Category Archives: rivalries

Looking for a Turning Point: Twins @ Yankees

Among baseball matchups, Twins-Yankees contests have moved deep into hyperbolic territory. Obviously, they’re not keen regional rivals, but over the last decade these teams play to settle one single question: Under what planetary alignment could the Twins possibly beat the Yankees?

The Yankees win when it counts. In four Division Series against the New York, Minnesota’s record is 1-3 (2003), 1-3 (2004), 0-3 (2009), and 0-3 (2010). A decade of making noise in the AL Central, only to have the Yankees (and in 2002 and 2006, the Angels and As) shut you up.

The postseason deflatings have been gruesome, but they simply carry on the rich regular season tradition of pure Yankee dominance. Before the four-game series that started this Monday, the Twins had played 73 regular season games against the Yankees since 2002. The Twins have won 20 of them, a statistically distressing 27% success rate.

And it’s anomalous. In that same span, the Twins have suffered against the Blue Jays, but only to a 30-41 record. The Yankees have clobbered the Royals nearly as well—a 68% beatdown pace—but KC lost to everyone in that decade. Something just happens when hallowed pinstripe meets Midwestern pinstripe.

Add in the bonus oddity that Yankee Stadium, old or new, is especially well suited to the hitting skills of the Twins’ predominantly lefty lineup and you are left wondering why an interlocked N and Y have such a definitively mesmerizing effect on the Twins. They fare no better at home, whether in the Metrodome where they used to enjoy a decisive home field advantage against all teams not from the Bronx, or in new Target Field.

For a decade, the Twins’ sole project has been to offer themselves up for the Yankees to devour.

So when I settled in for this series, played in New York, I began with a simple, feeble hope: just win one of the four games to shake off at least a little of the feeling of doom. The Twins 2012 season is off to a predictably lousy start—2-7, dead last in the division, with the only bright spot confined to a Justin Morneau homer that might (might!) signal that his concussion symptoms have truly started to dissipate. The Yankees are 5-4, tied atop the AL East with Baltimore and Toronto.

Even staunch Twins fans can’t expect much from the team this year. They’ve brought in Josh Willingham to try to make up for the power lost with the exodus of Delmon Young, Jason Kubel, and Michael Cuddyer. The rotation is rickety, and now Scott Baker will be lost to Tommy John rehab for the year, leaving behind Carl Pavano, Francisco Liriano, Jason Marquis, Nick Blackburn, and Anthony Swarzak. The Twins made a madcap, high-risk pick of closer free agent Joel Zumaya, who didn’t make it past spring training before suffering the type of injury that every other general manager in baseball adequately foresaw. Sift the roster however you like—there’s little there but some hope that Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau might hit a little and Danny Valencia can finally win manager Ron Gardenhire’s love with some handy hitting.

The Yankees, on the other hand, replace All-Star with All-Star whenever an injury or a more favorable pitching matchup requires. However, for all the glory in their stat lines, it’s important to note that it’s an aging hitting lineup: catcher Russell Martin is the youngest of the offense at 29. They’re tall, they’re trim, they’re well-conditioned and cared for, but trying to wring a little more out of Raul Ibanez and Andruw Jones starts to look a little like a rich man’s a creepy kind of science experiment.

The pitching staff has a bloom of youth in Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova, but they’re joined by oldsters CC Sabathia, Freddy Garcia, and Hiroki Kuroda. Michael Pineda, hope of the future, is nursing his shoulder back to health. As reluctant as they are to shed any bit of the luster that was Yankee glory in the 90s, Jorge Posada has retired and Andy Pettitte is standing by in the minors, while Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter continue to merit spots on the roster.

Jeter is off to a hot start this season, his perfect career evolving into a perfect and long one. So, for game one, Carl Pavano versus Freddy Garcia, my lowered expectations were as follows: win one game of the four, and maybe get Derek Jeter out a couple times.

