The Blue Jays got Nathaned!

I am a major fan of Joe Nathan. Always have been. I am as thrilled as anyone in Twins Territory to see him back on the mound in all his twitchy glory. But I have to say I am also a major fan of 1-2-3 innings, easy saves, and not having to spend three innings in a fetal position with my hands over my eyes. It is way too early in the season for this kind of stress.

But lo! A win! An agonizing win! The Twins were not swept to open the year, unlike *snerk* Boston! I’ll take it, thank you very much. Now come four days that I am in the process of erasing from my memory in advance, and then the home opener! Can’t wait!

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Huh. Well, that happened.

I hope Gardy kept the receipt for the Carl Pavano that got shipped north, because I think it isn’t the same model that we saw in Florida. Where’s the guy that could A) find the strike zone, and B) find the part of the strike zone that didn’t lead to the bleachers? I mean, I know it’s the Jays, and at least Edwin Encarnacion stayed in the yard, miraculously, but good grief. I don’t remember the last time I couldn’t watch an entire Opening Day game but this one was just too painful. What happened to our vaunted offense? What happened to our DEFENSE, for Pete’s sake? I certainly don’t blame Yoshi for not being a whiz at the plate (in fact I’m a little surprised he got a hit at all), and even his error was a pretty tough play, but that blunder with the pickoff was kind of inexcusable. Poor guy. I’m sure he was super-nervous and probably just tightened up, but he’d better get over his nerves ASAP. We already have to deal with Alexi’s sad little noodle arm at short. We can’t carry a timid 2B on top of that.

This is, of course, not the time to panic. There’s still a LITTLE time left to rebound from this catastrophic hole in which we find ourselves. It is lovely to see the boys on the field again, especially the Canadian Crusher himself and his giant bobblehead helmet, bless his heart. As long as he’s healthy, he’ll find his swing again, I’m not worried about that. I AM a tad bit worried about Mister Mauer, since he seems to be in Sulk Mode awfully early, judging by the small bat-slam and slightly curled lip which is the Joe Mauer equivalent of Carlos Zambrano murdering a Gatorade machine. But I am actually not unhappy to see a little fire from the 23-million-dollar man. Use that feeling to rally the team, Joe!

Speaking of rallying the team, I have to say my ultimate favorite moment of last night was before the game (obv) when Justin was going through the dugout bumping fists and high-fiving every single person in there, just like old times. I got a little teary, I confess. I may be one of only a few people in Twins Territory who thinks so, but I feel that Justin is as important to this team or even more so than Joe Mauer, as far as his leadership. And come on: How adorable was his little bowing handshake with Nishioka? Cutest thing ever. Followed closely by Justin and Joe’s more-complicated and supremely white-boy handshake right after that. There may not be much Torii-Hunter-style Soul on this team, but there’s plenty of Heart, and that’s why I love them.

Just get off the East Coast alive, guys.

Gentleman Jim Comes Through

Every penny we’ve paid Jim Thome, every single time he’s struck out with guys on base, every time he’s been thrown out by 50 yards because he’s slower than dirt, every single bit of it is utterly, completely worth it.

thome walkoff.jpgWe are not going to discuss Matt Capps’ second blown save in 6 chances (when we can absolutely LEAST afford it). We are not going to discuss AJ’s two doubles, nor Delmon’s sad attempt to mow him down at the plate. (Delmon: You need to at least PRETEND to try to touch home. Good try, though. Just punch him next time if you want some cheers.) Nor are we going to discuss Scott Baker’s inability to recognize the lower half of the strike zone. It doesn’t matter. What matters is we won, in the most glorious way possible.

Well played, Thome!

Hugs all around!

Did you all see that?? Brian Duensing, Fill-In Starter, threw a 104-pitch, 3-hit, 9-inning shutout of the Oakland A’s. On a night when pretty much the only guys available in the bullpen were Ron Mahay, Glen Perkins and, I don’t know, probably Wayne Hattaway. (I’d say, go with the Big Fella!) Not to mention that BD was pitching with a very precarious one-run lead for basically the entire game. And also not to mention that his opponent was Trevor Cahill, one of the better pitchers in baseball lately.

It wasn’t exactly a terrific game for the Twins offense, but they got what they needed. I like seeing Joe Mauer finally hitting well for an extended period of time. Although I hope that fly ball that died right at the wall in left doesn’t send him back into an I-hate-this-stupid-ballpark-I-can’t-hit-homers-here funk.

I also admit I really enjoyed not having to sit through FSN’s rotation of, like, five different commercials again, even if the resulting broadcast ended feeling a little telethony. Is this commercial-free thing something they’ve done before? I liked seeing the footage of the players out doing their charity things. How cute is Justin when he’s playing around with the kids in the hospitals?

Anyway, way to go, Brian! After a couple of wobbly starts, we needed a starter to step up and kill it, and he did. I’ll tell you what else is fun: Seeing how huggy the Twins starters are! Ever since my brother mentioned this once, I can’t help but notice it. Everybody else on the team is high-fiving, low-fiving, doing all their manly hand-slapping, and then when two starters meet, it’s a big two-armed hug. Awwwww. They’re just big softies.

UPDATE: And Chicago lost to Detroit!!! Whee! First place by two games! Keep opening up the daylight there, boys! Cling jealously to first place like a sloth to a tree branch! Like an ape to a banana! Like a crocodile to a helpless wildebeest! Cling and never let go!

