The outlook for the 2011 Twins certainly looks a lot rosier today than it did on Tuesday morning.
A pitiful 12-27 start eradicated the remaining goodwill from last year’s succesful season and caused many in the media to wonder if the Twins would be selling off players and rebuilding soon. The team was mired in a dismal 9 game losing streak with little hope in sight, and looked certain to drop a tenth against the invincible Felix Hernandez.
But Francisco Liriano outdueled Hernandez, and two days later, the Twins have a three game winning streak. Now, I’m certainly not implying that the Twins’ troubles are over. And three games certainly won’t stop the speculation about rebuilding or cause anyone to consider the Twins contenders again. But three road wins against Major League teams is still a solid accomplishment for any team.
So please allow me to cheer you up with a few observations:
- Starting Pitching Liriano, who has pitched terribly all season and was erratic even in his no-hitter, pitched brilliantly at Seattle, striking out 9 and finally controlling his walks problem. The next day, Carl Pavano, who has struggled almost as much as Liriano, gave a solid 7 inning performance. And today Nick Blackburn almost completely silenced the Athletics. I cannot remember the last time the Twins got three quality starts in a row, much less three dominant performances from their rotation.
- Justin Morneau The past week may be a sign that the embattled slugger is starting to recover. After seeing his average drop to a miserable .204 on May 10th, he has hit .387 (12 for 31) in the past 8 games. Today he posted three hits including a monstrous home run to right center.
- Michael Cuddyer Twins faithful have been merciless in their criticism of Cuddyer this year. So have sportswriters. More than a fifth of the way through the season, he had driven in a pitiful 4 runs. It was almost as if he forgot what RBIs smell like. But lately, he has been knocking in runs on a regular basis – 6 in the last 8 games – including a clutch, two out single that provided the Twins’ only runs against Hernandez.
- Injuries It is possible that the epidemic of pain that tore the team apart for a quarter of the season is subsiding. Jim Thome and Jason Repko will return to action next week, which will do wonders for the team’s depth. And while Joe Mauer isn’t being rushed back to the team, he has at least begun rehabbing in Florida.
- Hitting Outburst The Twins piled on some hits today, and their batting averages are finally starting to look respectable again. The top 5 hitters from today’s lineup are up to .286, .286, .321, .245, and .267, all reasonable (if unimpressive) totals for Major League hitters. The bottom three are still stuck at .203, .158, and .186, but at least the sub-Mendoza numbers are not scattered throughout the lineup as they were a week or two ago.
I must reiterate that the Twins have a long way to go before we can be optimistic about their chances again, but I’d say that this gives us enough reason to stop panicking for a little while. Hopefully the Twins can continue their road winning streak this weekend. They start a three game series against the Arizona Diamondbacks tomorrow night.