Oakland 3, Twins 2--posted by Tony Garcia on 10/03/2006
Unfortunately for me it was my first time roaming the Metrodome with access. My boss was supposed to be there with me but because of computer issues yesterday he had too much work to get caught up on. That left me by myself to 'look like I've been there before' while also learning the ropes. My boss was supposed to bring the pens & notepads. Since he was not going to show up that left me to improvise. And so what...I was in for quite the experience.
Two things that struck me before the game even started related to the fans. Such potential for "loudness" gone to waste for too much of the game. The full 24-man roster was introduced and when Mauer's name was called there was thunder inside the dome. It lasted long enough to drown out the next several names. Same thing for Lew Ford with the defeaning "Le-w-w-w-w-w-w-w". But then the announcer stated that "we will be live on ESPN soon so let's show them what we are made of. Make some noise." There was half-thunder for about 10 seconds and then near silence, golf clapping and the shouting of the vendor from the other side of the stadium. After the "We're going to win, Twins" rouser there was half-thunder again...for about 20 seconds.
The game was much better. Two great pitching performances were provided. Barry Zito and Johan Santana were fabulous and the shame was that one of them had to lose.
If you are reading this then you have already heard about the obvious things. Zito, Santana, Frank Thomas' 2 home runs (and being within a few feet of a 3rd homer), Kotsay's catch. Maybe even the fact that Zito had a no-hitter in the 5th before White hit his 2 out double. Maybe you already heard about Santana's post-season career high 8 Ks.
What caught my attention was a sub-theme to the pitching duel. Kotsay struck out in the 1st and 3rd inning but in doing so consumed 13 pitches. How significant is that? Two plate appearances and he took up over 10% of Sanatana's pitch total. In a close game that can be a ton. Zito had a very shaky 1st & 2nd inning (something Ken Macha mentioned in the post-game interview). The control was lacking, pitches were up and the curve was not striking. Yet Castillo getting caught stealing (and it was really not as close as the crowd thought) was huge. And somehow Zito seemed to not be able to control many of the 8 pitches he threw in the 2nd inning...yet he managed a strikeout and two ground outs.
Pitch counts can be overrated in the scope of a full game, but pitch counts in an inning are more impacting. Low pitch counts seem to really boost a pitcher's morale while 20+ indicate control issues and yield runs. Count the number of 20+ innings and you will find the losing team. Seems obvious, but the reason is not necessarily the number of batters faced (as the obvious would lead you to believe) but the lack of control.
Santana had two of these innings. Once he gave up 2 runs. The other he was fortunate to come away with none. Tough innings.
That is what you did not hear anywhere else. Those are the little things that make the difference in close games like this. After watching today's game in person I will say that the keys for the Twins will be keeping Kotsay from driving up the pitch counts and pitching further away from Thomas. Thomas is seeing the ball well...well enough to be hitting homeruns on pitches that he made adjustments for at contact. Thomas touched the ball 6 times. 2 were home runs, 1 was a hard liner into right field (where he almost was thrown out at first), 1 foul that was literally feet away from being another home run and a fly to right that was fairly deep (well, relatively speaking in a park with a short right field fence). He is seeing the ball too well to give pitches to him in this series.
That is what the Twins will need to focus on in the next few games.
This was Barry Zito and Frank Thomas...but my battery was dying and so the picture didn't turn out. DAMN.