It was a tough week for the Twins. They started with a loss to the Angels that left them the last MLB team without a win, then followed it up with two impressive comeback wins. Unfortunately, the Texas Rangers rolled into town and stifled whatever momentum the team had with a weekend sweep.
The week ahead will not be any easier; indeed, it will be tougher. The Twins spend four days in New York to start the week. Even in the best of times, the Twins have considerable trouble at Yankee Stadium, and these are not the best of times. To make things worse, the Twins do not even get a day off after leaving New York; they will head right down to Florida for three games against a very tough Rays squad.
Josh Willingham. This was an easy one. Willingham made a strong bid not just for TWIT’s Weekly Winner list, but for AL Player of the Week. On his first homestand as a Twin, Willingham hit exactly .454 (10 hits in 22 at bats) including three homers. He even managed to steal a base, something nobody would expect him to do. Sure, there were some ugly plays in left field, but Willingham’s bat has more than made up for it so far.
Liam Hendriks. After starting the season 0 for 8 in quality start attempts, the Twins finally had a pitcher last six innings without giving up more than three runs. Hendriks did even better in his first start of the season: he allowed only one run in his six inning Sunday. Aside from a monster homer to Mike Napoli, Hendriks was unblemished. He also struck out four Rangers, as his 91 mph fastball somehow caused a lot of swings and misses. Given the massive holes in the starting rotation, the Twins may have to lean on Hendriks for a while.
Denard Span. Span’s performance went largely unnoticed amidst the torrent of losing, but he quietly put together a very nice week. He collected 11 hits in 24 at bats (.454 average) and added three walks to boot. As a leadoff man, Span’s job is to get on base, and he did that job very well against the Angels and Rangers. Unfortunately, despite reaching base 14 times, Span scored just two runs (but that obviously is not his fault).
The People Who Were Supposed to Drive Span In. Once Span gets on, it’s up to Jamey Carroll, Joe Mauer, and Justin Morneau to help him move around the bases. Aside from one game in which Mauer and Morneau both homered, the trio largely failed. Morneau went 3 for 24 this week. He seems close to regaining the timing that makes him an excellent hitter, but it isn’t there yet. Carroll makes this list for an excruciating bunt pop-up that would have doubled Span off first base if the umpire hadn’t given the Twins a gift call. No harm done, as Mauer hit into a double play right afterward.
The Back of the Bullpen. In nearly every game this week, the Twins bullpen either blew a lead, stifled a comeback by putting a close game out of reach, or nearly blew a game at the last minute. Closer Matt Capps came in with a three run lead on Thursday and allowed two runs to score before ending it. Glen Perkins started the week with a couple scoreless outings, but then he gave up five runs on Saturday and Sunday. Jeff Gray was the only pleasant surprise: he won two games with a total of three pitches.
Francisco Liriano. In case we thought his first bad start was a fluke, Liriano returned home and surrendered five runs in five innings to the Angels. He is allowing too many line drives and not striking out nearly enough batters. So much has been written about Liriano already that it would be a waste of time to go into too much detail here, but suffice it to say that he has disappointed so far.