Friday, September 10, 2010

Twins top Royals on beautiful night of baseball at Target Field

Finally, I made it. My first Twins game at Target Field.

What started two and a half months ago - when I presented my father and grandpa with tickets as a Father’s Day gift - was executed in splendid fashion as the three of us witnessed a marvelous 4-3 Twins win on a beautiful Wednesday night at the Twins’ spectacular new ballpark.

The weather could not have been much better - low 60s, clear and calm - while the views were stunning and the pitching was phenomenal.

Brian Duensing allowed four early hits, but responded by pitching eight strong innings to top Kansas City Royals ace Zack Greinke as the Twins held on for the win and a three-game sweep.

The night began with three generations meeting up to take the Light Rail from Bloomington. My grandfather’s first time on the electrical transportation system was a success as the three of us ventured from Metro Transit’s 28th Avenue station to Target Field.

Upon our arrival, Twins fans aligned with an indelible glow as we gaped at this spectacular structure’s entrance. My dad, grandpa and I slowly caroused through the field level concourse while taking in several aesthetically-pleasing sights.

Our first stop was to visit my friend Alex, a Twins guest service employee, at his dugout box perch along the first base line. Myself a former Twins employee, Alex would be one of many ex-co-workers I’d converse with that evening.

After hiking back up the steps to the concourse level, the three of us stumbled upon the Twins Live pregame show set. The time was approximately 6:22 p.m. as Marney Gellner, Tim Laudner and Ron Coomer prepared for their 6:30 show.

At this area, we also stared up toward the top of the flag pole where Twins designated hitter Jim Thome planted a majestic 480-foot shot Monday night.

We continued to peruse the pleasant pageantry of Target Field’s splendor in making our way toward the outfield and our second-deck seats. Some stairs near centerfield led us to the soon-to-be infamous Minnie and Paul neon sign.

Just beyond the gigantic jubilant Twins twin brothers icon was the 100-feet wide, 57-feet high video scoreboard. Right below there, in section 232, we arrived at our first row seats.

There was some slight trepidation from my father but mostly delight as the three of us peered down and around from our lofty perch.

Catchers Joe Mauer and Drew Butera stretched out in centerfield as Greinke conducted his pregame warm-ups in left. Minutes later, Duensing took the mound for the game’s first pitch to Royals centerfielder Gregor Blanco.

Blanco harmlessly hit Duensing’s third pitch to second for the first out and the Twins hurler completed an easy 1-2-3 first frame.

The Royals were able to get to Duensing the next two innings, collecting four hits and the game’s first run. Meanwhile, Kansas City’s 2009 Cy Young award winner, Greinke, stifled the Twins bats tossing four hit-free innings.

Then, after two outs to begin the bottom-half of the fifth, things unraveled for Greinke as Minnesota mounted a rally.

A four-pitch walk to the Twins’ .200-hitting DH Jose Morales was Greinke’s undoing. The free pass was followed by a J.J. Hardy single to break up the Royal ace’s no-hit bid, then two extra-base hits ensued as Twins lead-off hitter Denard Span concluded his team's rally with a two-run triple.

The 3-1 lead looked solid as Duensing regained control on the mound - allowing two singles in retiring 16 of 18 batters after a third-inning hit by Josh Fields.

Hardy hit a solo home run in the seventh inning for the only other blemish against Greinke - who surrendered five hits and three walks in throwing a complete game.

As Matt Capps jogged to the mound to begin the ninth, a Twins win was virtually guaranteed. However, Hardy’s homer proved hugely important as the Minnesota closer faltered in attempting to get the third out.

Wilson Betemit began the inning with a double, but Capps induced consecutive ground outs to simmer a possible Royals rally. However, a walk, single and stolen base had Royals pinch-runner Jarrod Dyson in scoring position as the tying run.

With Minnesota’s lead trimmed to one, Kansas City suddenly gained momentum and had its All-Star closer, Joakim Soria, warming up in the bullpen with the Royals hopeful of stealing its way to a win.

The crowd was on pins and needles as Capps faced Kansas City’s Mitch Maier. Fortunately, for the Twins, five frantic pitches later Maier popped up to Delmon Young in left to end the game.

Minnesota (83-57, 1st place in the AL Central) completed its nine-game home stand with eight wins - six of which were by one run. Combined with a White Sox loss yesterday, the Twins have taken a commanding six-game lead over Chicago.

