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The White Sox won their Wednesday afternoon game against Cleveland, so the Twins had to win on Wednesday night to retain their four game lead over the South Siders. Francisco Liriano threw seven shutout innings and yet he wasn’t even the best pitcher in the game. Tigers’ starter Max Scherzer showed just how good he can be and gave up just one run in nine innings. But in the 10th inning, Danny Valencia knocked a single to center field that scored Michael Cuddyer from second base to give the Twins a 2-1 win. This game was a pitcher’s dual. Tuesday night’s game was a ugly display but turned into a win, and at this stage of the season, that’s all that matters.
- Dan Wade asks if Danny Valencia could be the AL Rookie of the Year.
- John Bonnes writes that he’s buying into Danny Valencia… now.
The Twins have 29 more games to play. The White Sox also have 29 games remaining. The Twins have a four game lead in the division, and I am hearing way too many people saying that the AL Central race is over. Let’s see, the Twins were able to win the AL Central one year ago despite being three games out with four games to play. The Twins and White Sox play three more games against each other, in Chicago. There are several reasons that the Twins and their fans need to keep the pressure on.
- Injuries – It started before the season when Joe Nathan’s season came to an end before it even started. Justin Morneau has been out nearly two months and there is no reason to believe he can come back this year. Jim Thome’s back has tightened up, something that shouldn’t be a surprise. Brian Fuentes’s back locked up on him, and although he is only expected to be out a couple of days, how do we know that is all? Jason Kubel took a pitch off of his hand. It’s not broken, but clearly it will take a few more days for him to be 100% Orlando Hudson clearly isn’t playing at full speed. Nick Punto is back on the disabled list. JJ Hardy has to get days off yet because he is far from 100% and it shows on defense. Joe Mauer got absolutely beat up behind the plate on Wednesday night. Obviously Fuentes and Randy Flores are around because of injuries to Jose Mijares and Ron Mahay. Kevin Slowey is also on the DL. Putting all of these players who are either hurt or injured is exhausting, and alarming. The team has won despite playing very short-handed. Of course, the White Sox have been hurt by injuries as well. They have lost Magglio Ordonez for the season. Gordon Beckham was hit by a pitch and did not play on Wednesday. Matt Thornton and JJ Putz were put on the Disabled List a week ago. But I think you would have to say that the Twins have many more injuries on their roster.
- Bullpen – Does anyone really trust Matt Capps on a consistent basis? He has a bad WHIP, and has never been in a pennant race before. Jon Rauch is scarier. Matt Guerrier is terrific, but he is prone to giving up some home runs. And until Jose Mijares gets back, Flores is a scary option too. Brian Fuentes and Jesse Crain are trustworthy, and the bullpen depth is terrific, but there are question marks. Again, the White Sox bullpen has plenty of holes too. Putz and Thornton had both struggled before going on the DL, and Jenks is not trusted. Sergio Santos is showing signs of tiring. Chris Sale is awesome, but he was in college three months ago.
- Outfield Defense – it was a concern before the season, and it has not been pretty at all. Denard Span won’t be winning any Gold Glove Awards. Jason Kubel may not have a ton of range, but whatever he gets to, he catches and has a strong arm. Everything hit to left field when Delmon Young is playing out there is an adventure, and just because a ball hits his glove does not mean that he will catch it. These players generally have done more than enough offensively to offset their defensive flaws, but in low scoring games, one mistake can mean a loss.
- 4th and 5th starters – After Francisco Liriano, Carl Pavano and Brian Duensing, what can we expect from the other 40% of starts? Scott Baker remains inconsistent. Kevin Slowey is hurt. Nick Blackburn had an incredible performance against a bad Seattle lineup on Saturday, but are we ready to believe that he has turned a corner yet? Never underestimate Mark Buehrle, Gavin Floyd, John Danks or Edwin Jackson.
- The Manny Impact – He’s weird. He doesn’t always try hard. But when he is healthy and care, he can still be a high-impact player who could really spark the White Sox team.
- The Sale Factor – The Twins have a ton of left-handed hitters, someone like Chris Sale could play a huge role. in the Twins/White Sox games, and he will be a big part of their
Baseball Prospectus tells us that the Twins have an 89.6% chances of making the playoffs. Hey, I think that the Twins will win the division. But if we look at the bottom of the Twins lineups the last few games, runs have been at a premium. 29 games isn’t a lot, but the biggest reason I’m not willing to hand the Twins the AL Central is baseball’s best reason. It’s Baseball. Anything can happen in baseball!
TWINS MINOR LEAGUE NOTEBOOK
Here is a look at the Wednesday night’s minor league scores and highlights:
- Rochester 2, Syracuse 7 – Anthony Swarzak was back on the mound to start this game. He gave up four runs on eight hits and two walks in six innings to raise his ERA this season to 6.08. Pat Neshek gave up two runs on one hit and one walk in 1.2 innings. Rob Delaney came in and gave up a run of his own, two hits and a walk before getting the final out. Jacque Jones and Brandon Roberts had two hits each.
- New Britain 10, Reading 7 – Ben Revere continues to amaze. In this game, he was 3-4 with a walk, his fourth triple and his 35th stolen base. Steve Singleton went 3-5 with his fourth triple. Evan Bigley went 2-5 with his first triple. Chris Parmelee went 2-5 with his second triple and his third stolen base. Joe Benson was 2-5 with his 14th stolen base and three RBI. Jair Fernandez was 2-4 with his 11th double. Juan Portes hit his eighth home run. Tyler Robertson was the recipient of the offense. In seven innings, he gave up four runs (3 earned) on seven hits. He walked two and struck out five. Blake Martin came in and gave up three runs on three hits in 1.2 innings. Matt Williams gave up one hit before getting the last out.
- Ft. Myers 1, Palm Beach 0 – Liam Hendriks has been incredible this year. In this game, he threw five shutout innings. He gave up two hits, walked none and struck out four. Brett Carroll threw three shutout innings for the win. Jhon Garcia recorded the save after a scoreless inning. Yangervis Solarte went 2-3. Jonathan Goncalves drove in the lone run. The Miracle had just five hits in the game.
- Beloit 4, Burlington 3 (11 innings) – The Snappers remained just one game out of a playoff spot with just five games to go by winning this game. Edgar Ibarra started and gave up three runs on six hits in six innings. He walked one and struck out eight. Andrei Lobanov and Pedro Guerra walked three but did not allow a run in a combined 1.2 innings. Miguel Munoz struck out four in 2.2 scoreless innings. Eliecer Cardenas recorded his eighth save by getting the final two outs. Aaron Hicks went 3-4 with a walk. Josmil Pinto hit his 20th double and 10th home run. Wang-Wei Lin went 2-4 with a walk.
- Elizabethton 7, Pulaski 4 – It’s playoff time in the Appalachian League, and in Game 1, the E-Twins played well to take a 1-0 series lead. Manuel Soliman got the call in Game 1. In 6.2 innings, he gave up four runs (3 earned)on five hits. He walked one and struck out eight. Michael Tonkin was perfect for the final 2.1 innings to gain the win. Danny Ortiz continued his hot hitting. He went 3-5 with two doubles. Nate Roberts returned and was 2-3 with two walks, two doubles and a stolen base. Andy Leer had a double and a triple. Gunner Glad hit two doubles. Jhonatan Arias went 2-5.
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