Monday, April 25, 2011

Bless the Rains

Twins vs. Indians, postponed
Would it be hyperbole to say that this rainout was the best thing to happen to the Twins all season? Neither Justin Morneau nor Delmon Young were in the announced lineup, meaning a 4th straight game with a 2-man bench and a batting order featuring 3 of Jason Repko, Drew Butera, Matt Tolbert, Luke Hughes and Steve Holm, in addition to Alexi Casilla. That murderer's row helped the Twins put up 7 R over the previous 3 games, an anemic output even by their pathetic standards.

Thanks to Mother Nature, a game that would have been played with the Twins at their weakest will now be made up after the All-Star break. Barring any unforeseen setbacks, Joe Mauer and Tsuyoshi Nishioka will be back in the lineup by then. Everyone should have shaken off the effects of their shortened spring training and be fully into the flow of the season. Coming into the game, the Indians couldn't have been hotter, and the Twins couldn't have been colder - those situations should be at least more equalized later in the summer. And by late July Bill Smith should be making moves to strengthen the Twins' shortcomings, whereas the Indians will probably looking to unload Travis Hafner and Grady Sizemore for more prospects. It will be a lot easier to make this game a W at another time. Phew!

Justin Morneau is back. And I don't just mean that Gardy finally was able to write his name into the cleanup spot after a week battling the flu. He hit like he used to, like he hasn't all season, driving the ball up the middle and the opposite way. One of those was the game-breaking hit, a 2-run single after the Indians had opted to intentionally BB Jason Kubel to load the bases. Hopefully we've seen the last of that.

10 runs! 13 hits! 5 walks! This is the offense we thought we had going into the season. Repko and Casilla kept the line moving with 2 H apiece, twice setting up crooked number innings. To top it off, Joe Nathan finished the game with a dominant, vintage inning, striking out 2 and needing just 13 pitches to retire the side.

3B coach Steve Liddle and the baserunners need to get on the same page. What should have been an insurmountable 3rd-inning outburst was reduced to just 2 R thanks to 2 guys getting hosed at the plate by Shin-Soo Choo. Casilla was first; he got a late sign from Liddle, so he decided to look into RF himself just as Liddle emphatically put up the stop sign. Morneau followed with a booming 2-R double that short-hopped the wall in CF. Michael Cuddyer slipped a single into RF in the next AB. On that play, Liddle's hold was again late, but meek, a sort of half-hearted "Stop?" just as Morneau went past to his doom.

Target Field kept 4 balls in the yard that might have been HR in a lot of other parks. Thankfully for the Twins, a replay review found that Michael Brantley's drive struck the top corner of the limestone facing of the short porch in RF. Jim Thome clobbered 2 shots that bounced high off the 18' wall in the RF corner. And Kubel's game-winning double hit high off the big wall in right center. Kubel has been a beast all year; now with Cuddyer, Thome and Morneau starting to heat up, things could get pretty fun if Delmon Young can get himself back on track.

Over the weekend, the Indians, Royals and White Sox were swept, while the Twins and Tigers went unbeaten. That tightened the standings slightly, and sent the Sox into the cellar. The Twins are just 4 games out of 1st place, with their worst baseball of the season hopefully behind them.

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