A 2-2 series split with the Oakland A’s was hardly the most exciting of results for the Twins, but to be honest, the way this team has been playing on the road so far, not unsurprising. Amazingly, Minnesota has only won one paltry road-trip series all season (against Cleveland at the end of April), so if a tied series against the A’s is an indication of even a slight return to form, that’s something. I’m hoping the Twins can start to at least perform averagely in games away from the Metrodome over the next few months, that will certainly be a step up from sucking horribly.
The upcoming three-game series at Wrigley Field against the Cubs should be an interesting one. Rather like the Twins, the Chicago Cubs have been having a fairly uninspiring season so far, but for many of the Twins players it will probably be thoroughly exciting to be playing at the historic ballpark. We know Minnesota has a habit of performing well in interleague play, but this is the Twins on the road, so anything could happen. With three day games to look forward to this weekend and the prospect of watching a floundering Delmon Young lose the ball in the ivy, it should make for a great series.
I just wanted to extend my congratulations to Joe Mauer (not that he
reads this of course) for being voted the AL Player of the Month for
I’m not sure what else I can say about his stunning month
to be honest. It’s actually been refreshing to read so much positive
press about Joe Mauer in the media outside of Twins Territory, and
his performance in May has been incredible, all the more so considering
he missed the entire month of April.
Just look at those figures:
106 at bats, 28 runs, 45 hits, 12 home runs, and a remarkable .425
average, .508 OBP, .849 SLG, and an even prettier 1.357 OPS. He’s only
struck out a mere 16 times too.
It’ll be hard work keeping that kind of production
up all season long of course, but if anyone has the natural ability to play like
this every month, it’s probably Joe Mauer. Meanwhile, behind him,
Justin Morneau continues to have an outstanding season, though the
spotlight so far this season has been falling firmly on Joe.
though, Joe was outshone by Jason Kubel, who hit two 3-run home runs
and thus 6 RBIs in an 11-3 victory over the Cleveland Indians.
Minnesota took the series 2-1 and now face their extended road trip on
the west coast with games against the Mariners and the A’s, before a
weekend in Chicago against the Cubs.
With the home series tied at one apiece, Cleveland and Minnesota face off today in the rubber match. Scott Baker (2-6) will be up against Fausto Carmino (2-5), both of whom have had less than stellar starts to the season, so it’s really anyone’s game.
Game one saw the Twins earning a 4-3 victory, but it was a closely contested affair, despite the home team being 4-0 up at one point. Joe Mauer was the big hero again going 3-3 with yet another home run in the fifth inning, but the Indians fought back valiantly, and it took Joe Nathan actually being allowed by Gardy to pitch in the eighth to get an out, before closing the ninth completely to secure the win.
Notable from this particular game were two excellent defensive plays which probably saved runs from scoring. In the top of the third with two outs and a man at first, Victor Martinez hit a huge fly ball to center, and Carlos Gomez completed an incredibly athletic catch to end the inning. To me, this just shows that even a poor-hitting Carlos Gomez is much less of a liability than a poor-hitting Delmon Young, and probably why the former should be playing more regularly than the latter. There’s very few folks in the Twins line-up who could make that catch, let alone the league! Earlier that same inning, Brendan Harris and Justin Morneau also combined for a great play that saved a probable hit. I’m sure Nick Punto might have got that one too, but while Harris has shown to still be a little nervy playing short-stop, he looks to be improving, and offensively he’s certainly more productive than Nick Punto.
Game two wasn’t such a good one for the Twins though, losing 10-1. Anthony Swarzak, after making two great starts, was humbly brought back down to earth with a thud. I think we all knew this was likely to happen eventually. This doesn’t mean he’s a bad pitcher by any means, but it does mean he’ll learn that leaving the ball up in the strike zone in the Majors is going to be trouble. I think he’ll rebound just fine because in baseball there’s just some days when things work out, and others where it seems everything sucks.
RA Dickey had to come in again for some relief pitching, while the comedy bullpen clowns of Ayala and Crain later gave up four runs. When are you going to do something about this pitiful pen, Gardy?