Yes, well, that will not be possible. The Twins start strong, scoring 2 in the first, but if you really want to feel gloomy, you can remind yourself that the Twins started with the lead for so many of the games they lost to the Yankees that it’s almost an eerie prediction of failure. Still, a double from Mauer and a single from Morneau, plus RBIs from Willingham and Doumit make it feel like the turning point might at last be at hand.

But in the bottom of the first, Jeter needs only two pitches from Pavano to find the one he’d like to launch to his right field homer zone. It’s the standard punch in the gut, but perhaps Pavano can reinflate himself? Not quickly enough. Curtis Granderson also likes the look of the second pitch he sees and whips his bat around to park it a little higher in the same right field porch.

Two lead off homers and this is starting to look like a classic Yankee massacre. Classic, as in Why did you bother to try to play against us? The frail little tie lasts a few minutes, but Mark Teixeira drives in Alex Rodriguez to make it 3-2. The entire universe settles: Yankees ahead, Twins paralyzed.

I could dream about a turning point, but there’s a grim sameness now. The good news is that Pavano regains every speck of his composure after that insta-collapse first inning. He becomes efficient, focused, and deals a few crisp strikeouts while leaning on a double play to solve the third.

Garcia, meanwhile, also got said mojo back and began dispatching Twins at a brisk clip until the fifth, when the Twins retook the lead on a double from Alexi Casilla, a single from Jamey Carroll, and a double from Mauer. It looked like more was building: with Mauer on second, up comes Willingham, the Twins best hitter at the moment. It’s an ideal scoring opportunity, but Willingham settles for a fly out.

The Yankees were done for the night; Pavano made it through seven without the slightest flashback to his first inning woes. But the Twins notched a few more runs, the most encouraging of which was Morneau’s lofty solo homer to deep center. Final score: 7-3. Essence of a turning point.

Tuesday’s game pits Liriano against Sabathia. Liriano has already had two miserable starts, but I’m not the only observer who can’t shake memories of the brilliance of his first full season, in 2006, when he went 12-3 with a 2.16 ERA and an even 1.00 WHIP. There have been surgeries, injuries, lost seasons, stumbles, and just about every disappointment you can name, but the image of 2006 persists. I watch because there’s always this wild chance Liriano will bloom again.

Wait a minute—flowers don’t do that. Baseball is so good at lodging stories about players in our heads, but I’ve got to let the real evidence chip away at my idealized Dominican lefthander. Well, the Yankees are happy to slam me back to earth.

Liriano has a shaky first but escapes after allowing a double and a walk. The Twins score in the second, with Willingham keeping his 11-game hitting streak going with a homer off a pitch Sabathia hangs. It’s a puny lead, but I’m no longer willing to write it off as another Twins folly. Last night they not only held on, they got better as the game progressed.

But Liriano is not comfortable on the mound tonight. A feeling of pure Twins futility returns, and it’s such a familiar feeling. It’s clear Liriano no longer has the velocity, location, or the requisite pride in his calling. In fact, pitching may no longer be his calling. Time and injuries have turned a 95-mph fastball into a 91-mph not-fooling-anyone pitch. One only wants Liriano lifted as the hits and runs keep clunking over on the odometer. Rick Anderson sedately visits the mound with the same implacable expression—largely constructed from a motionless salt and pepper mustache—and Liriano stays in, not least because the Twins have little else in the bullpen to offer up to the hungry Yankees.

The Twins tick off two more runs, but the Yankees go on to take four more off Liriano, and three from Minnesota’s motley relief staff. Final score: 8-3 Yankees, and the turning point seems to have turned back to the inexorable Yankees.

Yet there is a bright spot. If Yankee mystique has overwhelmed the Twins for ten years, the new players in the lineup seem a tad less sensitive to the virus. There’s that little sleight of hand in a lineup like the Twins’, where low expectations allow for surprises. Tonight Clete Thomas, Jamey Carroll, and Alexi Casilla all get hits. These pale before the Yankees’ clobberings—only A-Rod goes hitless, while little-known backup catcher Chris Stewart has two hits and three RBI. The Yankees even win on unlikely sources of hits.

