Firstly, I apologize for not updating this sooner. What with being jobless and out of my usual routine, I’ve not felt particularly inspired to write posts here when I have more important things to concern myself with right now.
But to be perfectly honest, the Twins have hardly been inspiring lately either. Earlier in the season, such performances would usually have entailed me ranting on this very blog, but sometimes it’s like flogging a dead horse. I think all us ‘fans’ know what’s wrong with the Twins right now, but it doesn’t seem many of these issues are being addressed by the management folks.
The most disappointing factor of the season so far is the obvious weakness of the AL Central. To be honest, I sometimes think none of these terms deserve to go to the play-offs, but of course, someone has to. Strangely enough, even as many games as the Twins are back, there’s still a chance they could make it, but it’s a very, very slim chance admittedly. With the talent in the Minnesota line-up, this team should have ripped the AL Central apart, so their lack of good performances this year have made it all the more troubling. 2009 was really the Twins best opportunity in a long time, and they’ve pretty much screwed it up, and it’s all been because of one thing: terrible pitching.
Still, I almost hope they do kind of give up on their divisional hopes. One thing that’s alarmed me about watching the Twins lately is that they just don’t seem to be having any fun. They don’t appear to be enjoying themselves. Sure, it sucks to lose a lot, and teams like the Nationals and Pirates are well used to it, but the Twins look miserable out there, and it just goes to show: expectations are a bitch. If good things wouldn’t have been expected of Minnesota this year, maybe everyone could have enjoyed themselves a bit more, but right now, it looks brutal out there. It’s not always the losing that matters, it’s how completely and utterly the Twins have been outplayed, especially in August. It hasn’t been much fun for the fans either.
But, if the Twins are pretty much done for this year, there’s still a few good things to look forward to. If the pressure is off them a little, perhaps they can shake things up good and proper in September and be the pesky little troublemakers they usually are. There could be the opportunity to finally see some classy players from the Twins’ minor league affiliates brought up to the majors like Anthony Slama, Rob Delaney, Danny Valencia, Armando Gabino, and Steve Tolleson. Perhaps some of the comedy bullpen clowns like Bobby Keppel and Jesse Crain will finally be sent down. Starters like Nick Blackburn and Anthony Swarzak are having horrible games out there, so they’d benefit from some time to work on that, while the Twins bring up the young arms and let them demonstrate what they’ve got… and there will be nothing to lose.
And of course, there’s one very important thing to look forward to, and that’s Joe Mauer and his hunt for the .400 average. The way things are right now, it’s not impossible by any means that Mauer could reach that golden number. The odds are still against him, but it’s going to be fun watching him try. Joe Mauer is still, completely and utterly (at this particular time of writing), 100% AL MVP for 2009. Plenty of other players have had great seasons so far (like Mark Teixeira) but nobody has been quite as brilliant as Joe Mauer (and evidently, Joe Posnanski agrees) when it comes to being the most valuable asset on a team. Joe Mauer has shined both offensively and defensively, and if he doesn’t get the award this year, it’ll be a travesty. But that’s a good word to describe the Twins’ season so far, so anything could happen.
It was a pretty good weekend for the Twins, all things considered. Minnesota managed to take two games out of three from the Rangers, and only narrowly missed out on a sweep when RA Dickey gave up a walk-off home-run to Ian Kinsler on Sunday evening in extra innings.
Glen Perkins didn’t start Friday’s game too well. After giving up a two-run shot to Josh Hamilton, I’m sure many Twins fans were having nightmare flashbacks to his Yankee Stadium meltdown earlier in the season. However, the Twins prevailed. Carlos Gomez’s two-run triple tied things up in the next inning and this was followed up by a vital three-run homer by Jason Kubel shortly after. The bullpen performed impeccably and the Twins ran out 5-3 winners.
On Saturday, Scott Baker had one of his best outings of the season so far, so it was good to see him regaining some confidence. Baker pitched eight innings, giving up just eight hits and one earned run. The Twins’ offense did just enough, even if it wasn’t spectacular, and Minnesota won 4-1 to take the series.
