Coming into Tuesday's series opener with Toronto, it seemed as though the Minnesota Twins could do no wrong.
They had just taken three out of four games from the defending World Champion Boston Red Sox, a series in which the lineup had absolutely decimated Boston's starting pitching. On Sunday night, Minnesota chased Tim Wakefield to an early shower after just 2 2/3 innings; Monday was more of the same, as Clay Buchholz failed to make it out of the fifth.
One would have thought that taking three out of four from the Red Sox would have provided the Twins that "boost" to carry them into their three-game series with the Blue Jays on a high note, full of confidence and playing like a finely-tuned machine.
Alas, this is the Minnesota Twins we're talking about. The pinnacle of inconsistency. Aside from their five-game homestand sweep of the White Sox and Tigers from April 30-May 3, the Twins have struggled to put together much of a dominant run this season.
Of course, given the fact that the rest of the division has struggled out of the gate makes this a little easier to bear. With Cleveland heating up, however, Minnesota will need to exhibit some staying power fast in order to keep pace in the AL Central.
The Twins won the Boston series playing exactly the brand of baseball that made this team a joy to watch in their division championship years. They hustled, took the extra base, worked counts, slapped the ball hard into the gaps when necessary, and, most importantly, got production from the heart of their order.
It's worth noting that in Monday's 7-3 win, the Twins four through seven hitters combined to go 7-14 with six RBI. Furthermore, Joe Mauer scored each time he reached base—in fact, the Twins stranded just five runners all game.
Enter the Blue Jays, however, and the Twins seemingly transformed from golden carriage to pumpkin. Toronto came into the Metrodome and swept a Twins team that in no way resembled the squad which had won nine out of its previous 12 games.
Mental mistakes on the base paths and poor defensive play, combined with the pitching staff's inability to keep Toronto's otherwise anemic bats in check led to three straight losses, all of which were potentially avoidable.
Some key stats to consider throughout the Blue Jays series:
The Twins, normally renowned for their strong defense, failed to record an errorless game. One would hope that at some point in his progression to the Major League level, Jesse Crain had been taught how to throw a pickoff to third base. Sadly not the case.
In three games, the Twins stranded 22 (yes, that's twenty-two) runners on base, including 11 in the final game (a game that they lost 3-2). Of these runners, 10 (yes, that's ten) were left in scoring position with two out. That stat speaks volumes for the overall tone of the series for the Twins' offense.
Granted, credit must be given to Toronto here. Their defense in the final game of the series was nothing short of spectacular. But still, 11 LOB!
Boof Bonser, out to prove that his first-inning meltdown against Detroit was not a fluke, coughed up four runs in the first inning the second game against the Blue Jays. His first-inning ERA now stands at an appalling 13.00.
To sum things up: if this Jekyll and Hyde-esque play doesn't even out soon—and yes, this writer would be perfectly at peace with steady .500 level play if it meant that there was at least some consistency, even it it were to mean consistent mediocrity—the Twins will be a very hard team to watch down the stretch.