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Basic lesson: Hitting helps, but pitching wins

By Josh Newman
What did I think of the Twins’ performance last week? Eh.

I must admit, I was a bit encouraged after they split with the Red Sox because I, like most other people, felt that Boston was heavily favored in that four-game set. However, when they dropped two out of three to the Rays, I was just a little flabbergasted.

Thanks to their less-than-appealing finish, they now sit in the middle of the Central Division with a record of 25-27.

And do you think it was just a coincidence that they won when the pitching was strong?

Color me crazy, but this team reminds me a bit of the 1987 squad. Sure, they went on to beat St. Louis in the World Series – a series many believed was an upset – but that squad had one thing on common with this one: it could not win on the road.

If you recall, the Twins finished 85-77 in 1987, which was the worst record among the division winners. Thank goodness for their home ballpark because they finished just 29-52 on the road that year. This year’s team is much the same: after last week, their record of 6-16 on the road was the worst in the American League and the second-worst in baseball. And at home, they are a respectable 19-11.

The team can hit, they have proven that. They hit six home runs last week, and Joe Mauer hit 11 in the month of May alone. But the team has to hit. They haven’t had a choice. Until they receive a quality start on a regular basis, the team must continue to break out the lumber nightly.

If the Twins have any of their pitchers to thank, it is Blackburn and Slowey. Without those two, the team would be nowhere. Whenever one of those two take the mound, I feel the team will be competitive for the night. I wish I could say the same about Liriano and Baker, the goats of the pitching staff.

Personally, I think Liriano might benefit from a stint in the minors. Against Tampa Bay, he lasted just four innings, giving up four runs in the third inning as the Twins lost 5-2. He even threw two wild pitches in that game. I had such high hopes for him at the start of the season, too.

And Baker? Pretty much the same thing. Five strong innings against the Rays, then he self-destructed in the sixth inning. After Matt Cuddyer tied it for the Twins with a solo home run to center field in the top of the sixth, Baker came right back and allowed three consecutive hits to open the inning. It ended dreadfully with a three-run home run by Evan Longoria.
As I have said before, the Twins can crank up the offense. But if they want to be contenders, the pitchers must be able to throw the ball over the plate on a consistent basis.

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