Sunday's victory over the Detroit Tigers was one of the more memorable games of the year. That had a lot to do with Johan Santana's stellar pitching performance, but more importantly, the 12 runs scored suggested a possible reawakening of the offense. Last night certainly backed that up.
The Twins scored nine runs against the Oakland A's and went on to win 9-4, pushing them to an 84-59 record and 1.5 games behind the idle Tigers. With 84 wins, the Twins have now surpassed last year's 83-79 record. Last night's lineup certainly wasn't reminiscent of that team.
The Twins offense produced a total of 14 hits and four walks, striking out only two times. The middle of the order (3-6 hitters) went 7-for-17 with six RBI, two homers, and a double. Michael Cuddyer was the big star, going 2-for-5 with a two-run home run in the fourth and a bases-loaded double in the eigth.
Cuddyer is now hitting .277/.356/.511 with 37 doubles, 5 triples, 22 home runs, and 98 RBI. He'll likely end up with around 100 runs scored, 25 homers, 110 RBI, and around 70-75 extra-base hits. That's a pretty impressive season, especially considering that this club was almost ready to give up on him (admittedly along with me and my fellow blogger) before the year and that he only had 49 at-bats in April.
There were, of course, other important bats that came alive that will be key down the stretch. Joe Mauer went 1-for-3 but reached three times as he walked and was hit by a pitch. Mauer continues to heat up in September, as he has a hit in his last six games (9-for-21) and is hitting .355 for the month so far. If he can keep it up, he'll have no problem keeping up his .350 average and likely winning a batting title. More importantly, when Mauer is able to consistently get on base, it's clear that the Minnesota offense flows much better, giving Cuddyer and Justin Morneau more opportunities to drive in runs.
Torii Hunter is also doing well lately. He's hitting .318 in September with a .545 slugging percentage, after hitting his 24th home run last night and now has 77 RBI. He projects a .273/.336/.470 line with 28 HRs and 88 RBI if he keeps up his pace. Considering he has been injured much of the year and spent time on the DL, that's a pretty good year for Torii. I am still not sure how I feel about a multi-year contract for Torii, but it is certainly a good thing when Hunter heats up right when the team needs it.
However, the most important guy to start heating up is Carlos Silva. Though his improvement in his last two starts (including last night's victory) may be misleading since it has come against two particularly weak offenses (Oakland and Tampa Bay), it is nonetheless good to see. Last night, he threw seven innings, giving up five hits and a solo homer to Frank Thomas while striking out one and walking one. It would be good if he can be another stable starter during the playoff push, but once again, if he can't cut it in his next start, he needs to be jettisoned in favor of Matt Garza, who actually has the potential to dominate big lineups.
Tonight, Matt Guerrier takes the hill for his first start of the season, which may mean a lot of bullpen innings. Joe Nathan may not be available after needing 36 pitches to pick up his 31st save last night, so it should be interesting to see what happens if another save situation arises. Whatever the case, this much we know: another offensive output like last night would definitely be helpful.