Saturday, October 07, 2006

End Game

And so ends the 2006 season of the Minnesota Twins.

It was an incredible season, unfortunately ending with a truly horrible playoff series. Yesterday, the Athletics completed a totally dominant three-game sweep in their home park, putting the Twins away 8-3 and moving on to the ALCS.

The problems for the Twins yesterday were the same ones that haunted them in the first two games of the series. No one could deliver hits with runners in scoring position, the defense committed costly errors, and the bullpen was not its usual flawless self.

Several Oakland runs could have been prevented with simple competence on defense. Milton Bradley's two-run homer in the third inning would have been a solo shot if Jason Bartlett had not allowed a groundball to roll right under his glove on the previous play. All four runs scored by the A's in the eighth could have been prevented if Justin Morneau had simply picked up a two-out grounder hit directly at him and stepped on first.

You can point fingers at particular bad breaks for this embarrassing sweep all you want. Torii Hunter diving and missing at a ball in center field. Hunter being called out at the plate on a play where he appeared to be safe. Bad hops, near misses, and close calls. The fact is that, while they might have contributed, none of these factors caused the Twins to lose this series.

They were completely outplayed by a team that was considered inferior by most analysts coming into the series. The Twins never once held a lead in the series, and scored just seven runs over three games--unacceptable production no matter how good your pitching is. Twins hitters went 1-for-19 with runners in scoring position, and had just one run-scoring hit in the series that was not a solo home run.

As it stands, Brad Radke's career likely came to an end yesterday, and it wasn't in the way we would have liked. Radke didn't pitch great, but he wasn't the reason they lost the game. Seeing him sit somberly in the dugout as the A's celebrated and the Twins players moped into the clubhouse was one of the sadder sights I have seen as a baseball fan.

The Twins put up one of the all-time duds in playoff history in their ALDS series against the A's, and it's tough not to be bitterly disappointed. Still, hopefully we won't let it take away too much from what was a truly great season.

We'll be back tomorrow with some more analysis of the series and in the following days with some season wrap-ups and analysis of the other playoff series.

If you haven't gotten quite enough of me yet, you can head over to the Minnesota Twins Fan Network Podcast site where I did a phone interview with Jeff Straub, which should be up today.