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Impressive week falls just short of perfect

By Josh Newman
Even though the Twins continued their run of strong play last week, I really feel they should have been undefeated. Oh well, five wins out of six games isn’t too shabby, is it?

But still, you look back and you just wish that they could have had it, especially since, given what else had happened that day, it could have pulled them even closer to first place in the standings.

Having won 10 of their last 12, Minnesota now stands just two games out of the Central Division lead, with a crucial four-game series road series with division leader Detroit to begin the week.

Oh, and Twins manager Ron Gardenhire picked up the 700th win of his career.

It was hitting that pulled Minnesota through last week. I wish I could say the same about pitching, but they couldn’t hit their spots all of the time. Sure, Carl Pavano picked up a victory, but pitching the way he did will not score him any big contracts with too many teams. He lasted six innings in his only start, but he gave up four earned runs on eight hits in doing so, so it was not pretty. Rookie Brian Duensing also picked up a victory, making him 5-1 on the season as a rookie. He is definitely a keeper.

Jeff Manship is not ready to be a starter, in my opinion. In his appearance as a reliever, however, he allowed just one run on three hits in 3.1 innings. But as a starter, he was chased early after allowing four runs on five hits in 2.1 innings. What’s more, he is still a little wild as he threw two wild pitches against Kansas City. I say leave him in the bullpen for right now. If Gardy wants him to start so badly, then maybe he can in the future. Right now, we need nothing but solid starts from our starters.

Funny I should mention solid starts, because that’s exactly what they got from Nick Blackburn. In the first game of the week, he and the Twins made the White Sox look dirty and smelly. He scattered eight hits over seven innings for his 11th victory of the season in an easy 7-0 victory at U.S. Cellular Field. His control was superb as he walked none and struck out six. If he could show his first-half form one last time this season, I would be so thrilled.

Okay, now for the hitting. Michael Cuddyer’s surge has almost made me forget about Justin Morneau. Okay, that’s not possible, but he is having his best year so far. Ten hits in 26 at-bats last week, including two home runs, is solid for one week. Joe Mauer was, of course, was himself as he collected seven hits in 22 at-bats last week. In addition, he drew seven walks.

Nick Punto was also an unsung hero. His five hits is not 10, of course, but his four stolen bases gave us speed on the basepaths. He will never be a leadoff hitter in a Twins uniform, but anybody who can swipe four bases in a week will get my attention.

I am not the least bit worried about our hitting, even though it was absent in the last game of the season as the Twins were downed by Kansas City 4-1. Somebody will step up to the plate each night, I am almost sure of it. My worry is about any hurler who takes the mound each night, both in and out of the bullpen. They simply must pitch their best games of the season, period. No questions asked.

This week is the team’s most important week of the year. They currently sit at 81-74 with a four-game series against division-leader Detroit at Comerica Park to start the week. Finally, they close the regular season at home with an important three-game series against Kansas City starting Friday. They are currently two games behind division-leader Detroit and must come out on top at the end in order to make the playoffs.

To those who feel there is no point to try because we will get in just to get out, forget you. Even though we will most likely play the Yankees in the first round, it has still been a wild ride this season.

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