Monday, July 19, 2010

Best Foot Forward

The Twins came out of the All-Star break badly needing a boost. It didn't come initially. On Thursday night, the Twins returned to play at Target Field, having just learned that their best hitter would be landing on the disabled list. Their first game out of the break featured more of the same: a starter getting clobbered, questionable fundamentals and missed offensive opportunities. The Twins fell to the division-leading White Sox 8-7, dropping them a distant 4 1/2 games out of first place (and four behind the idle Tigers). There was a lot of depression floating around Twins Territory on Friday afternoon.

My, how things have changed over the weekend.

The Twins took the final three games in their series against the Sox, wrapping things up with a thrilling ninth-inning comeback against Bobby Jenks on Sunday. Their two top starting pitchers dominated, and while Nick Blackburn struggled once again yesterday, his outing may finally make clear in the eyes of management something that has been clear in the minds of many for weeks: he needs to be removed from the rotation.

I wrote last Thursday about J.J. Hardy, suggesting that now that he's finally put his wrist issues behind him he could be primed for a big second half. I concluded the post by noting that the Twins "need a number of players to step up in the second half, and Hardy is at the top of that list." In the Twins' four-game series against the Sox, Hardy went 5-for-11 with two doubles and two RBI. Joe Mauer, whose name is obviously at the top of that aforementioned list right along with Hardy, also had an excellent series, finishing 7-for-18 with three doubles and five RBI.

The Twins, in general, did some impressive damage with the bats, running up a total of 24 runs on 52 hits over four games against a pitching staff that has been exceedingly hot.

Now, they've cut their deficit in the AL Central down to 1 1/2 games while leap-frogging the Tigers, who managed to lose four games over the weekend in Cleveland. Things get no easier for Detroit, who are looking at their schedule and seeing the following eight series lined up: Rangers, Blue Jays, Rays, Red Sox, Angels, Rays, White Sox, Yankees. Meanwhile, the Twins are coming upon a much-needed soft spot in their schedule where they'll face the Indians, Royals, Orioles and Mariners in successive series.


ScottyB said...

This looks to be a soft stretch, but the Twins are only 13-10 against these teams this year. They need to go 9-4 or 10-3 over this 13 game stretch. It would be helpful to make a trade in the next 2 weeks.

Eliot Batzer said...

It was good to see Delmon Young continuing to hit, maybe he's finally over the hump and will live up to his billing as a #1 pick. Also I couldn't believe Blackburn was sent out in the 6th inning, his control was obviously fading and he had been tagged with a run in the 5th.

Anonymous said...

Well it had "been clear in the minds of many for weeks" that Crain needed to be sent packing, but their patience just may be paying off.

Obviously the FO is looking at external options, Anderson is working with Blackburn, and they're stretching out Duensing. What else do you want?

Nick N. said...

Obviously the FO is looking at external options, Anderson is working with Blackburn, and they're stretching out Duensing. What else do you want?

Duensing should have replaced Blackburn weeks ago. The Crain situation was a little different, since A) his peripherals suggested he wasn't pitching as badly as the results indicated, and B) he was in the bullpen, where his usage could be controlled. As a member of the rotation, Blackburn is taking the mound every fifth day, and the Twins have lost all but two games he's started since the end of May.

Anonymous said...

Blackburn and Slowey still sucked this weekend. That major issue hasn't changed yet. We'll see how Baker is tonight. If they cant pitch much better they'll be third in the division. Everyone knows it. It was awesome to win 3 in a row though. That big rally was worth a net of 2 games for the standings.

henry wade.

Anonymous said...

Actually, Hardy was 7/15 in the White Sox series (not 5/11 as you stated). He is batting .361 since
coming off the DL on 7/3. Isn't it about time he and Delmon Young move up in the lineup?

Matt said...

With the way the Twins are pitching, there is no "soft spot" right now, unfortunately. Baker got rocked yet again (of course after Nick posted this blog). Unless Liriano or Pavano is pitching, the Twins will almost definately have to come back later in the game if they want to win, which is bordering on unfair to any offensive club, no matter how potent.
But maybe if Duensing does well and they can add a starter, plus getting Morneau back, maybe they can recover and take control of the division again. Let's hope Hardy continues to be hot and Delmon keeps driving in runs!