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Close call! Twins barely avoid winless week

By Josh Newman
I’m just glad the Twins were not in the cozy confines of Target Field last week, although I must admit it could have meant a totally different outcome from their pathetic performance last week.

While the fans here in Minnesota will back you if you come through, they will not hesitate to turn their backs on you if you do not perform as expected. Last week, the fans had every reason to discount their play, offensively and defensively. If it were not for Carl Pavano’s gem in Game 2 against the Mets, as well as the bats of Justin Morneau and Jason Kubel, the Twins would have had absolutely nothing to show for last week.

I couldn’t find any consolation in their series against Milwaukee, where the Brewers swept the Twins for the first time since 1996. Minnesota was even victimized by Brewers starter Yovani Gallardo in a five-hit, 5-0 loss. Gallardo made the Twins hitters look foolish that the hitters’ lack of discipline resulted in 12 strikeouts for the Milwaukee starter. Not to take anything away from Gallardo (the effort dropped his ERA to 2.36 for the season), but the outcome might have been a little different had the Twins shown more patience at the plate.

The series against New York provided the only consolation in that it featured the Twins’ only victory of the week. Actually, I thought the series would be a rebound after Denard Span led off Game 1 with a solo homer to right field off Mets starter Mike Pelfry. But after pitching three scoreless innings to start the game, Twins starter Kevin Slowey surrendered three runs in the fourth inning, then one apiece in the fifth and sixth before making his way to the exit.

The lone victory not only came because of the superb pitching of Pavano, but the Twins also victimized former teammate Johan Santana. The former Cy Young Award winner gave up four runs in the first inning and never recovered to fall to 5-5 on the season. Johan who?

Baker’s problems continue
At the beginning of the season, I remember having Baker pegged as the ace of the pitching staff. But so far, the righthander has been the one getting baked this season.

After scattering two hits in seven shutout innings against Colorado June 16, Baker was neutralized in both of his starts last week. On June 22, he went six innings against Milwaukee, he lasted six innings, but not without surrendering five earned runs on nine hits. In his second start, he allowed six runs on 11 hits – including three home runs – Sunday as the Mets cruised to an easy 6-0 win at Citi Field.

It is not just this week, either. His struggles have lasted the entire month of June. He will finish the month with just one win in five starts, a record of 1-3 with an ERA of 6.07, and eight home runs allowed.

Conclusion: If Baker cannot locate his pitches better, July will be a long month for him.

On the other hand…
While Baker has struggled, Pavano has been about as steady and reliable as a starting pitcher could be. Through five starts in June, the only game that did not resemble a quality start was his effort June 3 at Seattle.

After that, he settled down and picked up victories in each of his last four starts of the month. He wound up turning in his best month of the season with a record of 4-1, an ERA of 2.25, and two complete games – both victories. Could this guy be ace material?

Up next
The Twins return to the American League with a three game-series against Detroit and a four-game set against Tampa Bay, with both series at home. The Twins need to get back to their winning ways and stay there heading into the All-Star Break in Anaheim over the next few weeks.

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