Pitching, defense should help Minnesota down the stretch
The Great State of Minnesota hasn't gone "red" in a presidential election in 30 years and has done so just once in the last 50. Nevertheless, John McCain and Co. are coming to the Twin Cities later this month for their convention, and because of ...
The Great State of Minnesota hasn't gone "red" in a presidential election in 30 years and has done so just once in the last 50. Nevertheless, John McCain and Co. are coming to the Twin Cities later this month for their convention, and because of it, they are booting the baseball team out of town for two weeks.
Before and after the GOP toasts its V.P. candidate, the Twins will be making whistle stops in Los Angeles, Seattle, Oakland and Toronto.
The Democrats, on the other hand, will only push the Colorado Rockies out of Denver for a week at the end of the month. Quite nice of them and it might actually matter if the Rockies were in a playoff race this season.
They are not. The Twins, however, are. And you would think that having to pack up and leave town for two weeks (14 games) while the Republicans drop balloons and trade pins might have a negative impact on a team's playoff hopes.
You want some straight talk? It won't.
It won't because the Twins, who entered the weekend tied with Chicago for first in the AL Central (2 games back in the wild-card race), are built on the kind of grass roots platform that would make any political party envious.
Simply explained, the Twins play defense well and pitch even better.
Doing both well will insulate a team from prolonged slumps, regardless of location. As the season has gone on, the Twins have gotten better and better pitching. As a result, they've climbed in the AL standings. Though they rank seventh in the AL this season in ERA (4.25), they are fourth since the All-Star break (4.01) and third since the start of August (3.74). Notice a trend there?
The White Sox are more than a run higher since the All-Star break and three-fourths of a run higher since the start of August.
By the way, it has a result on wins and losses, too. The Twins were 12-18 in their first 30 road games, 14-13 since.
When you've got the likes of Francisco Liriano back in the rotation, the road becomes a little easier to deal with. Liriano returned to Minnesota's rotation Aug. 1, and the Twins were able to jettison Livan Hernandez (whose most notable accomplishment this season was a higher opponent's batting average than Kevin Millwood's .328)
Liriano wasn't ready to pitch in the majors in April after coming back from Tommy John surgery, and the Twins didn't hesitate to send him back to the minors. They didn't come up with a convenient injury for him. It was flat-out tough love. And though Liriano started dominating Triple-A hitters in a matter of a couple weeks, Minnesota didn't rush to bring him back until it was ready.
And all he's done is win his first three starts since his return, compiling a 1.45 ERA and .167 opponents' batting average in the process.
The road can be an inhospitable place, but when you've got pitching like the Twins have, it's almost as if someone is always around to leave a light on for you.