M & M and company just keep on blasting away. I should try to avoid that much-despised phrase, but Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau have been essentially carrying this club with Santana and Liriano and its been a blast to watch if you ignore the standings. (Thats right, folks. Another day. Another Twins win. Another Tiger and White Sox win.)
I, of course, don't want to discredit Brad Radke. With his latest good start, his ERA is down to 5.11. Thats still not great, but a lot better than 7.75 (as it was on May 8th). Plus, his 7-7 record doesn't look too shabby. The great thing about last night, in comparison to his other recent starts, is that he was throwing strikes (102 pitches, 73 strikes and no walks), getting some Ks (4), not allowing a lot of hits (4), and maintaining a decent ground-ball to fly-ball ratio of 8-9.
It would be nice, despite the fact the Twins probably won't make a splash in the postseason, to see Brad go out the right way. It would be a shame if he was released with that god-awful ERA in May and worse to see him sign with the hometown Devil Rays for his final tour of the league. If he can have a good second half, reminiscent of the old Brad, it would be great. I know Radke isn't a great pitcher and hasn't been the ace for a while, but he is a good guy who stuck with the club through harder times and its been a pleasure to watch him throughout his career. Great control, great change-up, great competitor, great professional.
As for Mauer and Morneau, the hitting hasn't stopped. Joe went 1 for 3 with a walk, maintaing his number one batting average at .392 and OBP at .458, getting two RBI late in the game with a double. Justin, on the other, came out right away in the second and blasted a Carlos Villanueva fastball to straight-away center for a solo shot in the first. (Torii promptly followed up with a impressive shot to help us forget about those 11 GIDP) He didn't do anything the rest of the game, but he now has a .288/.341/.565 line thats looking pretty impressive at the end of June, giving him 10 HR and 29 RBI on the month. If he maintains his numbers from last year's second half (11 HR and 35 RBI) he end up with 31 HR and 100 RBI.
Seeing as its unlikely he'll revert to that form (.211/.277/.397 in the second half), its pretty much a given he'll get to the 30 HR-100 RBI plauteau if he stays healthy. As for Joe, he'll probably be the first 200-hit catcher since Piazza did it in 1997, one of the best catcher years ever. Both of these guys are key for the Twins right now and it seems may even garner some MVP love later on. Garry Gilette wrote in this in his chat yesterday:
"Tim (St.Paul, MN): Gary, who's your AL MVP thus far? NL is obviously Pujols, right?
Gary Gillette: Thome is a good candidate. Mauer, if the Twins pull back into contention. As would Santana."
Pitchers don't usually win MVPs (Pedro almost did in his 2000 season, which may have been the best ever, and Clemens did in 1986, maybe his best year), but if Joe hits .340 or .350 this year, which is highly possible, its reasonable to think he'll gets some votes. Needless to say, regardless of the voting, his star is shining bright right now. Jerry Crasnick suggested that "If Joe Mauer isn't playing in the All-Star Game, I'll rip up my plane ticket and cancel my hotel reservation in protest."
There is, unfortunately, a slight chance that this bright spot ends briefly today, with Chris Capuano on the mound for the Brewers and the win streak on the line. Capuano, a lefty, is having an All-Star year with a 9-4 record, 3.10 ERA, a 1.16 WHIP, and 105 Ks. When the Twins faced him earlier this year, they managed three runs (one unearned) but failed to pick up the win in Boof Bonser's first start, with Jesse Crain blowing it. Hopefully that doesn't happen today, but this may be one of the Twins more difficult challenges in recent weeks. However, with Mauer and Morneau around, I'm still feeling confident.