For the Minnesota Twins, things are starting to look up. With their win over the Cubs on Saturday, they won their fourth consecutive series—an impressive feat considering they have only won seven series all season.
The single-biggest reason for the Twins turnaround can be pinpointed to one player—starting pitcher Scott Diamond.
Before Diamond joined the rotation, the Twins were the last team in baseball to win their 10th game of the season, taking 25 games to achieve the mark. With his win on Saturday over the Cubs, the last team in baseball still trying to get to 20 wins, Diamond now leads the Twins with a 5-1 record and a 1.61 ERA.
Before Diamond (BD) the Twins were 7-21, winning only one of nine series. After Diamond (AD) joined the rotation they are 17-13, winning six of their last 11 series.
Diamond has stepped in and provided the kind of leadership the Twins have been waiting for from fellow left-hander Francisco Liriano for the past five seasons. Diamond has become Minnesota's stopper, with the Twins winning six of his seven starts since taking his first turn in the rotation on May 8th, a 5-0 win over the Angels.
At one time the worst team in baseball, the Twins have won eight of their last 10 games and find themselves just one-half game behind the Royals and only 2.5 games behind the disappointing Tigers in the AL Central standings.
OK, so they still have a long way to go, but as I stated at the beginning, things are starting to look up.
Diamond's lift to the starting pitching has had a ripple effect through the team.
Twins starters were 5-17 with a 6.75 ERA BD, compared to 11-10 and a 5.28 ERA AD.
In the 28 games BD, the Twins scored 96 runs averaging 3.4 runs per game. The problem is they allowed their opponents to score 158 runs, an 5.6 runs per game average.
In the 30 games AD, they have averaged almost two more runs per contest, scoring 160 runs for a 5.3 average. Their runs allowed has dropped by more than a full run per game to a 4.4 average.
In 1991, the Twins found themselves in a similar situation. They finished the month of May in fifth place, 5.5 games behind in the AL West. When the calendar turned to June, they rattled off 15 straight wins on their way to a 22-6 mark that propelled them to first place in the division.
This season, at the start of June, the Twins were five games back and in fifth place in the AL Central. With the sixth win of the month they have already matched their win total in April.
Who is most responsible for the Twins' improvement?
In 1991, it was Jack Morris who led Twins starters going 6-0 in June. So far this year, Diamond is 2-0 in June.
While it's a nice dream to think about the Twins catching the rest of the AL Central, the truth is in 1991 the Twins, along with a solid month from Morris, had Scott Erickson go 5-1 and Kevin Tapani add another three wins that June.
Diamond might have some help from P.J. Walters, who joined the rotation in May. Walters is 2-1 in six starts with a 4.42 ERA, and the Twins are 4-2 in his starts.
After Walters, there's no other Twins starter with a winning record. The next closest is Cole DeVries, with a 1-1 record in three starts with a 4.20 ERA. Unfortunately, the Twins sent him back to Rochester.
Whatever Diamond is doing to be effective is contagious—after all, Nick Blackburn is 2-0 in his three starts AD, all wins for the Twins.
If Diamond can turn Blackburn into a winner, then anything is possible.