Baseball is the greatest of the games for many reasons. Itís great because itís a marathon and not a sprint. Itís great because it is the worldís greatest players.
Itís great because of its willingness to respect and appreciate its great history including on Monday when all players wore #42 on their jerseys in appreciation for all that Jackie Robinson did in integrating the game 65 years ago. Baseball is great for so many reasons.
And, of course, Iím preaching to the choir. ou choose to frequent a website here at Twins Daily that chooses to view the game from many different angles and perspectives.
One of my favorite things about the game of baseball over the course of a long season is that anything can happen on any day. A team with a payroll like the Astros can win a series against a team with the payroll of the Angels. A .180 hitter can occasionally get a big hit against a pitcher with a WHIP below 1.00. Anything can happen on every pitch.
Tonightís 8-2 Twins win over the Angels gave me several very specific reminders of whay this is such a great game that we love. Here are a few of them:
As you know, I enjoy following the players through the minor league system. I love that there is no one route to the big leagues, and I appreciate how difficult it is to get so much as a cup of coffee in a Major League game. Because of that, getting to witness a Major League debut is always something that I find pretty special.
On Monday night, Oswaldo Arcia donned a #42 jersey and ran out to left field for the top of the 1st
inning. As a fan and someone who played baseball throughout the first 22 years of my life, I can only imagine the feelings and the pride that Arcia had going through his mind as he was running out to left field. Or how about as he was stepping into the batterís box? Fortunately, he was able to calm himself down enough to take a ball. Then on the second pitch, he lined a single to right field for his first big league hit. As Josh Hamilton booted it for a while, Arcia advanced to second base on the play.
Arcia was the first Twins hitter to get a hit in his first MLB at bat since Chris Parmelee in 2011. The 21 year (11 month, 6 days) old was the youngest Twins player to debut since Francisco Liriano pitched in a game in September of 2005.
In the 7th
inning, a pop up was hit to shallow left field. Pedro Florimon went out. Arcia looked down briefly to call off Florimon. When Arcia looked back up, the ball had moved on him, and he was unable to make the catch. Considering he had not played a game in left field since 2009, in the Gulf Coast League, it is no surprise that he would struggle, though he would likely make that catch 99 out of 100 times in a game situation.
Arcia had a great at bat against lefty Michael Roth. With runners on second and third, Arcia ripped a first-pitch fastball to the left centerfield gap. Unfortunately, Mike Trout was able to run it down.
Aaron Hicks came in as a defensive replacement in the 8th
inning, ending Arciaís night. It would be found out later that it would end Arciaís time with the TwinsÖ for now. After the game, the Twins reinstated Wilkin Ramirez from the paternity list and optioned Arcia back to Rochester.
Arcia is one of the top prospects in the system and he represented himself well in his debut. He will most certainly be back at some point this season, whenever Terry Ryan finds a way to clear up a roster spot.
When the Twins signed RHP Kevin Correia, we all let out a collective groan. Why would the Twins sign this guy who gives up a ton of hits, doesnít have impeccable control and rarely misses bats? I had no problem with bringing him in for the 2013 season. I get that 2013 is a rebuilding year. But why give a guy who has not pitched in the American League and who has so few strikeouts that second year?
Some people chose to remark any time other free agent pitchers signed elsewhere, comparing the other teamís move favorably to the Twins signing of Kevin Correia.
On this night, Correia worked seven innings and gave up two runs on eight hits and a walk. He struckout five. The two runs came early in the game when he gave up solo home runs to Peter Bourjos and former Twins infielder Brendan Harris. He has made three starts for the Twins and gone at least seven innings in each of them.
No one is expecting him to maintain a sub-3.00 ERA for the season. In fact, no one is expecting him to have an ERA below 4.00. In fact, I expect his ERA to be closer to 5.00 than 4.00 at the end of the year. However, that is no reason not to take a step back and say, "Hey, heís been pretty solid so far this year." Leave it at that.
On Monday night, Correia went up against a lineup that includes $240 million man Albert Pujols, $120 million man Josh Hamilton and young stars in the making like Mark Trumbo and Mike Trout. He also was going against another one of this past offseasonís free agents. Correia got two years and $10 million from the Twins. The Angels signed Joe Blanton to a two year, $15 million deal. On this night, Correia was better.
In the eighth inning, the Twins had a 5-2 lead. Jared Burton replaced Kevin Correia . For defensive purposes, Aaron Hicks came in to centerfield and Darin Mastroianni slid over to left field. Oswaldo Arcia exited the game. Burton got Mike Trout, Josh Hamilton and Mark Trumbo out (with Albert Pujols singling) to maintain the 5-2 lead.
Aaron Hicks led off the bottom of the 8th
inning. He came to the at bat with an .047 batting average and just three walks to go with 20 strikeouts in 46 plate appearances. As has happened in so many of his plate appearances this season, he quickly fell behind in the count 1-2. However, he worked a terrific at bat, laying off a couple of tough breaking pitches, before drawing a walk. He proceeded to steal his first base in the big leagues. On the next pitch, he advanced to third base on a ball in the dirt by getting a great read on it.
At the same time, Brian Dozier was at the plate. He was 0-2, with a walk, at the time, dropping his season batting average to .152. He managed to get into a 1-2 count as well. However, he took some tough pitches and showed a very good eye in working his second walk of the game.
Pedro Florimon came up. He had bunted for a single and bunted for a sacrifice earlier in the game. He came into the game hitting .278, an average that will likely be at least .040 higher than where heíll be in another week or so. However, he got a pitch out over the plate and drilled a line drive to the left centerfield gap. Hicks scored, and Dozier could not have run the bases any better. As the fielder grabbed the ball, Dozier was nearing third base. The much-maligned Joe Vavra was aggressive and sent Dozier who scored easily.
Although the final score was 8-2, the game was certainly still in question when these three hitters came through with some big plate appearances and terrific base running to give the Twins some extra breathing room. Itís important to get contributions throughout the lineup. Baseball is beautiful because anything can happen. Sometimes big rallies can start with the 7-8-9 hitters.
Baseball is also a beautiful sport because its stars shine brightly.
Mauer went 3-4 on Opening Day, but then over the next four games, he went just 2-19 (.105) to drop his five-game batting average to .217. There were actually some fans wondering what was wrong with Mauer at that point. Of course, the answer was ďAbsolutely nothing.Ē
Over the past seven games, he has gone 13-29 (.448) to raise his average to .346 on the still-young season.
On Monday night, Mauer went 4-5, a triple shy of the cycle. In his first at bat, Mauer crushed a double to right centerfield, more than halfway up the wall. He later hit a home run to left centerfield, and in that eighth inning, he drove in Florimon with a single up the middle.
Mauer entered the game with a career batting line of .323/.404/.467. You know that at the end of the 2013 season, his stat line will look something very similar to that.
Baseball is the greatest game for many reasons, some individual to each person. For me, I enjoy seeing Major League debuts, unlikely role players playing hero, and stars playing like stars. Monday nightís game had several wonderful examples of why this game is so great. Iím sure you can share more reasons why the game is so great. Sometimes, it's important to just watch the game and find reasons to enjoy it instead of analyzing and over-analyzing every little thing.