Getting outscored by the Yankees 25-7 in the series is probably the most troubling number I can bring up to describe the frustration of watching the Twins slug through an ugly sweep in New York. What's worse is knowing that, while the sweep in Boston was memorable and bad, this was much worse. At least in the Boston series, the Twins had a good chance to win two of the games if not for bullpen malfunctions.
In this series? The Twins were thoroughly dominated in all three games and yesterday, they certainly did not help themselves either. The most apparent example, of course, was Alexi Casilla's completely boneheaded mistake that cost Glen Perkins what could have been another solid to good outing. Instead of completing the double play with runners at first and second with one out in the fifth inning, Casilla walked cavalierly over to the second-base bag, believing the inning to be over and then started to jog to the dugout, flashing a self-satisfied grin before being confronted by Perkins and his magnified one finger, symbolizing the lack of continuity between the game going on for everyone else and the one going on for Casilla.
Casilla certainly has made vast improvements this year, as evidenced by his .323/.360/.438 line and 38 RBI in 226 at-bats out of the No. 2 spot in the order. Despite the offensive improvement, and many good plays at second, Casilla continues to make the same kinds of stupid or silly plays that he was criticized for the last few years since he was first called up to the big leagues. The truly unfortunate thing for Twins fans is that there seems to be little to no evidence that Casilla is going to stop making these kinds of befuddling errors anytime soon.
Thus, instead of getting through five scoreless innings, Perkins followed the shocking mistake by giving up a two-run double to new guy Justin Christian and giving the Yankees the lead for good. Of course, it would be hard to tell the story of the sweep or yesterday's game for that matter by just mentioning the bad luck facing Twins starters and the bad defense.
First, in fairness, one particular player continues to flash a good glove and that's Denard Span, who made an impressive catch by robbing an impatient Yankee fan of a fly ball in the right field corner. Second, that discussion would leave out the punchless offense, which managed a meager seven runs in the series overall and only three in last two games against Darrell Rasner and an aging Mike Mussina.
Granted, Mussina has had a very good year, with a sparkling 13-6 record, 3.26 ERA, and 81/16 K/BB ratio. In fact, it's quite the impressive comeback year. But it's still hard to excuse the Twins' stale offensive performance, with as many extra-base hits (two) as double-plays grounded into on the day. Further confusing was why one of the Twins best hitters against right-handers in Joe Mauer was sitting on the bench, while Mike Redmond hit in the third spot (yes, he's hitting .313 against righties and .270 against lefties this year, but its an aberration, because that split is reversed over the last three years to the tune of .370/.422/.468 against lefties and .279/.312/.332 against righties) and the middle of the order went 2-for-12.
Of course, mentioning Mauer on the bench is probably splitting hairs to some extent, but the point remains. The offense was pretty ugly against the Yankees, just as the defense and pitching overall was, and that is particularly evident in their lack of execution, which should worry some fans. For instant, over the three-game series, the Twins scored only seven of the 31 base-runners they managed to get on. That's under 25%. Additionally, ten base-runners were left in scoring position with less than two outs. In other words, that incredible ability to be clutch with runners on that was enabling the Twins to remain a top offense despite their lack of serious power or any plate discipline outside of Mauer may truly be fleeting and there may be signs of it disappearing.
What's the good news for the Twins fans? Well, it is certainly hard to make much good news out of getting sweep by a possible contender, especially as bad as this one was. However, thankfully the next series will not present the same challenge, as the Cleveland Indians have all but admitted their season is gone by trading away C.C. Sabathia, the Twins hater and killer. On the other hand, the Twins will still face the Cy Young-contending Cliff Lee on Friday, but the good news there is the Twins managed four runs off him last time out. That's certainly more hopeful than this week's lack of execution so far.