Reason to Believe

The major leagues are going to hell in a handbasket, but for the time being we've still got the Twins, and the game

When Anaheim manager Mike Scioscia brought on lefthander Scott Schoeneweis in the seventh to protect an 8-5 lead, there was little reason to expect the Twins to rally. Minnesota has been pathetic against lefties all season and entered the game batting just .247 against southpaws. As they have so often this year, however, the Twins pulled off the improbable, and in trademark fashion. In the seventh they scored two runs on two-out hits, capped by Torii Hunter's 22nd home run; in the eighth they broke the game open with another two-out rally, sparked by a Luis Rivas single, a pinch-hit single from Bobby Kielty, and a three-run homer by Cristian Guzman. Eddie Guardado came on to set the Angels down in order in the ninth for his league-leading 29th save, and yet another White Sox loss gave the Twins a ten-game lead--their largest ever at this point in the season, and the largest current lead in the major leagues.

Ten games, for crying out loud. Surely only Bud Selig and Donald Fehr could find a way to blow a ten-game lead.

 

NOTES:

Kielty's Monday-night pinch hit was his seventh of the season. As a pinch hitter he is 7 for 16, for a .438 batting average. In fact, the entire team has fared well in the pinch-hitting role, batting .322 overall (20 for 62). A.J. Pierzynski is hitting .571 (4 for 7) as a pinch hitter, while Jacque Jones is at.333 (2 for 6).

Jones's numbers in the leadoff spot and versus lefthanders continue to plummet, but he's still performing in the clutch, hitting .366 with runners in scoring position, .361 with runners in scoring position and two out, and .318 from the seventh inning on. The Twins are hitting .298 with the bases loaded. Corey Koskie and David Ortiz, who have both struggled most of the season, are finally heating up. Koskie is hitting .378 and slugging .649 in July, while Ortiz has hit .318 with a .727 slugging percentage. Hunter is on another of his hot streaks, with four home runs and nine RBI in July. Eric Milton seems to be back on track, having won both of his July starts, pitching 16 innings and striking out 13 while walking only three.

The early workload seems to be catching up to the bullpen. J.C. Romero, Mike Jackson, and Eddie Guardado have all seen their ERAs rise drastically in the past month. Romero, who was virtually unhittable in April and May, has seen his ERA climb in both June and July.

Doug Mientkiewicz is a splendid defensive player, but as a hitter he's now closer to the 1999 player who hit .229 with two home runs than to last year's version (.306 with 15 homers). He's batting just .247, with a .355 slugging percentage. Luis Rivas and Cristian Guzman both have higher batting averages and slugging percentages. How many runs exactly do you think Mientkiewicz saves with his glove?

It's refreshing, although unfortunate for the players involved, but none of the Twins three All Stars had an All-Star game bonus in their contracts.

More hope coming: Joe Mays gave up two hits and a run in his seven-inning rehab start at New Britain Monday night. Brad Radke also appears to be ready to begin his rehab assignment.

 

Brad Zellar goes Yard every Tuesday morning--and perhaps more often--for as long as he (and the Twins) are up to it.

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