The Twins are now only two miniscule games behind the Chicago White Sox. A sweep with two wins today and tommorow, and they may have a tie for the Wild Card, unless the Yankees have something to say about it. Of course, there are over two months left in the season, so we can't really draw conclusions at this point. However, three big home runs last night certainly made a statement to the White Sox on their home field.
Of the seven runs the Twins scored en route to a 7-4 victory, six came on home runs from Joe Mauer, Michael Cuddyer and Justin Morneau. If you're keeping track, that's the 3-4-5 hitters not only doing their job, but winning the game for the Twins. Cuddyer started the scoring, following a Nick Punto hit and a Mauer strikeout with an absolute blast to right field. Not to be shown up, Morneau came up and promptly deposited a Javier Vazquez fastball just over the right field wall.
However, the best was saved for last. In the seventh inning, Jason Tyner and Jason Bartlett chased Vazquez with straight singles to start the inning. Neal Cotts was brought in and got the first two outs, getting Luis Castillo on a weak popup and getting Nick Punto to ground into a fielder's choice, with Tyner getting "thrown out" at the plate on a controversial call. That left Mauer at the plate with two runners in scoring position (after a Punto steal) and two outs facing a lefty. After working the count to 3-1, Mauer took a Cotts fastball and deposited it over the center field fence for a three-run shot, his first homer of the year against a southpaw. That gave the Twins more than enough cushion, giving them a 6-2 lead. Before the at-bat, Mauer was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts, but with the home run and his sac fly in the ninth, Mauer ended the night with four RBI.
Other than the middle of the order, which went 5-for-14 with 3 HRs and 7 RBI collectively, the other production came from the ever-impressive Tyner and Bartlett, who had three hits apiece. That gives the Twins eight and nine hitters with .372 and .316 batting averages respectively. Not too shabby. The only bad offensive aspects of the night were watching Jason Kubel and Rondell White go 0-for-8.
Pitching-wise, Brad Radke continues to have a good second half. With the victory, he is now 9-7 with a 4.74 ERA. Along with Liriano and Santana, the top three Twins pitchers are 19-2 with a 2.30 ERA in the last 30 games. Giving up two home runs isn't great, but against the White Sox, it's nothing to be ashamed off and it helped that both were solo shots. Only Kyle Lohse performed badly last night, as he gave up a two-run home run in the ninth to Brian Anderson. Twins fans should be reminded that not only is Anderson hitting .211/.285/.349 with 6 HRs and 23 RBI, but this isn't the first home run Lohse has given up to him. If memory serves me correctly, he also gave up another one to him in April when the Twins got swept in Chi-Town.
Needless to say, Lohse is looking more and more useless as a pitcher. He needs to be traded in the next week, if only for spare parts. The Twins don't need his salary, bad attitude, or awful pitching around anymore. They already have a good bullpen outside of him and Willie Eyre and the manager is constantly asking for one less pitcher and a backup catcher. Even though it's ridiculous that Gardy is so nervous about the catching situation, it would be great if that led to Lohse's ousting.
Tonight's matchup should prove even more intense, with potential Cy Young candidates Johan Santana and Jose Contreras matching up. My money is on Santana, since Contreras hasn't been particularly great recently.