Sabathia has an OK night, with seven Ks and only four hits, though he does give up three earned runs. This is an improvement on his two previous outings this season, but it’s not easy to tell if his season will settle around his career averages or show some real decline. For now, the Yankees sleep calmly with the series split 1-1.

Game 3 features a pitching matchup that no fantasy team is sporting this season: Hideki Kuroda versus Jason Marquis. Kuroda has a rocky first inning, precisely in keeping with the tenor of this series. Denard Span leads off with a hit, Carroll follows right along with a single, and Mauer hits a sweet double to score two. Josh Willingham’s bullet to left is snared by Derek Jeter, but Justin Morneau hits his second happy homer of the series, deep to right center. The inning ends with Twins up 4-0—what better present for Jason Marquis in his Twins debut?

Well, it’s the first inning. It’s a bottomless pit for pitchers in this series, so Marquis proceeds to give up 3 runs and fidget with two on and one out. It looks like a pure and absolute collapse—30 pitches worth—when Alexi Casilla starts a double play that gets the Twins out with the lead intact.

Neither pitcher has much of a grip on things tonight. The big suspense is whether Marquis can survive the fifth inning. With the game at the halfway point and the Twins up 6-4 after a second homer from Morneau in the top of the inning, there’s still no sense yet that momentum has tipped Twinsward. Thanks to a double play that, honestly, appeared not quite swift enough to snare Cano at first, Marquis notches his 15 outs and is done for the night.

The seventh begins to look like more trouble. Jeter leads off with a single against Brian Duensing, who’s given up a leadoff hit in all three innings he’s pitched this season. The bullpen is warming up and the great weight of Yankee destiny is felt again. Teixeira rips one to left and it’s men on first and second, one out. Cano is up, and he’s already turned in an RBI double and solo homer tonight. The Twins slim edge here is the lefty-lefty matchup.

Cano hits a grounder to Casilla, but it becomes a fielder’s choice instead of a double play. Teixiera’s erased, Jeter’s swaying proudly at third, and Cano stands at first. Jared Burton comes in to face Nick Swisher.

If I’m so keen on turning points, I have one now. The series is even, the Twins are ahead in the game, and the Yankees are threatening. Put them away and the 2-run lead may stay safe for a victory. Crumple, and the whole series is lost.

Burton’s first two offerings are balls so far out of deception range they wouldn’t lure a child. I remain convinced this is the critical at-bat of the game, but it’s plainly not going to be one of those heroic showdowns of might against might. Swisher fouls one off. Burton produces a nifty changeup for a swinging strike and now I lean forward in anticipation. Something is materializing here.

Swisher fouls off another. It’s 2-2, 2 on, 2 out, with a 2-run lead—as twoish as it gets. Baseball often suspends itself on twos; three is always the final note, the last beat, the one you can almost hear before it falls.

Another foul back, another delay in reaching whatever conclusion this confrontation has to offer. It feels like the ninth inning to me.

Burton hurls a splitter and earns a swinging strike. That’s it!

If this is the turning point, if one could actually see a turning point as it happens, it has unspooled itself slowly over a long inning, with two pitchers struggling slowly. It will take time to prove whether anything turned or not, but I think I feel a few atoms realigning.

Matt Capps does the honors in the ninth. With one out, Jeter munches through 10 pitches to achieve his desired, god-like result: a solo homer that cuts the lead in two and opens the door for further Yankee settling of accounts. Capps dispatches Granderson and Teixeira, though, and the Twins lead the series 2-1. Final score: 7-6.

By game 4, irrational hopes sprout up. The Twins could take home quite a pretty scrapbook here if they pulled off a decisive 3-1 series win. It will be up to Anthony Swarzak, the best hope in the Twins’ depleted rotation, who faces Phil Hughes.

