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Minnesota Twins’ torture — Breaking down their record 16-game postseason losing streak

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The nightmare continues for Minnesota Twins fans.

After being swept by the New York Yankees — again — in their division series, the Twins extended their MLB postseason losing streak to a record 16 games. The Yankees have been the Twins’ particular nemesis during the painful stretch, handing Minnesota 13 of the 16 defeats, including Monday night’s series-ender in Game 3 at Target Field.

Here’s a game-by-game walk-through of the Twins’ tunnel of misery.

2019 AL Division Series

Game 3 (Oct. 7 at Min.): Yankees 5, Twins 1

The air was sucked out of Target Field early as the Twins came up empty on a bases-loaded, nobody out situation in the bottom of the second while already trailing 1-0 on a Gleyber Torres homer. Eddie Rosario provided a little life with a solo homer in the bottom of the eighth, but given the history, it had to be hard for even Minnesotans to get too excited. Aroldis Chapman kept them — and the Twins — in check.

Game 2 (Oct. 5 at N.Y.): Yankees 8, Twins 2

This one was over early. Didi Gregorius, whose three-run home run in the 2017 wild-card game erased the Twins’ first-inning lead, hit a back-breaking grand slam during a seven-run third inning.

Game 1 (Oct. 4 at N.Y.): Yankees 10, Twins 4

The Twins’ record-setting loss featured a franchise postseason-best three home runs, but Jose Berrios and a procession of relievers got pummeled by the Yankees. The big hit? A two-run, bases-loaded Gleyber Torres double in the fifth that broke a 3-3 tie.

2017 wild-card game

Oct. 3 at N.Y.: Yankees 8, Twins 4

The Twins carried the baggage of a nine-game postseason losing streak (and 12 games overall) against the Yankees into the Bronx. Things started well enough for Minnesota — three runs in the top of the first off Yankees starter Luis Severino, who recorded just one out — but that didn’t last long. New York countered with three runs in the bottom of the first off Ervin Santana, then took the lead for good in the third on Greg Bird‘s two-out single off Jose Berrios.

2010 AL Division Series

Game 3 (Oct. 9 at N.Y.): Yankees 6, Twins 1

In his only season as an All-Star, New York’s Phil Hughes made his first (and best) postseason start, shutting down his future team on four hits over seven innings to complete a three-game sweep. Swept out of the playoffs by the Yankees for the second straight year, the Twins wouldn’t return to the postseason for seven years.

Game 2 (Oct. 7 at Min.): Yankees 5, Twins 2

In the eighth straight postseason meeting, the Twins took the lead over the Yankees, only to let it slip away. With the game tied at two in the bottom of the sixth, a tiring Carl Pavano gave up two runs and didn’t record another out, as a Lance Berkman double and a Derek Jeter single put the Yankees on top for good. Minnesota went nine up, nine down in the last three innings.

Game 1 (Oct. 6 at Min.): Yankees 6, Twins 4

Coming off one of his best seasons with the Twins, Francisco Liriano cruised through five two-hit innings, then hit a wall, coughing up a 3-0 lead. Minnesota tied the score on a bases-loaded walk in the sixth, but the Yankees regained the lead in the seventh on a two-run homer by Mark Teixeira. The Twins stranded five runners in the last three innings.

2009 AL Division Series

Game 3 (Oct. 11 at Min.): Yankees 4, Twins 1

Andy Pettitte and Pavano were engaged in a solid pitchers’ duel before the Twins broke through to take a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the sixth. But as has often been the case in these meetings, the Yankees answered quickly, with Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada hitting solo home runs in the seventh. New York tacked on two insurance runs in the ninth before Mariano Rivera sent Minnesota packing.

Game 2 (Oct. 9 at N.Y.): Yankees 4, Twins 3 (11 innings)

This was perhaps the most painful loss of the bunch. After Hughes got two quick outs in the top of the eighth of a 1-1 game, a walk and single set up Nick Punto to give the Twins the lead with a single, and a Denard Span single off Rivera made it 3-1. But in the bottom of the ninth, Twins closer Joe Nathan gave up a leadoff single to Teixeira, and Rodriguez followed with a two-run blast to right-center to tie the game. In the 11th, the Twins loaded the bases with nobody out but squandered the opportunity, then Teixeira put them out of their misery with a laser beam of a walk-off homer off Jose Mijares.

Game 1 (Oct. 7 at N.Y.): Yankees 7, Twins 2

The 103-win Yankees figured to roll over the 87-win Twins, but Minnesota struck first, with two third-inning runs off CC Sabathia. Jeter countered with a two-run homer to tie it in the bottom of the inning, and the Yankees were off and running. The big blow was a two-run homer by Hideki Matsui in the fifth off Liriano.

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Howie Kendrick continues to play unlikely hero for Nationals

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Howie Kendrick might not be the likeliest of heroes for the Washington Nationals, but neither is the 36-year-old vet the unlikeliest. After all, he has hit .325 over the past three seasons — the highest batting average in the majors.

Kendrick went 3-for-4 with three doubles and three RBIs in the Nationals’ 8-1 victory over the Cardinals in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series on Monday night. The Nationals are now one win away from their first World Series appearance in franchise history.

