In past years, Twins fans have grown used to seeing a lineup trotted out on "getaway days" (usually Thursday or Sunday afternoon games) that featured several marginal backup players and inspired little confidence. On days like this, one could take a quick glance at the starting lineup and guess that a loss was in store.
This season, the Twins offense has featured enough depth that the team has been able to put forth a relatively imposing lineup even with a few regulars on the bench. That wasn't the case today, as soreness kept Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer and J.J. Hardy all out of the lineup. As a result, the starting nine for the Twins' series finale in Detroit featured Drew Butera at catcher, Luke Hughes at third and Brendan Harris at short, with Delmon Young and Jason Kubel manning the corner outfield spots. Even the big left-handed boppers that remained in the middle of the lineup -- Jason Kubel and Jim Thome -- had tough match-ups with a lefty on the mound. From both an offensive and defensive standpoint, it was the worst group that Ron Gardenhire has trotted out all year, making it tough to see how the Twins would be able to come away with a win.
As expected, the Twins came out with little firepower in a 3-0 loss. Despite drawing a favorable pitching match-up with the erratic Dontrelle Willis on the mound, the Twins couldn't come close to mounting a rally, managing just four singles in the game and accumulating only one at-bat with a runner in scoring position. The characteristically patient Twins' lineup drew just one walk against Willis while fanning six times. In the few occasions where they managed to get runners aboard, they killed themselves with double plays. It was a brutal offensive effort that wasted a strong performance from Carl Pavano, who hurled an eight-inning complete game and allowed only two earned runs but took the hard-luck loss.
After losing two of three to the Tigers, the Twins have finally lost a series, making them the last team in the majors to do so. That's certainly nothing to be ashamed of, nor is being shut out for the first time on April 29 (last year, the Twins' first shutout game in their fourth game).
Butera, who went 0-for-2 and set up the Tigers' first run with an errant throw on Austin Jackson's first-inning stolen base attempt, has indeed looked brutal at the plate, but those who raised a huff about his presence on the Opening Day roster have been made to look silly as he's started only three of the Twins' first 22 games while drawing a total of just nine plate appearances. One could make a valid argument that Butera might be the worst hitter in all the majors, but -- as any rational thinker could have expected -- he's had minimal impact on the team's fortunes thus far. With Wilson Ramos looking overmatched against Triple-A pitching so far, it's certainly looking like the Twins made the right choice in bringing Butera north as Mauer's back-up. That being said, Jose Morales' return from injury couldn't come soon enough.