Minnesota Twins: 4 Lessons Learned from the Chicago White Sox Series
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Aahhh…the sweet, sweet feeling of sweeping the Chicago White Sox!
The Minnesota Twins won all three games against the
Mighty Whities to move three games within .500 and further bury their longtime rivals in the AL Central dungeon.
The pitching was so-so, but Minnesota’s bats went off, scoring seven runs in Game 1, seven in Game 2 and eight in Game 3.
While there was some worry that the hitters were cooling down as the pitching staff heated up, Brian Dozier went off for two home runs, Justin Morneau finally hit one and even Gentleman Joe Mauer got in on the action.
“It was a good series,” said Mauer himself. “It was a good sweep there and hopefully we can carry this momentum on the road.”
“Our goal was to come home and win,” said manager Ron Gardenhire, whose team went 6-3 against the Philadelphia Phillies, Detroit Tigers and the aforementioned White Sox, “and we had a pretty decent homestand.”
All three pitchers gave the team a chance to win, Oswaldo Arcia and Clete Thomas continued to play well, Morneau finally got that home run and Dozier was hotter than a $2 pistol during this series. For the time being, all is well in Twins Territory.
The starting pitching is improving
Slowly, but surely the Twins rotation is putting it together. They don’t need to be spectacular—there is enough firepower in the lineup—but they need to go at least six innings to give the team a chance.
Pelfrey was not as solid as he was against Philadelphia, but managed to go six innings and only give up four runs despite allowing 10 hits. Despite coming off Tommy John surgery, Pelfrey insisted that he was not tired, despite being removed after throwing 87 pitches.
“I didn’t feel that I had any zip on my fastball,” he said. “It wasn’t jumping out of my hand like I feel that it normally does, but the command was okay.
“I wasn’t tired, I felt fine. My arm felt fine, my body felt fine, it just wasn’t coming out of my hand like it has been.”
The former New York Met did not take a long time in between pitches, a key factor in his success this season.
“He had a good pace going in his game,” said Ryan Doumit, who caught him and drove in the game winning run. “He threw a great game today, gave us a chance to win.”
Correia was not able to go seven, but managed 6.2 after giving up a home run to the leadoff hitter, Alejandro De Aza.
“It’s never how you want to start a game,” he said. “Those leadoff home runs are tough. You don’t know what your stuff is—what’s working, what’s not—and those leadoff guys aren’t really supposed to hit home runs.”
Correia has been able to shake off solo home runs all season long, though, and almost made it through seven innings before being removed with 104 pitches on the board.
“That’s just the way I pitch,” he said. “I don’t walk a lot of guys. If I get behind you, I’m going to come after you and if you hit a solo home run, I feel that’s better than walking the first two guys of the game.”
Scott Diamond did not go six innings, something he has only done once this season, but he felt that he is making improvements and getting back to the pitcher he was last season.
“The numbers don’t look the best,” he said after going 5.1 innings, giving up four runs on seven hits and giving up two home runs in 86 pitches, “but I’m happy with how I progressed throughout the game.
“It’s not what I’m looking for, but I can’t jump there too quickly, I guess.”
#Cletesanity and Oswaldomania
Clete Thomas and Oswaldo Arcia continue to thrive after their recent call ups.
Arcia hit the first of four home runs Minnesota connected with in the game, blasting a shot past the seating in right field. The solo shot came off of John Danks a game after being brushed back by Chris Sale.
“He’s getting up there,” said Gardenhire with a smile. “He gets knocked down and they’re brushing him back and then he stays on the ball. As we talked about before the game, the best way [to respond] when these guys start buzzing you inside and knocking you back is to get hits.
“Put them in the seats and you’ll earn your respect through that.”
Mauer said he is not at all surprised that Arcia is productive in the majors at the tender age of 22.
“I’ve seen him for a couple years and we all know what he can do with the bat,” said Mauer, whose older brother Jake manages the Class A Cedar Rapids Kernels. “People up here are starting to see it on a day-to-day basis, but he’s a good young player.”
While Arcia joined the team with critical acclaim, Thomas was a waiver wire pickup from Detroit that got little notice among prospect aficionados.
Thomas is batting .263/.317/.316 and hit his first home run of the season right after Dozier’s jack in the fourth.
“It’s a lot of fun to watch,” said Dozier. “Clete has a lot of power.”
Time will tell if Thomas gets playing time when Hicks comes back. While the latter’s numbers are not very good at the plate, he has better range in the field and projects to be a better overall player when all is said and done.
Arcia? He’s going to be around for a long time.
Morneau gets off the schneid
Morneau hit his first home run since April 28 on Wednesday and got the silent treatment when he returned to the dugout.
“I had a lot of imaginary friends there,” said the Canadian slugger, who just started high-fiving the air, pretending like he didn’t notice anything unusual. “I’ve seen that done a few times and I’ve never have that done to me.
“You can stand there and look like an idiot or high-five the air like an idiot. I chose to high-five the air like an idiot.”
Gardenhire said Morneau got to the park early and did work off the tee with hitting coach Tom Brunansky, which ended up yielding immediate results.
“It came into paly in the game and he got a hold of one,” said Gardenhire. “That was good stuff.”
Morneau’s 207 home runs ties him with Kirby Puckett for fifth-most in team history.
“I was aware I was chasing him for a while,” he said, laughing at himself. “It means a lot. He’s a Hall of Famer, a guy that’s responsible for bringing a World Series to this organization. Any time your name is next to his is always special.
“He’s a guy that’s missed around here, but to be in that company is pretty cool.”
Dozier hits home runs in back-to-back games
Asked if Dozier inspired Morneau with his home run on Wednesday, he laughed giddily.
“Yeah,” he said with sarcasm thicker than his Mississippi accent. “I inspired that guy.”
Gardenhire says that his success has come because Dozier is no longer trying to push the ball. Instead of trying to direct it, the manager just wants to see his second baseman swing away.
“Over the last four, five games he was trying to fight balls off and shoot the ball the other way an awful lot,” said the manager. “I think there was some conversations with a few people [that said]: ‘Swing the bat.’ Let it fly, drive the baseball and wherever it goes, it goes.”
“When I’m not going as good, it’s because I’m not attacking the ball,” said Dozier, who acknowledged that Brunansky, the hitting coach, wants him to just swing away. “My main focus is to let it go. I don’t try to guide the ball the other way or stuff like that.
“Wherever it is, attack it, and if it gets out of here, that’s good.”
This is a big five-game road trip for Minnesota if they want to get back to respectability this year.
All quotes were obtained first-hand, unless otherwise indicated.
Tom Schreier covers Minnesota sports for Bleacher Report and is a contributor to Yahoo! Sports.
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