After 12 games, the Twins are a spectacular 9 and 3. They’ve emphatically taken series from the Angels, White Sox, Red Sox, and now the Royals. The first three are all considered playoff contenders, and hey – the last one has Zach Grienke. Our inaugural ‘Diamond Dingers’ looks at the highlights of the youthful Twins season…
#1 – The Franchise!
Holy biscuits and gravy! Francisco Liriano looked fantastic in his start against the maroon stockings on Thursday. Not only did he pitch a shutout for his 7 innings, the man’s signature slider was snapping like the days of yore. Using a solid changeup and a fastball with a good deal more zip than it’s featured any time since ’06, the Sisco Kid gave the Twins and their faithful a great deal of hope. In addition to the formidable nature of his pitches themselves, it was neat to see Francisco not lose his cool in some early inning jams *difficulties – not delicious jellies and preserves*.
#2 – We’re 9 – 3!
That’s not a bad looking record. The last time the Twins started out with 4 straight series wins and this type of success was in 1987. I was 2! And I’ve heard something fairly positive happened that year? The Twins have looked formidable on the mound, at the plate, and in the field. Their starters have been more than serviceable, their pen capable (even in spite of some recent injuries to Patrick Neshek and Jose Mijares, and their bench (for the first time since the Book of Genesis) has been deep.
#3 – I Haven’t Minded Nick Punto
With a lineup so capable from 1 – 8, having the tiny tumbler at 3rd and batting 9th doesn’t bother me nearly as much. There are moments when Brendan Harris seems to cry out from the bench – “I can hit 100 points higher than this man!”. But when everyone besides Punto keeps launching extra base hits at will, the whole deal just doesn’t seem as key as in recent years. In fairness, Nicholas continues playing stellar defense at 3rd and even offering hits on occasion.
#4 – This Offense Looks Neat
In recent years, every mistake the Twins made caused we fans quite a bit of stress. For we knew that for under blunder leading to an extra run for the opponent, we’d need to score one more too. That wasn’t always easy! Such luminaries as Lew Ford, Luis Rivas, elderly Jose Offerman, wizened Tony Batista, and decidedly advanced-age Ruben Sierra have been the cogs making up good portions of Twins batting orders in the past decade. When Mauer and Morneau weren’t doing their thing, it was often a real struggle to attain scoring. But no longer! With a batting order that can place today’s incarnation of Jason Kubel in the 7th spot in the order (as in Saturday’s game), the ’10 Twins sport their most potent lineup since 1987. The off-season acquisitions of JJ Hardy, Jim Thome, and the O Dog Hudson have already born fruit.
#5 – Carl Pavano Has Become Greg Maddux
With Minnesota’s new-found offensive prowess, the only two commonly pointed to questions about the team have been – (a) Who will replace Joe Nathan and (b) How will we make any headway in the playoffs without a genuine ace starting pitcher. Jon Rauch (6 saves in 6 chances through Saturday) continues to make the first query moot. So far, the latter question is being answered capably by Liriano and Carl Pavano. Pavano has been outstanding, winning his first 2 decisions and sporting a 1.38 ERA. In his 13 innings thus far, he’s only given up 10 hits. The most startling and tremendous thing about this old guy has been his great control and the excellent movement on his pitches. These pleasantries lead to the Maddux comparison. Pavano even sports the Maddux-authored 2-seam fastball that looks like it’s going to smack into a hitter’s person and then zings late right over home plate for a strike.
An additional neat feature of the reincarnated Pavano – his mere continued existence is enough to make New York Yankee fans angry. His success makes them angry and sad. Note the link to his statistics in the previous paragraph. His baseball reference page is sponsored by a Yankee fan, harpooning him for his injury riddled 4 seasons in the Yankee-land. That is just awesome!
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