Yesterday's game was only the latest piece of evidence in a growing theory: no matter how many times the Twins get lucky or their big offensive stars have big games to go along with good pitching, none of it will be enough to overcome the massive black hole in the bottom of the horizon. If you speak in the metaphorical language of astrophysics, when the offense reaches the event horizon, there is no looking back.
Who exactly makes up this "black hole" in the lineup? Yesterday, it was quite obvious. The trio of Darnell McDonald, Luis Rodriguez, and Nick Punto probably wouldn't knock fear into a softball pitcher in the local rec league, let alone a major-league hurler. It's true, they went a combined 2-for-7 with a walk, which isn't exactly horrible, but their combined contribution this year is beyond atrocious. You begin with McDonald, who is hitless with a walk in 9 at-bats so far (and a total of 5-for-37 in his MLB career); add Rodriguez, who is 18-for-96 (.188) this year; and finish off with Punto's 67-for-313 (.214) this season. You end up with a hitter, who in 418 at-bats this year, has a .203 average with three home runs, 27 RBI, 14 stolen bases, and 52 walks. That's a hitter with no power, some speed, and some patience. Realistically, you might say you have a one-tool player if not for Punto's defense. Also, as Ubelmann points out on SBG, these hitters (including Garrett Jones and Jason Tyner) hit .179/.258/.250 over the weekend series against the Angels in 31 plate appearances.
Ignoring those seven through nine hitters who are going to do little or nothing, your left with all the pressure on the other hitters. Yesterday, with the inconsistent Jason Kubel going hitless two days after his offensive break-out (sounds just like the team), the pressure was on the remaining five hitters. With Jason Bartlett and Jeff Cirillo being nothing special and Michael Cuddyer being on the DL, the pressure to score runs fell almost entirely into the laps of three players: Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, and Torii Hunter. Reason the Twins lost yesterday? Those hitters went a combined 3-for-12 with one RBI. This is, of course, not in any way to lay the blame on the Twins' best hitters; instead, I am merely pointing out that when these guys don't drive in run after run, the offense tends to do very little, considering the talent around them. This isn't exactly new, as it's been happening all year and most fans are aware of it, but its reached a nexus of sorts in the last week after Cuddyer's injury, when we've seen lineups including Tyner and Jones alongside Punto and McDonald.
With such a huge hole in the lineup, when the pitching isn't pitch perfect, the Twins tend to lose. It's almost funny that announcers Dick and Bert continue to speak about how the pitching needs to continue to be perfect in order to win while praising the Twins' lineup. On this blog, we've pushed the need for a trade, but nothing seems to be coming up and that just makes the situation more critical. Starter Matt Garza had 15 scoreless innings this year (minus one unearned run) before yesterday, when he gave up four runs, three earned, in 5 1/3 innings. Garza wasn't great, but you could easily sense that after his last game, in which he lost despite not giving up an earned run in seven innings against the Tigers, he knew he couldn't rely on his offense, affecting his control early on as the pressure on himself showed immediately.
The Twins naturally have a solution to all this: the great Rondell White was activated from the disabled list yesterday, with Garrett Jones being sent down . Sadly, after all his injury problems this year, it seems doubtful that White will be a major contributor. The good news for Twins fans is he cannot be any worse than Tyner, Punto, McDonald, Jones, or any other of the replacement-level bats the Twins have thrown into the bottom third of the lineup this season. Lets hope White brings some spark to the batting order to support Johan Santana tonight, who faces off against Shaun Marcum and the Blue Jays.