13-12, 3.77, 1.36 WHIP.

Texas and Chicago each won, so they remained tied for second and each gained a game on the Twins.

Record:  The Twins were 55-39, in first place in the American League West, four games ahead of Chicago and Texas.

1991 Rewind: Game Eighty-two

MINNESOTA 5, CHICAGO 4 IN MINNESOTA

Date:  Saturday, July 6.

Batting stars:  Brian Harper was 3-for-4 with a three-run homer, his fourth.  Kent Hrbek was 1-for-3 with a two-run homer (his eighth) and a walk.

Pitching stars:  Carl Willis pitched three shutout innings of relief, giving up one hit and striking out one.  Rick Aguilera pitched 1.1 scoreless innings, giving up one hit and striking out one.

Opposition stars:  Frank Thomas was 2-for-4 with a home run (his fourteenth) and a double.  Robin Ventura was 1-for-3 with a three-run homer (his sixth) and a walk.  Ramon Garcia pitched 6.2 innings, giving up three runs on three hits and three walks and striking out two hits.

The game:  There was really no threat to score (well, technically, every time someone comes to bat there's the threat of a score, but you know what I mean) until the fourth, when Thomas led off the inning with a home run.  In the fifth, Craig Grebeck drew a one-out walk and Tim Raines drew a two-out walk, followed by Ventura's three-run homer, putting the White Sox up 4-0.

The Twins came back in the seventh.  Randy Bush led off with a single, but was still on first with two out.  Chili Davis then walked and Harper delivered a three-run homer, cutting the margin to 4-3.  The homer was followed by a couple of two-out singles, but the Twins could not get even.

Not to worry.  With two out in the eighth Kirby Puckett singled and Hrbek hit a two-run homer, putting the Twins ahead 5-4.  Chicago did not go quietly, however.  Dan Pasqua hit a two-out double in the eighth but was stranded at second.  In the ninth Warren Newson hit a one-out single and stole second.  A ground out and a fly out followed, and the Twins held on to win.

WP:  Willis (3-2).  LP:  Scott Radinsky (2-3).  S:  Aguilera (22).

Notes:  Pedro Munoz was in left, replacing Dan Gladden.  Bush was in right, replacing Shane Mack.  Chuck Knoblauch led off, with Bush batting second.

Tom Kelly again used a lot of his bench.  Mack pinch-hit for Bush in the eighth and stayed in the game in left field, with Munoz moving to right.  Al Newman pinch-hit for Mike Pagliarulo in the ninth and stayed in the game at third base.  Jarvis Brown pinch-ran for Harper in the ninth, with Junior Ortiz coming in to catch.

Harper raised his average to .332.  Puckett was 1-for-4 and was batting .315.  Willis dropped his ERA to 2.95.  Aguilera's ERA fell to 2.75.

Paul Abbott's second start did not go nearly as well as the first.  He pitched 4.2 innings, giving up four runs on three hits and five walks and struck out two.  Of course, two of the hits were home runs.  I suppose you could argue that he did well other than the home runs, but that doesn't help a whole lot.  He would go back to the bullpen after this start, making just one more start in 1991, on August 1.

Given how the Twins were flailing around to try to fill the back end of the rotation, it's a little surprising that they never gave Willis a start.  He had started only two games in his major league career, both in 1984, so you can understand why they didn't.  But he made thirteen relief appearances of three innings or more, seven of four innings or more, and one of five innings.  He generally did quite well in those long relief appearances, although I suppose that's skewed because if he hadn't done well he wouldn't have been left in the game that long.  I'm not saying he'd have been the solution to their starting pitching problems.  I'm not even saying it was a mistake not to use him as a starter.  I'm just saying that it might have been an option, and for whatever reason Kelly did not use it.

Texas defeated California 4-3, so the Twins did not increase their lead.

Record:  The Twins were 47-35, in first place in the American League West, one game ahead of Texas.

1991 Rewind: Game Seventy-two

TORONTO 5, MINNESOTA 2 IN MINNESOTA

Date:  Wednesday, June 26.

Batting stars:  Chili Davis was 2-for-4 with a two-run homer (his eighteenth) and a double.  Chuck Knoblauch was 2-for-4.

Pitching stars:  Carl Willis pitched four innings of relief, giving up one run on four hits and no walks and striking out four.  Terry Leach pitched 1.1 scoreless innings, giving up one hit.

Opposition stars:  David Wells pitched eight innings, giving up two runs on seven hits and a walk and striking out two.  Joe Carter was 4-for-5 with two doubles and two RBIs.  Glenallen Hill was 3-for-4 with a double.  Devon White was 3-for-5 with a triple, a double, a stolen base (his eighteenth) and two runs.  Roberto Alomar was 2-for-4 with a triple, a walk, and two RBIs.

