With not three but five outfielders in the Twins back pocket (and a permanent DH in Jim Thome), Manager Ron Gardenhire is like that old, 80s juggling act, where the dude tries to keep a rubber ball, an egg, a bowling ball, an apple, and a running chainsaw in the air, while taking bites of the fruit. The joke is that he finally bites the egg. Last night, no one bit the egg.
Gardy let Thome rest (which also means he could've come in to bat in the late innings, if necessary), put Span in center, Revere in left, Kubel in right, and there goes Cuddyer, holding down first.
Those five had 25 plate appearances, resulting in 11 hits, a walk, 9 of the 11 RBI (those from 5 home runs), and well, Span struck out 3 times. Que sera, sera. It was a damn good night.
Try to ignore the fact that we opened up against a pitcher named Joel Pineiro, who has a crappy 5.31 ERA, which hides the fact that for the last month his earned run number has been in excess of 7 (7.43 in July, to be exact.) But that's fine, since the Twins have made a habit this year of treating mediocre pitchers as if they were aces.
Today's game against Dan Haren, for instance, probably won't result in five home runs. Haren's a beast, with a 0.99 WHIP, meaning teams don't walk or hit much against the man.Well, except the Twins, as it turns out. Our guys do pretty well (with a fairly small sample, of course) against the Angels number 2 ace. Span's hitting .375 (8 AB), Kubel .333 (12 AB), Mauer .389 (18 AB), Valencia .500 (but only 6 AB), and Thome's an actual monster, with a .462/.563/1.077 line in 13 AB. Young and Cuddyer don't fare as well, hitting .222 and .167 respectively (in 18 and 24 AB.)
The Twins victory last night kept them from slipping a full 9 games back with 52 remaining, a daunting task. The team is solidifying, but the outlook remains bleak. However, various bloggers have noted that the Twins dodged a bullet when they missed trading Span for Washington's middle relievers. Gleeman's piece also notes that the Twins have ten freakin' position players whose OBP is lower than .300, which is terrible. If their pitching hadn't improved, their record could have been much worse this season.
Seasons like this one leave everyone wondering about the future, since obviously the present isn't all that intriguing. This is not a club made up of young guns who might be stars in the future--no one's expecting the likes of Luke Hughes, Trevor Plouffe, or Ben Revere to fatten the 2014 All-Star roster. So we have to wonder if the Twins will trade away or let go of our favorite players, for a distant and misty future.The Strib's Howard Sinker has a great article about fan favorite Michael Cuddyer, who is playing brilliant baseball, and who might have lifted this team emotionally with his steady clubhouse influence. Personally, I think you need to get as much as you can from Cuddyer while his bat's still strong--as Sinker notes, Cuddyer wouldn't make it through the waiver process this year, but if we let the man dangle in the offseason, his being a type-A free agent means a first or second round draft pick next season.
My guess is that the Twins, with their big, big payroll and a season in which they'll lose more than they win, won't bite on Cuddyer's big salary demand, and he won't compromise to the extent that the club would want.
So if you're a big fan of the Twins finest pitcher, first-baseman, captain-in-all-but-the-name, you might want to celebrate 2011 like it's his farewell season.