When people go to the racetrack, they would rather see three horses in contention turning for home than just two. Right now, the American League Central race is at about the third turn and has those three horses right now. Very soon however, three will become two.
The Minnesota Twins are showing signs of fading. They just lost a series to what's left of the Cleveland Indians. Since July 19, they have gone 6-11 and lost two-and-a-half games in the standings, with three of those wins coming against a White Sox team that always struggles in the Metrodome. There is reason to think they won't be able to stay with Detroit and Chicago.
When hot, the duo of Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau is one of the most dangerous in all of baseball. Most of the rest of the offense has hit average and become very respectable in the American League. Other hitters like Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel are realizing what they are truly made of. Young players like Denard Span and Carlos Gomez have serious potential for their careers.
That said, hitting can only carry a team for so long. Pitching is what makes or breaks a team down the stretch. The Twins' rotation has been a mess all year and losing the best of that bunch, Kevin Slowey, isn't helping. Only three bullpen pitchers have ERAs of less than 3.00, including all-star closer Joe Nathan.
Over the last 30 days, the Twins have the second-worst ERA in the AL at 5.25, ahead of only the Kansas City Royals, the perennial doormats of the Central.
Further, only the Baltimore Orioles have struck out fewer hitters in that span. While strikeouts aren't necessary in getting outs, it shows that opposing hitters have been making good contact off their staff. That shouldn't make surprising the fact that Twins pitching also has given up the second-most hits in the AL in the last month.
With the Tigers acquiring Jarrod Washburn and the White Sox getting Jake Peavy at the trade deadline, one would think the Twins would try and get a similar starting pitcher on the same day. Although they did plug up their middle infield problem by landing Orlando Cabrera, nothing was done about that rotation.
Today, they finally did something by acquiring Carl Pavano from the Indians, another move by a rebuilding team. However, a 5.37 ERA should be nothing to be excited about.
The Twins probably wish the All-Star Game didn't come because the second half has not been kind to them. Before losing three of four in Anaheim, they lost two of three in Oakland. After the expected sweeping of Chicago at home, the Angels invaded and swept them before they lost the series to Cleveland on the road.
Their remaining schedule is easy for the most part, but by the time they leave Detroit this weekend, the Tigers could be leaving them as much as seven and a half games behind them. By the time the easy schedule hits, there could be too much ground to overcome.
The division is tight however, so the Tigers and White Sox have as good a chance to struggle as any contender there. On the other hand, the Twins' pitching doesn't match the teams they're looking up at, and that will most likely prove to be their undoing.