Once again, the first inning is a banquet. The Twins score 4, the Yankees 3. There’s something so prompt about these Yankee responses to an opponent’s runs—it feels like they’re staying on top of their e-mail. In this case, Granderson starts off with a home run, as if cluttering the bases with singles would just take too long. He has a whippy swing, and it looks almost like the bat head is spinning away from him, that he’s barely harnessing the centrifugal force as he lunges out to the ball. His homers are so brisk they feel inevitable.

The Twins try their own version of answering back in the second, and this time it’s Mauer, with one on, hitting the ball deep to left. This is the spot where he can hit opposite field homers; in his 2009 overachiever season, even Yankee Stadium wasn’t safe. This time, the ball lands in Ibanez’s glove with plenty of warning track to spare.

Mind you, the Twins are still ahead in the second, but now it’s time for Derek Jeter to flick his wand and send in the tying run. Then Granderson hits his second home run in a 40-minute span to push the Yankees ahead.

To unravel how they can make such things come true, we need to look at what constitutes the bottom of their order. Swarzak was not able to retire Eduardo Nunez, playing second base tonight to give Cano a DH turn. New York has strength wedged against strength.

By the fourth, the Yankees are in cruise control. The Twins have yanked Swarzak and are trying on Jeff Gray in middle relief. After one out, when Granderson steps up, it simply doesn’t seem necessary for him to keep hitting. But there is a tuning fork he can hear especially perfectly today—his swing is in some special Yankee ballpark harmony. Third home run of the night.

Phil Hughes never exactly overwhelms, but he keeps the Twins at bay. Hughes looks a bit like Beetle Bailey on the mound. His has is not pulled especially lower than other players’, but with his mouth always half open and the dark shadow of the hat bill making it impossible to read his eyes, there’s a regular schlub’s mild helplessness about him. But hapless GI or not, Hughes has turned the page from his first inning’s troubles.

Hughes even glides past the gnat-like irritation of stout Ryan Doumit getting his first Twins homer, with Morneau on base, bringing the score to 7-6 in the sixth. There it stays for Rivera to make it official with his darting cutter, retiring Carroll, Mauer, and Willingham—seven pitches, three outs, good night.

Splitting the series 2-2 constitutes an improvement for the Twins, but it’s no full bore turning point. And for the Twins to whip themselves into contention in the Central this season would require miracles outside my range of hope. It’s easier to cheer for the odd little accomplishment while understanding that no big dreams can be attached to this team.

The Yankees, meanwhile, impress well past mere payroll. I complain about them, groan about them, suffer their annihilating force—but I must concede their majesty. These guys are good. They’re making the most of a less than stellar rotation; they’re sending up a lineup organized around a sequence of strengths; they’re keeping players healthy. Heck, they’re fine-tuning Granderson’s swing to the point of a 3-for-5, 3 homer night.

There are times the Yankees look like a synthetic collection of talent—fantasy baseball run wild. But when you see them play the game, they do the little and large things, and they do them with each other. Hustling to make plays, advancing runners, keeping their heads in the game. Money makes them impregnable, but talent and desire make them win.

[game 83] So Close

Nick Blackburn has flirted with a shutout in several of his starts this season. Each time, Lucy has reached in and yanked the football away, and I hope Blackburn is as good a sport as Charlie Brown. Today, he gets a complete game win, and the Twins take the series from the Tigers, two games to one.

Blackburn faced Rick Porcello, a Tiger rookie. At their last meeting in early May, Porcello pitched very well and glided through the game behind an offensive outpouring from Detroit to win 9-0. Today, their roles were nearly reversed: Blackburn won 6-2, and carried a 6-0 lead into the ninth.

For eight innings, Blackburn frustrated the Tigers with his pitch selection and location. Blackburn induced 12 groundball outs, threw six strikeouts, and let 10 outs fall harmlessly into outfielder’s gloves. But what he wants back are two fly balls.

