The Twins led 3-1 after five in Game 1, but starter Mike Pelfrey had a brutal sixth inning. They lost the “Verlander Game” 6-1, but that’s no surprise given that they had to face, ahem, Justin Verlander. Then they picked up a 6-2 victory in a game that was closer than the final score indicated.
All in all, it wasn’t a bad trip to Michigan. Minnesota took a game from the mighty Tigers, remain at .500 and leave the Mitten State with their head held high.
One-third of this beastly road trip is over and the Twins are looking no worse for the ware.
Vance Worley needs to get going
Yes, it was the Verlander Game and yes, Worley looked better than he has all year, but no matter how tough it is to produce wins against Detroit’s $200 million man, Minnesota is unlikely to win when there is a crooked number on the board in inning one.
The Vanimal gave up three runs in the first two innings and three in the fifth before being removed in favor of reliever Anthony Swarzak.
“Worley really didn't command well in the strike zone, and every pitch he left out over the plate they put in the seats," manager Ron Gardenhire told the media. "It was just one of those nights for him where he made it through a couple innings really nice, but really had to fight his way through it."
Miguel Cabrera, Alex Avila and Prince Fielder all took Worley deep in Game 2. Despite all that, Worley says that he is feeling fine and had his best outing yet…only it came against the Detroit’s dangerous lineup.
"Today's the best I felt all year," Worley told the media. "The ball was doing what I wanted it to do. They just came out swinging early. Not really much else I could do."
Worley’s next start will tell us a lot about where he is early in the season. If he is able to pick up his first win, perhaps things will turn around for the former Philadelphia Phillie.
80 pitches, six innings
There is something awful dangerous about 80 and six for the Twins' pitching staff in the Tigers series.
Pelfrey looked strong in the first five innings in Game 1. He gave up a solo shot to Andy Dirks in the fourth inning, but his team still had a 2-1 lead at that point and added to it with another run in the fourth. Pelfrey locked it down in the fourth, but put the first two men on and gave up a home run to Fielder. At that point he was around 80 pitches and would leave the game with 90 total.
The former New York Met hasn’t looked sharp since picking up win No. 1 in the opening series against these very same Tigers, and at the same time hasn’t looked as bad as he did in his homecoming game in Kansas City. Pelfrey’s inconsistency may be due to the Tommy John surgery he underwent in the offseason.
“You're talking about a guy that's missed a year of baseball and coming back from elbow surgery," manager Ron Gardenhire told the media. "It's a process. It doesn't just happen overnight.”
Scott Diamond had the strongest start of the Detroit series, giving up only two runs in six innings. In short, he is beginning to look like himself.
He ran into trouble in the sixth inning when he gave up RBI to former Twin Torii Hunter and Miguel Cabrera with one out. Pitching coach Rick Anderson went to the mound to speak with Diamond, and following the visit, the pitcher got two players from the heart of the Detroit order—Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez—to ground out.
At that time time, Diamond was hovering around 80 pitches.
Keep in mind that both Pelfrey and Diamond are coming off of surgery (the latter had bone chips removed from his elbow) and may be getting tired late into their starts. As time goes on, both should return to form and remind us that they are both proven pitchers at the major league level.
Joe Mauer finally takes a game off
Joe Mauer Will Serenely, Politely Crush You. – title of a Tom Verducci article, June 2009.
Thankfully, Mauer appears to be back on the pursuit of .400, but it’s easy to forget that the Minnesota Man isn’t some kind of cyborg when his knees are healthy and he’s hitting everything that enters the strike zone into the gap for a hit.
Here’s the problem with that reasoning: Joe Mauer is human.
Human beings get tired. Human beings have slumps. Human beings need days off.
Mauer played in the first 23 games of the regular season this year. Seventeen of those were at catcher. By Game 3 of the Detroit series, it was time for a day off.
After batting nearly .360 at the beginning of the season, Mauer batting average had dropped (that’s right, dropped!) to around .290 due to a 0-for-21 hitting slump—the longest of his career.
He insisted that he was feeling fine and I’m sure he demanded to play in games, but Gardenhire made the right call by making him sit on Wednesday.
As much as we’d all love to believe that Mauer is a video game character that can play everyday; in reality, this man needs a break now and then.
My guess is he has a big series in Cleveland after a little rest.
The Twins are .500 and have an interesting set of series coming up on this road trip. They will face a Cleveland Indians team that looks like it came straight out of the film Major League. I mean Jason Giambi is on their 40-man roster. For real.
I think this is Cleveland’s version of “all in” even if it’s just goofy entertainment for the rest of us. Either way, this is a team that can devour you if their players don’t take a siesta in the outfield or between innings.
Then it’s off to Boston, where the Red Sox are—dare I say it?—looking much better than expected this year.
The craziest thing of all, though, is that there is reason to believe that Minnesota can take both series.