The Twins came out of the All-Star break badly needing a boost. It didn't come initially. On Thursday night, the Twins returned to play at Target Field, having just learned that their best hitter would be landing on the disabled list. Their first game out of the break featured more of the same: a starter getting clobbered, questionable fundamentals and missed offensive opportunities. The Twins fell to the division-leading White Sox 8-7, dropping them a distant 4 1/2 games out of first place (and four behind the idle Tigers). There was a lot of depression floating around Twins Territory on Friday afternoon.
My, how things have changed over the weekend.
The Twins took the final three games in their series against the Sox, wrapping things up with a thrilling ninth-inning comeback against Bobby Jenks on Sunday. Their two top starting pitchers dominated, and while Nick Blackburn struggled once again yesterday, his outing may finally make clear in the eyes of management something that has been clear in the minds of many for weeks: he needs to be removed from the rotation.
I wrote last Thursday about J.J. Hardy, suggesting that now that he's finally put his wrist issues behind him he could be primed for a big second half. I concluded the post by noting that the Twins "need a number of players to step up in the second half, and Hardy is at the top of that list." In the Twins' four-game series against the Sox, Hardy went 5-for-11 with two doubles and two RBI. Joe Mauer, whose name is obviously at the top of that aforementioned list right along with Hardy, also had an excellent series, finishing 7-for-18 with three doubles and five RBI.
The Twins, in general, did some impressive damage with the bats, running up a total of 24 runs on 52 hits over four games against a pitching staff that has been exceedingly hot.
Now, they've cut their deficit in the AL Central down to 1 1/2 games while leap-frogging the Tigers, who managed to lose four games over the weekend in Cleveland. Things get no easier for Detroit, who are looking at their schedule and seeing the following eight series lined up: Rangers, Blue Jays, Rays, Red Sox, Angels, Rays, White Sox, Yankees. Meanwhile, the Twins are coming upon a much-needed soft spot in their schedule where they'll face the Indians, Royals, Orioles and Mariners in successive series.