In the ninth, with one out, low power threat Don Kelly skies one high to left center. Carlos Gomez is in center as a defensive replacement to preserve Blackburn’s gem, and Denard Span is patrolling left. They converge on the ball. Gomez may not be seeing it too well, so Span leaps for it and snags it too, too briefly. The ball pops out of his glove and Kelly hustles to second on the error.

Blackburn had gotten out of a bigger jam this afternoon, with two on in the sixth and one out. He can handle these last two outs, so let’s let that error go. Shake it off; shutout’s still intact.

Brandon Inge bats, and takes the measure of Blackburn. Is he tiring? Not appreciably—he starts with a called strike. Is he still locating pitches? Seems so—Inge fouls off a pitch, refuses to be deceived by a ball, and fouls off another. Is he, by any chance, willing to hang one of those sliders on a nice little trajectory, the only bad pitch of the entire afternoon?

Sadly, yes. Inge homers and the Tigers claim two runs, only one of them earned. The shutout is lost and Blackburn composes himself. It takes a moment: Magglio Ordonez sneaks a single on the first pitch. Then Blackburn gets Josh Anderson to ground out, but that advances Ordonez to second. Next, Gerald Laird reaches on a lowly bunt single and you start to feel Blackburn may want some cheering up out there.

With the score 6-2 and men on first and third, the man on deck constitutes the tying run. That makes this a save opportunity, and Joe Nathan has been warming up since the inning began. Ron Gardenhire doesn’t want to take the complete game away from Blackburn, but he will if he must.

One out to go, and if Blackburn doesn’t make it, Nathan will surely be summoned. Opposing manager Jim Leyland would probably already have pulled his pitcher, as he demonstrated with his quick hook Friday night and his win-at-all-costs style. But Gardy gives Blackburn the chance, and Adam Everett grounds out. CG in the books, but no shutout.

The Twins did all their scoring in a rowdy fourth inning rampage. They sent ten men to the plate, and at one point eight consecutive Twins got on base with a hit or a walk. Joe Mauer laced a single into a hole the Tigers made by overthinking the infield shift to confound mighty Mauer. Justin Morneau cashed it in with interest with a home run, his 21st of the season. Yes, I know Mark Teixeira is starting the All-Star Game at first base, but Morneau is every bit as good, losing out only on market size.

Jason Kubel, the only Twin to get a hit off Porcello in the early May game, proved he’s got some Rubik’s Cube shortcut on the guy and singled.

The inning would have been a still bigger one if Kubel or Michael Cuddyer hadn’t failed to read the hit and run sign correctly. Kubel took off with Cuddy calmly watching the pitch at the plate; easy out at second. It’s impossible to tell who had it wrong, but the mistake cost an out.

Cuddy got a walk out of it, and Joe Crede and Delmon Young hit consecutive singles to get one more run across. Now it falls to Nick Punto to keep the surge alive. He’s been hitting a bit better lately, and got the game-winner yesterday. He relaxes at the plate and outwits Porcello to get a walk. Bases loaded.

Denard Span hits what might have been a double play ball, or at least a lowly single. But shortstop Everett tries to make an off-balance throw and sends the ball sailing. Three more runs score.

That’s all the Twins need or want. It’s Blackburn’s second complete game this season, and it may be some solace for his start a week and a half ago against the Brewers. That was another complete game bid, but in the eighth inning two errors let the Brewers take the lead. One of the errors was Blackburn’s own errant throw to third. He ended up with a loss on eight innings pitched.

His start immediately prior to that little bit of baseball sorrow was a complete game against the Pirates. He’s had some hard luck losses, and his June record is tragedy itself: five starts and only one win, but an ERA that falls through the month to 3.10 and a total of 12 runs allowed. He turned in 7, 8, 9, 8, and 6 innings pitched. It’s everything you want from a starting pitcher, without the offense to back it up; those four losses were by at most two run margins.

