Over the four previous games, the Twins had scored 2 whole runs. Over the past 20 innings, they had scored 0. Over their previous 32 games, the Twins had won 7. To say that things haven’t gone according to plan for the Twins this season would be an understatement, but the Twins got a 5-4 victory last night. Carl Pavano went 5.1 innings, giving up 10 hits and somehow only surrendering 3 runs, and the bullpen finished it off nicely, with Glen Perkins being the only reliever to give up a run. Ben Revere and Luke Hughes added two hits apiece, and Chris Parmelee and Danny Valencia added 2 RBIs to give the Twins only their 59th victory of the season.
When I looked at this team in March, I would have guessed a much different ending for the Twins. Francisco Liriano looked spectacular last season, and he wouldn’t be on pitch or innings restrictions. Joe Mauer wouldn’t be healthy to start the season, but I figured he would be around for 130 games or so adding his awesome bat. Justin Morneau would be further recovered from his concussion, and after an off-season of rest, he would be ready to go. Joe Nathan was even coming back to bolster the bullpen. Though the Twins certainly had their weaknesses, they looked to be real contenders in the AL Central.
Instead as the saying goes, everything that could go wrong did go wrong. Liriano began “pitching to contact”, and whether or not that was what caused his season, he hasn’t been a good pitcher in 2011. Mauer has played in 76 games and just 50 behind the plate, and while he’s an excellent player, he’s only a franchise player if he’s behind the plate. Morneau has continued to battle concussion symptoms and hasn’t been the same player from the first half of 2010. Nathan hasn’t come back quite as well as expected from Tommy John. Matt Capps has been dreadful. And only 2 position players (Michael Cuddyer and Denard Span) have netted the Twins more than 2 fWAR.
It’s been a lost season for the Twins, but being in the AL Central has its advantages, including not being out of it for next season. The outlook could still be bright with an outfield of Span, Revere, and Joe Benson, and Morneau and Mauer have to be better (right?). The rotation could be better, and Liriano has been somewhat better over the past three months. But those rosy, optimistic hopes are for the off-season, and until then, the Twins will sit around asking what happened and why everything went so wrong.
Tonight’s Matchups: Ivan Nova takes his 15 wins up against Alberto Simon … Julio Teheran makes his third start of his career against Dillon Gee … Cole Hamels takes on Chris Narveson in a potential playoff duel … and Cory Luebke takes on Ian Kennedy in a game of opposing pitchers having surprising seasons.