The Twins could not have played worse, nor endured worse fortune during the first month of the season. They were outscored by 60+ runs. That is far and away the worst differential in the majors. Morneau, Mauer, Young, Cuddyer, Valencia, Casilla, Thome whoever was playing 2nd, all TERRIBLE. Liriano has been dreadful, and even his no hitter was pretty pathetic as far as no hitters go.
Quietly, though, some players are really thriving. I am referring to Kubel, Span, Baker, Duensing, and Perkins. Only Duensing enjoyed a quality 2010 season, but like the other four, was a pretty big question mark going into 2011.
But now these past few games have actually been, what’s the word, encouraging? Not that anyone is really hitting, but the team has won three in a row, and this most recent game against Boston was almost, need another word here, exciting?
Trevor Plouffe comes up and homers in his first at bat. Did he get pissed at his poor spring and just start hacking? Maybe, and this is a long shot, he could be a spark plug. He ends up stealing a base, scores three runs, and takes a walk.
Scott Baker pitched a real gem, and now has a 2.97 ERA to go with his usual solid K/BB ratio. He’s still allowing home runs, but not as many hits, and he’s striking out more batters. He says he’s starting to feel healthy, could this be a big year for Bake? If so, he is a legit #2 starter.
Joe Nathan pitched a scoreless 9th, and has been much more stable since his move out of the closer’s role. A role Matt Capps has handled pretty well.
Most importantly, though, the team scored nine runs against a good team! Does success against a knuckleballer indicate success going forward? Eh, that’s a bit murky. But the fact remains, Liriano threw a no hitter, and the team has won the next two games. And scored nine runs in one. Young should come back soon, Mauer shortly after that (And he is after all, the team’s most stable bat when in the lineup). If Plouffe proves he belongs, and puts up fair power numbers with average defense, Liriano jumps off his performance against Chicago, Nathan and Morneau shake off the rust and become forces again (Not to previous levels, but maybe 80% of those levels), and perhaps Nishioka comes back All of a sudden this is a team to watch for as a bigtime comeback story.
Say what you will of Ron Gardenhire, no manager in the game gets his team on track better after bad stretches.
It’s not a tough division. The Indians are for real, but won’t maintain their current pace. The team with the most talent in the division currently sits behind the Twins in the standings. If the Tigers don’t take off, I would say 85 games could win this division.
A lot of things must go right for the Twins to reach that level. But a ton of things have had to go wrong for them to be where they are right now. Just wouldn’t put it past them, is all I’m saying.
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