After being thoroughly pummeled in two straight games, the Twins finally took a lead in the fourth inning yesterday afternoon when Jason Kubel shot a line drive down the right field line to score Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau and break a 1-1 tie. Nick Swisher responded with a solo homer in the bottom half of the inning, but in the next frame, Mauer and Morneau scored again, this time on a Michael Cuddyer double. The Twins led 5-2. Light was creeping through the looming clouds that smothered U.S. Cellular Field. The glimpse of light was short-lived.
Glen Perkins walked Jim Thome on four pitches with one out in the bottom of the sixth. On came Jesse Crain, who surrendered a two-run homer to Swisher. 5-4. In the next inning, the Sox touched up Matt Guerrier for three more runs, capped by a two-run dinger off the bat of Paul Konerko. 7-5. The Twins threatened to come back against closer Bobby Jenks in the ninth when Carlos Gomez delivered a leadoff double and Alexi Casilla followed with a single, but the rally was foiled when Joe Mauer tapped into a double play and Justin Morneau grounded out to short.
Certainly, it's difficult to excuse the abysmal performance displayed by the Twins pitching staff during this past series. Nobody could get outs. Over four games, the Sox batted .400 and smashed an astonishing 23 extra-base hits -- including 11 homers -- for a .717 slugging percentage. Those numbers are downright ghastly. That is some bad, bad pitching. Yet, considering that nearly every pitcher on the staff took part in the clobbering this weekend, it's probably reasonable to chalk this one up largely to a red-hot offense playing in their home park. How the Twins pitchers respond in Cleveland over the next three days will be crucially important.
The Twins, scratching at first place just a week ago, now find themselves two games under .500 and very much in danger of being surpassed by Cleveland for second place in the division. The season is far from lost, but this weekend's slaughter in Chi-town was nothing less than humiliating. The Twins need to get back on track, and fast, before things truly spin out of control.