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Archive for June, 2010

Triple In the Gap will be taking a hiatus while I gather material for further writing. I will be leaving tomorrow (6-14) for Washington D.C. where I will be meeting my friend Nick, his wife Emily and their son Luke. On the way there I plan to see the Toledo Mudhens and Pittsburgh Pirates. I will in Philadelphia Friday for the Twins/Phillies game and hopefully the White Sox Nationals game on Saturday. Where I stop on the way back has yet to be decided, but I’m leaning towards seeing games in Louisville and Indianapolis.

On a side note, I was planning to write a blog about Armando Gallaraga’s “perfect” game and how it was a better story because of the sportsmanship showed by himself, umpire Jim Joyce, manager Jim Leyland and the Detroit Tigers’ fans. Then I read Tom Verducci’s piece in the newest Sports Illustrated: excellent baseball writing.

Off to D.C.!

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5
October 20, 1991, Twins vs. Braves, World Series Game 2
I was 13 years old at the World Series AND my parents had tickets to all of the home games. 

I went to the second game with my mom and I spent most of it cursing the Twins’ third baseman Scott Leius. 

The Twins had 16-game winner Kevin Tapani on the mound against the eventual National League Cy Young winner, Tom Glavine.  I feared Glavine and for good reason.  I felt any hit, walk or any kind of baserunner was going to be a gift for the Twins.  So when Twins’ leadoff man Dan Gladden’s fly ball dropped out of second baseman Mark Lemke’s mitt after almost running into David Justice in shallow right field, the Metrodome crowd went nuts.  Gladden slid into second base easily, and Game 2 was on.   

Chuck Knoblauch drew a walk to bring up Kirby Puckett with two on and no out.  Rally time?  Not yet.  Puckett hit a hard grounder to Terry Pendleton at third for an easy 5-5-3 double play, leaving Knoblauch at second with two outs.  Coming up to bat was an underrated star in the history of Twins baseball: Chili Davis.  

The home run that followed was beautiful.  Davis pulled an arching shot into the left-field seats.  Sitting in the upper part of the upper deck in left field, it wasn’t as pretty as the TV replay.  Davis’ swing was pure upper cut. He wasn’t going for a single. Tom Glavine’s pitch left his hand and Chili knew exactly what he wanted to do with it. 

The TV announcer, Jack Buck, put the cherry on top when his crescendoing voiced yelled, “Chili Davis launches one! Two to nothing, Minnesota!” 

World Series home runs take a while. As a fan, you want to jump on the field, hug the hitter and thank them a hundred times. Every run is so precious in the World Series, especially this Fall Classic. 

When the crowd wouldn’t quiet with the next batter up, Davis stepped from the dugout and tipped his cap to the raucous crowd.  I get chills thinking about it.  

Ron Gant of the Braves probably still gets chills when he thinks about getting picked off first base by Kent Hrbek. Gant singled in the third inning with Lonnie Smith on first. Smith slid safely into third base thanks to an overthrow but, luckily for the Twins, Tapani was backing up the play. Gant noticed this too late after taking a wide turn around first. Tapani threw to Hrbek to pick off Gant at first. 

Depending on what team you root for is what determines how the play was seen.  Some say Gant’s momentum carried his foot off the bag and Hrbek kept the tag on him.  Others say Hrbek pulled Gant’s foot off the bag.  According to first-base umpire Drew Koble, Gant was not in control going back to first and his momentum carried him off.  Hrbek would be greeted in Atlanta for the third game with death threats and a stadium full of boos he soaked up.   

Kent Hrbek keeps the tag on an out-of-control Ron Gant.

 

As for Scott Leius, there are some people who think everything happens for a reason. Maybe Leius’ error in the third inning happened so what he did in the eighth inning would seem that much sweeter.   In the top of the third a hard hit ball by Lonnie Smith glanced off Leius’s glove for an error.  If it’d be a regular season game, I probably wouldn’t have minded.  But you can’t give the other team free bases in the World Series.  Luckily, the inning would end on Hrbek’s tag of Gant.  

The middle innings were a great pitchers’ duel between Glavine and Tapani, until the eighth.  With the score tied 2-2, Leius stepped to the plate against Glavine with no one on base.  The World Series will make nobodies into heroes and that’s exactly what it did for Scott Leius.  His home run over the left-field plexiglass put the Twins on top 3-2. 

