By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
The Twins defense and sound fundamental play have largely been overlooked this season. The team recently broke the club record for consecutive errorless games (with eleven), and they're currently on pace to break the team record for fewest errors in a season. At present they have the best fielding percentage (.986) in the American League, and, increasingly, the team does most of the little things right. It helps, of course, to have Gold Glove-caliber players in Mientkiewicz, Torii Hunter, Cory Koskie, Cristian Guzman, and Luis Rivas, but defense remains one area where Gardenhire doesn't get enough credit. In Koskie's early days with the team, it was Gardenhire, then a coach, who spent countless hours with the young third baseman, hitting him groundballs and ironing out the deficiencies that made Kelly wary of using Koskie in the field. All of the Twins current infielders were beneficiaries of Gardenhire's work and tutelage in those dark days in the late Nineties.
Over the ten games of the last homestand the Twins relievers threw twenty-four-and-a-third scoreless innings. In the first three games of the Kansas City series--all victories, including two in extra innings--the pen didn't give up a run in eleven innings. Only twice in the homestand--in the second game of the Toronto series and in Monday's blow-out loss to Kansas City--was the bullpen touched for runs. The team is now 18-5 since the All-Star break.
The team's production from the bottom of the order has been incredible. The Twins lead the league in runs from the number nine spot (with 57), and are first in batting average at number eight (with a .286 avg.); they're also first in runs and RBI from the seven hole (with 70 runs and 69 RBI), and first in runs from the sixth position (with 70). Throw out Hunter in the five spot (where they lead the league in average and slugging percentage) and the top-half of the order hasn't fared so well, particularly in the two, three, and four spots; Twins two hitters (primarily Cristian Guzman) are 13th in the league in runs scored, 12th in RBI, and 14th in OBP. The team's clean-up hitters are 8th in RBIs, 10th in runs, 9th in RBIs, and 9th in homeruns, while the number three hitters (with Mientkiewicz getting most of the at bats until recently) are 8th in batting average, 10th in RBIs, 12th in homeruns, and 10th in slugging percentage.
Brad Zellar goes Yard every Tuesday morning--and perhaps more often--for as long as he (and the Twins) are up to it.