Minnesota’s bats barely even got started against Cliff Lee last night, and there was some silly tiff between him and Carlos Gomez which barely warrants discussion, but I think I know who would win in a fist-fight, what with Carlos once being a boxer back home in the Dominican Republic! Thankfully, Victor Martinez did a good job playing peacemaker.
Should be an interesting series this weekend with the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays have had a mixed start to the season with a 23-27 record currently. They just got swept by the Indians at Progressive Field where they never seem able to win, having lost 17 road games there since September 2005. Their home form isn’t spectacular (11-10), but they’ll certainly be looking to rebound. Former Twins short-stop Jason Bartlett remains on the DL, which might be good news for Minnesota seeing how well he’s been playing this season (MLB-leading average, at the time of writing), but we all know that the Rays always remain a threat.
Intriguing pitching match-up of the weekend should be Sunday’s encounter between another former Twin, Matt Garza, and Nick Blackburn. The Twins have a horrible road record, and it would be a good time to turn this around to at least ‘average’. Early June sees West Coast road trips to both Seattle and Oakland, and then back to the Chicago Cubs for some interleague joy. The Twins do have a small home stand entertaining the Cleveland Indians (who finally seem to be regaining some of their form) but it’ll be essential that Minnesota improves its woeful road performances as we hit the one-third mark of the 2009 season.
Those numbers wouldn’t have meant much to me a few years ago, but having followed baseball a bit more passionately over the past few years, just looking at them, I know they can’t be a good thing.
These figures are actually the RISP (runners in scoring positions) for the Twins over the past few games. Entering Monday’s game against the Rays (a 7-1 loss) the Twins were 0-9 with runners in scoring position from the previous Cleveland series. Last night, even though they managed to sneak a walk-off win, they went 1-8 with runners in scoring positions.
Of course, figures don’t tell the whole story. A win is a win whether it’s close or not, but such figures don’t bode well for a team that last year displayed a glittering penchant for scoring runs once batters got on base.
I’m hoping these things will change in the coming weeks as the Twins will need to step it up, or else they won’t be competitive any more, and being competitive, even if you lose a game now and then, is better than not taking your opportunities at all.
Finally, a well-deserved rest-day for the Twins, and it comes at a time when the team is finally beginning to pick itself up and look like the class act it has the potential to be. With a tough little road trip this week (two games at Fenway against the Red Sox, and three games at Progressive Field against the Indians), it will be interesting to see where the team will be this time next week. Even if they go 3-2 over these upcoming five games, I don’t think anyone will be complaining.
The AL Central is very close right now, with no team off to a Marlins-like flying start, but everyone in the league is looking pretty competent so far, even the much maligned Kansas City Royals.
Good news for the Twins is the news that Joe Mauer should be back in the line up by May 1st. Even if he isn’t at full strength, his very presence in the team again should really boost morale and make the Twins even more competitive and fun to watch.
It’s taken a while, but at last the Twins have won their first series of the year, and against the usually very dangerous Angels of all people. Today, Sunday, they’ll be hoping for the sweep. Yesterday’s game looked to be following the same pattern of the Twins going behind early, but Kevin Slowey redeemed himself, and that man Jason Kubel came through again with four hits.
The Twins got their newly acquired pitcher Juan Morillo out on the mound in the 9th in an admittedly non-pressure situation, but he threw fast and got three outs in quick succession, and didn’t show any of the “control issues” he’s apparently known for in his first start.
Story of the day though must be the Indians drubbing of the Yankees. That 14-run second inning by the Indians was amazing to behold, not just for the runs scored, but the sheer number of hits and command the Indians showed. Of course, those idiotic Yankee suck-up FOX commentators never once discussed how great the Indians were hitting, but even resorted to saying it was because of the heat/humidity and how well the ball was traveling and that the Indian pitchers would “have trouble keeping the Yankee bats at bay”. Of course, that wasn’t the case, as the Indians went on to win 22-4.
But even though I chided Chien-Ming Wang the other day for his crazily high ERA, I can’t help feeling a little sorry for the guy who has allowed an incredible 23 runs over 6 innings pitched. Sure, that sucks for the Yankees, but the poor guy looked so shell shocked on Saturday, it was almost upsetting. Almost.