Game 44: Brewers 4 (17-27), Twins 3 (26-18)
The Twins are a good team in 2010, and the record is indicative of that fact. Still, there are some pretty hefty holes on the team, and they are often exposed in losses like Sunday.
I am not talking about clutch hitting, that will even out over the course of a season. Poor plate appearances with men on base was the biggest issue for the Twins in the series finale against the Brewers.
More disturbing in the long run, however, is the hole in the lineup presented by the combination of third base and the bench. Third base is the weakest hitting position among the regulars. Nick Punto is Nick Punto, and you continue to hope that his defense makes up for his lack of offensive production. Many times it does. When everybody is healthy, you can pinch hit there when necessary. In a vacuum, it is not that large of a problem.
Unfortunately, the issue becomes more pronounced with injuries. Punto was unavailable to start on Sunday, and J.J. Hardy remains on the injured list. Joe Mauer caught 12 innings on Saturday, and hey – its a Sunday afternoon game so he was out of the lineup. That left the 7-9 slots in the Twins’ lineup to be filled by Harris, Plouffe, and Butera.
The Brewers, with a battered pitching staff, basically planned to get through the game by piecing together nine innings of one of the worst bullpens in baseball. They were successful because they could pitch around many of the Twins’ best hitters. Delmon Young was intentionally walked and it worked out. Thome was rendered irrelevant for the second consecutive game, and the Brewers were able to pitch carefully to Morneau late in the game.
It didn’t help that Span had to leave early. In fact, he might be the most indispensable player for the Twins at this moment. Who else is going to play center field? Put Span on an extended trip to the disabled list would be a nightmare for Twins’ pitchers.
All this to say that, while the Twins are good, a few key mid-season moves might sure up this team and make a deep run into October seem much more attainable.
WPA Stars of the Game
1. Prince Fielder
2. Zach Braddock
3. Manny Parra
AL Central Standings (through Sunday)
1. Min 26-18, 220-178, –
2. Det 25-19, 199-193, 1.0
3. Chi 18-25, 177-205, 7.5
4. KC 18-27, 195-229, 8.5
5. Cle 16-26, 160-206, 9.0
A day off precedes the Yankees’ only trip to Target Field. A.J. Burnett will face Scott Baker on Tuesday night.