Rick Aguilera closed the ninth with three strikeouts and the Twins led the World Series two games to none. It was a World Series game decided by one run. I thought it couldn’t get any better. 

http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/MIN/MIN199110200.shtml 

4
October 8 2002, Metrodome, Twins vs. Angels, ALCS Game One
I didn’t have much money at the time and it was because of the Minnesota Twins. I managed to get a ticket to every postseason game. I had three division series tickets, four for the American League Championship Series and four for the World Series. Of course, if the Twins didn’t play any of those games, my money would be refunded. As the Twins went further into the playoffs, the prices went up.  I really wanted to go to the World Series, but there was a consolation if we didn’t make it: I’d be refunded the $400 for the tickets. 

When Game One of the ALCS began, the dome was on fire. The fans could smell the World Series. The Twins were hot off their defeat of the Athletics and the Angels just took down the mighty Yankees.  Joe Mays was on the mound for the Twins. Combined with his two-hitter against Pedro Martinez and this game, I think I’ve seen Mays’ two best games of his career. 

He shut down an Angels’ team that couldn’t be stopped that postseason, but Mays managed to contained them for one night. The only run they managed on him was thanks to a Cristian Guzman error.  It was a classic pitchers’ duel between Mays and Kevin Appier.  There were a combined nine hits in the game.  The Twins scored their two runs off an A.J. Pierzynski sacrifice fly to score Torii Hunter and a Corey Koskie double to bring home Luis Rivas.  Mays’s one run was unearned and he didn’t walk a batter in eight innings. 

When Eddie Guardado came on in the ninth to protect a 2-1 lead, the noise of the dome could be seen. The crowd was chanting, “Ed-die! Ed-die!” as he took the mound. 

"Everyday" Eddie Guardado pitched 12 seasons with the Twins and collected 119 saves, three in the postseason.

 

With two out and two strikes on the batter, it seemed each member of the crowd was screaming as loud as they could as the teflon roof of the dome held it all in. I watched a security guard standing with his back to the field leaning on the outfield wall facing the crowd. His face began to cringe with the immense volume of the crowd.  When Troy Glaus struck out looking, a gunshot wouldn’t have been heard over the crowd noise.  

With a one-game-to-none lead in the ALCS, it meant we only had to win three of the next six games. That’s .500 ball!
Unfortunately, the Angels got hot again, won four in a row against the Twins and then defeated the Giants in the World Series in seven games with help from Garrett Anderson, Darin Erstad, Jarod Washburn, Francisco Rodriguez and that damned rally monkey. 

The good news was I got my $400 back. 

http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/MIN/MIN200210080.shtml

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10
July 5, 1996, Metrodome, Twins vs. Royals

I was 18 and I’d been dumped by my girlfriend two days earlier. Only the Twins could pull me out of my funk … with a little help from my neighbor and friend, Brian. 

When the Twins fell behind 5-0 after the second inning, we were more than happy to take the seats of some fair-weather fans who left their front row spots in left field. 

The Twins battled back, but so did the Royals. 1996 was one of my favorite years to watch the Twins. We had two .341 hitters at the top of the lineup: Chuck Knoblauch and Paul Molitor. It was Marty Cordova’s sophomore year and he could still hit. We couldn’t pitch, but I still believe if the newly departed Kirby Puckett were in that dangerous lineup, we could have made the playoffs. 

The last of the ninth came up and the Twins were down 8-4. THIS is another reason why fans shouldn’t leave early. There’s something about the excitement fueled by desperation that’s special. The feeling of knowing the next strike or flyball could end the game is something experienced only a few times in a baseball fan’s lifetime.  

Rich Becker started the five-run rally with a single to score Knoblauch.  Molitor doubled, putting Knoblauch at third with one out.  Scott Stahoviak doubled scoring both runners.  The inning began with the look like Brian and I would watch the last three outs and head home.  With three runs in and one out, our outlook brightened.  After a Dave Hollins strikeout, Greg Meyers walked (with Denny Hocking pinch running) to put runners at first and second with Chip Hale at bat.    

Chip Hale. Remember him, Twins fans?  Some may not, but I’ll never forget him.  He’s the man who wouldn’t let me frown days after being dumped.  

