With another victory over the A's following the All-Star break, things seem to be more and more like the 2003 season. Except the teams the Twins are chasing are still both vastly superior to the one they chased in 2003 (the Royals). Last night, though the Twins got the victory, they showed one more reason things are quite the same as they were in 2003.
That year, Juan Rincon had his first effective season as a reliever, giving the Twins 85 2/3 innings in which he gave up 74 hits, walked 38, and struck out 63. Rincon had a 3.63 ERA and gave up only five home runs. The following three seasons he gave up a total of twelve home runs in 231 1/3 innings. So far, including last night's disastrous ninth inning, Rincon has allowed seven home runs in just 32 1/3 innings. In another comparison, between 2004 and 2006, Rincon allowed a total of 26 out of 101 inherited runners to score. This year, he has allowed half (six out of twelve) to score. Thus, the 4.78 ERA is just the beginning of how bad Rincon has been in comparison to previous seasons, including 2003.
What should make Twins fans optimistic, as displayed in last night's game (other than the fact that Rincon is nowhere to be seen in a traditional seventh or eighth inninmg role), is that hitters other than Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer, and Torii Hunter were getting involved. Michael Cuddyer, who had been slumping going into the All-Star break, was 4-for-4 in Thursday's game and 2-for-3 with a walk and a double in last night's game. That raises his season line to a good, but not fantastic .287/.371/.454. Another important batter who had been slumping, Luis Castillo, went 3-for-4 with two RBI, a double, and a walk. Lastly, the whole lineup once again showed good patience against a pitcher with mediocre control in Lenny DiNardo.
Of course, a discussion of last night's game wouldn't be complete without mentioning the great start by Johan Santana which only gives more weight to the prediction made by many (including this blog) that Santana might end up with his best overall numbers yet this season, as he is starting his traditional second half run with great numbers already -- 11-6, 2.60 ERA, 133 Ks, .212 BAA, 1.02 WHIP. As for today's starter Carlos Silva, the Twins and their fans can only hope that he is as good as he was last time against the A's, when he went eight innings and gave up only one run and five hits. Silva has had three straight awful starts, so it's about time for him to break out.