Is it just me, or does anyone else get the feeling the Twins will probably only win games this season that either Johan Santana, Joe Nathan, or Fransisco Liriano participate in (and Jesse Crain doesn't)? Anyway, I'll try and keep this post simple. There are some positives going on in the Twins world and a few added negatives. Let's break it down:
* Joe Mauer continues to be on fire, getting hit after hit, night after night. Yesterday, he went 3-for-4 with a walk, an RBI, and two doubles. He's driving the ball with absolute authority off all pitchers to all parts of the field. Mauer is now hitting nearly .380 and that .978 OPS is awesome, considering no Twins hitter has been near those heights since Chuck Knoblauch in 1996.
* Unfortunately, Ichiro is back in top form and has been scaulding the ball at a .571/.586/.821 clip in his last seven games (against Twins and Royals pitching, though). Ichiro has quietly raised his average to .362. Competing for a batting title might be hard with Ichiro around, but let's not forget that Mauer is a superior hitter who drives the ball. Ichiro is great at what he does and since no one else can really match him in that department, it works wonders. It's just fairly clear that Mauer is the better pure hitter.
* On the offensive front, the Twins continue to be a headache. Yes they scored seven runs in yesterday's game, which is a feat, but the team left nine men on base. After Wednesday's disasterpiece of a game, it's still frustrating to see this. Jason Kubel, though he drove in two in the 6th, left six men on base himself.
* Juan Castro went 2-for-3. Great. Another week with this lame excuse for a shortstop. What do the Twins have to do to get rid of this guy? The defensive argument stopped being legit a long time ago...
* Oh wow. Look! A Joe Nathan sighting. Its a 7-2 and Gardy decides that now it's okay to be flexible and bring the guy in for a little inning. What a shame. So, Wednesday, when Gardy had a great chance to win the game, had momentum on his side and all, he leaves Jesse Crain and leaves Nathan in the pen. You know, something tells me that the roles should be reversed here. A 7-2 game is the only kind of situation Crain deserves to be in right now.
* As per my introductory comment, Johan Santana started and -- not surprisingly -- the Twins won. He wasn't at his sparkling best, as he only struck out two and labored at times, but he certainly got the job done by holding Seattle to one run over five innings. He's 6-4 now with a 3.16 ERA at the beginning of June. That projects him for a 14-11 season, but if he pulls off his usual win streak starting now, he could very well hit 18 wins or so and compete for that Cy Young.
* Here's an unfortunate and awful bit of news: The Twins recalled Kyle Lohse last night, as Matt Guerrier went on the DL with a broken thumb stemming from yesterday's win. For some reason (I can't fathom why), the Twins skipped calling up their best reliever prospect by a long shot in Pat Neshek to call up Lohse. Even after blowing a save last night, Neshek is 4-1 with a 2.05 ERA to go along with 73 Ks and only 31 hits in 44 innings pitched. Also, he's only walked 12 batters in those innings. But certainly Lohse has done plenty to be deserving of another chance with this organization.
Okay, so the Jason Bartlett situation is ridiculously stupid, but this is almost worse to me. It just indicates a major problem with the organization. What does a guy like Neshek, or Bartlett for that matter, have to do to earn a call-up? Does Neshek need to strike out the next 50 guys he faces or what? Lohse wasn't throwing relief in the minors and his arm isn't adjusted for it, but Neshek has been one his whole career. When one of your better relievers goes down, what in God's name are you doing calling up a starter? It's not like Lohse was dominating Triple-A anyway. Yes, he had a 1.50 ERA, but his 12:6 K/BB ratio isn't great, especially considering the competition. All I can say is thank the high heavens we still have Mauer, Nathan (in big lead games like this one!), Santana and Liriano around to make the games worth watching. Otherwise, with this kind of organizational insanity, I'd be done.