Hale’s double went in between the right and center fielders. Brian and I screamed in hope as we watched the ball roll to the wall, the runners furiously running for home and the Twins’ third-base coach waving his arm as if he didn’t do it fast enough, the runners wouldn’t obey him.  There was a throw home, but the play wasn’t close. The Twins won with five runs in the bottom of the ninth and for nine innings, I forgot about that damned girl. 

 

http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/MIN/MIN199607050.shtml 

9
October 7, 1987, Metrodome, Twins vs. Tigers, Game 1 ALCS

It was my first playoff game and the Twins’ first postseason game since 1965. Minnesota had won a measly 85 games that season while the heavily favored Tigers won 98. 

It was Detroit’s Doyle Alexander against Frank Viola in Game One of the American League Championship Series (ALCS). Alexander had been traded from Atlanta that year for a pitcher named John Smoltz who will be mentioned later in my top games of all time. 

As for this one, my first playoff game at the age of nine was riveting. In the playoffs, the excitement is raised another ten times along with the ticket prices. 

When a first-inning single in a regular game will generate a simple applause, it will be a standing ovation in the playoffs. Eyes are on the field much more often in the playoffs since every pitch can mean the game. 

What do I remember from this game? Only that we won and Gary Gaetti hit two home runs. 

Thanks for baseball-reference.com, my mind has been refreshed.  The Tigers took a 5-4 lead entering the bottom of the eighth inning.  Kirby Puckett tied the game with a double scoring Dan Gladden with one out and driving Alexander out of the game.  Gaetti walked after an intentional walk to Kent Hrbek loading the bases for the Twins’ late-season acquisition, Don Baylor.  Baylor singled, scoring Puckett and Tom Brunansky followed that with a double scoring two.  

This man could always be counted on for a clutch double.

 

The Metrodome roof nearly popped off and Minnesota officially had pennant fever.  The Twins would win Game 2, lose the third and then win two straight in Tiger Stadium to win the American League pennant and go on to defeat the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games in the World Series. Gaetti would also be named the ALCS MVP. 

My sister went to Game 2 of the ALCS while my parents didn’t buy World Series tickets thinking the Twins would never make it.  Luckily they didn’t make the same mistake four years later. 

http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/MIN/MIN198710070.shtml 

8
October 8, 1991, Metrodome, Twins vs. Blue Jays, Game 1 ALCS

The biggest memory that sticks out from this game was Jack Morris walking from the dugout to the bullpen about an hour before the game began.  In a regular season game, a few fans in the first row might shout some encouragement to the starting pitcher, but this was the playoffs.  The dome was probably half filled at the time, but everyone seemed to on their feet cheering on Morris.  That’s something special that only comes in the postseason. 

The St. Paul native was appreciated and would be even more in the weeks to come. The Twins grabbed a 5-0 lead after the third inning. The Blue Jays scored one in the fourth and three in the sixth. Twins’ closer Rick Aguilera pitched two scoreless innings for the save and the Twins had a 1-0 lead in the ALCS. 

Toronto always seemed to give the Twins trouble, which was the reason why I was worried when we had to face them to get to the World Series. After we lost Game 2 the next day, it was a little scary knowing we had to play three straight in Toronto. 

During the second game when I had to go to school while my sister got to cheer the Twins in person, I remember riding the bus from Central Junior High to the high school listening to the game on the bus’ radio when some girl I didn’t know asked the bus driver to turn the station to KDWB, the local pop station.  Being a mostly quiet 13-year old kid who kept to myself, I surprised myself when I yelled, “Are you crazy! This is the playoffs!”  I could taste blood. 

http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/MIN/MIN199110080.shtml 

7
October 19, 1991, Metrodome, Twins vs. Braves, Game 1 World Series

All the things I said earlier about the excitement of postseason play are in place except they’re further multiplied in the World Series.  The Twins had defeated the Blue Jays in five game and the Braves had won the NLCS in seven games against the Pittsburgh Pirates. 

I was hoping to play the Pirates in the Series even though they had won more games than the Braves. It was the team chemistry and spirited fans that scared me about Atlanta. They, like the Twins, had finished in last place the year before. The Tomahawk Chop looked dangerous (and offensive). 

