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First month nearly in the books: Twins still winning

By Josh Newman
Theoretically, perfection is impossible, but it give us something to shoot for. Through the end of last week, the Twins were 13-6 after taking two out of three in a pair of three-game sets against Cleveland and Kansas City. Not perfect, but do you realize that if the Twins took two out of three in every single series this year, they would win 108 games? No, it’s not perfection, but if someone is disappointed with winning 108 games in a 162-game season, I don’t want to know them.

It is almost the end of the April, and a time to reflect. Or if you prefer, analyze.

Target Field hits the mark
When the Twins moved into their beautiful new ballpark at the start of the season, I was thrilled. I am a firm believer that baseball should always be played outdoors and on natural grass. However, even with a beautiful view of the skyline in the background, I still had some concerns about the move.

Those who have followed the Twins over the years know that, even during struggling times, the team was always at least semi-respectable at the Metrodome, and there were reasons for that. One reason was the artificial turf. Most teams in baseball were used to playing on grass, where it is fairly easy to predict how the ball is going to bounce or roll. But on the turf, the ball could have taken an unpredictable bounce at any time. This was one thing that always caught opposing defenses off guard. The turf also did not slow down ground balls once they reached the outfield, which grass most likely would have done. This increased the chances the Twins had to turn hits that normally would have been singles into extra-base hits because if the outfielders did not track them down quickly, the balls could have rolled to the wall very quickly.

There was also that infamous roof. Legend has it that it caused a lot of visiting teams to lose sight of the ball. Routine fly balls would drop in for a base hit. This was true but was blown way out of proportion. Visiting teams caught fly balls and pop flies all of the time, didn’t they? Now with no roof with which to contend, the fear was that visiting teams would have an easier time in the Twin Cities. Not the case so far. Through the end of last week, the Twins were 6-3 at Target Field, pleasing large crowds on a regular basis. Less successful at home? I don’t think so.

So to say the least, any concerns I once had about the team being successful in an open-air stadium have now been put to rest.

He’s baaaack
Remember the good old days when any pitch that left Francisco Liriano’s hand struck fear into opposing batters? The Liriano of old may have officially been reincarnated.

In four starts this year (including his most recent start against Detroit at Comerica Park), the Dominican Republic native has been nothing short of dominant. He needed one warm up against the White Sox April 9 when he allowed three earned runs in six innings, but that was it. Since then, the southpaw has not missed a beat, and his pitches have rarely missed the strike zone. His deadly slider has fooled opposing hitters with regularity. Against the Tigers Tuesday, he allowed just four hits over eight innings. He walked just one and struck out 10 to offset the Twins’ continuing offensive struggles in a 2-0 victory to improve to 3-0 on the season. It was his first 10-strikeout game in nearly five years.

Offense, please
Last week, the Twins hit a collective .255 over a six-game span. Normally that is not a reason to worry seeing as how it only covers one week. But the reality is, even the best defenses can’t post zeroes on the board every single inning. Case in point: Minnesota was smacked around 8-1 by Cleveland Thursday. The victim here was Scott Baker, who surrendered six earned runs on 10 hits in 5.2 innings and left with the Twins trailing 6-1. And the Indians’ threesome of Mitch Talbot, Rafael Perez, and Chris Perez combined on a four-hitter.

The pitching staff cannot throw a shutout every night. If the Twins really want to play in October, they must improve offensively. I’m sure the M&M boys, Michael Cuddyer, and Orlando Hudson would appreciate the help.

I’ll get right to the point. Pitching and defense are the reason this team is winning. The offense is erratic at best, except for the four players mentioned above. The hitters need to crank some extra base hits and come through in the clutch rather than leave runners in scoring position all of the time. The offense needs to improve. Period.

1 comment:

  1. Nice article. Well written.

    The Twins are looking pretty good, although I only view them from a distance. The Yankees and Twins look to be evenly matched so far this year. We won't get to play you guys for a few weeks though, so we'll see how we match up then.

    Glad to hear the new stadium is working out. It looks great. Yankees show up May 28th. I'm pretty excited at getting a closer look. (on TV, lol)