The Twins’ bats barely woke up all weekend when they lost two out of three at Seattle. True, they were facing an excellent pitching line-up of Rodriguez, Washburn, and Bedard, but even then, just a pitiful five runs in three games was all Minnesota could muster. Admittedly, the Mariners could only score seven themselves, but at least they won the series, and that’s what counts in the end.
On Friday night, Francisco Liriano pitched pretty well. He even got past the fourth inning for a change! But so did Felix Hernandez. In the end, the game went to extra innings, and the Twins were lucky to come out 2-1 winners. In the top of the 10th, Jason Kubel was robbed of a three-run homer due to an excellent catch by Franklin Gutierrez. Next, Joe Mauer was caught in a run-down at third base after a failed squeeze-play, and it seemed things just weren’t going to go our way. Then Matt Tolbert hit a deep fly ball which came off left-fielder Wladimir Balentien’s glove, and Justin Morneau scored, and that was pretty much it: a lucky break and a fortunate victory.
On Saturday, Nick Blackburn also pitched pretty well, but Minnesota squandered numerous chances to get runs home, and lost the game later when that man again, Ken Griffey Jr., got a clutch double that scored Ichiro from first. In the ninth, the Twins failed to get the tying run home, so once again it was a game of missed opportunities.
I didn’t see Sunday’s game, but the Twins lost 4-2, so I can’t really comment on what happened. I did read articles saying Minnesota went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring positions on Sunday, and 2-for-24 with runners in scoring positions over the entire series, which doesn’t surprise me, and has pretty much been the story of our season so far. That’s a statistic which will probably come back to haunt us if the Twins don’t make it to the post-season this year.
Now the Twins face a tough four-game series against the Oakland A’s. The Athletics have won their last six straight, including a sweep of the Orioles this weekend, and it looks like things have finally started to click for them after a fairly poor start to the season. So, it’s just our luck that the team with one of the worst road records in baseball now faces a resurgent team that’s just won its last six. It should be an interesting series. An unlikely four game sweep by the Twins would totally revive them of course, but if the A’s took four in a row instead (equally unlikely), it could really pump life into a season where they’ve struggled to even get close to .500. I’m guessing things are going to be pretty tight at the Coliseum, but who knows? Minnesota continue to see-saw from brilliant to incompetent with every game, so anything could happen, and probably will.
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.
Man, these guys shouldn’t even be allowed to leave the Twin Cities! Another poor road trip, this time in Tampa Bay, saw the Twins only win one of three. Minnesota is still a fairly embarrassing 6-16 on the road, and this was just their second win in 13 games away from the Metrodome. Their Sunday performance was a nail biter, but the win was a very welcome one after two poor showings on Friday and Saturday. Nick Blackburn pitched a good game, only giving up a couple of solo home runs, and the Twins hustled home a few runs to claim a scrappy 3-2 victory.
On Friday night, Scott Baker started well enough, but yet again had one of his mental breakdowns in the sixth inning, giving up a three-run homer to Evan Longoria. The Twins rallied a bit later on, but couldn’t get enough going and ended up losing 5-3. When Brian Buscher (.183) has to pinch hit for Carlos Gomez (.219), as happened in the ninth inning, you know there’s definitely something wrong with your line-up, even if that was the right move in the circumstances.
Saturday’s game was even more pitiful. There’s definitely something odd going on with Francisco Liriano, who only lasted four innings for the third straight time. He threw 47 (yes, 47) pitches in the third inning and gave up four runs, after which, I gave up watching. The Twins organization need to do something with poor Frankie, I’m not confident the whole “working out his issues on the mound” thing is really going to pan out if Minnesota wants to remain competitive. Saturday’s game also featured a woeful base-running decision by Scott Ulger, stopping Joe Crede at third after an overthrow instead of waving him home. Sure, it may have been a risky play to send Crede home, but with the way David Price was pitching, the Twins weren’t going to get many chances to score runs, and we blew one right there. Naturally, Alexi Casilla failed to get the run home the next at-bat.
Talking of which, Alexi is back. Nick Punto is on the DL with a groin injury, so the Twins brought back Alexi Casilla who they’d sent down a few weeks ago. The lack of batting production of players like Nick Punto, Alexi Casilla, Delmon Young, and Matt Tolbert is really beginning to hurt Minnesota’s chances of success this year. But it’s not just sucky performances, injury woes continue to mount for the Twins. Jason Kubel had a dodgy knee that kept him out of a couple of games, Joe Crede has had a few unlucky niggles here and there, Michael Cuddyer left Sunday’s game with a finger injury, and we’ve already mentioned Nick Punto who the Twins probably miss more in the field than with the bat.
Usually, I like to end each posting with a positive note, but today I’m just cranky. Even excuses like “it’s still early in the season” are starting to sound a little hollow now we’re almost one-third of the way through. Still, the AL Central doesn’t have a team storming away uncontested like the Dodgers in the NL West, so yes, OK, “there’s still plenty of time to go”. Checking the standings again though, Detroit are the only team who are over the .500 mark in the division, and Minnesota are 4.5 games back, certainly not cause for panic, but nevertheless a little disconcerting.