Luckily, the Twins still had the best home-field advantage in baseball and it was called the Metrodome. It was filled with Homer Hanky-waving-screaming fans and topped with a baseball colored roof. 

One thing I will miss about the dome will be how immense the volume of the crowed can be. No other park can compare to the volume the Twins and their fans can create. 

Jack Morris was on the hill for the Twins while veteran Charlie Leibrandt pitched for the Braves. Minnesota got on the board in the third with some small ball.  With two outs, Dan Gladden singled and stole second base. Chuck Knoblauch then sent a single to right field. It looked like David Justice was going to have a play on Gladden at the plate, but Knoblauch did exactly what manager Tom Kelly wanted him to do. Knoblauch kept plowing for second base. If Gladden manages to score, he’s on second base with Kirby Puckett up. 

Instead, the Braves cut the throw to the plate off, guaranteeing Gladden to score while Knoblauch got in a run down. He was called out, but more importantly the Twins scored and led 1-0. 

With two runners on in the fifth, the Twins’ shortstop Greg Gagne stepped up.  Gagne is a man known for his glove, not his bat. But this time Gagne connected for a three-run homer. He had only eight during the regular season. 

Leading 5-2, Aguilera came in to close the game in the eighth.  The last out was a flyout to Gladden in deep left field. When the ball came off the bat I thought it was going to be a home run. It scared me. But relief came when Gladden squeezed it in his mitt, giving the Twins a 1-0 lead in the World Series. 

A 5-2 win in that World Series was exciting at the time, but it would soon pale in comparison to the rest of it. 

http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/MIN/MIN199110190.shtml 

6
October 5 2002, Metrodome, Twins vs. Athletics, Game 4 ALDS
Having lost Game 3 the day before, the Twins were down two games to one in the best of five division series. 

The A’s were stacked that year with Miguel Tejada leading the team to 103 wins. Oakland even managed to pull off a 20-game winning streak late in the season. If we lost this game, the season was over.  Tim Hudson was on the mound for Oakland, which didn’t help matters.  

I took a free shuttle from Northtown Mall to the dome and the spirits weren’t as high as the previous day when the A’s came to town after the Twins took Game 1 in Oakland even though we committed, what seemed like, 12 errors in the first inning. After trailing 5-1, the Twins came back to win 7-5. 

I took my seat alone in the second row of the left-field stands. Once again, this was proof the best seats go to those brave enough to go alone. 

I remember the feeling of desperation; knowing if we lost it was all over. It made every strike against the A’s one step closer to victory and every ball called on us another chance to get a man on and score. 

Down 2-0 entering the bottom of the fourth inning, the Twins started a seven-run rally.  After a single followed by a walk by A.J. Pierzynski, Doug Mientkiewicz stood on second base.  A slow grounder off the bat of Luis Rivas gave shortstop Cabrera hope of nailing Mientkiewicz at third.  The throw sailed over third baseman Eric Chavez’s head, sending Mientkiewicz home.   

Plays like that send happy shockwaves through me for various reasons: we just scored, we just scored in the ALDS, we just scored in a series we’re down 2-1, crazy Mientkiewicz scored and the mighty Oakland A’s just messed up an easy play. 

I'll take Justin Morneau over Doug Mientkiewicz any day, but that doesn't mean I don't miss Dougie Baseball.

 

In every playoff series the Twins have been in, I have grown a hatred for the opposing team. Sometimes it ends with the series like with the A’s and sometimes it lasts over a decade like with the Atlanta Braves. I want the Twins to excel so bad that I get angry when the opposing team dares to score a run on us. 

I respected the A’s enough to konw the odds were against the Twins. When they biffed the play at third, I not only cheered, I screamed and laughed at their misfortune. 

Minnesota went on to an 11-2 win. Pierzynski all but assured the Twins of a series win two days later in Oakland with a cocky home run in the ninth inning. Eddie Guardado took the mound with a three-run lead in the ninth and almost handed the series to the A’s, but the Twins held on. 

http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/MIN/MIN200210050.shtml

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Ken Griffey Jr., one of the most talented players of all time, retired this afternoon. He did it in style – on his own accord.

As a fan of the No. 5 home run hitter of all time, even though he played 22 seasons, he’s left me wanting just a little bit more. No, I don’t expect 30 home runs or a World Series title. What I want is one last hit, RBI and/or home run.