The loss dropped the hapless Royals to 57-82, guaranteeing Kansas City its seventh straight losing season.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Outlaws defeat Dundas as Pugliese’s post-season dominance continues

Travis Pugliese pitched his second consecutive complete game as the Outlaws eked out a one-run win over Dundas to improve to 3-0 in the tournament.

“He’s pitched phenomenally,” said Savage skipper Travis Peterson his ace pitcher, “we’re coming to expect it, not that it’s something you want to take for granted.”

After leading the Outaws to its State Tournament opener win over Hutchinson on August 22, Pugliese tossed another gem. The Savage hurler allowed one unearned run through his nine innings against the Dukes on Sunday.

The game began with a rocky start as Savage’s usually sure-handed shortstop, Tyler Peterson, committed two first-inning errors that allowed Dundas to draw first blood with a 1-0 lead.

Offensively, it was a challenge for both teams. Pugliese retired 13 straight Dukes batters at one point while Dundas pitcher Chris Olean - a draftee from the Miesville Mudhens - allowed just two runs on six hits through seven innings of work.

Savage scored its runs in the third and fourth innings.

In the third, a pair of singles and a hit batsman led to a sacrifice fly by Savage catcher Ben Braaten to tie the score.

For the go-ahead run in the fourth inning, a missed signal fortuitously paid off for the Outlaws.

John Means led off the Savage fourth by blistering a double down the left field line. Two batters later, with Means now at third base, Outlaws second baseman Evan Walker attempted to push a bunt up the first-base line.

The bunt went foul, but Walker was able to connect on the next Olean offering, sending it in to left field for a single to score Means.

“He actually missed the sign, it was supposed to be a fake bunt,” said manager Peterson of Walker’s at-bat, “luckily, he fouled it off, had another chance and was able to do some damage with it.”

Walker’s RBI hit held up as Pugliese continued to cruise on the mound, finishing the game allowing five hits, no walks and no earned runs.

Notable individual efforts:
Savage Outlaws
Travis Pugliese: CG, 9 IP, 1 R (0 ERs), 5 Hs, 3 Ks, 0 BBs
Evan Walker: 2-for-3, RBI

Dundas Dukes
Chris Olean: 7 IP, 2 Rs (1 ER), 6 Hs, 4 Ks, 1 BB
Brandon Rolloff: 2-for-4, 2B, R

Early runs hold up as Burnsville ace outduels Sauk Rapids’ in win

Bobcats ace Casey Jacobson’s sterling performance slightly topped Sauk Rapids pitcher Scott Geiger’s outstanding effort in leading Burnsville to victory.

Jacobson tossed a complete game to earn the win while Burnsville’s offense was able to put up three runs before Geiger became unhittable toward the game’s end.

“He’s been our best pitcher all year,” said Bobcats manager Robby Wiens regarding Jacobson, “even when he gets in trouble he never gets rattled and seems to get it done every time.”

Burnsville scored the game’s first run as Wiens was hit by a pitch to plate Matt Trocke in the first inning. Two innings later, the Bobcats clawed out two more runs as the bottom of the team’s lineup came through.

Roddy Hjort led of the fourth inning bouncing a grounder to short, but Cyclones shortstop Travis Cariveau’s throw took his first baseman off the bag allowing Hjort to reach safely.

Jeremy Chlan followed Hjort with a sharp single, putting two Bobcats on base with nobody out. Sauk Rapids’ Geiger - a draftee from St. Cloud Orthopedic who was the 2009 Class C State Tournament MVP - countered by nearly escaping the jam, getting Wiens to ground out and striking out Chad Eul. However, the bottom two batters of Burnsville’s lineup - Jacob Dahl and David Keeney - connected for back-to-back RBI singles.

Dahl, who is typically a pitcher and rarely bats, sliced a single to right off Geiger for the 2-0 lead before Keeney’s single made it 3-0.

“He hasn’t really swung much this year,” said manager Wiens, who’s roster was a bit thin that night, “but he showed up, we needed a DH, and he had a big hit for us.”

Sauk Rapids responded in the top of the fifth inning as Cariveau atoned for his gaffe with an RBI double to score Kyle Henkemyer for this team’s first run.

