The Minnesota Twins improved their season record to eight wins against seven losses with their 5-3 victory on Sunday afternoon against the Chicago White Sox. It was their fourth straight win (two apiece sandwiched around three off days including two weather-postponed games against the Angels on Wednesday and the White Sox on Friday), after losing five in a row during the previous week to Kansas City and the New York Mets. The Miami Marlins visit Target Field for a two-game series, weather permitting, on Monday and Tuesday in Minneapolis. After that, the Twins pitching faces some heavy lumber when the Texas Rangers visit for four games, including their new catcher and long-ago Twins catcher A.J. Pierzynski. The Rangers have some strong pitching, so the Twins are in for a tough series Thursday through Sunday afternoon before they fly to Detroit to face the Tigers the following Monday.
The Twins pitching looked solid the past two weeks, both starters and bullpen. There was a 7-4 loss in Kansas City, a 16-5 loss against the Mets and a 8-6 win against the Los Angeles Angels. In the other six games, the opponents scored no more than three runs in five and four runs in the other game. Pitching that effectively puts a team in a good position to win. That was true against the White Sox, as the Twins came from behind to win both games Saturday and Sunday. During the four-game winning streak Joe Mauer was hitting well, and the Twins have shown discipline at the plate, drawing four walks Monday, five walks Tuesday, eight walks Saturday and six walks Sunday. By comparison, the Angels in the Monday and Tuesday games drew just three walks total from Twins pitchers and the White Sox received three Saturday and two Sunday. That’s 23 free bases on balls for the Twins and eight free passes total for the Angels and White Sox.
Walks made a difference Sunday. Justin Morneau drew a bases-loaded walk with two outs to plate Jamey Carroll with the Twins’ first run to tie the game at 1-1 in the sixth inning. Mauer had drawn a walk that filled the bases. The White Sox took the lead 2-1 in the bottom of the frame. Then Trevor Plouffe opened the Twins seventh with a lead-off walk. Plouffe eventually scored on an Aaron Hicks single to right field to tie the score again. With two outs, Mauer walked again and loaded the bases again. Josh Willingham made the White Sox pay when he nailed the first pitch from former Twins relieve Jesse Crain to deep right-center past the outfielders and drove home Hicks, Carroll and Mauer for a 5-2 lead and eventually the win.
The Twins are playing solid baseball right now. They have some growing pains at some of the spots in the batting order. But the pitching is good, the fielding is pretty good and the experienced combination of Mauer, Willingham, Morneau and Ryan Doumit in the No. 2-5 slots is healthy and tough for opposing pitchers to get through safely, especially if they have men on base in scoring position.