Respect The Streak? Not This Time

For weeks, we’ve been moaning and groaning about the bad luck that’s befallen the Twins this season on the injury front. As the injuries mounted, so did the deficit the Twins faced in the standings.

For a while, we fans held out hope… if only they can keep things reasonably close until guys could get healthy. But they didn’t. In fact, not only did injured players not get healthy, but more players got hurt. Until it reached the point where only the most avid “prospect watchers” among us even recognized the names of some of the players wearing the Twins uniform.

And hope faded almost to black.

Almost.

And then a funny thing happened. These guys started to win.

Sure, they weren’t playing the Yankees and Red Sox (or even the Rays, Orioles or Blue Jays, for that matter) any more, but last I checked, all the games count the same in the standings, regardless of who the opponent is.

And they kept winning. They swept four from the Royals. They took 2 of 3 on the road from the AL Central leading Tribe. They took 3 of 4 from the AL West leading Rangers.

They aren’t making the errors (mental or physical) that they had been making. The pitchers aren’t giving up runs the way they had been. They finally managed to burn the assbats and started hitting the ball hard… and often. The new guys started hitting… then the few remaining regulars started hitting.

Yes, the Twins are on a winning streak… and you don’t have to be someone who’s watched Bull Durham 391 times to know that you don’t f… fool… with a winning streak. You respect the streak.

But Ron Gardenhire and the Twins are about challenge Crash Davis’ conventional wisdom. They really have no choice. But I’m betting it bothers Gardy at least as much as it does me… probably more.

Tsuyoshi Nishioka

Starting Thursday afternoon, the first of the Twins’ walking wounded returns to the line up. Tsuyoshi Nishioka has been out of action so long that this will be his first appearance in a game at Target Field. He’ll play shortstop, which means Alexi Casilla moves to second base. For all the talk about rookie Ben Revere and the pitching staff, it has quite possibly been Casilla whose performance, at bat and in the field, has been most responsible for the Twins’ recent success. Now he’s changing positions.

Joe Mauer

Friday, Joe Mauer is expected to take his rightful place behind the plate and in the heart of the batting order. He’s done neither for two months (and the season is only 2 and a half months old). It’s a no-brainer, of course. Mauer HAS to return to the line up if he’s healthy. Drew Butera and Rene Rivera are making more contact than they had been, but there’s a reason Mauer’s the starting catcher. Actually, there are about 23,000,000 reasons.

And that’s just the beginning. Over the course of the next week to 10 days, we can expect to see a lot of familiar faces return. Glen Perkins was arguably the most effective (only effective?) member of the bullpen when he went down. He’s due back by the weekend, but he’s rejoining a bullpen that’s been much better, perhaps because everyone there now has pretty well defined roles. Where will Perkins fit and will he be as effective as he had been?

Remember when Jason Kubel and Denard Span were the only hitters even coming close to performing at expected levels? They haven’t been in the lineup during this surge… but they will be returning before long. Who’s At-Bats will they be taking and… perhaps more importantly… who’s spots in the field will they be taking? There’s no question that the OF defense has improved since Ben Revere was recalled June 2.

Joe Nathan and Jim Thome are also on the road to recovery. They’ll be taking roster spots from a couple of guys who have contributed to the Twins’ recent success, too, but how certain are we that they will outperform the guys they’ll be replacing?

The last to return will possibly be the most recent to go on the DL, Justin Morneau. But has anyone else noticed that Luke Hughes and Michael Cuddyer are actually doing a better job defensively at 1B than Morneau had been?

Don’t get me wrong… I’m very happy to see these guys coming back. But I’m just old-school superstitious enough to be nervous about the timing, too.

If all of these guys come back and perform at the levels we expected from them when the season opened, the Twins may not only catch the rest of the Division, but absolutely destroy it. I just wish I was more confident of that.

One thing I’m pretty sure about, though, is that the Rochester Red Wings are on the verge of getting much, much, better.

- JC

GameChat – White Sox @ Twins #2 (kind of), 7:10

Lots of goings on at Target Field today – and the extra-sized press corps has returned.  Nishioka is back in Minnesota! He’s not in the lineup tonight. In fact, tonight’s lineup is exactly the same as last night.  We’ve sent a guy down to AAA to make room though – Dusty Hughes – so Nishioka will be showing up in the lineup any day now. The other news is that Mauer is also supposedly returning on Friday! His rehab is good and he and Nathan teamed up for a little joint rehab – a bit of testing each other I think. At any rate, both reportedly felt very good with the results and Mauer is champing at the bit to play.

But neither of them are playing tonight so we’ll have to hope that the boys we currently have are ready to go. I think the rain is supposed to be done once we get the game going so even if we have some sprinkles, they should be able to get the whole game in – so the weather men say. Not sure about their batting average though.

Chi White Sox @ Minnesota
Pierre, LF Revere, CF
Ramirez, Al, SS Casilla, A, SS
Quentin, RF Cuddyer, RF
Konerko, 1B Young, D, DH
Pierzynski, C Hughes, L, 1B
Rios, CF Valencia, 3B
Dunn, A, DH Dinkelman, LF
Beckham, 2B Tolbert, 2B
Morel, 3B Butera, C
Floyd, P Pavano, P

 


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Chi White Sox 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 6 0
Minnesota 0 0 3 0 0 0 0 1 x 4 11 0

Hey, guess what… one of the ESPN Baseball Tonight guys has discovered that the Twins are playing some baseball! Barry Larkin mentioned the Twins are playing well and, in his opinion, aren’t out of the AL Central race! That may be the kiss of death. But tonight, the Twins sure looked like the team we hoped they would be all season.

Revere, Casilla, Cuddyer and Dinkelman (that’s right, I said Dinkelman) all had two hits tonight, earning our undying thanks. Cuddy gets extra ice cream from the post-game dessert bar for stealing not one… not two… but THREE bases off of our old buddy AJ!

But a complete game bitch slapping of the BitchSox certainly warrants BOD honors for Carl Pavano!

Carl Pavano