Did you miss us? If you’re a regular reader of Puckett’s Pond’s This Week in Twins (TWIT) feature, you’ve probably noticed that TWIT has been missing for the last six weeks. Sorry for the inconvenience, but the writer has been taking a break due to the birth of his first daughter. You may call me a slacker and point out that Justin Morneau is only taking off three days for his baby’s birth, and that’s a fair criticism. But I would counter by saying that Morneau gets paid, so he has a bit more incentive to return quickly! The TWIT writer, on the other hand, works not for money, but out of the goodness of his heart.
Anyway, back to the Twins. What could have been a disappointment ended up being a positive week for Minnesota overall. The local nine had the Orioles by their throat after two series-opening wins, but then let the Birds escape with a split after blowing two easily winnable games on Wednesday and Thursday. Then they pulled it together in Kansas City with a weekend 2-1 series win, including a nice extra-inning effort on Friday night. That series victory left Minnesota within a half game of the Royals in the AL Central standings, which means they might not be stuck in last place for very long.
The week ahead offers a great chance to pull out of the basement, and it also gives the Twins a shot to stick it to some slumping division opponents. First they travel to Chicago to take on the White Sox at just the right time – a five game slide has knocked the South Siders out of first place in the Central. After a day off on Thursday, it’s back home for a series against the Indians, who have a four game losing streak of their own.
Of course, the real drama will not happen on the field this week. Everyone will be watching for trade news, because the Twins are bona fide sellers. Francisco Liriano and Denard Span are the big names on the block, and they may be ex-Twins before next week’s edition of TWIT comes out.
Joe Mauer. Five walks and 10 hits in the last week have raised Mauer’s AL-leading on-base percentage to .423. He also socked his sixth homer of the season in Monday evening’s blowout win. Mauer just keeps hitting, which is exactly what we’ve all come to expect from him. He’s about 20 points behind Mark Trumbo for the AL batting lead, and that race has a chance to be one of the most exciting things to watch late this season for the Twins.
Samuel Deduno. Deduno’s first start against Baltimore was a clunker, but Sunday’s effort in Kansas City was about as good as we can possibly ask from the 29 year old righty. Despite the 300 degree heat, Deduno threw strikes and induced ugly swings with his curveball, holding the Royals to a single run in six plus innings. Sure, it was the Royals, but it was a great start nonetheless. And bright spots have been so rare for the Twins’ starting rotation that we have to be happy with this one.
Ryan Doumit. The rest of Doumit’s week was unspectacular, but he gets a slot on the Winners’ list thanks to his two homer performance on Sunday. As you’ve probably heard by now, Doumit became just the third Twin ever to homer from both sides of the plate in one game. Good job.
Trevor Plouffe. Plouffe doesn’t find himself on this list because he performed badly. On the contrary, the third baseman hit a more-than-respectable .333 in 18 at bats. But if Plouffe is going to challenge for the team lead in home runs, he’s going to have to start hitting them again soon. Josh Willingham took the team lead right before the All Star Break, and after another homerless week by Plouffe, Willingham has a commanding 23-19 lead. One other disappointment for the week: Plouffe’s 16 game hitting streak snapped on Friday, and he missed last weekend’s contests due to a thumb injury.
Matt Capps. Our expectations for Capps had sunk pretty low, so it’s doubly disappointing that he failed to meet them yet again. All Capps had to do was come in and throw three or four decent outings so that the Twins could trade him for a prospect. Instead, Capps entered a blowout game on Monday evening, gave up a double and a homer, and then promptly returned to the Disabled List, thus eliminating all chance that the Twins can get anything in return for him. It’s tempting to blame this on Capps, but it’s not his fault he got hurt. Instead, let’s place the blame squarely on the Twins’ front office for their idiotic decision to re-sign Capps in the first place.
Scott Diamond. During Diamond’s incredible run in the first half of the season, one couldn’t help but wonder if he was for real or if he was just winning by smoke and mirrors. It’s still too early to tell, but last week Diamond came crashing back to Earth in a big way. This week Diamond made two starts that pushed his ERA up a half run (from 2.62 to 3.16). He threw 12 innings and surrendered 19 hits and nine earned runs. Diamond is still the most reliable starter the Twins have, and we have every reason to hope that he’ll start making quality starts again soon, but those of us who were hoping he would be the second coming of Tom Glavine got a healthy dose of reality last week.