Sunday's series-closing loss to Atlanta while playing with a wholly anemic lineup (sporting three guys hitting .160 or worse) served as more than just the club's mere fifth Interleague series loss since '06, and evidence of the team's year-long injury woes. Rather, the ugly 7-3 defeat continued a concerning, dichotomic pattern of series-opening vs. series-closing performances as we near the half-way point of the campaign.
Through 21 series this year, the Twins own an exceptional 15-6 record in series opening games. Taking away their two two-game series on the year, the club is an awesome 15-4. But inversely, in their 21 series closers the Boys are just 9-12 (and 8-11 minus the two-gamers). Further evidence of the pattern can be viewed via the club's five consecutive series-opening wins versus their four straight series-closing defeats.
Not surprisingly, the run differentials follow suit. In series-openers, the Twins have scored 108 runs to their opponents' collective 63 -- said totals average out to a 5.14 - 3, run differential per game. Per the series-closers, the club still owns a slightly high run margin than opponents (4.57 - 4.48), however it doesn't require a TI81 calculator to observe that the Boys are averaging more than a half-run more in the openers, while the pitchers are allowing nearly 1.5 more runs in the closers.
If the Twins' sported a top-heavy staff, perhaps the reasoning for such imbalance would be easier to come by, as if to say, "Well, we had a scrub starting a heavy portion of those games." But seeing as the club owns one of baseball's most fleshed-out rotations (hell, our supposed No. 5 starter has 29 more K's than anyone else), the answer can't be found there. Moreover, the argument that the club is fielding subs on getaway days doesn't fly either, as opponents are oft-wont to do the same.
Again, there's no denying that injuries are a factor, which is to offer that the club should receive praise for their 36-27 record and 1st Place standing in the Central while too often being forced to pencil in a lineup card with the likes of lesser personnel.
But the search for an answer may navigate around stats and instead magnify upon a single word: Concentration. I won't be so bold to assume what the club is "thinking" or "feeling" (or lack thereof) on certain days, but there's enough juice through 60+ ballgames into the season to squeeze that the Twins are defining themselves in series' with the March maxim: "Enter like a lion, leave like a lamb."
With a tough Interleague draw (which will continue to display some menacing starters) and seven of their eight ensuing series' against teams with plus-.500 marks -- the Twins may need to start marching to some series-ending focus, lest they continue to crash on couches post-party and perhaps find themselves stooping to an unwarranted Divisional race come the All-Star break next month.