Minnesota Twins: 3 Lessons Learned from the Boston Red Sox Series
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This series said a lot about the Minnesota Twins. They were playing the AL East-leading Boston Red Sox after facing the mighty Detroit Tigers and a hot Cleveland Indians team on a 10-game road trip and won three of the four games they played.
Not only are the Twins above .500 now at 16-15, but there is also reason to believe that if their rotation can keep them in the game, there’s enough firepower in this offense to win baseball games. Minnesota lost the first game, 6-5 in 11 innings, but won the next three—6-1, 15-8 and 5-3.
"It kind of shows what kind of ballclub we are," reliever Brian Duensing told Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com. "We lost that first game in extras and it kind of took the wind out of our sails. But for us to come back and put up some runs and win the next three was real important and I think it shows a lot to us as a team."
To add a cherry on top, that 15-8 blowout was on ESPN.
Vance Worley got "86ed"
The Twins' pitchers have this odd phenomenon where they appear to be cruising along through five innings and then once they get into the sixth and their pitch count hits the 80s, things start to fall apart.
This has happened to Scott Diamond and Mike Pelfrey, and now the "86 bug" has struck the Vanimal.
Worley put up a zero in the first three frames, reversing a trend of slow starts in recent outings. But he gave up a run in the fourth, fifth and sixth and was removed after recording 5.0 innings in the books.
He told Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com that he saw progress in his outing.
“I thought I had better stuff today," said Worley, who threw 89 pitches. "I had command of both sides of the plate. I was working down, but the last couple innings, I started to elevate a little bit. But for the most part, I'm pretty happy with the outing.”
It’s a promising start, for sure, but getting over that hump is going to be crucial for Worley going forward.
Can Kevin Correia return to form?
Correia got the win in Game 4 to improve to 4-2 on the season. In April he was dominant, going seven-plus innings in every one of his starts and never giving up more than three earned runs.
Unlike the rest of his team, which has heated up in May, Correia has taken a step backwards this month. He got lit up in Cleveland, where the Indians tagged him for four runs, and he only lasted five innings in a 7-3 loss.
He looked better against Boston—just using the eye test—but still gave up three runs in 5.1 innings. The key for him is keeping the ball down. He only gave up two home runs in April, both against a solid Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim lineup, but matched that number in his outing in Cleveland. He kept the powerful Red Sox lineup at bay in Beantown and was generally pleased with his performance.
“I wasn't really in trouble, but I just gave up some two-out hits with a couple bad pitches at the wrong time," Correia told MLB.com after the game. "Against a team like that, I'll take it. They've been the hottest team in baseball pretty much."
Let’s not bury him just yet. Correia has already pitched better than we all expected and should have plenty of good starts left in him.
A lot will be riding on the bottom of the lineup
Everyone knows what you’re going to get out of Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Josh Willingham when they are healthy. There are going to be slumps here and there, but in general they are professional hitters that are going to drive in runs.
The real question is what the team is going to get from Trevor Plouffe, Chris Parmelee, Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Arcia.
Plouffe had a little hiccup early in the season, but appears ready to top his numbers from last year (.235/.301/.455, 24 home runs). He has already hit a two-run shot and an opposite field home run this year, two things he wasn’t doing last season, and is batting .296/.375/.593 with four homers.
Parmelee has been criticized by the fanbase for his low batting average, which hovers around .200, but he is hitting for power with three home runs and appears to be Plouffe Jr. The 25-year-old is two years his junior and was also drafted 20th overall, both raked in the minors, have a lot of natural power and struggled to hit for average right away. As long as he stays on Plouffe’s course, he’ll be just fine.
Hicks completes the California trio. Although he did hit a home run in Cleveland, Hicks is more of a guy that hits to contact and is projected as a leadoff hitter. Although his average remains at a paltry .133, he’s batting .183 this month (hey, it’s better than .040!) and continues to play well defensively.
In fact, it is his play in the field that will keep him in the lineup. As long as he continues to hit with authority as he has been, things should get better.
Finally, Arcia is the anti-Plouffe: He only hits home runs when guys are on base. His first two homers were three-run shots, and his last one came with one man on (slacker!). This, of course, is very welcome, as is his .444/.464/.741 line in May. Seriously, if this guy never hits a solo shot in his career, I’m just fine with that!
The Twins have had trouble knocking in runners in scoring position. It is up to these guys to do it, and right now they appear more than capable of doing so.
Celebrate! Rejoice! Be happy!
Just because you are a sports fan in Minnesota doesn’t mean you have to be miserable! Allow yourself to enjoy this. That Boston series was absolutely wonderful.
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