Halfway through last night's game, it looked like the Twins were back to their old shenanigans, producing nothing offensively and having their starter knocked around relentlessly. A big fifth inning for the Twins offense quickly reversed all that, as they rallied for five runs to take the lead and never looked back in what would end up being an 8-4 victory.
The Twins' offensive turnaround was abrupt to say the least. White Sox starter Javier Vazquez had cruised through the first four frames and the Twins entered the bottom half of the fifth inning trailing 4-0. Suddenly, in the fifth, they tagged Vazquez for five runs on six singles and a sac fly. The Twins scored eight runs on 12 hits in their last four innings after amassing just two hits in the first four. Meanwhile, the Twins pitching staff turned it around on the Sox as Brad Radke, Francisco Liriano and Juan Rincon combined to hold the White Sox to two hits in innings 6-9. Talk about a complete role reversal.
Radke's start had its positive and negative aspects. It was encouraging that Radke did not get crushed; the White Sox had to manufacture runs against him. Three of Chicago's runs came in on sacrifice flies, and the other came when Tadahito Iguchi was singled in after stealing second. It was discouraging that Radke's outing was still not particularly good. Over 5 and 2/3 innings, he allowed four runs on eight hits while walking two and striking out only one. Not a particularly good outing, but good enough to win on this night, and he didn't allow any home runs.
Luis Castillo continues to amaze me. He has been absolutely phenomenal when he's stepped to the plate with two outs and runners in scoring position, and he continued that trend last night. Castillo might have had the biggest hit of the game when he displayed some rare power from the left side and drove a two-run homer over the baggy. The sixth inning shot extended the Twins' lead from one run to a comfortable three. Castillo also doubled and singled on the night and stole third base. The second baseman is now hitting an outstanding .357/.408/.478. Other offensive stars included Justin Morneau, who had a pair of hits and RBIs and has his OPS up to a respectable .810. Joe Mauer also had two hits and two RBIs.
The Twins are still a couple games under .500 and well out of first place, but they are playing really well right now -- much more like I had expected them to play coming into the season. The Twins have won six of their last seven (with all of those wins coming against very good teams). They've averaged nearly 5.9 runs in 12 games this month, including double-digit outbursts against the White Sox on Friday and the Rangers on Wednesday.
I realize I said on Friday that it was pretty unrealistic to think the Twins have a chance at the postseason this year, but in reality this is a team that is by no means out of the race. With that said, Ron Gardenhire and Terry Ryan must prove that they are serious about wanting to win. They need to get Jason Bartlett up and put him at shortstop over Juan Castro. They need to start giving Luis Rodriguez more starts at third base. And if Carlos Silva gets knocked around tonight (which is almost a certainty) they need to seriously consider dropping him from the rotation in favor or Liriano.
The Twins' hot streak will more than likely come to and end today with Silva going against tough lefty Mark Buehrle. A Twins win would not only guarantee a crucial series victory against the Sox, it would make a pretty strong statement. I have pretty low expectations, but with the way they're playing right now, I really can't discount any possibilites.