Last week was a pleasant surprise for the Twins. Not only did they win a pair of series against division rivals, including a Tiger team that still has something to play for, but the second victory of a Sunday doubleheader marked the team’s 64th victory of the season, which means that the 2012 Twins are guaranteed to finish with a better record than the 2011 squad.
This week, they’ll play twice as many contenders. After three games with the Yankees, Minnesota will take their last day off this season and then they’ll face the Tigers again. Both series will take place within the empty confines of The Bullseye. “The Bullseye” is TWIT’s nickname for Target Field; it’s an appropriate nickname partly because Target’s logo is a bullseye and partly because opposing sluggers seem to act as if they’re trying to hit a bullseye somewhere in the outfield stands.
It’s late in the season and the Twins don’t have much to play for, but a series against the Yankees always brings its share of excitement, disappointment, jubilation, and frustration. Every Twins fan seems to hate them, so a victory over New York is sweeter than a victory against a regular team. Unfortunately, those victories often seem hard to come by. But wait! The Twins actually have a chance to win the season series against New York this year! If you recall, Minnesota managed to split a series in the Bronx back in early April, which means that a series win this week would give the Twins their first season series victory against the Yankees since2001.
For some perspective on how the 2012 Twins season has gone, here are the four pitchers who started that early series in the Big Apple: Carl Pavano, Francisco Liriano, Jason Marquis, and Anthony Swarzak. The only one who is still with the team is now a long reliever.
Twins Goals for the Week Ahead:
Beat the Yankees! Winning that season series could make up for a lot of 2012′s awfulness. Not only would it be a moral victory, but it would also put a dent in New York’s playoff hopes, since they’re currently locked in a tight race with Baltimore. If that’s not something to play for, I don’t know what is.
Get Joe Mauer a Batting Title. Mauer had an up and down week, but he finished it with an 0-5 showing in Sunday’s nightcap game. He is now eight points behind Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera. Mauer is a longshot to win his fourth hitting crown, but it can be done. It will take a team effort – Mauer needs to rack up the hits, and the Twins’ pitchers need to find a way to shut down Cabrera next weekend.
Pull Closer to 70. Now that they’ve surpassed the 2011 victory total, the next goal is a 70 win season. A win total that begins with 7 is much less ugly than one that begins with 6, and it would be a bit of a psychological boost heading into the offseason. TWIT doubts the Twins will win all six games this week, but if they could somehow win most of them, 70 would be possible.
1. Josh Willingham. He makes the list by virtue of his 35th home run, which came early in the week against Cleveland. The rest of Willingham’s week wasn’t too shabby. He hit safely in every game and finished the week 9-28.
2. P.J. Walters. TWIT was as surprised as anyone, but Walters had a pretty good week. Despite allowing eight hits in five innings Tuesday, Walters escaped with only two runs allowed and a no-decision. He followed that up with six strong innings in Detroit last night. In total, he allowed just three earned runs in 11 innings.
3. Casey Fien. With three appearances and 3.2 scoreless outings, Fien now has a miniscule 1.39 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 32.1 innings for the season. If the Twins are not considering him for a setup role in 2013, they are crazy.
1. Samuel Deduno. If Fien has made his case for the 2013 bullpen, Deduno seemed to be doing everything in his power to avoid earning a spot in the 2013 rotation. In Detroit on Saturday night, the Tiger hitters smacked just about everything Deduno threw; that is, except for when he was busy walking them.
2. Chris Herrmann. It’s a bit harsh to put the new guy on this list, but he did go 0-8. Herrmann has a decent future with the Twins, and TWIT is happy that he’s getting a shot to play this September. Hopefully he’ll earn his first MLB hit next week, and we can put him on the winners’ list.
3. Ryan Doumit. The Twins’ switch-hitting catcher/DH only had two hits in 21 at bats on last week’s road trip, lowering his batting average to .273 after it had peaked near .300 a few weeks ago. Hopefully he can rebound with a productive homestand to give him a positive season ending.