I was busy sabotaging Twins Geek's blog yesterday so I didn't get a chance to post here, but today I'll drop a few Twins notes as we head into what should be a beautiful weekend here in the Twin Cities...
* Despite once again performing dreadfully with runners in scoring position, the Twins were able to complete a series win over the Pirates yesterday, riding a complete-game gem from Nick Blackburn to a 5-1 victory.
A day after going 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position, the Twins went 1-for-11 yesterday, continually failing to capitalize on opportunities to break the game open. Brian Buscher's late two-run homer made the game look a lot less close than it really was. This team has got to start putting together better at-bats with runners on second and third.
On the (very) bright side, Blackburn sparkled again, coming within one out of a shutout before surrendering an RBI single to Adam LaRoche with two outs in the ninth. Blackburn notched only two strikeouts over his nine innings of work, but allowed just six hits and got 16 outs via ground ball in the sterling effort. He's now 6-2 with a 3.09 ERA this season, and will warrant serious All-Star consideration if he can keep this up for a few more starts.
* Several Twins fans I spoke with prior to the start of yesterday's game seemed disgruntled that Joe Mauer wasn't in the starting lineup. I found this to be a bit shocking. I don't know if people realize how much Mauer has been playing this year.
Since Mauer returned to the lineup on May 1, the Twins have played 46 games. Of those games, Mauer has appeared in 43 and started in 41. That means he's appeared in 93.5 percent of the team's games since his return, and started 89.1 percent. For comparison, in 2008, Mauer appeared in 90.1 percent of the team's games and started 85.8 percent of them. Russell Martin, who led all major-league catchers in games played and at-bats last year, played in 95.7 percent of the Dodgers' games and started 90.7 percent of them.
So basically, since joining the team, Mauer has been in the lineup at nearly the same rate as last year's major-league leader, in spite of the Twins' initial insistence that they'd be cautious with his playing time due to the back injury that kept him sidelined for the first month of the season. And through all that, he's still hitting .425. Amazing.
* After doubling in yesterday's game, Nick Punto now has one more extra-base hit than Delmon Young this season.
* Back at the .500 mark, the Twins haven't lost a series since dropping two of three to the Mariners early in the month, and they'll look to carry that streak forward as they take on the Astros at home this weekend, where they'll face three right-handed starters. The pitching match-ups:
Friday: Kevin Slowey vs. Roy Oswalt
Saturday: Scott Baker vs. Brian Moehler
Sunday: Glen Perkins vs. Wandy Rodriguez