Thursday, September 16, 2010

9th Split: 13-3

Overall Record: 87-58
1st in AL Central by 8 games

Other splits: 11-5, 10-6, 7-9, 9-7, 7-10, 7-9, 13-3, 10-6

Wow. To go +10 over a 16 game stretch once in a season is pretty good. To do it twice is really special. That's what the Twins have done in this improbably awesome 2nd-half run. Even in the 3 losses, they were in the game all the way, losing 2-1 to Seattle, 10-9 to Detroit and 2-0 to Cleveland. Other than that, whatever the circumstances, home or away, they found a way to win. They were able to hold their ground during Chicago's blazing hot streak, then pull away once the Sox cooled off.

As I predicted, the offense bounced back to 5+ R/G, thanks to 24 RS over the last 3 games. Jim Thome was the big hitting hero, making huge noise in his limited appearances by blasting 5 majestic HR, including the crucial game-winner in the 12th inning of Saturday's 1-0 affair. He was in the middle of just about every rally, batting .407/.555/1.000. Surprisingly, the only other guys who had a really awesome split were JJ Hardy and Matt Tolbert (only 5 GS, but 3 triples and 8 RBI with 4 BB).

The pitching was just as awesome as the hitting was back in the 7th split. The staff sported an ERA well under 3.00, and allowed just 48 RA over the 16 games. They were led by the rotation, all of the healthy members of which went 3 for 3 in QS. In fact, the only game in which the starter failed to earn a QS for non-injury reasons was Matt Fox' excellent emergency MLB debut vs. the Rangers, and he missed it by one out. The bullpen was fantastic, with the exception of the AAA guys and the execrable Randy Flores, who can't get anybody out, especially lefties.

I wish I could say the defense had shared in the return to excellence. The Twins made 9 more E resulting in 7 unearned runs, raising their season totals to 63 and 30. That puts them behind the Yankees in fielding percentage for the first time this season. Most of the errors have come from the IF, where Michael Cuddyer's best efforts are often insufficient to scoop low throws out of the dirt. But there were plenty of misplays in the OF as well, notably from Delmon Young. If the defense had been playing up to the level of the other phases of the game, the Twins might have gone 15-1 in this split.

But that's overkill, isn't it? The division is soundly in hand, and the Twins have even recovered to within 1.5 games of the best record in the Major Leagues. That potential for home field advantage over the Yankees and Rays should keep them focused all the way to the end, even as they rest many of their key players for a run into October.

Bold prediction: The Twins will clinch the division next weekend in Detroit.

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