First of all, let me say thank you to Corey Ettinger for chipping in with a post yesterday. With Mr. Mosvick off doing that unimportant law school thing in Virginia, I have been responsible for keeping this site updated daily. While I can handle that for the most part, I just can't put something together every single night; weekends are especially tough. Upon hearing of my dilemma, Mr. Ettinger offered to contribute every now and then to take the load off my shoulders a bit, so you'll probably be seeing him around here every so often, especially on weekends. He's a capable writer and he knows the team well, so I'm fully confident in his ability to step in and provide content without any decline in the quality of analysis. Hopefully you'll all enjoy the things he has to say, and be nice to him!
With that out of the way, let's dig into the Twins' four-game sweep in Baltimore. This was an excellent series. It started inauspiciously enough, with an unconvincing victory on Thursday night aided by some abhorrent defense from the Orioles, but the three victories that followed were much better confidence builders. In those three games, the Twins scored a total of 26 runs, and they did it with legitimate rallies filled with line drives and extra-base hits. On top of that, the Twins also pitched pretty darn well throughout the entire series.
One might pass off the Twins' offensive fireworks in this series as the result of a very shoddy Baltimore pitching staff, which had just surrendered a record-setting 30 runs against the Rangers. That's a fair point, and indeed the Twins did put up 13 earned runs in the series against the Orioles' pathetic bullpen. Yet, yesterday's offensive showing was a truly impressive one for the Twins, as they worked Baltimore starter Erik Bedard for six earned runs on six hits and five walks over six innings. Bedard, who entered the game tied with Johan Santana for third in the American League in ERA (2.97) and leading Santana for the major-league strikeout lead with 212, has arguably been the best starting pitcher in the AL this season. For whatever reason, the Twins seem to have his number and that trend continued yesterday as they handed him his fifth loss of the season.
The KSTP 1500 crew named Torii Hunter as the Twins' player of the game, but I'd give my vote to Jason Bartlett, who continued his torrid August with two triples in the ballgame yesterday. The first of the two drove in a couple of key early runs. Bartlett is now slugging an extremely impressive .586 this month; he has collected 10 extra-base hits in 80 August at-bats after collecting a total of 18 in 335 at-bats prior this season. Bartlett ranks among the league leaders with a terrific line-drive percentage of 21.7, and when combined with his excellent speed, that was bound to start showing results in the form of doubles and triples at some point.
To give due credit, Michael Cuddyer had a great day at the plate, going 2-for-3 with a double and two walks. Jason Tyner's presence in the starting lineup was frustrating, but he managed a hit against the tough lefty Bedard and singled twice against the Orioles bullpen.
And now, things get interesting as the Twins head to Cleveland to open a three-game series against the Indians tomorrow night. The Indians squeaked by the Royals with an 11-inning victory yesterday, which is the only thing that kept the Twins from moving within five games of first place. As it stands, the Twins trail Cleveland by 5 1/2 games and play them six times in the next 10 games.