Last week was a losing week, but it was a better week than many might have expected. The Twins visited the home parks of two of the toughest teams in the American League, New York and Tampa Bay, and they came away with three wins and four losses. The two losses in Tampa to end the week were a letdown, but all in all it could have been much worse.
The week ahead may provide something of a respite for the Twins. For starters, they return home. They also get a day off on Thursday after playing a game a day for 15 days straight. And the competition is less ferocious, as they play two teams with worse records. The Boston Red Sox, normally among the AL’s elite, have staggered to a 4-10 start thanks in part to an injury to start center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury. Minnesota faces Boston on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. After the off-day, the Kansas City Royals fly into town for a weekend series. Kansas City has ridden a 10 game losing streak to a 3-12 overall record.
All things considered, this week could be an excellent chance for the Twins to get back on track.
Joe Mauer. He did not draw a ton of attention, but the star catcher had a strong week at the plate. Mauer led all Twins with a .357 average (10 for 28), and he added four walks. He also stole a pair of bases.
Justin Morneau. Morneau teed off at Yankee Stadium with three homers, including a two homer game on Wednesday. Unfortunately, the Twins only had his bat in the lineup in five of the seven games. On Tuesday Morneau received a planned day off against C.C. Sabathia. On Friday he was a victim of his own hard hitting, as he sat out the game after fouling a ball off his foot.
The Bullpen. The Twins used their relief pitchers early and often last week, and for the most part they answered the call. They toiled 25.1 innings last week, allowing 19 hits, seven walks, and only six earned runs for a 2.13 ERA and 1.04 WHIP. It is still too early to say for sure, but it looks like the bullpen is becoming one of the strengths of this team.
Francisco Liriano. Other than, say, running over Ron Gardenhire’s dog, it’s hard to imagine what Liriano could have done to damage his job security any more than he did last week. Liriano made two pitiful starts. At Yankee Stadium he lasted just 2.1 innings, but he somehow managed to allow seven hits and four walks in that short span. On Sunday in Tampa, he surrendered five runs in five innings. Liriano has been pitching as if the strike zone were a purely theoretical concept that has no value in real life. If he makes his next scheduled start against the Royals this week, that will be a mild surprise.
Danny Valencia. Valencia came through with a key RBI double in the first inning of Thursday’s game. Other than that, he had a bad week, with just four hits in 25 at bats (.160 average) and nine strikeouts. He seemed to be up and down in the field as well.
Keys to This Week:
- Keep scoring first. The Twins scored first in five consecutive games last week, including back to back games where they put up four runs against the Yankees in the first inning.
- Starting pitching! The short outings need to stop. Also, it’s frustrating when the pitchers give back those early leads.
- Replace Liriano with Scott Diamond. Diamond seems to be proving he is ready for another chance at the Majors. Liriano is blowing his latest one.