Posted at 11:06 PM on June 20, 2006
by Josh Lee
One of the interesting things about the Twins' recent hot streak is the way in which every aspect of the team's game has improved. Ditching two of the worst infielders in the majors was bound to improve the defense, and the granting of regular playing time to Kubel, Bartlett, etc. has given the hitting a boost. The surprise is how much smarter the Twins seem to be on the basepaths. A few weeks ago, the Twins couldn't figure out when to run and when to hold up, and were as good at getting picked off as they were at stranding runners. In tonight's game against the Astros, the Twins did leave nine on base, but some heads-up baserunning in the 9th (a stolen base by Castillo, Mauer beating out a double-play throw) allowed them to take the lead on a wild pitch by Houston reliever Brad Lidge.
The Twins turned out to need that run, too, as Joe Nathan racked up his first blown save of the season, giving up a home run to Preston Wilson. On the first pitch of the 10th inning, though, Justin Morneau decided that while small ball is nice, the long ball is what the chicks dig, and knocked a homer of his own out to left to give the Twins a 5-4 win. Eight straight wins; whatever backwards-cap wearing, jersey-non-washing superstitions the team (or its fans) are riding, now is clearly not the time to stop.
The other day on one of MLB.com's podcasts, one of the hosts started to wonder aloud why the Twins spotted the AL central a two-month head start instead of putting their best team on the field from opening day. Was Terry Ryan being cocky? "We'll win the division even with two months of Tony Batista!"