Oops! Twins retract offer charging $15 to watch batting practice

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UPDATE: OK, now this is weird. Twins corporate communications senior manager Chris Iles just sent out another press release retracting the whole “early entry” offer from this morning:

My apologies as I sent a release out prematurely earlier today. The early entry program outlined in the release was not fully vetted across the Twins organization. To that end, please disregard the earlier release as the Minnesota Twins will not be offering an early entry program as stated earlier today. There will be no change in policy regarding gate opening times and season ticket holders will continue to be given early-access priority as part of the Sweet Spot program. On behalf of the Twins, we apologize for a lack of internal communication which led to the premature release of this misinformation.

Suffice it so say that the reaction among fans was not positive.

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Today the Twins sent out a press release “announcing plans for an early entry program that will allow fans into Target Field 45 minutes before gates open to the general public, allowing them to view a majority of Twins batting practice.”

They’re charging $15 to get into the ballpark 45 minutes ahead of everyone else and fans have to a) already have actual tickets to the game, and b) line up outside even earlier to get one of 60 available spots for each night game.

Apparently quite a few other teams have a similar program, but I’ll be curious to see what the interest level is like in this case because the Twins are having a hard enough time selling regular tickets to games at this point. I can’t imagine paying $15 to watch some batting practice, although for kids interested in snagging a home run ball it sounds like a pretty favorable setup.

UPDATE: Apparently the Astros charge $45 for a “VIP view” of batting practice, in which case $15 for the Twins is a helluva bargain.

Nationals’ starting pitching carrying them into World Series

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In my postseason preview at the end of September, I listed the Nationals’ starting rotation as a strength and their bullpen as a weakness. Anyone who had followed the club this season could have told you that. Even the Nats are aware of it as manager Dave Martinez has leaned on his rotation to hide his sometimes unreliable ‘pen.

In Game 1 of the NLDS against the Dodgers, Martinez was burned by his bullpen as Tanner Rainey, Fernando Rodney, and Hunter Strickland combined to allow six base runners and four runs. Martinez used ace Max Scherzer in relief in Game 2, sandwiched by Sean Doolittle and Daniel Hudson. Starter Patrick Corbin pitched in relief in Game 3 and it backfired, but the bullpen after Corbin continued to allow more runs — three officially, but Wander Suero allowed two inherited runners to score on a three-run homer by Max Muncy. Martinez only had to rely on Doolittle and Hudson in Game 4 and he again went to Corbin in relief in Game 5.

The strategy was clear: use the actual bullpen as little as possible. If Martinez absolutely has to, Doolittle and Hudson get top priory by a country mile, followed by a starter, then the rest of the bullpen.

Thankfully for Martinez and the Nationals, the starting pitching has done yeoman’s work in the NLCS, jumping out to a three games to none series lead over the Cardinals. Aníbal Sánchez famously brought a no-hit bid into the eighth inning of Game 1, finally relenting a two-out single to José Martínez before his night was over. Doolittle got the final four outs in the 2-0 win. Max Scherzer flirted with a no-hitter in his Game 2 start as well, losing it when Paul Goldschmidt led off the seventh with a single. He was erased on an inning-ending double play. Doolittle, Corbin, and Hudson got the final six outs in the 3-1 victory.

It was more of the same in Game 3. While Stephen Strasburg didn’t flirt with a no-hitter, he was dominant over seven innings, yielding one unearned run on seven hits with no walks and 12 strikeouts. The Nats’ offense woke up, amassing eight runs through seven innings which allowed Martinez to give his main relief guys a night off. Rodney and Rainey each pitched a perfect inning of relief with two strikeouts in low-leverage situations, their first appearances in the NLCS.

The Nationals starting pitching has been outstanding by itself, but it has also had the secondary effect of allowing Martinez to hide his team’s biggest weakness. Now Martinez just has to hope for more of the same for one more game, then at least four more in the World Series.