Saturday, June 13, 2009

4th Split: 8-8

Overall Record: 32-32
2nd in AL Central by 3 games

Other Splits: 7-9, 8-8, 9-7

The way things have gone for the Twins on the road this year, I shouldn't be too disappointed to see them finish a split with 12 road games at .500. It's just too bad that things fell apart on Thursday afternoon, or the Twins might already have a winning trip under their belt. Still, these last two weeks have been a return to the kind of baseball I'm used to seeing from the Twins: a lot of 4-3 and 2-1 games with Joe Nathan collecting 7 of his 15 saves.

After putting up 105 runs over the previous 16 games, the Twins managed just 61 R in this split. Brendan Harris added his name to the short list of productive Twins hitters, going .356/.415/.508 over this stretch. But nagging injuries to Denard Span, Michael Cuddyer and Joe Crede left the lineup awfully limp for a few games. Add in the occasional 0-fers from Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, and it shouldn't come as a surprise that the Twins failed to score even 4 R in 11 of the last 16 games.

Luckily, the pitching has officially come together, so 3 or fewer runs was good enough to win 3 games over this span. Scott Baker and Francisco Liriano both delivered QS in their last 2 outings. Nick Blackburn continued to pace the staff with 21 IP over his 3 starts with just 6 ER allowed. Anthony Swarzak had a couple of short outings, but really only had 2 bad innings out of 20.2 IP. Matt Guerrier and Jose Mijares have solidified themselves as the late-inning guys, combining with Nathan to allow only one ER in 16.2 IP. They have been used frequently, but for short stints, so hopefully they'll hold up as the summer moves along.

The defense continues to help the cause, committing just 4 errors, though there were some plays that weren't made that didn't cost a player an E. It seems like half of those came from the recently demoted Alexi Casilla, who is still young enough for there to be hope that he'll learn to keep his head in the game from start to finish. It was a little nerve-racking to see an outfield alignment of Jason Kubel, Michael Cuddyer and Delmon Young out there for a few innings when Span went down, but they seemed to get away with it.

The next split includes another 11 road games, so the Twins will have to keep working to improve their performance away from the Dome. However, 13 of the next 17 are interleague games, the part of the schedule in which the Twins have put the pedal down and left their season-opening mediocrity behind them in recent years. Since 2006, the Twins are 46-13 against NL teams, including their 5-0 record so far this year. Keep that up, and things should be a bit tighter when the Twins face the Tigers in early July.

Bold Prediction: The Twins will be healthily over .500 by the mid-point of the season.

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