Minnesota Twins: 3 Lessons Learned from the Chicago White Sox Series

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Minnesota Twins: 3 Lessons Learned from the Chicago White Sox Series
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Minnesota took two games from the AL Central rival White Sox to extend their winning streak to four.

With the emergence of the Detroit Tigers as the team to beat in the AL Central, some Minnesota Twins fans are claiming that the biggest rivalry games will be played in Motown.

I still believe that the Chicago White Sox are Minnesota’s biggest division rival.

Not only did the White Sox spend time in St. Paul in its earliest days before moving to the South Side, but Chicago is also closer in proximity to Minneapolis.

No matter which rivalry you feel is greater—both are a lot of fun—sweeping a two-game series at U.S Cellular Field always feels good.

Like the previous two series against the New York Mets and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, this was supposed to be a three-game series, but Game 1 got cancelled due to inclement weather.

Time will tell if the Twins can get through a grueling, game-packed schedule late in the year, but for right now they are above .500 at 8-7. In comparison, they didn't get their eighth win last year until May 10…which improved their record to 8-23 (h/t Aaron Gleeman).

Twins fans should enjoy this sweep, which extended Minnesota’s winning streak to four, because there are indications that this team can exceed expectations this year.

 

The RISP nest

Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
Exterminator: In need of a hit? Escobar's .444/.444/.667 line indicates he's capable of getting the job done.

It's appropriate that the acronym for Runners in Scoring Position sounds a little like wasp: Leave a few of those buggers lying around and it’s no big deal, but let them multiply and suddenly you’ve got a big, ugly nest on your front porch. Now, every time you go outside to grill some steak or enjoy a clear night sky, you have to worry about this thing hanging over your head full of stinging bugs.

The Twins had to feel like they had a wasp nest on their front porch every time they went to the plate in Game 1. The team was 2-for-13 with men in scoring position and could not scratch a run across until the top of the 10th inning, when Ryan Doumit scored via an error on the ball hit by Eduardo Escobar (who is batting .444 with 1.111 OPS).

If that didn’t knock down the RISP nest, Minnesota sprayed it down in Game 2 when Justin Morneau drew a walk to tie the game in the top of the sixth inning. Minnesota then torched it with a four-run seventh, highlighted by Josh Willingham’s base-clearing double.

Great teams don’t let un-scored RISPs build up, and the Twins hope that they have found a way to exterminate those little pests should they come buzzing around again.

 

Vance Worley channels his inner Kevin Correia

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Worley had a strong outing on the South Side after struggling against the Mets.

In Game 1 of the Angels series, Kevin Correia gave up a home run to the first batter he faced and then went seven innings, giving up only one other run. It was the kind of performance the Twins need out of their starting rotation if they are going to win this season.

On April 12 against the Mets, a whole eight days before he would start against the White Sox, Vance Worley had the worst outing of his career, giving up seven earned runs in one inning of play.

So when the "Vanimal" gave up a dinger to the first hitter he faced on Saturday, Alejandro De Aza, the Twins faithful held their breath: Not again! Not again!

Well, Worley lived up to his moniker and bulldogged his way through the White Sox lineup, giving up five hits in seven innings pitched.

This could be a watershed moment for the former Philadelphia Phillies pitcher early in the season.

 

Scott Diamond gets through six

Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
Diamond is looking more like himself 10 innings into 2013.

It came as no surprise that Scott Diamond bounced back in Chicago after a rough outing against the Mets—his first of the season.

In his first start, he was coming off surgery and playing in sub-artic temperatures. He gave up eight hits and four runs in 4.1 innings pitched.

In his second, he was pitching in temperatures above 50 degrees and only gave up four hits and two runs in six innings pitched.

Control is key for Diamond, who barely hits 90 MPH with his fastball, so the bounce pass he threw to catcher Ryan Doumit in the bottom of the fourth that allowed De Aza to advance to third is somewhat concerning. He also issued two walks after that and committed an error that allowed De Aza to advance to third. (In case you missed it, De Aza played well in the series.)

Keep an eye on Diamond’s control in his next start.

 

Conclusion

Maybe I’m optimistic, but I don’t see this start as a façade. I love the Twins lineup and think that the pitching staff has enough talent to give the team a chance to win.

Hopefully, the team’s troubles with runners in scoring position were addressed in Game 1, Worley can build off a strong performance and Diamond’s control issues lessen as the season wears on.

 

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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