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buzzsaw

Triple threat

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buzzsaw

A copy and paste job....

The Twins weren't supposed to make the playoffs when they were 27-34 on June 10. They weren't supposed to make the playoffs when they lost Francisco Liriano for the first time ... or for the second time. And yet here they are, AL Central champs and holding home-field advantage over Oakland in the Division Series.

The Twins have the three best players in the series in Johan Santana, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. The A's have the weakest offense of any postseason team. Both teams have great bullpens; each is missing a major component (Liriano for the Twins, Bobby Crosby for the A's).

When the Twins are up

• It's all about the heart of the Twins' order. Look for Mauer, Morneau, Michael Cuddyer, and Torii Hunter to do most of the damage for the Twins. If that's not the case, they're going to struggle to score enough runs to win.

• The Twins' hitters don't draw many walks, which means a smart pitcher who gets ahead can expand the zone and get the Twins' hitters -- even their better hitters, like Cuddyer and Hunter -- to chase.

• The Twins also have at least one major hole in their lineup in almost every game, either in left field or at the DH spot. Either Rondell White or Phil Nevin is usually in the lineup, and neither one can hit a lick. It's an unnecessary surrender, so if either of those guys falls into a hot streak, the Twins become a better team than they are on paper.

When the A's are up

• If Santana's pitching, this could be a quick affair. He pounds the strike zone and misses bats, while the A's depend on getting some free passes and capitalizing on pitchers' mistakes.

• Beyond Santana, though, the A's have opportunities against the Twins' other starters. Brad Radke is all guts and guile at this point, as his stuff is well below-average and extremely hittable. Carlos Silva has had trouble getting his sinker to sink, and when he elevates the ball, he's hittable and homer-prone. Boof Bonser has thrown well since his recall, but had command and control issues earlier in the season. The weak A's offense needs that kind of break to give their starters the big run support they'll need.

• The Twins' pitchers throw strikes; the A's hitters take walks, led by Nick Swisher's team-high 97. Whichever side wins that battle will probably win the series.

Keys for the Twins

• Take a pitch. Other than Dan Haren, the A's playoff starters are all prone to issuing free passes, so if Barry Zito (second in the AL in walks allowed this year) is a little wild, the Twins have to be willing to take their walks and force Zito (or Esteban Loaiza or Rich Harden) to give them something to hit.

Nathan

• Get the lead after six. Juan Rincon-Jesse Crain-Dennys Reyes-Joe Nathan, in whatever order, is the best bullpen among the playoff teams, and Pat Neshek is a great tactical weapon to supplement those guys. If the Twins have the lead after six innings, they should win that game.

• Have a backup plan. Silva and Radke are both big question marks, and soft righties are not what you want to throw up against the A's. The Twins need to have someone ready -- probably Matt Garza -- so that manager Ron Gardenhire can put a tourniquet on an early deficit and keep his team in the game.

Keys for the A's

• Santana can only pitch twice, so the easiest way for the A's to take the series is by winning the other three games. On the other hand, the A's have been a much better offensive team this year against left-handed starters. It's just a difficult matchup for them, given that the one lefty they'll face happens to be the best pitcher in baseball.

• Because the A's offense is so weak, the A's pitchers have to minimize the impact of the top and bottom of the Twins' lineup. Luis Castillo, Nick Punto, Jason Bartlett and Jason Tyner are all slap hitters with way below-average power and below-average plate discipline; those are the relatively easy outs that the Twins offer their opponents, and if those guys aren't on base for the Mauer-Hunter stretch of hitters, the A's will be able to stay in games.

• Rich Harden looked good in his second return start last week, but was shelled in his tuneup start Sunday, so he's a big question mark for the postseason. He's expected to pitch, but the A's can ill afford a repeat of his 3 2/3-inning, six-walk effort on Sunday against Anaheim.

Prediction

The A's haven't been able to pull off a Division Series win in their last four trips, and they've usually been felled by odd events or bad luck. Their bad luck this time is in an unfavorable matchup; Cinderella gets to go to the ball in the Bronx next week. Twins in four.

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  • Your Responses - Share & Have Fun :)

    • Rick G
      Pretty sure mine will be ready by the time the ice comes off our area lakes.... untill then, I hear the suckers are already starting to run
    • Rick G
      Was a good winter for sure. Had a blast and learned a few things fishing with you, Chris. 
    • gunner55
      We drive by the stripping station on Cutfoot weekly & try to keep people up on that too. I think it may be a bit later here, will check it out tomorrow
    • Darrell Larson
      Have a couple spots that are 10' open, I live on north side of Pike Bay, large rocks along shoreline helps heat water. Hard to see the ice condition on the Bay as there is a lot of slush on top, once that melts and the warm sun hits the ice it will go quick. Our new Chesapeake pup discovered she lives on a lake yesterday.
    • ZachD
      Its that time of year again pick up your heart guard and your flea and tick.  
    • Smoker2
      Where are you located?
    • eyeguy 54
      Time to get the yak ready. Might need to paddle a couple spots on the sippi soon. 
    • mrpike1973
      Nice Crappie!
    • Rick G
      Eyeguy and I made it out one last time yesterday. Access points are getting pretty bad in our area. Was finding roughly 2ft of  very chunky ice in the places we drilled holes. With the warm weather and bright sunahine we had, I'm guessing we lost a few inches through the day Fishing wasn't exactly fast and furious, we did get our fish... but really had to work for the quality.  The area we ended up finding our fish was a shallow 6-10ft dark bottom flat, close to where they will move come ice out.   It soon became apparent the fish we were targeting were almost swiming with their back right against the bottom of the ice, infact my two best crappies hit while my bait was only inches below my hole.  Baits we found better success with were the Northland slugbug and The Impulse Mayflies in bright colors. Jig size didn't seem to matter much due to the depth we were fishing. As I am typing this, my thoughts are already turning toward warmer days spent chasing smallies on the river. The boat and yak are soon to be ready, rods will be strung and so on. It was one heck of a long winter.... fished with some real good people from this site I had more good days than bad, got some monster fish locally... for these things I'm truly blesaed.... like I said,It's been a long winter....I'm glad it's over Pic is of my last big ice crappie for the season  
    • Cliff Wagenbach
      I will certainly keep you informed about the progress of the hatchery. I expect to see the nets and traps go in within the next two to three days. The run should be very strong as the fish are already moving into Pike Bay strongly. Cliff