After three games at home entertaining the steadily improving Indians, the Twins upcoming 10-game extended road trip with stops in Oakland, Seattle, and Chicago (Cubs) could prove to be vital to their hopes this year.
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.
It was certainly entertaining watching the Twins on Friday and Saturday, especially the Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau show. In the fifth inning on Friday evening against the Mariners, Mauer stepped up and hit a solo home run to left field. Not to be outdone, Justin Morneau came up next and did exactly the same, but to opposite field. While back-to-back home runs are hardly uncommon in baseball, the very next evening against Seattle ace Felix Hernandez, Mauer and Morneau did exactly the same thing again, but this time in the third inning. Cue camera shots of the pair of them on the bench laughing and smiling like little kids trying to out-do each other.
Before Saturday’s game, Joe Mauer received both a Gold Glove and a Silver Bat for his brilliant performances last season. Here he is with two former Twins legends, Tony Oliva and Rod Carew.
Friday night, the Twins thumped the Mariners 11-0. Scott Baker pitched splendidly, but our offense truly shone that evening with Minnesota hitting an unprecedented four homers, the solo shots by Mauer and Morneu as mentioned above, and three-run shots by Brendan Harris and Brian Buscher. The Twins got their noses in front early and kept it that way, something they’d been failing to do all season. I hope this is a sign of better things to come.
Saturday was a closer affair, with the Twins beating out the Mariners 9-6. Once again, the Twins went ahead early, but this time Seattle was a little more resilient, and Francisco Liriano had a very tough fourth and fifth inning. Saturday’s game was dominated by Adrian Beltre, but not always for the right reasons. In the bottom of the fourth, he tried to tag Cuddyer at third then overthrew to first, which scored Cuddyer and put Buscher on third. Buscher scored on a Denard Span sacrifice fly, so Beltre’s mistake probably led to two Twins runs. His home run in the eighth could have meant trouble for the Twins, but the rest of the M’s line-up failed to capitalize, and Joe Nathan came out in the ninth to save it for Minnesota, and wrap up a series win.
Sunday will probably see Nick Punto back in the line-up, and Joe Mauer as the DH. Personally, I’d like to see Carlos Gomez get a chance to play a full game again. Completing the sweep against the Mariners and Erik Bedard today will be tough, but then again, if someone would’ve said the Twins will score 20 runs and hit seven home-runs in two games against Seattle, I’d have laughed like a goon.
So the Twins have only won one out of their last five games. And now, those pesky Royals have extended their lead atop the AL Central, and the Twins find themselves five games back.
It’s certainly not a time to panic, and I think the Twins should be more concerned about getting back to .500, something they might be able to do with good home stands against the Mariners and the Tigers, before their first visit to the new Yankee Stadium on May 15th.
However, I must admit, I’ve always been a pessimistic sports fan. Seriously, even when my beloved Aston Villa FC were riding high in the English Premier League earlier this year, I had the feeling they were going to screw it up eventually and falter… and of course they did.
Now, the cool thing about the Twins is deep down I know they have a good enough squad to compete well, but externally, I will remain slightly pessimistic because that way, when they do succeed, it’s a pleasant surprise. That probably sounds odd, but I find it a whole lot more entertaining that way. Fans who are eternally optimistic and expect their team to win all the time kind of bug me, and the truth is, that doesn’t always happen thankfully. All sports are greater when the little guy takes on the big guy and wins. Sure, it doesn’t happen all the time, but it’s sweet when it does.
Back to those Twins though. Well, they need a bit of a kick up the butt to be frank. They did play a bit better yesterday, out-hitting the Orioles, but unfortunately, not out-scoring them. Sure, 14 hits is great and all, but 13 of them were singles, so the Twins still need a little more oomph. It was, however, refreshing to see them being fully competitive and keeping the pressure on, something they’ve lacked quite often this year.
Still, like many other commentators, I’ve got some major concerns lingering. Nick Punto’s average is now a dwinding .190, and even his great defense can’t justify that. Of course, I don’t know what they’d do without him in the field, so I’m not much of a judge. The Carlos Gomez situation is also a bit dispiriting. He’s perennially dumped on the bench and not getting any at-bats, so I can’t see how he’ll improve that way. Gardy surely has to do something with him? Our pitchers are constantly giving up runs early in games… sigh… I won’t go on. Let’s just hope this weekend is a bit better!
But before I go, I’m not a huge Dodgers fan (though I do love listening to Vin Scully), but I really enjoy reading this blog called Dodger Blues which constantly finds hundreds of things to be frustrated about, regardless of whether LA is playing well or not. It’s grumpiness and pessimism with a good dose of humor like this that I admire. Anyone want to start one like this for the Twins?