Blackburn, one hopes, is simply waiting for things to even out. Baseball is notorious for not balancing heartbreak and joy, but with this win, Blackburn at least starts July in the happiest way possible.

I see signs of hope everywhere. In the month of June, the Twins lost only two series, against the pesky Mariners and the fortunate Astros. They won five series and split two others. They start July by gaining two games on the Tigers. It’s easy to be too hopeful (or too despairing) in baseball, but I’m in the hopeful column today. The team is three games over .500 for the first time this season, and a little momentum going into the series with the Yankees feels good.

The Unit of Passion

The Twins have accomplished a boring objective this week: they’ve hovered around and at .500. The loss in today’s game, concluding the series with the White Sox, puts them at 3-4. There is no way to make such a statistic exciting, particularly since they’ve dropped from the safe swaddling of .500 to perch at .429. In the harsh, winner-take-all sports culture, this is a disappointment.

As it happens, this is about where almost all teams are right now, winning and losing in about equal proportion. The Braves and Marlins have little hot streaks going, and the Nationals are losing hand over fist, but the standings in every division show that sports gravitates to the mean—nearly all the teams are within a win or a loss of .500.

Every team uses the same rhetoric as the Yankees: nothing short of winning the World Series is acceptable. At a baseline motivational level, maybe that idea has some merit. Fans certainly seem to demand championships, or to roundly spurn the teams profoundly unlikely to provide them (the hapless Pirates, doomed Nationals, etc.) But fans also savor some of the intermediate steps, like winning the pennant, the division, a series, a game.

There are many little joys to be found in a trip to the ballpark, but prime among them is seeing the team you’re rooting for win. The game is the real unit of passion for those in attendance. Fans who check the general fortunes of their team want those wins to pile up and turn into something big enough to brag about, but fans watching or attending games are satisfied, at least for a while, with the simple story of those nine innings.

So we have an inherent tension. The ballclub is driven (more or less fervently, depending on where we are in the season) to exceed .500 by the biggest margin necessary. Mediocrity is for the mediocre, they cry. We will excel! They issue this cheer knowing that every other team is echoing it, and that it really can’t come true unless we make absolutely sure the Nationals are joined by a big set of matching stinkeroos.

Within a division, a team can be well above .500 only if the division is equipped with ample duds, and the team has success elsewhere in the league as well. The wider we cast the statistical net, the more likely the team will regress to the mean. Since Major League Baseball began concentrating the schedule within divisions, the lure of rising above .500 generally requires a division patsy, preferably two of them.

The team wants something it can only have at another team’s expense, so it’s usually going to get it only every other time. The fan wants a win, today, right now, and getting that borders on a coin flip.

Why do we continue to coax these unrealistic expectations? My answer, for today anyway, comes from the concluding game of the 3-game series with the White Sox. The rivalry doesn’t exactly crackle through my bland TV view of things, but I do want the White Sox to lose. As a Twins fan, I must take this practical and personal stand: the Sox are in our way.

The Twins took the first game on Friday and lost in ugly fashion yesterday. (Fox and MLB have a money-making pact to control Saturday baseball, which means I get no Twins broadcast on radio or TV; all I have is a box score telling me Francisco Liriano notched his second loss and the Sox clobbered us, 8-0.) The Twins enter the day at .500; a victory will move us to a winning average, vanquish the Sox, and possibly put us on top of the AL Central. By the way, it will do almost the same thing for the White Sox. Hmmm.

Well, let’s not sugarcoat it: the Twins are soundly whupped 6-1. The game includes an embarrassing play by Michael Cuddyer, working at first base to give Morneau a fielding vacation while keeping him in the lineup as DH. A run scores on Cuddyer’s error, but it’s the absolute clunkiness of his play that makes it stand out—he stumbles to make the throw, and Blackburn falls down at first trying to catch it. Rarely have pro ballplayers looked more awkward.

