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Despite solid pitching and hitting, road woes continue

By Josh Newman
Here is a good philosophy put together by a world-famous philosopher: Combine several good things, and you shall be rewarded.

Okay, it was just me, but what the Twins did last week is a good example of what I’m talking about. They combined both, but thanks to a little bit of bad luck, the team could still manage just four victories in seven games.

Their only weakness of which to speak was their bullpen. If you are a real numbers person, you should know that the bullpen should have a collective ERA of less than three. Not that I am complaining about good performances from the starters, but the relievers are responsible for either holding the lead, or preventing the other team from racing away with momentum. In my opinion, the ERA of the relievers should be this low because they generally pitch fewer innings than the starters. Theoretically, this means fewer opportunities to surrender runs than the starters receive. But hey, the bullpen did hold opposing hitters to a .196 average. Nothing wrong with that.

Offensively, it is hard to tell who the better player was: Jason Kubel, or Joe Mauer. Kubel slammed another four home runs to lift his season total to 11. He also hit .381 during the six-game stretch - not bad for someone who hits homers. To counter that, Mauer, who currently leads all AL catchers in All-Star voting, hit .433 for the week. He also batted in five runs, and missed a .500 average by just two hits.

All of this despite being a little bit banged up. By the end of the week, the Twins were missing: Michael Cuddyer (finger injury); Denard Span, who was feeling dizzy spells; and Joe Crede, who was reported having a stiff lower back.

In my opinion, the Twins should have taken the series against Oakland. It really bugged me that both of their losses in the series were close games. The team has had a problem with losing close games all season. Rookie starter Anthony Swarzak was spotted a 3-0 lead in the series opener, but threw it away in less than a second. And he also created a scary moment for both sides in less than a second when an errant fastball hit Aaron Cunningham in the side of the head.

After clutching his head for a few minutes, Cunningham took his base. He left the game later, and was diagnosed with a concussion.

The two wins in the series were blowouts. Minnesota took Games 2 and 3 10-5 and 6-3, respectively, then dropped the finale 4-3.

Against the Cubs, the Twins mixed in some good hitting with a gem by Anthony Swarzak and solid hitting with their usual tough breaks. The latter prevented the Twins from completing a series sweep in Wrigley Field.

The Twins took the first two games 7-4 and 2-0. In the first game, Minnesota rode the arm of Kevin Slowey and the bat of Mauer, who belted his 13th homer of the season. Kubel added a home run for the Twins, and Slowey contributed six strong innings and struck out 10 for the victory.

Swarzak redeemed himself for a 3 2/3-inning outing earlier in the week with seven shutout innings in the second game, good enough to counter a lackluster offense. But here is what I don’t understand: his reward was a demotion. He was immediately sent down to the minors to make room for catcher Jose Morales, who was brought back up. Gardy, what were you thinking? Morales clearly is not Joe Mauer, and Swarzak may have just begun to find his stride. Honestly, if there is anyone who understands this move, please explain it to me.

The Twins blew the series finale when they had a golden opportunity to take the lead. It was the ninth inning with the score knotted at 2. Pinch-hitter Brian Buscher drew a walk, and Matt Tolbert followed up with a walk of his own. With Mauer and Justin Morneau coming to the plate, I thought we had it.

But Mauer popped out, and Morneau grounded out to short to end the threat.

The Twins were then awoken from their sweep dream in the bottom half when Cubs shortstop Ryan Theriot hit a walk-off single in the ninth inning, bringing home Derrek Lee for the winning run.
This week, the Twins resume interleague play with a three-game series against Pittsburgh, and then close out the week with a three-game home series against Houston.

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