Sunday, however, was a weird one. The Twins showed very little offense, and even Texas seemed a little jaded too. Francisco Liriano had an unspectacular outing, which started promisingly, but then faded. In an “I don’t believe what I just saw!“ moment, Nick Punto went 3-for-4, and even hit a home run, while Joe Mauer went 0-for-6. Mauer was a pitifiul 1-for-13 the entire series, and his average dropped to .358, leaving him behind Seattle’s Ichiro Suzuki, who is at .363. Despite this, the Twins still took the series, and it’s a promising sign if the other guys on the team can perform well when our star players are slumping.
With Detroit being swept by the Yankees in three very close games, Minnesota moved to two games back in the AL Central, but once again, they can’t rely on how the other teams are performing in the division if they’re not winning games themselves, so a sweep of Texas would’ve been a far prettier outcome. Now the Twins move onto Oakland where they split a four-game series in June. They better win Tuesday at the very least, because I’ll be in attendance at the Coliseum!
In other intriguing Twins news, the organization signed veteran second baseman Mark Grudzielanek to a Minor League contract.
The guy is 39-years old so I’m not sure how confident we can be about his fielding abilities these days, however he’s certainly a quality hitter, and considering the other duffers the team have been putting at second base like Alexi Casilla and Matt Tolbert, I doubt Mark Grudzielanek could be any worse.
The Twins redeemed themselves somewhat after their pitiful display against New York by taking two out of three against the Chicago White Sox this weekend. Minnesota is still four games out of first place though because the Tigers keep winning, but at least they showed a little more spunk this time round and didn’t just lay down and die.
To be honest, I was quite impressed by the Twins on Friday night, which is unusual seeing as I’m finding myself lapsing into the perennially grumpy and curmudgeonly kind of fan the longer I follow this team. However, Minnesota produced the kind of gutsy performance they’re known for, but have rarely demonstrated so far this season. Despite being 0-4 down after the first inning, the White Sox constantly chipped away at the Twins’ lead before tying it up. But Joe Mauer’s RBI single in the seventh, topped off by a clever two-out RBI bunt by Carlos Gomez which scored Matt Tolbert in the eighth, secured a 6-4 victory.
The scoreline of Saturday’s 8-7 loss may have given casual observers the impression of a roller coaster, see-saw, fun kind of game with various lead changes and other high-jinx. Far from it. The White Sox punished the ineffectual and pasty-looking Glen Perkins from the get-go and ran out to an 8-3 lead, the only effective Twins offense coming from the bat of Joe Crede who hit a three-run homer, then followed that up with a solo shot later. Minnesota’s late rally was too little too late once again, and if anything, the scoreline was far too flattering to the Twins who pretty much looked like buffoons out there for most of the game.
Fortunately, there was little buffoonery on display by the Twins in their 13-7 victory on Sunday. The Minnesota bats truly came alive for a change against an unusually ineffective Mark Buehrle. Carlos Gomez was the hero today, with a career-high five-RBI game which included a three-run homer in the second, and both Denard Span and Brendan Harris also went deep. Surprisingly enough, Joe Mauer was probably the team’s most ineffective player on Sunday, going 0-for-5 with an amazing four strike-outs. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him strike-out so many times in a single game to be honest, but he’s probably just preparing his swing for the Home Run Derby tomorrow. Here’s a nice picture of Brendan Harris smacking a good one.
Kudos to Yahoo! again. Just last week in their featured module on the home page, they highlighted Nick Blackburn’s “little league” play that cost the Twins the game against the Brewers. Today, it’s a Jeff Passan article about Minnesota’s golden boy Joe Mauer and his, erm, rapping ability.
It’s a nice article too, all about Joe Mauer’s other talents besides his potential opportunity to complete a Major League season with an average above the .400 mark. My favorite line is from Denard Span on the catcher’s purported abilities as a rapper:
“Looking at him right now, I’m guessing it’s a cross between Vanilla Ice and Cypress Hill.”
That’s just priceless!
