When previewing the upcoming month at the end of the April wrap-up I posted Tuesday, I noted that the Twins had just one series in their May schedule that looked easily winnable: a month-opening three-game set in Tampa Bay. Unfortunately, the Twins proved that nothing will come easy this month as they proceeded to lose the series against their former whipping boys. It was the first time the Twins have lost a series to the Rays since 2004. After a convincing 9-1 victory on Tuesday night, the Twins' play over the last two games of the series was abysmal.
The Rays actually have a decent offense, so I won't complain about the fact that Tampa Bay scored 10 runs over those two games. What grinds me is the continued impotence of the Twins' hitters. If it's not one thing, it's another. Last night, the top of the lineup (which was iffy for much of the first month of the season) went above and beyond. Luis Castillo went 3-for-5 and continued to get himself on base without ever hitting the ball out of the infield, while Nick Punto had an outstanding game, going 4-for-4 with a walk. Unfortunately, Joe Mauer picked a very bad time to have what was by far his worst game of the season. Mauer went 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts, stranding EIGHT runners over the course of the game. I can't complain too much about Mauer -- he's batting .354 and has been the team's only offensive presence at times this season -- but man, that is some poor timing for a dud performance. Compounding Mauer's failures were a general incapability to produce by the other members of the heart of the lineup. Mauer, Justin Morneau and Torii Hunter combined to go 1-for-13 with five strikeouts. This essentially put to waste the efforts of Castillo, Punto and Jason Bartlett, who combined to reach base 10 times but scored just one run. The most painful moment came in the fifth inning, when the Twins loaded the bases with nobody out but produced no runs as Mauer struck out and Morneau grounded into a double play.
The blow was softened by the fact that the Twins were at least flailing away at a pretty good pitcher last night in James Shields, who entered the game with a 2-0 record and 3.75 ERA to go along with 37 strikeouts over 36 innings. Nevertheless, it was the type of game that the Twins needed to find a way to win, and they simply could not. Now they enter an extremely difficult stretch in their schedule just two games above .500.
I am down on this team right now. This was a disheartening series. Tonight this stumbling offense will go up against knuckle-baller Tim Wakefield, who will most likely baffle them. After Ramon Ortiz got knocked around last night, is it now Carlos Silva's turn to show a chink in the armor?