The other big indignity of the day is visited on Joe Nathan. Our hero closer is brought in for the eighth simply because he needs to get some work in. The game is nearly out of hand at 5-1. Nathan serves up his first pitch and Jermaine Dye wallops it for a home run. OK, make it a 6-1 hill to climb.

It wasn’t all crummy Twins play; the White Sox deserve credit. Sox ace Mark Buehrle pitched into the 7th, at one point retiring 15 in a row, and Jim Thome proved once again that he can work an at-bat to his liking: he homered with Carlos Quentin on first.

The Twins made me wince more than once, notching 3 errors and displaying a woeful turn by the middle relief corps. I can tell myself this game doesn’t mean anything. That’s absolutely true. There are 155 to go, and being around .500 right now says nothing about where the season is headed. Yet if this game doesn’t mean anything, what does?

The game is the unit of passion. We can soothe ourselves after losses with the cheering fact that tomorrow is another day. Baseball is a calmer sport because of the long stream of contests. But while it’s being played, looking beyond the game is very difficult, particularly against a key division rival.

Still, I look at the week’s so-so results and remain cheered. We’ve split a series with the Mariners, and lost one with the Sox. Tomorrow, Toronto; time for a win.

A Shellacking

The Twins score early, and the Twins score a lot. They open a series with the White Sox in Chicago with a vigorous victory that’s the mirror opposite of the last contest the two teams held here.

In October 2008, they played Game 163 to settle a tie in the AL Central. In order to reach the showdown, the Twins had to play gritty baseball the week before, with come-from-behind victories and contributions from every player. One of those countdown series was against the White Sox, who thought they’d polish off this threat but, if anything, gave the Twins a rallying point.

The tiebreaker game was almost surreal—each team wanted to win so much it looked like every player was holding his breath. The only run scored came from Jim Thome of the White Sox: a simple, unadorned home run. Throughout the game, rising like a mist from the intensity of the play, there was an immense stillness. The homer barely broke it, but it did break the tie and send the White Sox on into the post season.

Tonight the teams renew their rivalry with the least at stake, instead of the most. Everyone is looser, so much so that Joe Crede, erstwhile White Sock, gets a warm South Side ovation when he’s introduced in a Twins uniform. He’s still smiling after turning his first at-bat as a visitor into a home run. He trots around the bases as the fans now remember their etiquette and boo him.

Crede’s homer is the first run scored, but before it’s over there will be 17 of them, with the Twins on the winning end, 12-5. The main outburst is in the seventh inning, when the Twins get 7 men on base before they make an out, and score 7 runs. It’s quite the car wreck, an indignity spread over two White Sox pitchers, but it must be noted that the Chicagos kept the game close until then, and even answered back in their half of the seventh with 2 runs.

Sometimes baseball looks so easy. This wasn’t a night of especially woeful pitching, though it was no clinic for hurlers. The Twins have scratched up RA Dickey to start for them while Scott Baker finishes his rehab. Dickey’s a knuckleballer, albeit an especially hard-throwing one, so you almost have to discount the White Sox successes and failure against him.

Dickey wasn’t in that knuckleball trance state where the ball does a magic, constantly changing dance that never bites back the hand the hurls it. Dickey wasn’t super sharp, but he was no patsy either. Jose Contreras, starting for the White Sox, was a bigger victim, but here again the hitters were having their way more than Contreras was stumbling.

I’m afraid we can’t make the same excuse for Clayton Richard and Mike MacDougal, the two White Sox relievers in the seventh who dole out homers, walks, wild pitches, and singles like revelers tossing treats at Mardi Gras. Still, the feeling throughout this game is that on a cold and windy night in Chicago, it’s just plain fun to be a major league hitter. It would seem the cold would favor the pitcher in a long game of keep-away, but tonight the wind and cold foils the fielders and the batters stay warm by running all the way home. Seventeen times.