Monday, September 22, 2008

Hanging On By a Thread

At the beginning of the just-completed 10-game road trip, the only thing I wanted was to stay close. Sure, I'd have LOVED to pull into a tie or better with our south-side rivals, but it's better to be realistic. And it was realistic, based on schedules, that we'd be within three games in the final week of the season. Yeah, maybe we should have been better, but here's the reality. It's a six-game sprint to the finish, and we have a yet another golden opportunity to inch closer to a fifth division title in seven years. Folks, we're this close to seeing it happen! 

The Tuesday starters will be Scott Baker (9-4, 3.69 ERA) and Javier Vazquez (12-14, 4.32 ERA), Wednesday night features Nick Blackburn (10-10, 4.15 ERA) and Mark Buehrle (14-11, 3.87 ERA) and the series finishes up with Kevin Slowey (12-11, 3.85 ERA) vs. Gavin Floyd (16-8, 3.84 ERA).

I'm just gonna throw this out there... the Twins need a sweep. If they don't, they'll be relying on Cleveland and possibly Detroit to bail them out, and that's a bad place to be. Cleveland has won six straight, mind you, but they're certainly not a lock to knock out the hated Pale Hose. In light of this fact, here are ten reasons the Twins can sweep this series: 
  1. The bullpen has found new life in a mixture of Dennys Reyes, Jose Mijares and Craig Breslow. In the past six games, the trio has combined to throw 15 innings, giving up just two earned runs. In addition, they've struck out 14 batters and given up just seven hits. Maybe we do have a bridge to closer Joe Nathan.
  2. Speaking of Nathan, he's now converted two saves in a row - both against the Rays this past series. He looks to be back on track, which is exactly where we need him.
  3. If there's anyone other than Liriano we'd want to start this series off, it's Scott Baker. After a rough patch, he's got a nice 3.02 ERA over his past six starts (38 2/3 IP).
  4. Slugger Justin Morneau is coming off an ugly 3-for-15, NO RBI series vs. Tampa Bay, there's a very good chance he turns it around at home (or continues to struggle... but we're trying to stay positive!). Suffice it to say that if he's to win the MVP, he'll have to earn it over this three-game set.
  5. Catcher Joe Mauer is batting .391 in September, his best month of production so far... in fact, he's currently on an 11-game hitting streak and is batting .521 over his past 11 games. Oh, and he's leading the batting title race by .006 points now! 
  6. After a brief 1-for-17 slump in the middle of the road trip, right-fielder Denard Span bounced back with a 6-for-17 (.353) weekend series vs. the Rays. 
  7. Home Cookin: The team is 49-26 at home compared to a 35-46 finish on the road. (I know, that was an easy one).
  8. Speaking of production at home, 2B-man Alexi Casilla is batting .333 at home compared to .261 on the road. The team could really use him as a spark at the top too - he batted a pretty poor 7-for-32 (.219) on the 10-game trip. 
  9. Javier Vazquez and Mark Buehrle, the series' first two opposing pitchers, have a combined 3-2 record with a 5.57 ERA and 1.597 WHIP against Minnesota in five starts this season. So they've not had a lot of luck against us. The onus is on the Twins' pitching to get the job done.
  10. For some reason, I'm always terrified of Jermaine Dye when we play the White Sox, and he's in a huge slump right now. Dude is batting .242 with no homers and just six RBI in September (19 games). That, after hitting 32 homers and driving in 83 RBI in the first five months.
I'm spent... that's all for now!

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the games this week!

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