I remember when John Kruk retired. He got a single, asked for a pinch runner and walked off the field forever.

Ken Griffey Jr. did what regular ballplayers do at the age of 40 – they get old. He’s never been linked to performance enhancing drugs and it shows in his career statistics.

I would have liked one more hit, but will be content to live with the memories. He’s a first ballot hall of famer and it was a joy to watch one of his 630 home runs scream over my head in 1996 as I sat in the first row of the right field upper deck at the Metrodome.

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15
August 14, 1992, County Stadium, Milwaukee, Brewers vs. Red Sox

This game was the first of two great things the God-forsaken Metrodome had robbed me of: Outdoor major league baseball and doubleheaders. 

My parents took me on a two-night trip to Milwaukee and my only request was to see a Brewers game. We could go home after that. 

Unfortunately, I was an impatient fourteen-year-old kid with an early bed time, so we didn’t make it through both games. 

Fortunately, I got to see what a real ball park looks like. I remember my dad encouraging me to go to the first row behind the Brewers dugout to take a picture. At the nasty Dome, if you do this, you’re still a mile from the action, both horizontally and vertically. Imagine someone at the Roman Coliseum watching lions eat Christians. At County Stadium, you’re on the field level and right next to the action. 

At age 14, to be at an arm’s length from Paul Molitor gave me chills. 

With the game tied in the bottom of the 13th inning, the Sox put in their closer, Jeff Reardon. My parents and I weren’t fans of his since he left the Twins. 

Up stepped Jim Gantner for the Brewers. Gantner was known for not hitting home runs. I believe he’s one of the best players in the modern era at not hitting home runs along with Al Newman of the Twins. 

Gantner’s home run off Reardon barely cleared the right-field fence, sending the Milwaukee crowd into a frenzy and Bernie Brewer down the slide into the barrel of beer.  It was Gantner’s only home run of the season and the last of his career. 

 

http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/MIL/MIL199208141.shtml 

14
August 12, 2008, Metrodome, Twins vs. Yankees
“Baseball was designed to break your heart.” A. Bartlett Giamatti 

Sometimes baseball has a happy ending, but 29/30th of the time, it doesn’t.  But there’s a sense of comfort in a sad novel or film.  There’s empathy for the characters knowing we’ve experienced similar sorrows.  There’s also a shared empathy of 28 other teams when your team is playing the Yankees.  Rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for the casino in a game of blackjack.  Rarely are the Yankees the underdog and this game was no exception.  It was the low-budget Minnesota Twins with some guy named Nick Blackburn on the mound against the mighty New York Yankees with a possible future hall of famer named Mike Mussina pitching with names in the lineup like Jeter, Rodriguez, Damon and Giambi.  A win against the Yankees is just another win in the standings, but to the fans in the stands it feels like 10 (especially for the Twins, lately).  

When the Twins took a 2-1 lead in the second inning off of two sacrifice flies, there was hope we would at least be competitive.  I was sitting with Kate and my parents and there were a few nearby New York fans.  They seemed legitimate – as in, they were from New York and not some local who picks up the game in high school and to make up for low self esteem and to prove how different he is, chooses the Yankees as his favorite team.  Why not?  They’re always on television and they always win.  It’s like rooting for Michael Bay to make bad movies.  

I digress … as I tend to do when discussing my dislike for the people who choose to root for the Yankees. 

Minnesota has had a lot of trouble with New York in the last decade.  Because of this, every run was important and when the Twins scored any runs, they felt like goals in a soccer game.  At the same time, with the Yankees’ lineup it sometimes felt like the Twins weren’t allowed a goalie.  

As the bottom of the eighth approached, the Yankees had managed to scratch their way to a 6-3 lead.  Knowing they had Mariano Rivera in the bullpen, I knew if the Twins were going to come back, it would have to be now.  Rivera to the Yankees is almost an unfair advantage.  His cutter has been written about to death by sports writers of the last decade as much as FM radio played the Macarena the summer of 1996.  As someone who reads a lot of baseball articles, I’d like to read another column about Rivera’s cutter like I want to hear the Macarena again.  