On the Cyclones mound, Geiger picked up steam as he pitched the remainder of the game, retiring 16 of his final 19 batters faced and finished the game with 11 strikeouts.

“Everything got sharper, his fastball, his breaking ball, he just got stronger as the game went along,” said Sauk Rapids catcher / manager Jon Nemec.

However, Geiger’s mid-to-late game dominance would not matter as the Cylclones collected several hits but could not push home another run.

The Sauk Rapids batters out-hit Burnsville 10 to 6, but Jacobson was able to work out of some troubles and hold his opponents to merely the one run.

Notable individual efforts:

Burnsville Bobcats
~ Casey Jacobson: CG, 9 IP, 1 ER, 10 Hs, 1 K, 1 BB
~ Charlie Dubanoski: 2-for-4
~ Jacob Dahl: 1-for-4, RBI
~ David Keeney: 1-for-4, RBI

Sauk Rapids Cyclones
~ Scott Geiger: CG, 9 IP, 3 ERs, 6 Hs, 11 Ks, 2 BBs
~ Kirk Henkemeyer: 4-for-4, 2 2Bs, R
~ Tyler Cariveau: 2-for-4, 2B, RBI

Engberg, Outlaws power surge spark Savage victory

Anders Engberg pitched seven strong innings and a pair of Peterson brothers homered to lead Savage in an impressive eight-run romp over the Mankato Twins on Saturday.

Savage’s six-foot right-hander, Engberg, spent most of his summer primarily pitching in relief for the Duluth Huskies (of the Northwoods League), but he was able to return to the Outlaws in time for a key start.

“He’s always pitched well for us and were very excited to have him back,” said Outlaws manager Travis Peterson regarding Engberg, who’s pitch count was closely monitored Saturday. “He threw 74 [pitches] through seven innings, so he was efficient and pitched really well too.”

Engberg seized control from the get-go, allowing just two Mankato batters to reach base through the first six innings. One of the base runners reached on an error by Savage centerfielder Dylan Peterson, but Peterson more than atoned for the mistake in the fourth inning.

Ex-Gustavus Adolphus standout Tony Konicek led off at the plate for Mankato. Engberg was able to get ahead in the count 1-2, but Konicek connected on the next pitch and drilled the ball deep to right-centerfield. However, Peterson had a beat on it the whole way and tracked it down for a fence-crashing, extra-base-robbing catch.

“That catch was kind of a game changer,” said Dylan’s brother, and manager, Travis Peterson, of his younger brother’s catch, “it got us fired up a bit and then we brought our offense.”

Engberg retired the next two batters to finish the fourth inning in a scoreless tie. Then, the Savage bats caught fire in the top of the fifth.

With one out, Tyler Peterson singled to left and Tayler Rahm followed with a double to center. The next Outlaws batter struck out, but Dylan’s older brother Tony Peterson followed with a clutch, two-out hit off Mankato starter Kevin Regan. Tony bombed a Regan fastball to left initiating the Star Wars theme music on the stadium’s loudspeakers as he rounded the bases and gave his Outlaws a 3-0 lead.

Two innings later, Dylan followed Tony’s shot with a homer of his own.

In the seventh, again with two outs, Savage’s Zach Harazin hit a single to left center. The next batter, Dylan, the youngest of four Peterson brothers on the Savage roster, followed by hammering a deep blast to left for a 5-0 Outlaws lead.

“Trav gave me the hit-and-run [sign],” said Dylan, speaking of his manager brother, Travis, “so I was just trying to put good wood on it, then it ended up going out.”

Mankato finally reached Engberg in the bottom of the seventh, as Konicek was able to clear the fence for a solo homer to cut his team’s deficit to 5-1.

However, Savage padded its lead with four runs in the top of the eighth and Outlaws reliever Brandon Walzcak worked two scoreless innings to cap off the win.

Notable individual efforts:
Savage Outlaws
~ Anders Engberg: W, 7 IP, 1 ER, 3 Hs, 6 Ks, 0 BBs
~ Dylan Peterson: 3-for-5, HR, 2 RBI, R
~ Tony Peterson: 2-for-5, HR, 3 RBI, 2 Rs
~ Zach Harazin: 3-for-4, RBI, R

Mankato Twins
~ Tony Konicek: 2-for-4, HR, R, RBI