Make no mistake, this is a big series.
It’s preposterous to call any game or even any series a “must win” at this point in the season. Still, you don’t have to spend much time perusing the standings before coming to the conclusion that the pre-AllStar Break series that begins tonight against the White Sox is huge.
It’s easy to focus on the number of games the Twins trail the AL Central Division leaders, if for no other reason than those are the numbers we see published every day in the media. The Twins have been bouncing around between 7-9 games behind whichever team, the Indians or Tigers, might happen to be leading the division on a particular date. In fact, some writers (including myself) have pointed to the week of July 18-24, when the Twins are scheduled to play eight games against the Indians and Tigers in a span of seven days as the stretch during which the Twins’ destiny will be determined.
But, as we all know, the Twins don’t just trail Cleveland and Detroit. If the Twins are truly going to pull themselves up in to contention, they’re going to have to step over the cold, dead body of the BitchSox, as well. The Sox haven’t found a way to win even a single game over the Twins so far, with our guys going 2-0 both on their last trip to Chicago, in May, and also on the Sox’ return trip in June. That’s a trend that needs to continue.
The Sox enjoy a 3.5 game lead over the Twins as the series begins. A Twins sweep would propel them in to third place at the AllStar Break. Getting swept by the Sox would mean a 7.5 game deficit and we’ll probably start reading a lot more articles about other teams contacting the Twins about trades, like this one from the Denver Post, as it would seem all but impossible to catch and pass three teams from that far back at the Break.
As for tonight’s game… it’s the long-awaited (and much too ballyhooed) debut of Joe Mauer at first base for the Twins.
Joe and the Twins will be facing off against former Twin Phil Humber. Joe Christensen at the Strib wrote a nice piece on Humber that’s worth a read.
Finally, congratulations to Sox 1B Paul Konerko on winning the fan vote for the final spot on the AL AllStar team. Personally, I thought it was stupid that he had to go through that process, rather than just being named on his own merits. Konerko is one of those guys I can’t help but respect, even when he plays for a rival.
|Revere, CF||Pierre, LF|
|Casilla, A, 2B||Vizquel, 3B|
|Mauer, 1B||Konerko, 1B|
|Cuddyer, RF||Dunn, A, DH|
|Thome, DH||Rios, CF|
|Valencia, 3B||Pierzynski, C|
|Tosoni, LF||Ramirez, Al, SS|
|Nishioka, SS||Teahen, RF|
|Butera, C||Beckham, 2B|
|Chi White Sox||0||0||0||0||2||0||0||0||0||2||6||1|
Didn’t tonight just remind you how much fun it is to beat the BitchSox?
Carl Pavano wasn’t terrificly sharp, but he still got through 7 innings while giving up only 2 runs, so you have to happily take that. Glen Perkins and Matt Capps… yes, Matt Capps… each contributed a scoreless inning of relief work.
Ben Revere had a really nice night, going 3 for 5 with a couple of runs scored and Tsuyoshi Nishioka contributed with the bat and the glove.
But tonight’s BOD was pretty clearly Joe Mauer. The Chairman had 3 hits and 2 RBI, and also looked like he had been playing 1B most of his career. Ground balls, line drives, scooping balls in the dirt, soft-tossing to the pitcher covering… he had to do it all and did just fine. Good work Joe!