Seriously, you read that correctly. Minnesota is finally two games over the .500 mark for the first time this season thanks to a 5-1 victory over the Kansas City Royals. After playing terribly in the first game, the Twins played moderately better yesterday to beat the Royals 2-1, but that was mainly down to the increasingly error-prone Kansas City line-up. Today, the Twins were a little more convincing and came out on top, with Joe Mauer going 3-for-3 and Glen Perkins largely untroubled by the Royals’ bats. Minnesota has now gone 10-6 on the road since June 8.
With a day off tomorrow, the Twins will just have to hope that the injuries sustained to Justin Morneau, Mike Redmond, and Nick Punto aren’t too severe. All three left the game at some point today because they were hurt. Justin left because of a ‘tight left groin’, and the Twins would definitely miss his presence terribly if his injury is severe. Nick Punto continues to get hurt so often, it’s getting beyond a joke, especially because he’s been wholly unconvincing with the bat all season long. Maybe Ron Gardenhire will put him on the DL or finally bench him for a longer stint so someone more worthy can get a chance in the line-up. Right now, the bottom of the Twins order continues to perform woefully compared to the guys at the top.
Next up, the Detroit Tigers visit Minnesota for a series that could really make a difference to the AL Central standings. Detroit lost a series to the A’s today, so are three games ahead of the Twins, with three games to play at the Metrodome this weekend.
For a short amount of time this morning, the Minnesota Twins were in the ‘featured’ module of Yahoo!’s home page. Could it have been because of Joe Mauer’s exceptional season? Could it have been because of Jose Mijares’ cross-dressing exploits? Could it have been because Carlos Gomez bunted a ball into his head? Sadly not…
Yep, even when the Twins get featured in the national media, it’s for totally the wrong reasons of course. OK, so that’s not always strictly true as Joe Mauer got featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated this week for the second time in his career. Good job, Joe. Apparently he lives in a log cabin.
Though the Brewers had lost four straight and the first game of the series to the Twins, it was not surprising that they bounced back and finally claimed a victory over Minnesota this season. Still, both games were mainly won on costly fielding errors, so it’s hardly been pretty for either team.
To be honest, the Twins were pretty fortunate to win Tuesday night’s game, but they took advantage of two Brewers’ errors to emerge with a 7-3 victory. Watching the game though, it’s hard to believe the scoreline was that unbalanced. The game just seemed to drag and drag as we witnessed Francisco Liriano struggling once again. He showed massive control issues, giving up hits and walks, and constantly throwing balls down low and in the dirt. It certainly wasn’t much fun for Joe Mauer behind the plate, either. Still, surprisingly enough, Liriano only gave up three runs in five innings and the bullpen was impeccable (it’s rare we get to say that as Twins fans), as RA Dickey, Matt Guerrier, and Joe Nathan threw four run-free innings between them. Carlos Gomez had a great night though, going 3-for-5 with two RBIs.
Wednesday night saw Nick Blackburn pitch well again in a tight contest where neither team’s offense truly got going. The Twins took a 3-1 lead in the sixth with a Jason Kubel home run, then a Joe Crede RBI double scored Michael Cuddyer, who had also hit a double a few pitches earlier. But with two outs in the bottom of the eighth and Minnesota holding a 3-2 lead, a couple of costly errors cost the Twins the game. Jason Kendall doubled and JJ Hardy scored when Brendan Harris’ throw was wide
of home plate and bounced away from Joe Mauer. So Kendall broke
for third, but Nick Blackburn flung the ball into left
field, which allowed Kendall to trot home for the go-ahead run. Harris and
Blackburn were each charged with errors on the play, and Brewers’ closer Trevor Hoffman did the rest to end a frustrating evening for the Twins. At least Joe Mauer ended his 0-for-12 hitless streak with a single in the seventh that deflected off pitcher Mitch Stetter.
The rubber match is on Thursday with Scott Baker facing off against Milwaukee’s Mike Burns who was just called up from Triple-A Nashville and gets his first start of the year. The Detroit Tigers keep winning and are opening up a lead in the AL Central, while the Twins are struggling to even keep their heads bobbing around the .500 mark. Minnesota will be hoping to at least salvage something from another disappointing series on the road before moving onto St Louis.