This Week in Twins: July 30 – August 5

Last week was a week of big contrasts and mixed emotions for the Twins. They suffered an ugly sweep at the hands of one heated division rival (Chicago White Sox), then they gloriously swept another (Cleveland Indians) in the same blowout fashion. The starting pitching shined in four of the six games, but the relievers melted down in another. Francisco Liriano said goodbye about the same time that Danny Valencia returned. Anthony Swarzak and Trevor Plouffe hit the Disabled List, but Justin Morneau finally started hitting like the MVP he used to be. And after a bad start to the week, the Twins finally crawled out of last place in the AL Central! They now hold a two game advantage over the Royals.

We begin another week of uncertainty, as any one of several Twins veterans could have a new team by tomorrow afternoon. Fortunately, we’ll be able to leave the rumor mill behind and focus on the rest of the baseball season after that.

The week starts with three games at home against the Chicago White Sox. This series offers a chance for the Twins to get some revenge for last week’s debacle and play the spoiler role. More importantly, they’ll get a chance to face Liriano on Tuesday night. After Chicago leaves town, the Twins trade one color Sox for another as they fly to Beantown and meet the Red Sox in a four game stint. The White Sox look like a team on the rise, but the Red Sox seem almost ready to throw in the towel in the AL East.

Twins Goals for the Week Ahead:

1. Beat Liriano. The return on the trade was disappointing because Liriano had far less value than most biased Twins fans expected. Hopefully the Twins can prove they didn’t get ripped off by knocking the ball around in Liriano’s first start with the Sox.

2. Stop the White Sox momentum. Chicago came into last week’s series with a five game losing streak, then they swept the Twins and won a weekend series against the formidable Rangers. It would be nice for the Twins to win the White Sox series and take a little bite out of Chicago’s growing confidence.

3. Win some games at Fenway. The AL East has been a big, ugly menace for the Twins recently. It’s far too late to salvage the 2012 season, but Minnesota could at least salvage some pride by proving they can beat a team in the Eastern Time Zone.

Morneau and Willingham: Weekly Winners. Photo by Jesse Johnson-US PRESSWIRE

Weekly Winners:

Justin Morneau. Morneau was a winner in baseball and in life this week. He missed the week’s first game because he was spending time with his wife, who gave birth to the couple’s second child. When he came back to the field, he raked. Morneau hit .458/.535/.625 with a pair of homers. His batting average for the season is up to a respectable .260, and he’s just two homers away from 200 for his career.

Josh Willingham. He only had five hits this week, but four of them left the ballpark. That puts him at 27 on the season, on pace for 44 when all is said and done. This Puckett’s Pond writer is starting to hope that Willingham really can become the first Twin to break the 35 barrier since 1970… and he’s really starting to regret his argument that the Twins should trade Willingham earlier this season.

Scott Diamond. Diamond wasn’t the only Twins starter to excel this week – Sam Deduno, Cole DeVries, and Brian Duensing all had solid outings as well – but he makes the winner’s list for throwing a three hit shutout. Not only was it by far the most dominant performance by a Twins pitcher this season, a six strikeout, sub-100 pitch effort that only a no-hitter could beat, but it came right on the heels of Diamond’s two worst starts of the year. Great bounceback.

Weekly Worst:

Nick Blackburn. Ugh, that was a bad start by Blackburn. 10 hits and a pair of homers in less than five innings against the White Sox gave the Twins no chance to win. Despite a contract that pays him through 2013, it’s very difficult to see how Blackburn could figure into any of the Twins’ future plans.

Tyler Robertson. The Twins could have won one of the games in Chicago. On Tuesday they held a 4-2 lead when Robertson took over for starter Cole DeVries. ThE. Robertson surrendered a walk and a tw0-run homer, thus blowing the save chance. He allowed another two-run bomb in Saturday’s game against the Indians, but fortunately the Twins were well ahead by that time.

Jeff Gray. Hard to land someone on the Weekly Worst list if he only pitches 0.2 innings in a week, but when that pitcher has a 40.50 ERA in those 0.2 innings, it’s hard to keep him off. Gray relievE. Robertson on Tuesday night, and he stood on the mound as the Sox turned a close game into a laugher.

Topics: Anthony Swarzak, Francisco Liriano, Jeff Gray, Josh Willingham, Justin Morneau, Minnesota Twins, Nick Blackburn, Scott Diamond, Trevor Plouffe

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