Ready for Interleague play? Too bad, because it arrives this week. The season that was so young will pass the quarter mark this week, and with that milestone comes the first series against an NL opponent. The Twins travel to Milwaukee for three games against the Brewers after two quickies against AL Central teams. The Indians and Tigers respectively will visit Target Field for two game jaunts, marking the first matchups for the Twins against both teams this year.
In the event that you have not yet abandoned all hope of the Twins competing for a Central Division title, you should pay close attention to these first four contests. The Indians are the current division leader, and the Tigers are the division favorites. If the Twins want to avoid also-ran status, they’ll need to win enormous amounts of games against those two. Doing so would give the Twins a badly-needed energy boost: they have not had a scheduled off day since May 3rd, and they will not get another one until next Monday, a stretch of 17 games in 17 days.
Last week was not a complete disaster. True, the Twins lost more than they won (3-4), but the week finished with a split series against the Blue Jays and two very strong performances by starters recently called up from Rochester. The better news is that the nastiest portion of Minnesota’s schedule is over. After running the gauntlet (or more accurately, stumbling the gauntlet) against the likes of Los Angeles, Texas, New York, Boston, and Toronto, the Twins enter a stretch where 16 of the next 22 are against division foes. The Tigers and Indians are no pushovers, but any AL Central opponent will be an easier match than the vicious competition the Twins have faced so far.
Scott Diamond. In two starts, both coming last week, Diamond has already tied for the team lead in wins. He has also provided the only two scoreless starts for the Twins all year. Both times he toed the rubber, Diamond went seven innings without yielding a run. As sad as it sounds, Diamond is the best starter the Twins have right now. And it is not particularly close.
Josh Willingham. The Twins’ offensive MVP so far, Willingham had a decent week at the plate. He went 6 for 19 with a pair of homers.
Brian Dozier. In his first week as a Major Leaguer, Dozier played all seven games. He held his own as a hitter, with a .267/.290/.400 line (okay for a small sample size), and in the field he displayed impressive range on some plays. To cap off a solid week, Dozier launched his first career home run in Sunday’s win.
Chris Parmelee. The rookie first baseman went 1 for 11 this week, part of a larger 2 for 30 slide. The team has to be wondering if it might be best to give him some time at AAA – a level at which he has never played. Parmelee has a future with the Twins, but it is starting to become obvious he needs a little more work to get there.
Danny Valencia. Parmelee may need a demotion soon, but Valencia already got his. He started the week 0 for 12, extending his hitless streak in the Majors to 25 at bats. He proceeded to go 0 for 8 in his first two games for the Red Wings, which means he hasn’t hit safely in his last 33 times at bat. Valencia was never a long-term answer at third base, but he should be an acceptable placeholder until Miguel Sano arrives. Hopefully he’ll shake his crisis of confidence and return to the MLB club a stronger player after a month or two.