The hitters can't be let off the hook either. What a horribly vanilla performance. Four runs, all driven in by Mauer. The team coaxed seven walks and picked up eight hits, but left nine men on base, including Orlando Cabrera's absolutely backbreaking bases-loaded double play to end the sixth. Mind you - three of the previous four batters were walked. Kansas City did their very best to gift-wrap a series win, but instead got their first one since late June. On top of all that, Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer and Joe Crede piled up zero hits in 11 at bats.
We can't expect the offense to produce big numbers every night, and against truly awful teams like KC, four runs of support should be enough. But they weren't, and the Twins completed a stretch of 3-12 baseball since their season-high four-game winning streak from July 26-29.
As a matter of fact, since their high-water mark of three games above .500 (43-40) on July 5, the team has spiraled into oblivion, going 12-19 since that point. Our saving grace has been taking 5-of-6 from Chicago, which is probably the reason for higher-than-normal fan morale. So that's why I still care… I was under the impression I was still full of hope, but it turns out the weight of beating Chicago makes me feel like less of a loser. Because hey, if we can beat them, then we can beat lots of different teams, right? Of course, now that they've added Alex Rios and Jake Peavy, we're probably going to struggle a bit more.
I think this stings more because it came on the heels of such an uplifting start from Liriano.
Alas, we must move on.
Cleveland comes to town on with 12 wins in their past 20 games and a combined 6-3 record vs. Chicago, Detroit and Minnesota over that stretch. Some of that was with Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez, but Lee only pitched twice in there - both outings were wins.
In our most recent series against the Indians, the two teams traded blowout wins before Cleveland took the rubber match by a score of 2-1 on the "strength" of Fausto Carmona's six innings of one-run ball. The Twins really helped him out though - grounded into 12 outs, including two double plays. Worst of all, the team completely wasted a really good outing from Nick Blackburn … he pitched into the seventh inning and gave up just two runs in the loss. He'll pitch Sunday and hopefully duplicate his success (Two starts, 1-0, 2.02 ERA).
Against Detroit and Anaheim - two of the better-hitting ballclubs in the American League - in his past two starts, Anthony Swarzak showed his true colors. If you want the numbers… a 24.75 ERA and 4.25 WHIP with no strikeouts in four innings. He's not a dominant stopper or even especially effective starter. He's a Bobby Keppel… a Brian Duensing. My guess? When Perkins' shoulder calms down, he'll replace Swarzak in the rotation (came out yesterday that he will not need surgery… it's just tendonitis). Maybe in September. Swarzy looked capable against the Cubs and had nice outings against Oakland/Anaheim back-to-back, so there's some talent there, but nothing consistent. He'll go Saturday vs. Cleveland's David Huff.
Tonight's starter, Scott Baker, pitched three scoreless innings before falling apart in Detroit last Sunday. The longball bit him again as he gave up a solo shot to Marcus Thames and a three-run job to Miguel Cabrera. It's been the story of Baker's season and a summation of his poor outings. He almost always starts strong, then crumbles into a fine powder when he starts to get hit. But before I throw him under the bus any more, I should mention the previous 26 innings where he went 2-0 with a 1.38 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 24 Ks. He'll face Justin Masterson, the gem of the Cliff Lee deal.
Funny how quickly a rant can turn into a miniature weekend series preview.
Anyway, hope you enjoyed the post and I'll be back soon. Thanks for reading!