Last week started out on a high note, but it finished on an incredibly sour one, like the kind of note that you hear when a three year old mashes his hands on a piano keyboard. First, the Twins extended the hapless Indians’ losing streak to 11 games, then they helped Cleveland end that same streak. The follow-up act was a series against the Rays during which Minnesota never bothered to give the impression that they could or should win a game. The final game of that series was particularly harsh; behind Scott Diamond‘s competent pitching, the Twins managed to keep the score tied through nine innings, only to lose miserably in the 10th.
In case the losing wasn’t enough, we also got to witness the return of Tsuyoshi Nishioka. It’s doubtful that there were many fans left who believed in him (as opposed to pitying him) at this point, but if there were, they’re almost certainly gone now. Nishioka is likely to return to the minors some time in the next week, and at this point it seems highly unlikely that he’ll be back in Minnesota again.
Finally, to add the proverbial injury to last week’s insults, Denard Span left Sunday’s game with a shoulder injury. The team announced that he will have a precautionary X-ray, and he’s considered day-to-day. That has to be considered a bad sign, since any Twins player who is expected to miss a day or two with an injury invariably ends up on the Disabled List. So, hopefully, we’ll see Span back in uniform by the end of the season.
The week ahead features a series against the Detroit Tigers, an off day on Thursday, and then three against the Seattle Mariners. One small mercy in the Tiger series: the Twins won’t have to face Justin Verlander. The Mariner series marks the easiest portion of a three series AL West road trip. The two subsequent series against Oakland and Texas will be tougher.
Twins Goals for the Week Ahead:
1. Get some quality starts. Aside from Diamond, most of the Twins’ starters have had to rely on smoke and mirrors to get through games. Simply put: give up too many hits and walks. Minnesota’s offense is good enough that they could win most of their games if the starters would just do the bare minimum to keep them in the game. Hopefully that can happen a few times this week.
2. Get Trevor Plouffe back. The team’s starting third baseman is close to returning from a thumb injury, and the lower part of the batting order is a lot scarier with his bat in it.
3. Beat up on Seattle. Wedged in between series against the Rays, Tigers, A’s and Rangers – four contending teams – the Seattle Mariners are the only lower-eschelon opponent the Twins will face for a while. They’ll need to rack up a few wins in order to keep this August from looking like last August, when Minnesota went 7-21.
Justin Morneau. He’s back, and he’s climbing up the Twins’ all-time leaderboards. First he whacked a pair of homers against the Indians on Monday night to reach 200 for his career. Then he hit number 201 on Sunday. That one ties him with Gary Gaetti for sixth place on the franchise’s all-time list. Not bad, considering this franchise is 111 years old.
Diamond. Nothing flashy, just two more quality starts. He now has 14 on the season, which is approximately 500 more quality starts than the rest of the Twins’ starters have (note: that last stat might be an exaggeration, but it’s not far off).
Oswaldo Arcia. Arcia isn’t on the Twins’ Major League roster, but he has had an amazing week, and there weren’t any actual Twins players who deserve this slot more than him. Arcia hit 10 for 22 this week at AA New Britain, hitting in all seven games safely. He added five doubles and two homers, including a grand slam. His batting average is now a robust .33o since his promotion to AA.
Nishioka. His failures this week have been well-documented, so we will not dwell on them here. But it would be a tremendous oversight not to put him on this list.
Cole De Vries. This writer badly wants to see De Vries succeed, since he is a local guy with a great backstory. But success is not what happened to De Vries on Friday night. He got through the first inning, but not the second. In the process he allowed seven hits (five of them for extra bases) and seven runs, driving his ERA from 3.81 all the way up to 4.77. Let’s call it a mulligan and hope he does better next time.
Ben Revere. It’s surprising to find Revere on this list, since he has been a Weekly Winner more often than not lately. But take away a four hit game on Monday night, and Revere was just 2 for 23 this week. He finally reached enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting race, but his average has dropped from .331 to .314 in just a matter of days.