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Finally! Offense wakes up

By Josh Newman
See what happens when you bring the bats to work, guys?

It took them a series, but their offensive performance against Cleveland to close out the week may finally be a sign that the players now know that the pitching staff cannot be fully responsible for carrying this team.

I’ve always been a firm believer that good pitching and good defense is what separates the contenders from the pretenders. But come on, what good is a solid outing from the pitching staff if the offense can’t crank out any extra base hits, let alone score any runs?

The opening series against Detroit is a great example of what I am talking about. It was great to see Francisco Liriano pick up the win in the series opener as the Twins won 2-0 at Comerica Park. If it weren’t for Liriano’s gem, the Twins would not have won that game. As a team, Minnesota had 10 opportunities to gain a hit with runners in scoring position. And I don’t believe that the game’s first run was even a legitimate RBI. If you recall, Jim Thome drew a two-out walk for the first baserunner. Then J.J. Hardy reached because of a botched play in the field by Tigers left fielder Ryan Raburn. It was the error that allowed Thome to score the run and allowed Hardy to advance to second base.

Ironically, when the offense did wake up for the first time last week, the defense was a no-show. I like my chances of winning when my team scores six runs. But when the opposing team slaps my pitcher around like a piƱata, it hurts. The final was 11-6, and at game’s end, it was hard to remember that the Twins had actually led at one point. After starter Scott Baker (boy does he need a good outing!) was lifted after giving up four earned runs in the fourth inning, the relievers were victimized for six runs the rest of the game.

It took awhile, but yes, the offense did show up. Against Cleveland, they took two out of three and hit .297 as a team. The team was also effective in the clutch, going 14 for 41 with runners in scoring position. Combine that with solid pitching all around – including Liriano’s second win of the week – and the Twins rebounded with class from their first series loss of the year.

Is anybody there?
Everybody knows that the Twins’ offense needs to start showing up on a regular basis. Maybe last week was the start of something good with the Cleveland series. But Jason Kubel’s bat has been about as absent as George W. Bush was during his presidency. He is supposed to be one of our big bats, but as of May 5, he is hitting only .203 with only four extra-base hits on the year. Maybe he has not had as many opportunities as our other big guns, but I know he is better than this. Last week, he showed signs of life as he picked up six badly needed hits in 17 at bats.

I also think that our bullpen needs to stop blowing quality starts by our starters. Last week, the relievers had a collective ERA of 4.60, and they were also responsible for two of the team’s three losses. They also need to calm down – they walked an average of 5.71 batters per nine innings of work. Compare that to just 2.37 walks per nine innings by the starting rotation, and you can see that wildness was an issue for the bullpen.

On the other hand…
I did want to say kudos to third baseman Luke Hughes, who saw his first action in the big leagues last week. He went 2-for-7 and hit a home run in his first big league at-bat.

I also wanted to comment on catcher Wilson Ramos. Who is this guy? He hasn’t exactly made me forget about Joe Mauer, but his hot start was hard to overlook. He went 4-for-5 with an RBI in his debut last week.
I know I just ripped on Kubel, but I won’t discount what he did last week. He picked up six hits in 17 at bats. Maybe this will give him the confidence boost he so badly needs.


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