Mike Redmond led off the eighth with a double.  Justin Morneau flew out to left field, but Randy Ruiz, pinch hitting for Jason Kubel, doubled putting runners at second and third with Delmon Young at the plate.  Joe Torre made the call to the bullpen.  As the new pitcher jogged to the mound I remember the narrative between me and my dad. 

“Oh, they’re sending someone else in,” I said.  “Can you see who it is?”  

My dad and I peered from our upper deck seats behind the plate.  I quickly made out the number 42 on the pitcher’s back. 

“Oh shit, it’s Rivera,” I said.  My dad just laughed at the drama the game was providing.  Yes, the Twins were going to lose for sure now, but at least we can say we saw yet another hall of famer.  I knew Torre liked to bring in his closer in the eighth, but it was usually in more important games in September and the playoffs.  

When Mariano Rivera comes to the mound, all thoughts of home runs and big rallies leave my mind.  It’s like when storm clouds surround you and it begins to rain; you’re not going to get a tan so you don’t consider it.  It’s not a possibility.    

Young wasn’t much of a power hitter and with Rivera throwing, he was even less.  When the ball jumped off the right hander’s bat to right field, I was hoping for a sacrifice fly.  My depth perception was poor from our seats.  My dad’s wasn’t.  I could hear him wishing the ball over the fence before I even realized it would go to the warning track.  When Delmon Young’s hit cleared the right field baggie, it felt like the impossible just happened.  Rocky just knocked down Apollo Creed in the first round.  It was pure baseball joy.  I remember screaming through the chaos of the Metrodome, “Take that, hall of famer!”  

The game stretched into extra innings.  Alex Rodriguez and Xavier Nady hit home runs in the 12th to help New York eventually win 9-6.  But sometimes the sad ending feels better.  Sometimes the story needs to be something people can relate to.  Even Rocky lost to Apollo.    

 

  

Delmon Young

 

 

http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/MIN/MIN200808120.shtml 

13
August 16, 2002, Metrodome, Twins vs. Red Sox
Pedro Martinez. He’s one of the greatest pitchers of his time and I had to see him. There was no one to go with me that day so I went alone. 

There is a huge bonus to going to a ball game on your own most people don’t realize because they’ve never tried it: Great tickets!  When you only want one seat, there are hundreds of stray seats all over the park that go unused.  My seat was 10 rows up behind third base right next to a hard-core Red Sox fan originally from Boston. 

Martinez was running up a scoreless innings streak of 33 when he began that night. The Sox fan was telling me with great confidence how the streak would continue and Pedro would strike out between 10 and 12. I was courteous and listened to him as he spoke of he team like they were the second coming. 

Before the game was an inning old, LaTroy Hawkins was thrown out of the game while sitting on a folding chair in the Twins’ bullpen. Apparently he sat there all year, and when the third-base ump told him to move, Hawkins told him where he could move and was ejected from a game he never played in. 

As for the game, I was impressed with Pedro, but even more with the Twins’ Joe Mays. On a night the attention was on the Red Sox (as it usually is), the Twins stole the spotlight. 

Pedro’s scoreless streak ended with a run in the fifth inning. Pedro’s hope for a win ended in the seventh when David Ortiz, playing for the Twins, launched a solo homer into the right field upper deck. Pedro even tipped his cap to the man who would eventually be known as Big Papi. Strangely, the Red Sox fan was nowhere to be seen when the Twins pulled ahead 5-0. 

I was fortunate enough to see this man outduel Pedro Martinez.

Joe Mays ended up throwing a two-hitter: probably one of his greatest games ever. He ended the night by striking out the great Manny Ramirez. The Twins went on to the American League Championship Series and Boston didn’t even make the playoffs. 

Martinez is still my pick for greatest pitcher of his generation.  He was better than Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Joe Mays … but not on that day.  

http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/MIN/MIN200208160.shtml 

12
May 22, 2005, Metrodome, Twins vs. Brewers
Since I’d become a part-time Brewers fan, my parents decided to get me tickets to see them and the Twins. Of course, I told everyone I root for the Brewers every game of the year except when they’re playing the Twins. 

Johan Santana was on the mound for the Twins and he looked like his usual self early on. Some Milwaukee players were taking a full swing before Santana’s changeup crossed the plate. 

