Minnesota Twins: 4 Lessons Learned from the First Two Games of the Angels Series

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Minnesota Twins: 4 Lessons Learned from the First Two Games of the Angels Series
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
Mauer Power: It may be cold in Minnesota still, but the hometown hero is red-hot, hitting 8-for-10 against the Angels.

For the second series in a row, the Minnesota Twins have not played all three games against their opponent. This time, the third game of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim was cancelled due to rain.

Neither team is happy about it. The Angels will have to fly in for a single game later in the year and Minnesota will have a packed schedule—especially if this weather continues.

“It’s never really good to have that many off days,” says manager Ron Gardenhire, “especially when you end up [cancelling] games this time, you’re going to end up with a lot of games later.”

This especially affects the pitchers, especially the relievers that have not been used recently. Brian Duensing, for example, has not played since April 12.

With that said, there are some positives to takeaway from this series. Minnesota got two much-needed wins after a five-game skid. Kevin Correia had another great outing and Joe Mauer absolutely went off.

Twins fans hope, of course, that the time off does not disrupt the team too much and the team can feed off of a solid series against the struggling 4-10 Angels.

 

The rotation needs to pitch better with a lead

Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Pelfrey looked solid in his first outing, but failed to hold onto a lead twice on Tuesday.

I hate to start with something negative, especially with all that has gone right with this team, but in a night after Correia had a gutsy performance—he gave up two solo shots, one to the first hitter he faced, Peter Bourjos—Mike Pelfrey rolled through two innings and then when he got a 3-0 lead entering the third—he gave up three runs.

Minnesota punched back in the bottom frame, with Wilkin Ramirez knocking in a runner with a pop fly, but Pelfrey again gave up the lead.

The Twins lineup would produce three more runs in the next fourth and fifth, making it four straight innings with crooked numbers, and Pelfrey would walk away with the win. To be fair, in the fourth inning shortstop Pedro Florimon failed to turn two potential double plays and did not throw to second on a play where he could have gotten the runner out, but Pelfrey should have done more to retain the lead.

“It was a grind the last three,” he told reporters after the game. “I had to battle, and luckily I made enough pitches to get through five.”

In the end, he did salvage the start and Anthony Swarzak was absolutely lights out in relief. He nearly got a rare four-inning save by using 45 pitches through 3.1 innings. Had Trevor Plouffe not made an error at third, he probably would have finished the entire game.

 

The lineup is dangerous

Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
Did I mention that Mauer is kinda good at baseball?

I absolutely love the Twins lineup. If they could figure out that leadoff spot, these guys are downright dangerous top to bottom.

Josh Willingham, Justin Morneau, Trevor Plouffe and Chris Parmelee can all hit for power. Ryan Doumit is, as my friend calls him, the “ninja hitter”: a guy that nobody really talks about much, but can smack the hell out of the ball.

Pedro Florimon is having great at-bats and taking walks, Eduardo Escobar has a lot of pop for a smaller player (5’10”, 175 pounds) and Brian Dozier has shown improvements. In fact, those guys have played so well that the team hasn’t had to lean on veteran Jamey Carroll as much this season.

And then there’s Joe Mauer.

Hold on, before I continue, I’ve got a little something building in my sinuses. I can’t—hold—it—back. Here it goes:

Mauer Power!

Excuse me. Sorry about that. I’m feeling better now.

The hometown hero was 4-for-5 with two runs and three RBI on Monday and then followed that up, ahem, a 4-for-5 and three RBI night on Tuesday. Yep, that’s right: back-to-back four hit nights.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is what we call taking care of business.

As I’ve said all year long: If this pitching staff can keep things close and go deep into games, this lineup can put up unreal numbers on any given night.

 

Oh, that pesky little leadoff spot

Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
Dozier, right, has every reason to be excited right now: He's found his groove at second and gets to audition for the leadoff spot.

I’m probably in the minority here, but I’m kinda digging Brian Dozier in the leadoff spot.

Sure it’s only been one game, but he went 2-for-4 with two RBI and raised his average to .189.

With Aaron Hicks struggling and Darin Mastroianni on the disabled list, the team will probably give Dozier and Eduardo Escobar a shot at the top of the lineup and make an assessment from there.

Dozier had a tough year in 2012, but looks comfortable at second base and now has essentially half a season worth of at-bats (84) to work with. He’s got some speed and was a great hitter in the minors, so it’s worth it for the Twins to give him a shot. As Dick and Bert alluded to in the last telecast, Dozier really only leads off once and then hits with the same company he did before (Escobar, Florimon, Carroll) only he’s got Mauer protecting him at the plate.

 

An Angel in the outfield

Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
Nope, that's not Mauer, but the way Arcia played you might mistake the two....On second thought, maybe that's the stretch.

I might be reaching a little bit here, but is it any coincidence that the Twins called up Oswaldo Arcia against the Angels? I mean, come on , the man’s been a gift from the heavens!

With Mastroianni on the disabled list, Wilkin Ramirez injured on a pickoff throw, Willingham battling through flu-like symptoms and Hicks struggling at the plate, the Minnesota outfield looks emptier than the seats at a Miami Marlins game.

Arcia was called up before the bad luck struck, went 1-for-3 and looked pretty comfortable under the bright lights.

My guess is the team will keep Hicks around and then make the decision whether or not to demote him. It doesn’t make much sense to keep the Hicks’ arbitration clock running if he’s struggling at the plate, but it might be overbearing for the team to ask Arcia, one of the league’s best corner outfield prospects, to play center.

With the sudden dearth of outfields on the roster, however, the 21-year-old Venezuelan appears ready to do everything he can to take advantage of the opportunity presented before him.

 

Conclusion

It’s best for Twins fans to keep an even mind throughout the season.

It would have been easy to get over-excited after the team beat the Detroit Tigers and Baltimore Orioles in the opening two series and then get really down on the team during the five-game skid, which included losses to the Baltimore Orioles and New York Mets.

Really, what it comes down to is if this team can get their starters to go deep into games, like Correia did on Monday, they can win games. The rotation does not have to be lights out, there is plenty of firepower in the lineup, but when they do get a lead, they have to hold on to it.

There are still some questions in the outfield and at the leadoff spot, but all in all, things are going better than expected at the beginning of the 2013 season.

 

All quotes were obtained first-hand, unless otherwise noted.

Tom Schreier covers Minnesota sports for Bleacher Report and writes for TheFanManifesto.com. Visit his Kinja blog to see his previous work.

 

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