The game:  This time it was the Blue Jays who jumped out to an early lead.  White started the game with a double and stole third.  Alomar then tripled and Carter doubled, putting Toronto up 2-0 after the first three batters of the game.  Twins starter Mark Guthrie then settled down, and there was no more scoring until the fourth.  With two out Hill singled, White tripled, and Carter singled to make the score 4-0.

The Twins got a man to second base in the first, fourth, and fifth, but could not score.  The Blue Jays added one more run in the sixth.  Manny Lee singled, stole second, went to third on a wild pitch, and scored on an Alomar single, increasing the lead to 5-0.

The Twins again got a man to second in the seventh and did not score.  They finally got on the board in the eighth when Knoblauch singled and Davis hit a two-out two-run homer.  After that, however, all the Twins could do is a single by Shane Mack in the ninth.  The score remained 5-2.

WP:  Wells (9-4).  LP:  Guthrie (5-4).  S:  Tom Henke (13).

Notes:  Gene Larkin was again at first base in place of Kent Hrbek.  Al Newman pinch-hit for Scott Leius in the ninth.  Randy Bush pinch-hit for Greg Gagne in the ninth.  The pinch-hitters the Twins used had batting averages of .202 and .210, respectively.

Brian Harper was 0-for-4 and was batting .333.  Kirby Puckett was 0-for-3 with a walk and was batting .324.  Willis lowered his ERA to 3.03.  Leach's ERA went down to 3.26.

Guthrie allowed four runs in 3.2 innings on eight hits and two walks, striking out one.  His ERA was 5.66.

This was Guthrie's last start of the season.  He would be replaced in the rotation initially by Paul Abbott.  He would do much better out of the bullpen, going 2-1, 2.51, 1.37 WHIP with two saves in 43 innings (29 games).  He would make only two more starts in his major league career, both in 1994.  In his career as a starter, he was 13-18, 4.95, 1.52 WHIP.  As a reliever, he was 38-36, 3.75, 1.36 WHIP with 14 saves.

This was the second-longest stint of Willis' season to date, topped only by his 4.2 innings on April 23.  In August he would twice pitch five innings.  He would have a very good season, going 8-3, 2.63, 1.07 WHIP.  He would be about as good in 1992, going 7-3, 2.72, 1.06 WHIP.  He started to slip a little in 1993, although he was still pretty good.  After that he didn't get much accomplished, but from 1991-1993, he was a very effective relief pitcher.

This game is as good a place as any to declare the Twins' hot streak over.  It was a pretty good one, though.  From May 28 through June 25, the Twins won twenty-four out of twenty-seven.  They went from sixth place to first place.  They would not do that again, obviously, but they would continue to have winning months the rest of the season.

Record:  The Twins were 44-28, in first place in the American League West, 3.5 games ahead of California.

1991 Rewind: Game Sixty-five

MINNESOTA 9, BALTIMORE 2 IN BALTIMORE

Date:  Tuesday, June 18.

Batting stars:  Shane Mack was 2-for-3 with a home run (his sixth), two walks, and two runs.  Kent Hrbek was 2-for-4 with a double and two RBIs.  Kirby Puckett was 2-for-4.  Chuck Knoblauch was 2-for-5.  Junior Ortiz was 2-for-5.

Pitching star:  Scott Erickson pitched six shutout innings, giving up one hit and five walks and striking out three.

Opposition stars:  Bob Melvin was 2-for-4.  Paul Kilgus pitched 2.1 innings, giving up an unearned run on no hits and two walks and striking out one.

The game:  The Twins took the lead early, scoring two in the first inning.  With two out, Puckett singled and scored on Hrbek's double.  A wild pitch sent Hrbek to third and a balk scored him to make it 2-0.  In the third, Mack singled and scored on a Mike Pagliarulo double.  Ortiz followed with an RBI single to make it 4-0. With one out a walk and a single loaded the bases.  A force out scored one run and Hrbek singled in another to increase the lead to 6-0.

There were no more hits by either side until the sixth, when Ortiz singled.  He was caught stealing (!), but with two out Gladden singled, stole second, and scored on Knoblauch's single.  It went to 8-0 in the eighth when the Twins scored on an error, a walk, and a sacrifice fly.

The Orioles got on the board in the bottom of the eighth.  A pair of walks and a fly ball put men on first and third with one out.  A ground out scored one and Leo Gomez singled in another to make it 8-2.  A Mack home run in the ninth closed out the scoring.

WP:  Erickson (11-2).  LP:  Roy Smith (3-1).  S:  Carl Willis (1).

Notes:  With Erickson pitching, Ortiz was catching.  The Twins made some late-game changes with the big lead.  Pedro Munoz pinch-ran for Puckett in the sixth and went to right field, with Mack moving to center.  Scott Leius pinch-hit for Pagliarulo in the seventh and went to third base.  Gene Larkin pinch-hit for Hrbek in the eighth and went to first base.

