New Piranhas playing old Twins baseball

September 29, 2008

by Matt Kane

"If this doesn’t make you a baseball fan, there is no hope for you.”

I’m paraphrasing what Twins television announcer Dick Bremer told viewers Thursday night after the Twins had come from five runs down to tie the score 6-6 against the White Sox in the final game of the series.

Mr. Bremer, I already was a baseball fan, but you are correct. Games like Thursday’s is why baseball is still America’s Pastime, no matter what any television ratings tell you.

In the game of baseball, anything can happen at any time. With no clock determining the length of the games, a baseball game can go on forever if it needs to. And I don’t think anybody would care if they were tired at work the next morning.

All year I’ve been hearing Twins broadcasters and sideline announcers talk about a play being Twins baseball, and I wasn’t sure it was anymore.

Base running mistakes and bad errors every other game had me doubting what manager Ron Gardenhire had turned the current Twins players into. I really like Gardenhire as a manager, but the players seem a lot less disciplined since Gardenhire took over for Tom Kelly in January of 2002.

The Twins seem to make a lot more stupid mistakes than they used to, and they did, again in Thursday night’s game against the White Sox — Denard Span and Carlos Gomez collide in right-center field, and starting pitcher Kevin Slowey throws wild to first base after taking a line drive off his wrist — but the second half of Thursday night’s 10-inning game totally has me sold that the current team still plays “Twins Baseball.”

If you watched the final few innings of the game, how excited were you when Gomez singled home Brendan Harris to cut Chicago’s lead to 6-5? And, what about one batter later, when Span chased Gomez around the bases with a triple that scored Gomez with the tying run? I think I was pumping my fists before Span was seen doing the same on third base.

The fist-pumping wasn’t over, as you know, as Alexi Casilla had all of Twins Territory flying out of their recliners with arms in the air when he singled home Nick Punto with the winning run in the bottom of the 10th inning.

Winning 7-6 in the bottom of the 10th; Now that’s Twins Baseball.

I could watch the replay of both ends of Span’s game-tying triple over and over. The raw excitement shown by Gomez after he slid home and Span after reaching third base is absolutely awesome, and it is one of those moments that will give a Twins fan goose bumps for years to come.

I’m writing this Friday morning, so I don’t know the result of the Twins final regular season series against Kansas City, and I don’t know if the Twins are in the playoffs.

I’m certainly hoping the Twins get in the playoffs, but last week’s series against Chicago seemed like it was a playoff series.

Every play was big, and players came through in the clutch, which happens so often in the playoffs.

Tuesday night, Jason Kubel and Delmon Young combined for three home runs and five RBIs in Minnesota’s 9-3 win; Wednesday night, Mauer drove in two runs without getting a hit in the 3-2 win; and, Thursday, it was the new version of the Piranhas — Punto, Gomez and Span — who did most of the damage.

These offensive players came through when it mattered, but, probably, the most important thing for Twins’ fans and for Gardenhire was the performance of the Twins’ bullpen pitchers.

In the three-game series, Gardenhire used 12 relief pitchers, and, combined, those relievers gave up two runs on four hits. Both runs were surrendered by Matt Guerrier Tuesday night on a two-run home run by Ken Griffey Jr.

If the bullpen, which had struggled for much of the month, keeps pitching well, the Twins are a very good team.

Good pitching and clutch hitting? Now that’s Twins baseball.