Notebook Dump (09.25.08)
Game: Twinks 7, White Sux 6
Record: 87-72, 1/2 game lead on White Sux - won three
Games Remaining: 3 - Kansas City Royals (possible one game playoff vs. White Sux)
The Quote: "It sucks. Hopefully we come home and kick their asses on Tuesday." A.J. Pierzynski, White Sux catcher.
The Inning: It had been like we were in 2007. One year ago, Alexi Casilla was thrusted into a Major League position thanks to the trade of veteran Luis Castillo to the Mets, almost a grand gesture to Casilla to say that he was the owner of second base in Minneapolis. In turn, Casilla contributed less than zero, batting .219/.258/.260 in 159 plate appearances after Castillo vacated the team. When his less than inspirational spring training requisted addition seasoning in the minors, Casilla responded by hitting .219/.350/.250. Still, injuries to Adam Everett required his presences at the big club when Brendan Harris and Nick Punto were shuffled around the infield. Reluctantly, the front office recalled Casilla.
Working against conventional wisdom, Casilla out-performed expectation by hitting .340/.417/.520 but cooled to a red-hot .304/.330/.412 in 114 plate appearances the next month. A thumb injury sidelined him in July and when his returned to contribute a .622 OPS in August, fans wondered if the injury was nagging. In September, Casilla meandered in the number two spot. His .227/.326/.267 had been one of his weakest 30 days of the year so if a game were on the line, fans would be less than thrilled to see Casilla in the box, especially on the left-handed side. The versatile Casilla had spend 280 occasions in the right-handed batters' box and 133 in the left side. Clearly, Casilla had an advantage from his right as he would bat .293/.346/.406 on the season, a very respectable line for a second baseman. Unspoken was his plate appearances from his port where his batted .268/.311/.341.
Ron Gardenhire had already employed Harris in Brian Buscher's stead. Harris, after doubling in the eighth inning off the left-handed Matt Thorton and scoring on Carlos Gomez's soft line drive to Griffey. Denard Span tripled with Gomez on second to knot the game at six with one out left. Casilla struck out and Joe Mauer bounced out to Paul Konerko at first. A failed opportunity to score in the ninth opened the door for extra innings. Substitutions were left to the switch-hitting Matt Tolbert, Randy Ruiz and Jason Pridie. Since giving up the tying runs in the eighth, Bobby Jenks had been lights out - retiring Justin Morneau, Cuddyer and Delmon Young in order. So when Harris returned to the plate in the 10th to open the inning and grounded out, it was easy to suggest that the Twins would go down in order.
Nick Punto, however, worked a four-pitch walk. With one out, Carlos Gomez grounded out into a fielder's choice at second and was able to avoid the doubleplay. With leadoff hitter Denard Span hitting next, Jenks and the Sox provided him with a breaking ball opening that bounced in the dirt and allowed Nick Punto and the Twins to achieve third base. Recognizing the opportunity to pitch around a batter that was 3-for-4 for a hitting that was 1-for-4 wiggly room seemed logical but at the same time concerning as Jenks had already thrown eight innings in September and allowed six earned runs while allowing an opponent batting line of .300/.323/533. On top of that was the fact that Jenks had not gone more than two innings since 2005. It was obvious he was not equipped to handled the same situation with the playoffs on the line. Jenks started Casilla with a 91-mph fastball that was middle-in. The subsequent pitch was a same-speed slider that was slightly lower: but Casilla's punch went over middle infield to drive in the winning run.