After taking Friday night's game against the Athletics behind a strong debut outing from Kevin Slowey, the Twins threw away a terrific outing from Carlos Silva on Saturday night and couldn't support a not-so-sharp Johan Santana yesterday afternoon in a 4-2 loss. As a result, what once looked like a promising opportunity for a series victory in Oakland ends up as a series loss -- the Twins' first in their last five series -- and now the hometown nine will head into Anaheim to face an even better team in a series that will feature some fairly unfavorable pitching match-ups.
The Oakland series ended up being what many expected it to be: a string of three close and low-scoring games between two very evenly matched ballclubs. The two teams combined to score just 12 runs over the three games, and sadly that meant that while the Twins' pitchers performed well, the team still ended up coming away with a pair of losses.
On Saturday night, Silva took the loss despite giving up just one run over eight innings. Santana's outing yesterday was not nearly as strong, as he gave up four runs (three earned) on five hits and four walks over six innings, but he still bears the "hard-luck loser" label. The Twins' offense got after young righthander Chad Gaudin, collecting eight hits and five walks over 5+ innings against the Oakland starter, but they simply could not deliver the death blow as they managed to convert those 13 base-runners into just two runs and could do nothing against the Athletics' bullpen. The Twins went 1-for-11 in scoring opportunities, hit into two rally-crushing double-plays, and failed to convert a single one of their seven walks into a run. For an offense like this, that is a recipe for failure.
On a broader scale, this series featured a disappointing performance from a Twins offense that had seemingly been settling into a nice groove over the past couple weeks. That probably has a lot to do with the very good pitching staff they were facing, but the more striking issue lies within the heart of the order. Michael Cuddyer, Justin Morneau and Torii Hunter combined to go 4-for-33 (.121) with a total of one RBI in the series. On top of that, Mike Redmond, who has been batting sixth behind those three, went just 2-for-12 in the three games. Saturday night's game was a display of complete and utter domination by Joe Blanton, but Friday and Sunday are examples of games where the Twins should have scored a lot more runs than they did. The offense amassed 17 hits and 13 walks in those two games to earn a total of 30 base-runners, yet they could manage only five runs in those two games. Friday night the Twins still managed to win thanks to some great pitching, yesterday they lost because their ace wasn't spectacular. Clearly, when the big bats in the middle of the Twins' lineup aren't driving in runs at a steady pace, no one is going to do it, and that will lead to a loss more often than not.
Fortunately, those big bats have proven that they are capable of driving in runs at a steady pace, and I'm inclined to give more weight to the two weeks of consistent production this lineup displayed than the three games of ineptitude they displayed against a very good pitching staff this weekend. The problem, of course, is that the Twins are going to face three more tough pitchers in Anaheim over the next three days in Jered Weaver, Kelvim Escobar and John Lackey. Meanwhile, the Twins will be depending on a relatively inexperienced group of starters (Boof Bonser, Scott Baker and Kevin Slowey) to deal with the potent Angels offense.
The Twins won five straight games last week, but now find themselves sitting just a game above .500 after back-t0-back losses. If they want to pick up some steam before heading into their upcoming nine-game interleague homestand, they will need those big bats in the middle of the order to grow some wings against the Angels.