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Despite strong pitching, Twins still struggle

By Josh Newman
Last week, the Twins presented to the fans a scenario quite different from what they were used to seeing this year:

The problem was not the pitching; it was the hitting.

For the most part, Minnesota has been adept at pushing runs across the plate this season. Heck, they even scored 20 runs in a single game earlier in the year. No, the problem has not been the lumber; it has been the mere fact that the pitching staff has not been able to fool any opposing hitters.

Fortunes were completely turned around against Cleveland and Seattle last week. So completely, in fact, that the pitching was solid and the hitting struggled.

Sometime this year, the team is going to have to put together the total package if it wants to win on a regular basis. Thanks to solid pitching, Minnesota had a chance to win almost every game last week. Thanks to lackluster hitting, that didn’t happen.

During the six games last week, the pitching staff had a collective ERA of 3.53 and held opponents to a batting average of .264. The offense batted .278 for the week, but it failed to garner any hits during clutch situations.

Everybody comes to play. It was the series finale, and Minnesota had a chance to take the series

Game 3 against Cleveland was an example of how good the Twins can be when everybody comes to play. It was the series finale, and Minnesota had a chance to take the series. They were on the wrong end of a 10-1 rout Wednesday, with the Indians roughing up Twins starter Anthony Swarzak for six runs on nine hits in just four innings. Showing strong character, the Twins came together in the finale and sent Cleveland starter Fausto Carmona to the showers after just two innings in an easy 11-3 win.

Jason Kubel led the charge that night with a pair of three-run homers in the first two innings to put the Twins ahead comfortably. Starting pitcher Scott Baker, who had struggled earlier this season, had perhaps his best outing as he allowed just two runs on six hits in seven innings. He also struck out 10 in winning his third game of the season.

They also received a strong outing from Francisco Liriano, something that was long overdue. Friday night in Seattle, the lefthander tossed six solid innings and allowed just one run on three hits. However, he was matched by Mariners starter Felix Hernandez in what turned out to be a pitchers duel. Hernandez left the game after seven innings with the score tied 1-1.

The game went into extra innings. The Twins, who were 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position on the night, sent Matt Tolbert to the plate with a chance to send Justin Morneau home for the go-ahead run. Tolbert lifted a ball to deep left field that was dropped by Wlademir Balentien. Sure, it was ruled an error, but it proved to be enough after closer Joe Nathan pitched a perfect 10th inning to preserve the victory.

That was a poor night offensively for Minnesota. They needed everything they got from their pitching staff, including game-winner Matt Guerrier, because the offense saw 10 batters go down on strikes and garner just eight hits in 34 at-bats.
Now I realize that the world is not perfect, and there will be nights when the Twins struggle on one side of the field and excel on the other. Like when Kevin Slowey surrendered three homers in four-plus innings in the final game of the week, a 4-2 loss in Seattle. Or their 10-1 defeat. Or their 11-3 victory. The point is, Minnesota needs to put the total package together more often this year if they want to win on a more consistent basis.

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