Twins 4, Royals 1
Twins 7, Royals 3
Royals 5, Twins 4 (12 innings)
I'm beginning to see a pattern emerging. The Twins begin a road trip against a non-divisional opponent, give away a couple of games thanks to poor pitching and defense, then recover to win the next series vs. a division rival. This is how the last 3 road trips have gone over the past month: the sweep at the hands of the Red Sox (2 games lost by the bullpen) followed by a 3-1 series win in Detroit; the sweep at the hands of the Yankees (all-around terrible baseball) followed by a 2-1 series win in Cleveland; and now a series loss at the hands of the Mariners (2 games lost by the bullpen) followed by a 2-1 series win in KC.
If your cup is half full, you might say that it's great to see the Twins able to bounce back from a bad start, and that it's more important to beat their division rivals - which is true. But, if your cup is half empty, you might point out how consistently the bullpen is allowing runs on the road (12 of the last 19 games), and how the next road trip is a 14-gamer, all against non-divisional opponents.
My cup is looking a little on the empty side right now. That's mostly because the Twins threw away first place for the second time this week. The sweep of the Royals was theirs for the taking, the last out of the 8th inning in Adam Everett's hand. All he had to do was make an on-target throw to first and the Twins would have handed their 4-3 lead to Joe Nathan in the ninth. But the inning only got that far because Brian Buscher double-clutched on a slow 2-hopper to third, enabling the relentlessly hustling Mark Teahan to reach with a leadoff "single" (how is Teahan only hitting .250? He's killing the Twins).
But that's not all. In the 6th, also with Teahan at the plate and 1 out, Scott Baker got a chopper to the right of the mound. He prudently chose to get the sure out at 1st base - except no one was covering: Mike Lamb had gone for the batted ball and Nick Punto was late covering. Baker tried to shovel it to Punto at the last second, but it got by him and rolled into foul territory, allowing 1 run to score and moving Teahan to 3rd. That brought the infield in, enabling Jose Guillen's grounder to go through for an RBI single. Even the Royals can beat you when you give them extra outs and bases.
The bullpen lost the game today, but I can't hang it on them. Matt Guerrier faced 3 batters, getting 2 grounders and a strikeout. Dennys Reyes, though he threw a wild pitch, got outs from the 2 men he faced. Craig Breslow did about as much as you can ask of him - he's not good enough to go twice through the order without getting nicked. (Although, you'd like to think he could get Tony Pena, Jr. out at least once, considering that he's, you know, a crappy hitter.) However, the bullpen allowed 2 ER in 11 IP in the series - really pretty good.
The hitting also left a bit to be desired, with the Twins accumulating just 24 hits in 30 innings of batting. Luckily, they drew so many walks (22 in the three games, plus a HBP) that the few hits they got should have been enough to earn the sweep. An extra run or two would have come in handy on Sunday, and I've got to call out Jason Kubel (3 ABs with runners on 3rd, 0-3 with a foul pop and 2 K) and Delmon Young (2 GIDP). With a 4-2 lead heading to the bottom of the 7th, Gardy sensibly inserted Gomez into the defense in place of Kubel. Once the game was tied, I really regretted not having Kubel at the plate, regardless of how bad a day he was having. Oh well.
On a lighter note, Livan Hernandez made his debut for the Rockies this afternoon: 2.2 IP, 7 H, 9 ER, 4 BB, 1 K. Glad we don't have to worry about that crap any more.