Kendrick became just the fourth player to hit three doubles in an LCS game, matching Ben Zobrist, Albert Pujols and Fred McGriff. He also hit the grand slam to beat the Dodgers in Game 5 of the NLDS and is hitting .314 in the postseason with nine RBIs in nine games.

“He’s the greatest ever,” teammate Anthony Rendon said after the game. “I mean, you see the man. He’s, what, 36 years old, and he’s still doing it. He’s built like a frickin’ cinderblock. He’s huge. Man, he stays short. He’s strong. So if he puts that barrel to it and stays behind the ball, you see it. He does damage. So he knows how to hit. That’s what he does.”

Kendrick is a lifetime .294 hitter, but hit a career-high .344 in 334 at-bats in 2019.

“I’m just trying to get smarter,” Kendrick said about his big season and being locked in at the moment. “Making adjustments, I would say, is the biggest thing. Trying to be more efficient with my body and my swing. Kevin Long is a big part of that. Kevin lives out in Phoenix, and I live in Phoenix. It’s funny because the first time we met, I said to him, ‘Hey, what can I do to get better?’ He had a list, like he had wrote down on a pad of paper. I wasn’t expecting it. This was the first time I had ever hit with him. He had this sheet of paper. He goes, ‘All right. This is what I know about you. This is what you hit with this, this, and this.'”

Long became the Nationals’ hitting coach in 2018. Kendrick hit .303 last season, but suffered a season-ending Achilles injury on May 19. His work with Long has paid big dividends this season.

His big hit on Monday came against Cardinals ace Jack Flaherty and capped the Nationals’ four-run inning — all four of which came with two outs. Kendrick lined a 2-1 fastball into the gap in right-center at 105.5 mph, capping the rally with a two-run double. It was the one hard-hit ball in the inning off Flaherty.

“I didn’t execute the one to Kendrick,” Flaherty said. “That’s the one pitch I want back.”

Kendrick first joined the Nationals in a trade with the Phillies in 2017 and then remained as a free agent.

“I love the team, and I re-signed for two years,” he said. “Last year was bittersweet because I got off to a good start and ruptured my Achilles. Having the ability to come back this year and be a part of this team and to be with the guys in the locker room, that was huge. Me and Kevin and Joe Dillon, we got to continue the process that we’d already started with my hitting, and I just trusted them and stuck with it. They just helped me get better at a time when I really needed to.”

Now, in his 14th season in the majors, Kendrick is one win away from his first trip to the World Series. Rendon was asked what he’ll be doing at 36.

“Hopefully not playing baseball,” he said. “Probably sitting on the couch hanging out with my kids. [Kendrick’s] probably going to play another 20 years.”

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Victor Robles homers in return to lineup as Nats go up 3-0 in NLCS

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WASHINGTON — Victor Robles made an immediate impact in his return to the Nationals‘ lineup.

After missing five games with a hamstring injury, Robles homered, singled and scored twice Monday night as his team took a commanding 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven National League Championship Series against St. Louis.

The 22-year-old made manager Dave Martinez look like a genius for plugging him right back into center field despite Michael A. Taylor’s homer in Game 2.

It wasn’t a debate for Martinez, who said Sunday that Robles would “get a chance to play” over Taylor when 100% healthy. Robles took swings in the batting cage and made it an easy decision.

“He ran the bases [Sunday] and ran them at full tilt,” Martinez said before Monday’s game. “He looked really good.”

His swings against Cardinals pitching looked even better. Robles, batting eighth, lined a base hit up the middle off starter Jack Flaherty in the third inning and crushed reliever John Brebbia‘s 2-1 fastball over the fence in right-center in the sixth. He finished the night 2-for-4.

Robles hit .255 with 17 home runs, 65 RBIs and 28 stolen bases during his first full season in the majors. He had last played in Game 2 of the NL Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Cardinals made only one lineup change after putting up just one run on four hits in the first two games. Jose Martinez started in right field, with Tommy Edman shifting to third base in place of Matt Carpenter.

Martinez singled to start the seventh inning and later scored on a throwing error by Nationals left fielder Juan Soto. It was St. Louis’ only run on the night in an 8-1 loss.

“We haven’t been able to play our brand of baseball in full,” manager Mike Shildt said. “We haven’t been able to get in rhythm or sync, but we still have more baseball to play.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Connor Barwin, former Pro Bowl defensive end, retiring: ‘It was an honor’

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PHILADELPHIA — Pro Bowl defensive end/outside linebacker Connor Barwin, who last played in 2018, announced his retirement Monday a day before his 33rd birthday, ending his NFL career after 10 seasons.

A versatile player who could get after the quarterback and play in space, Barwin racked up 56.5 sacks, 368 tackles and 44 passes defensed over 10 seasons with the Houston Texans, Philadelphia Eagles, Los Angeles Rams and New York Giants. He made the Pro Bowl in 2014 when he posted a career-high 14.5 sacks for Philadelphia.

Barwin is equally known for the work he has done in the communities he’s played in. Through his Make the World Better foundation, Barwin has focused on the revitalization of public spaces like parks and playgrounds to improve the quality of life in inner-city neighborhoods.

A former second-round pick of the Texans, Barwin spent the first four seasons of his career in Houston before signing a 4-year, $21 million deal with the Eagles in 2013. He played 15 games for the Giants in 2018 (3 starts), posting 12 tackles and a sack.



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