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Twins turn up the heat

Offense and defense both shine in pivotal week

By Josh Newman
And I was ready to write the most glowing article I have written all season.

Oh well, it will still be positive. You know why? Even though the Twins’ locomotive ran out of steam at the last minute, they still put together one of their most impressive weeks of the season. And it could not have come at a more crucial time of the year.

Here is the skinny: after winning five of six last week in the team’s last-ever regular season home games at the Metrodome, the Twins now trail Detroit by three games in the American League Central. Two of those six wins came at the expense of the Tigers. The other three came in a sweep against Cleveland, who at week’s end was in the midst of an eight-game losing streak. Unfortunately for Minnesota, their only real hope of making the playoffs is to win the division title. As of Sept. 20, the Twins trail Detroit by only three games in the division. The teams meet one last time for a four-game series Sept. 28-Oct. 1 at Comerica Park, so if the Twins can stay close to the Tigers until then, they will be in prime position to overtake them in the standings.

As for last week, the Twins could not have picked a better time to get hot. They received solid performances from almost everybody who suited up to play. Except for starting pitcher Scott Baker, who was bounced in a 6-2 loss Sunday afternoon, the pitching was very strong all around. In two starts, Carl Pavano registered an ERA of 3.46 in 13 innings of work. He did not figure in either decision, but he held his opponents at bay despite surrendering 17 hits.

Brian Duensing and Nick Blackburn were both solid as well. Duensing took the mound Saturday and was instrumental in the Twins shutting out the Tigers 3-0 in the second game of that series. The rookie went 6 1/3 innings and allowed just four hits. He was given offensive support by Michael Cuddyer’s two-run homer – one of four the right fielder had during the week.

And Blackburn? In the series finale against Cleveland, he surrendered just two runs in 6 1/3 innings of work to pick up his 10th win of the season, but only his second since the All-Star break. He also received plenty of run support, led by Michael Cuddyer’s three hits and three RBI. Four other players, including catcher Jose Morales, had multiple-hit games as the Twins rolled to a 7-3 victory.

I cannot possibly put into words just how huge this sweep of the Indians was. First of all, the good teams always win the games they are supposed to win. Cleveland has proven to be a bottom-feeder this season, and sweeping this series allowed Minnesota to keep pace with Detroit so they could still have a chance at a division title. Second of all, if the Twins play well over their next two series, they might be in prime position when the time comes to throw out the first pitch in the final series with the Tigers.

Strength of remaining schedules

Twins
3 at Chicago: 73-77
3 at Kansas City: 61-88
3 at Detroit: 79-70

Detroit
3 at Cleveland: 61-88
3 at Chicago: 73-773 at Twins: 76-73

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