Happy Tuesday everyone! I hope you all enjoyed the holiday weekend (I know I did, since for me it was an extended five-day stay-cation), but now it's back to work. So let's get caught up with some notes.
* In beating the Royals yesterday, the Twins notched a victory for the ninth time in their past 11 games. Unfortunately, they've been unable to create any separation in the standings during that excellent stretch because the second-place White Sox have been on fire themselves. Chicago came back to beat the Tigers yesterday, marking the seventh straight victory for Ozzie and Co. Like the Twins, the White Sox have won nine of their past 11.
Last Monday, when the Sox were at their lowest point of the season, I wrote that they shouldn't be counted out because they were a streaky team stuck in a slump that could snap at any time. At that point, they'd just finished dropping a series to the Yankees that pushed them 4 1/2 games out of first, but since I posted that article the White Sox haven't lost and they've actually gained ground on a Twins club that's gone 6-1.
As the season winds down, an upcoming three-game series between the Twins and White Sox in Chicago begins to look increasingly pivotal. It commences a week from today and, depending on what happens in the six games between here and there, it could either give the White Sox a chance to vault the Twins with a home sweep or the Twins a chance to effectively bury the South Siders with only 16 games remaining afterward.
I'm reminded of a somewhat similar situation (with roles reversed) two years ago. Minnesota sat 2 1/2 games behind Chicago in the AL Central standings when they welcomed the White Sox to the Metrodome for a late September series. In a thrilling series capped by an epic 10th-inning walk-off in the finale, the Twins swept the Sox and found themselves in first place by the end of the three-game set.
Hopefully this year's Twins squad will be mindful as this series in Chicago looms.
* Matt Capps can't seem to get a break from the fans around here. For whatever reason -- perhaps because they feel like the Twins got stiffed in the trade that brought him here -- many of the Twins faithful that I interact with continue express serious doubts about Capps. Any time he allows a base runner or two in an outing, it seems that Twitter explodes with venom.
That was certainly the case on Sunday afternoon when Capps entered and allowed three hits and a walk to nearly cough up a gift-wrapped sweep-clinching victory against the Rangers. But, like he typically has since coming over, Capps got the job done. In fact, the Twins have yet to lose a game that their new closer has entered with a lead.
Ultimately, that's the barometer by which he should be judged. His saves may not always be pretty, but that's because he's merely a good reliever, not an elite shut-down guy. People should have stopped expecting the latter back in March when the Twins announced Joe Nathan's season-ending surgery.
Yesterday, Capps delivered a perfect ninth inning to seal a one-run victory over the Royals. That's the result he's usually going to get, even if he doesn't always get there all that cleanly. He's obviously not one of the game's great closers, but he's clearly a better option than Rauch -- who continues to look terrible -- and while many would prefer to see Jesse Crain taking care of the ninth, let's not forget that he's a guy with a history of bad slumps.
The Twins wanted a closer with an established track record, and they got one. So far, it's worked out just fine.
* I was delighted to see the Twins call up prospect Ben Revere over the weekend. Revere, a 22-year-old selected in the first round of the 2007 draft, has become one of my favorite stories in the organization.
A top prospect ever since bursting onto the scene with a .325 average in rookie ball after being drafted, Revere was enjoying a successful first season at the Double-A level when he was hit in the face with a pitch in early August, fracturing his eye socket. At the time, his season was thought to be done, and one couldn't be blamed for wondering whether his game would be affected by the traumatic incident.
Revere surprised many by returning to the New Britain lineup less than a month after taking the pitch, and he showed no fear at the plate, batting .382 in eight games. Now, he'll get the opportunity to help a major-league club make a push for a division title in September.
I don't know how much we'll see of him over the next few weeks, but I'll certainly be rooting for Revere every time he gets a chance to contribute. With his blazing speed, he's capable of providing us with some exciting moments.
* I didn't think I could be any more impressed with Jim Thome. Then, yesterday, he hit a home run that deflected off the top of the highest flag pole beyond the right field wall in Target Field.
It was the decisive blast in a 5-4 victory, and part of a 2-for-3 day that pushed the 40-year-old slugger's OPS into quadruple digits. His mark now sits at 1.020; only fives times in his illustrious career has Thome finished higher. He's averaging one home run per every 13.9 at-bats, which is almost exactly in line with his career rate of 13.6. Simply put, while it almost defies logic, Thome doesn't seem to have really lost anything at all.
I've said this before, but with the Vikings season upon us, I'm reminded of how fortunate we Minnesota sports fans have been over the past year to have the privilege of watching a couple of all-time greats in their respective sports playing at their very best despite being in the fourth decade of life. Especially considering that both legendary men had spent much of their prior careers playing for hated rivals.
I'm talking, of course, about Thome and Brett Favre. Much like with Favre, I'll bet we have plenty of folks clamoring for an encore to Thome's amazing performance.
* Today, Shawn Berg is celebrating the one-year anniversary of his "On the Road" blog, which features great Twins takes and eyewitness accounts of minor-league affiliate games (he did a nice report on Kyle Gibson's Triple-A debut back in the middle of August, for instance). Please do me a favor and go pay Shawn's site a visit. He's even giving a Rod Carew figurine away to his 1,000th visitor today!
* If some of these note themes sound familiar to you, it might because I've probably mused about all of them at one point or another on my Twitter page. I've basically started using Twitter as a stream of consciousness to post any Twins-related thoughts I have throughout the day (many of which become the seeds for lengthier blog posts), and I've also found it to be a great tool to interact with other fans. So if you've got an account and you haven't already, I'd love it if you gave me a follow and joined the conversation!