By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
Credit where credit is due, I always say, and in this case I mean me. It was a fine idea starting up this little proto-blog to chart the march of our favorite teams to the World Series; from the start I saw it culminating in a witty and heartfelt exchange between two friends nervously glimpsing mortality as the ghosts of their boyhood idols hang over the scene of still-young men doing battle on Elysian Fields. You know: the kind of writing that prompts dust jacket blurbs like About baseball--and so much more. These daily posts would have gleamed with fresh, bracing insights, and reminiscences so vivid and telling they'd have made Proust sit up in bed and take notes.
It could still happen for you, amigo, you're only down 2-1. But the Cardinals--if you and I were stranded on a lifeboat in the ocean, right about now I'd be insisting that you start hacking off my limbs and frying them up for the sake of your own survival. I may be a loser, but I have always tried to be that kind of friend.
I'm avoiding the subject.
Man oh man, what a game and what a soulcrusher. So many great moments: those two catches in the 9th inning by Alex Ochoa and Garret Anderson, the ball hit by Torii Hunter in the 8th that would have been 15 rows back in the leftfield bleachers if he'd tagged it an inch farther down the barrel, the desperate stab by Mohr that knocked down the Garret Anderson double and saved a run.
It's brutal losing like that. I feel for you. I'm a little less emotionally involved myself--I never liked your nemesis TK or the workmanlike, hangdog teams he put on the field. As a result I was never a Twins fan until last year. They never put me through the trials of Job, so I expect less.
And I just want to say I'm proud of this Twins team for managing to hang in with these Anaheim hooligans. Again tonight you had a Twins pitcher who was plagued by injuries and ineffectiveness all year long, and he steps into the biggest game of the season and throws a masterpiece.
Why is that so impressive? I know this is a sore subject with you, but the answer is: because Anaheim's just a better team. It's not close--at least not with Jacque Jones flailing and Corey Koskie tight-assed with fear. (Koskie is the ripest of goats in my view--he's the one guy who absolutely had to do something with the bat in this series.)
In deference to you I'll call the bullpens a draw--though they aren't, really, as long as Troy Percival's around. I'll even grant you the Twins have a better catcher, no matter that he is the emptiest .300 hitter in the American League. That leaves Anaheim with superior hitting, starting pitching, and bench strength, which is more than enough to offset the Twins' advantage in fielding and affability.
The Angels are a hell of a team, and they seemed to come straight out of nowhere. I chalk it up to two things. It didn't hurt that they had phenomenal luck. There were half a dozen question marks on that team involving old guys and injury-prone guys, and practically all of them turned sunny side up for the Angels: Tim Salmon's unexpected comeback, Jarrod Washburn's continued development, Kevin Appier's sturdiness and reliability, Troy Percival's iffy shoulder, Darin Erstad's iffy body.
But Scioscia's done a wonderful job all the same. He's the AL Manager of the Year. He took the nucleus of a pretty-good team and raised it a full level or two by having the meticulousness and the sense to do a lot of little things right--such as putting capable journeymen like David Eckstein and Scott Spiezio into roles where they could contribute and then leaving them alone to do their jobs.
Nobody thinks the Angels are a prestige team, but this year at least they are. And I say hail to the Twins for playing them close and hard.
Jesus, that sounds like an obituary, doesn't it? That's overstating things. There's no reason on paper the Twins *should* win this series, but if these things were settled on paper then blah blah blah.
The lads face a tall order in the next two games, but they're very much in it. That's the fun part.
Let me know when you want my funniest joke in the world. I was thinking of saving it for an elimination game--yours or mine?
From: Brad Zellar
To: Steve Perry
Subject: Yes, We Have No Troy Glauses
Damn, man, what did you do, channel me tonight? You stole all my analysis. Soulcrushing is right on the money. There were so many moments in that game that struck me as pivotal, starting with that nasty slider Milton threw to strikeout that dirtbag Erstad in the first, and Hunter's terrific catch of Salmon's drive. And how about Wooten's 12-pitch at bat in the second, culminating with a single into the hole with Spiezio running? Runners at first and third, one out, and I thought, uh oh, here we go. Then Milton gets Molina to pop up, and fans Gil to get out of the jam. But, shit, a 31-pitch second inning. That's not a good sign, damage or no damage. I honestly thought the Twins had to come right out and make something happen in the third to pick up their pitcher, and for about ten minutes it looked like they would.
You're absolutely right about Koskie. That was easily the worst game I've ever seen him play, and I figured this series was going to show the world what a gamer the guy is. The Twins had runners at first and third and couldn't get a run across against Washburn. You saw it: Koskie struck out on three pitches, and then LeCroy managed to work a full count only to pop up.
The Twins got two-out hits in the fourth and sixth--courtesy of Mohr and Hunter--but couldn't get 'em home. The top of the order was futile. I was cursing Jacque Jones all game, and then he gets the single most improbable hit of his season when he somehow tomahawked that two-out double to the opposite field off Washburn to score Mohr and tie the game in the seventh. I wasn't, however, foolish enough to think that the worm had turned at that point, but when the Twins worked out of that ridiculous mess in the bottom of the inning (four pitchers, two walks, that play at home to nail Figgins, and, finally, Romero getting Anderson to fly out to leave the bases loaded), I really did think it *had* to be the Twins night. That was easily the most gripping inning of baseball since the seventh game of the 1991 World Series.
That Rodriguez kid for Anaheim is something else, isn't he? My God, he really doesn't look hittable. Some of those pitches he threw Koskie and Ortiz in the eighth were mind boggling. I know he struck out four times and deserves much of the blame for the loss, but I felt nothing but pity for Koskie.
And Glaus? Up close that guy is the most imposing figure I think I've ever seen on a baseball diamond. You honestly can't believe how huge that kid is, and he's the one guy on that team that seriously scared me coming into this series. Koskie doesn't even belong on the same field with Glaus. As ridiculous as it might sound, when Romero got down 3-1 to him I was secretly hoping he would just put him on and take his chances with the guys behind him. I *knew* what he would do with that 3-1 slider. And then, of course, we were looking at Troy Percival. Does that guy look like the orneriest fucker on the planet, or what? The Twins are clearly terrified of him, and as much as I'd like to believe that they're going to eventually get to him in this series, I also recognize that as wishful thinking of the most desperate kind. Percival looks like a heavy in a Sergio Leone western, and I think the Twins sense they're whipped the minute the bullpen door opens and he starts his plug-assed, pigeon-toed trot in to the mound.
Are you as tired as I am of the ongoing fascination with that miserable little half pint, David Eckstein? If I have to watch him pacing around in the on-deck circle one more time I'm gonna throw a banana at the TV.
What can I say? That one took it out of me, and it's small consolation that it was a terrific game and the boys played hard and fought back valiantly.
I refuse to concede your points regarding the Angels superiority. And I fully expect--because, really, what choice do I have?--that Radke will come out again and shut down the Angels. The bigger question mark at this point, of course, is the Twins suddenly feeble offense. They need a blowout game in the worst way, and I'm having a hard time seeing that coming. Still, wouldn't a game seven Washburn/Milton rematch be a thing of beauty?
Save your joke, friend, I'm holding my breath, but I have a sinking feeling I'm going to need it later.