Puckett was batting .329.  Erickson's ERA went down to 1.51.  Willis got a three-inning save, giving up two runs.  His ERA was 3.14.

Baltimore's starter was ex-Twin Roy Smith.  He pitched 5.2 innings, allowing seven runs on eleven hits and three walks and striking out one.

This was one of two saves for Willis in 1991, with the other coming August 4.  He had thirteen saves in his career, with a high of five in 1993.  The Twins had five pitchers with saves in 1991--Rick Aguilera (42), Steve Bedrosian (6).  Mark Guthrie (2), Willis (2), and Gary Wayne (1).

Despite the end of their winning streak yesterday, the Twins had won sixteen of seventeen and nineteen of twenty-one.  Could they start a new streak?

Record:  The Twins were 39-26, in first place in the American League West, 1.5 games ahead of Oakland.

1991 Rewind: Game Forty-three

KANSAS CITY 5, MINNESOTA 1 IN MINNESOTA

Date:  Sunday, May 26.

Batting stars:  Gene Larkin was 2-for-4.  Chili Davis was 2-for-4.  Chuck Knoblauch was 1-for-3 with a walk.

Pitching stars:  Carl Willis pitched three shutout innings, giving up one hit and striking out one.  Steve Bedrosian pitched a scoreless inning, giving up a hit and a walk.  Rick Aguilera pitched a perfect inning and struck out one.

Opposition stars:  Bret Saberhagen pitched a complete game, giving up one run on eight hits and two walks and striking out two.  Brian McRae was 3-for-5 with a home run (his fourth), a stolen base (his fourth), two runs and two RBIs.  Brent Mayne was 2-for-4.  George Brett was 2-for-4.  Kirk Gibson was 2-for-5 with a double.

The game:  The Royals jumped on Twins starter Kevin Tapani for three runs in the first inning.  They got the first two of them before anyone was retired:  McRae singled, Gibson had an RBI double, Brett singled, and Danny Tartabull had an RBI single.  Following a pop up, Mayne singled home the third run of the inning.  Kansas City added another run in the second when McRae led off the inning with a homer to make the score 4-0.  They got their final run in the fourth when Terry Shumpert doubled and scored on McRae's single.

Meanwhile, the Twins were not doing much of anything off Saberhagen.  They got a man to second base in the third, when Knoblauch and Shane Mack drew two-out walks.  They did it again in the seventh when Davis reached on an error and Larkin had a two-out single.  They actually got two hits in the same inning in the eighth, when Knoblauch singled with one out and Kirby Puckett singled with two out.

The Twins did get on the board in the ninth, when they opened the inning with consecutive singles by DavisBrian Harper, and Larkin.  Another hit would've brought the tying run to the plate, but instead a strikeout and a double play ended the game.

WP:  Saberhagen (5-3).  LP:  Tapani (2-5).  S:  None.

Notes:  With a day game, Mack was in left, replacing Dan Gladden.  He batted second, with Knoblauch moving up to the leadoff spot.  Larkin was in right field.  Al Newman was at short, replacing Greg Gagne.

Harper was 1-for-4 and was batting .368.  Puckett was 1-for-4 and was batting .326.  Davis raised his average to .313.

Tapani lasted just four innings, giving up five runs on nine hits and a walk and striking out one.  It was his first really bad game of the season, but he hadn't been pitching as well lately.  His ERA went up steadily from 2.10 on April 27 to now 3.79.

The Twins bullpen did really well.  Five shutout innings, giving up two hits and a walk.  Much of that was Willis, as set forth above.  His ERA was now 3.48.  Aguilera's ERA went to 1.69.

George Brett was off to a very slow start, and in fact would not have a particularly good year.  He had won the batting title in 1990, batting .329.  At this point in 1991, however, he was batting just .224.  He would end the season at .255 with an OPS of .729.  Well, he was thirty-eight.  He would play for two more seasons at about the same level of production, then retire at age forty.  He was mostly a DH at this point, with Bill Pecota having taken over at third base.  Pecota would bat .286 with an OPS of .756--I don't know how this compared to his PECOTA projection.

This was an odd-numbered year, so naturally Saberhagen was having a good season.  Actually, when you look at the stats, the odd-even thing is not nearly as pronounced as legend has made it out to be.  It shows up in his won-lost record more than anywhere else, indicating that it may have been a function of luck as much as anything.  It's true that, throughout most of his career, his ERA was lower in odd-numbered years than in even, but most of the time the difference is not all that great.  It made for a good story, though.

The Twins had now lost six of seven and eight of eleven.  One suspects people were saying "same old Twins".

Record:  The Twins were 20-23, sixth in the American League West, 6.5 games behind Texas.  They remained a half game behind fifth-place Chicago.  They were one game ahead of last-place Kansas City.