Eventually the Brewers figured out the Cy Young winner and took a 5-2 lead led by a Brady Clark home run.  Down by three runs, my dad and I agreed things didn’t look good for Minnesota going into the bottom of the ninth inning. Things looked a little better when we scored a run to bring the score to within two. I picked up my Twins cup from the ground in anticipation to leave when Shannon Stewart stepped to the plate with two outs and a runner on first. Derrick Turnbow was on the mound for the Brewers. Manager Ned Yost had brought him in with one out in the eighth inning, but he still was throwing gas. 

If Stewart’s drive to right field were two feet lower, it would have bounced off the wall.  Instead it went over, tying the game and sending myself, my dad and the rest of the fans into a frenzy.  It was as if Pearl Jam decided to come back for a third encore and we were happy to enjoy more of a show than we bargained for.  

One of the Twins' best mid-season pickups, Shannon Stewart.

 

In the 11th, Lew Ford led off the inning with a triple and the Twins eventually loaded the bases with one out. Luis Rodriguez was at the plate and lined a hard grounder to Junior Spivey at second base.  Spivey fielded it, dropped it, picked it up and dropped it again.  By this time all the force plays were eliminated and the Twins won 6-5. 

It was proof that if your team is down, don’t leave. Something like this could happen. 

http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/MIN/MIN200505220.shtml 

11
April 19, 2006, Metrodome, Twins vs. Angels
My friend Kurt and I had a two-for-one ticket offer. Why not? Kyle Lohse was on the mound for the Twins while Ervin Santana was pitching for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. It was NOT a pitcher’s duel. Lohse was horrible, giving up eight earned runs over three and a third innings. 

The Angels kept trying to run away with it, but the Twins wouldn’t let them. Los Angeles led 9-4 at the end of the fifth inning. Time to leave, right? No way. The Twins scored four runs in the sixth and then Torii Hunter hit a solo homer in the seventh. 

We were down 10-9 going into the bottom of the ninth facing Angels’ closer Francisco Rodriguez, otherwise known as K-Rod. Pinch hitter Joe Mauer led off with a single. Ruben Sierra walked and then Hunter singled to load the bases with no out. Justin Morneau flew out to third base and Tony Batista struck out. A few moments ago it seemed like the Twins were guaranteed to score and now it looked like the game could end soon. 

Lew Ford stepped in. With two strikes, Ford refused to strike out. He seemed to foul off a dozen pitches before finally getting the count full. My hands were clammy and cold. My heart was racing and my stomach would jump to my throat with every Ford swing. He wouldn’t give up! His numbers don’t normally show it, but I think Ford could be a quality hitter. My skin crawled when Ford took yet another pitch. 

Finally, Ford took one more pitch and I cringed thinking it would be a called strike to end the game. No such luck for the Angels and Ford walked to bring in the tying run. 

The Twins couldn’t get another run across, but it was okay because we had extra innings. Los Angeles couldn’t score in the tenth against Joe Nathan, so it was the Twins’ turn. K-Rod was replaced with former Twin J.C. Romero.  Romero was known for his clashes with Twins manager Ron Gardenhire and he was not looking upon with favor by Minnesota fans.  After a Shannon Stewart strikeout, Luis Castillo walked. Joe Mauer grounded out to the shortstop, but not before Castillo stole second. With Nick Punto due up, I looked to the on-deck circle to see Michael Cuddyer getting ready to pinch hit. 

“Oh, shit. It’s Cuddyer,” I said to Kurt. As baseball fans know now, Cuddyer had a spectacular year, but it was his first. In the past, Cuddyer hadn’t lived up to expectations with the glove and bat. All we needed was a base hit with the speedy Castillo on second. 

When Cuddyer hit a towering drive to dead center field, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Angels’ centerfielder Darin Erstad raced back, made a leaping jump for the ball at the wall and came back with nothing. Cuddyer won it on a game-ending two-run homer. He was greeted by his cheering teammates at home. 

Although you’d never read about it in the papers, I’m sure it meant a little more to the Twins knowing they won so dramatically off their former rebellious teammate.  Cuddyer went on to knock in 109 runs and the Twins had one of their most impressive seasons, ending with 96 wins.  

Cuddyer's walk-off homer was the beginning to a great season.

http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/MIN/MIN200604190.shtml 

 

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