Twins take Rangers, beginning to play like it's 2006
After yesterday's commanding 6-1 victory over the Texas Rangers, our beleaguered Minnesota Twins have won three straight series, and are 9-3 thus far in June.
Make no mistake: taking 3 of 4 against the Rangers is big.
The defending AL champs are among the elite offensively, but we beat 'em, and beat 'em soundly. The Twins thumped the Rangers 14-2 over the last couple of games, in fact.
And since we're throwing some numbers around, how 'bout we play with these: we've played 65 games, with 97 remaining. In that "miracle" 2006 season, the Twins went 65-32 over those remaining games, the Tigers (tied for first as of today), went 53-44.
Add those same numbers to each team's record as of this writing, and the Twins would end the season with a 91-71 record, the Tigers 88-74, three games behind.
Wait a minute, you say incredulously, did you celebrate yesterday's 41st anniversary of Dock Ellis' no-hitter by dropping a bit of windowpane yourself? The answer's no, I'm just being wildly optimistic.
But there's some reality in this utterly hopeful outlook, and I'll spell it out for you.
For starters, I'll grant you that we no longer have the incredible one-two punch of Cy Young winner Johan Santana and the once-mind-blowing Francisco Liriano at the top of the rotation, as we did that year. That's bad.
But there were also quite a few holes around the diamond on that storied club: we're also not reliant on Lew Ford, Shannon Stewart (who had a great year, granted), Rondell White, or Tony Batista for a good quarter of the year.
Our players are beat up and in a deep, deep funk that almost suggests that they're now paying the price of some ungodly deal with the devil. But Morneau's going to come around, and Delmon, awful, awful Delmon, whom everyone loves and adores when he's hot, and loves to hate when he's not, is hitting .341/.356/.477 this month. I'll take Young, Denard Span, and a right field platoon of Kubel and Cuddyer over the '06 outfield.
One other thing: this year's Tigers aren't anywhere near the team they were in 2006. I won't go into the details, since this is a Twins blog, but let's just say there's a lot of holes in their lineup, and their pitching, well, it could be amazing. It could also totally collapse, as the Tigers are wont to do (they've never had a winning second half under manager Jim Leyland.)
This weekend made the Twins look good. And let's not forget, they looked good--hell, they looked great--with a team that's still fielding embryos with names like Tosoni, Dinkelman, Rivera, and Repko.
Jim Thome will be back. Jason Kubel will be back. Nishioka, still a great, big question mark, will be back. And of course, Joe Mauer will be back. And if I recall, last time he was injured and took a good long time to return, he won an MVP award.
Granted, all of this is the desperate, wishful thinking of a blogger hoping that this season turns around and becomes something worth reading about. But reports of the Twins' death may be greatly exaggerated, as we're seeing the starters come around.
Look at Liriano's near no hitter yesterday. He threw seven no-hit, no-walk innings (an error kept it from being perfect) before giving up a leadoff single in the 8th. Despite giving up a pair of hits and a run, this was a far superior game to his no-no. We need this type of ace-like-performance at the top of the order.
This June he's 1-0, with one earned run, 16K and 3bb. Awesome. And he's just one of many: Baker, Pavano, and Swarzak are having a damn good month; Blackburn's been lucky (opponents are hitting a gaudy .357 off him, despite his posting a 2.92 ERA.) That's a decent pitching staff, folks.
Yes, no team in history has come from so far behind, but then, divisional play hasn't been around long, and the Central, well, the Central is the ghetto of both leagues. This division sucks, ladies and gents, but a team that wins 84 games could win it all. After all, crappy teams have made it to the playoffs and won it all.
Around the horn:
ESPN's Jim Bowden has a curious argument for realignment in baseball: make it geographic. The Twins would duke it out in a Central Division that would include Cincinnati, Detroit, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh. Though this intrigues me, why the Twins end up in the division rather than Milwaukee (which is geographically closer to these clubs) is beyond me. How cool would it be instead to see us in the "Midwest", with both Chicago clubs, KC and St. Louis?
In the sixth inning, the Kalamazoo Industrials Steve Everett leapt up and caught what would have been a sure home run. In making the catch, he fell over the outfield fence, carrying the ball with him. The ball wasn't dropped, but on the other side of the fence. Home run, or out?
Wait, wait: Kalamazoo Industrials? I didn't mention that this was the Kalamazoo (MI) Wiffle League, widely regarded as the greatest wiffle league in the whole God damn world?!? No, I didn't, and for that I'm truly sorry. But it looked like a great catch in, uh, a pretty boring game except for the people actually playing the thing. (I get the feeling there's a reason the sport hasn't exactly caught fire across America.)
Well, one of the players knew MLB ump Tim Welke, and the game was halted as a phone call was made. Tschida was in the room with Welke, and helped make the call that helped determine the outcome of the game.
You can read about the decision here. But first, watch the catch below and you make the call yourself before comparing to the professional decision.
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