Ahh, first place.

I’ve missed you, old friend. Please don’t ever go away again.

Unfortunately, Glen Perkins is on the mound tonight, so I will try not to get too attached. Captain Whineypants has given up five runs so far, and the Twins apparently used up all their hits last night. Not to mention some alarmingly bad throws by Twins defenders, yet another example of brainless baserunning by Denard Span, as well as our backup catcher Joe Mauer taking a baseball off a very personal area and getting snickered at by his entire infield, plus Jerry White being attacked by a squirrel. And then there’s Juan Pierre and his tiny, tiny head. It all adds up to a strange game and one that may not end well, which is why I am posting this now while there is still (technically) hope.

Also, if you haven’t yet, go read this very sad article about Torii Hunter’s semi-forced move from center field to right. Torii was my favorite player when he was here, and unless he does something really terrible someday, he will always be one of my all-time faves. I know he must be heartbroken, as much as he’s apparently been completely classy about it, helping out the new kid and everything. And could this heartbreak be the reason for that uncharacteristic meltdown the other day? Poor Torii. It just seems too soon for him to be pushed out of his element. He’s not what he used to be, but it’s still too soon.

Uhh, Mr. Pavano? Nick Punto wants his pants back.

So yes, apparently it is possible to defeat that juggernaut of unhittable pitching and timely power that is the Cleveland Indians’ AAA club.

Yesterday was Throwback Uniform Day in honor of the Negro Leagues. The Cleveland unis didn’t honestly look all that different from their regular ones, just baggier. But the Twins? Oh, the Twins.

throwback carl.JPGAt first I thought Carl would look good in this style because he’s got the old-timey mustache, but I was wrong. I think what killed it for me was the bizarre length of his pants. My suspicion is that those pants are meant to be worn with high socks, and Carl didn’t want to wear high socks, and that was as long as the pants could go, but really. Couldn’t you just have worn the high socks, dude? Those pants look like pajama pants that he outgrew 20 years ago and is still wearing to pitch in for some reason. Or possibly they are pants that he swiped from a much, much smaller player.

Other guys didn’t look so bad – Kubel actually looked okay, I thought, because he’s got a more old-timey Babe-Ruthian build (sorry, Kubes, love ya, it’s true). I thought Orlando Hudson looked really cool with his striped socks, even though he didn’t get to play. But our backup catcher Joe Mauer looked ridiculous. Drew Butera was drowning in fabric.

I like the throwbacks because it’s kind of fun to squint and try to imagine that this is what baseball looked like 100 years ago. I wonder what those players would think if they could see what baseball looks like now. But I’m glad those uniforms are only for the day. Nobody would ever take the guys seriously if they looked like that all the time.

(I bet Frankie would have looked pretty good, though. Was he wearing one? I didn’t see him.)

Anyway, Brian Duensing is up today. I’m happy with how he’s handled himself. I’m less happy with the news that Glen Perkins might be called up to take Slowey’s start on Wednesday. All together now: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! Not against the White Sox! We can’t lose those games! Manship! Swarzak! Trade for somebody! Anybody but Mister Whineypants!

I REALLY don’t like all these injuries all of a sudden. There’s not that much left of the season here, guys. Alexi was doing great, for once, and now he’s out again. O-Dog is finally back, but is he really healed, or just insisting he is so he can play? Is Joe really OK to catch? I think it’s looking like Justin could be back in a couple weeks if he goes on a rehab assignment and everything goes fine, but will he really be ready? And don’t even get me started on poor cursed Ben Revere. Has anyone had more weird, hideous injuries in the course of a couple of years? He got the exact same injury that ended Kirby’s career, so here’s hoping Revere is a little luckier. I don’t know what his long-term future is with the Twins, with Denard settled in center now (replacing Cuddy in right, eventually? who knows?), but by all accounts he’s a good kid and a good ballplayer. You hate to see that happen to anybody.

Can a person sweat on only his arms?

Wow, nothing like throwing the new guy right into the fire, eh? Good job for Matt Capps and his shiny, shiny arm. Like I said before, I really hate this trade, but my loathing has nothing to do with Capps as a person. He seems very nice and understandably happy to be on a playoff-hopeful team for once. He looked nervous, didn’t he? I wonder if he’s ever pitched in front of that big and that rowdy of a crowd. I just hope he does have another pitch in that arm somewhere. He made a couple outs on those straight fastballs, but I saw several pitches in there that a good team would have deposited in the roof deck. Still, well done, new guy. Couldn’t you have maybe not picked Red Dog’s number, though? Some of us still fondly remember Mister Naked Walk.

Also, well done to our big slugger Alexi Casilla. We still have Good Lexi for the moment, so I’m OK with him, especially with Nicky out for a while. No doubt there will be plenty of booted balls and boneheaded baserunning when Bad Lexi shows up again.

A sixth win in a row does go a long way to soothe ruffled fan-feathers, I admit. I’ve been just sick about that trade all day. It didn’t help to have the Yankee and Mariner fans I work with come up to me and demand to know what the Twins were thinking. What do you say? “We needed a guy who pitches exactly like Jon Rauch but is way less intimidating!” Meanwhile the White Sox are acquiring a starting pitcher and the Yankees and Rangers are acquiring everybody. So much for not being a small-time team any more.

Oh well. Let it go. Good win, guys. How ’bout seven?