The Red Sox series was awful in so many ways.
Two close losses, where the Twins almost clawed back only to fizzle at the end, sandwiched themselves around an utterly hopeless blowout. At the beginning of the series, Boston was staggering with a five game losing streak, ripe for the kill. Instead of plunging in the dagger, Minnesota spent three days building Boston’s confidence. As a reward for that humanitarian effort, the Twins are now the ones with a five game losing streak. They also boast a season winning percentage (.263) that would barely make a good batting average.
The sad thing is that the Twins are actually showing some life with their bats. A five or six run performance, which the Twins received on Monday and Wednesday respectively, should be enough to win most games. But no team in the history of MLB could score enough runs to make up for the starting pitching staff the Twins received every night. After Jason Marquis and Nick Blackburn surrendered five runs apiece, rookie Liam Hendriks raised the bar by allowing seven last night. They allowed hits to every facet of the Red Sox lineup. Sure, we expect a performance like the one David Ortiz had (two hits in each of the first two games and a long home run on Wednesday), but it takes a truly special pitching staff to make a star out of Alex Aviles, the light hitting shortstop who collected six hits and two homers in the series. Even Marlon Byrd, who had turned heads with his 3 for 43 start to the season, managed four hits against the Twins, raising his average from .070 to .125.
Elsewhere on the mound, “closer” Matt Capps gave up a home run to Cody Ross that broke a tie on Monday, and long reliever Matt Maloney ended all hope that the Twins could come back on Tuesday when he followed Blackburn by allowing five runs of his own.
But it was not just the Twins’ pitching that lost this series. The hitters failed to drive in runs that would have won games all series long. Tuesday’s performance was barely even a rout in the first inning; in fact, the Twins had the bases loaded and a great chance to tie and/or take the lead. After Justin Morneau worked out a walk in a brilliant at bat, Ryan Doumit walked up and swung at (and missed) three pitches from a pitcher who had just walked three in a row. It would not be the first time, nor the last, that a Twins hitter disappointed us with men on base.
Wednesday’s game was a perfect symbol of the Twins’ RISP struggles. The left the bases loaded to begin the game in the first and to end the game in the ninth. The first inning’s squelched rally was particularly disappointing, because the Twins actually were not losing at that point. If they could have scored a run, they would have had an early lead for the first time in nearly a week. They did not score; instead, Boston plated six runs in the next two innings, and the game looked lost. The Twins brought back hope with a five run sixth inning, and the game stayed within reach thanks to a very solid bullpen performance (okay, not every aspect of the Twins was horrible this series). They loaded the bases again in the ninth, but Denard Span struck out to end it.
Adding injury to insult, Chris Parmelee took a 93 mph fastball to the head last night. Early indications are that he will be okay and have nothing more severe than a headache. Puckett’s Pond sincerely hopes that is the case. We have all witnessed the nightmare scenario that can result when a player has concussions, and that sort of thing should never happen to a young player like Parmelee. The Twins need to give this guy all the rest he needs.
The Twins are off today, and the NFL Draft starts tonight. Let’s watch that and take our minds off baseball for awhile.