Wednesday, September 06, 2006

All Right, For Moss...

Last night I heard Dick Bremer muse that Detroit's 5-game lead in the division to start the day may not really be 5 games. That is, if you consider how the Twins could win 3 of 4 against the Tigers this weekend, thereby making up 2 games in the standings right there. Easy-peasy!

Inspired by his impeccable reasoning, I'm going to assume that the Twins will play at a .750 clip the rest of the season. Roughly, that should leave the Twins with 99 wins and a breezy sail to the postseason. Was there ever a doubt? Put in the deposit for postseason tickets now, my friends.

Actually, I have been doubting the Twins' chances of holding off the White Sox, much less catching the Tigers, since Francisco Liriano went on the Disabled List. I figured Radke may not last the season, the gimps at 2nd base and in Centerfield were not inspiring any confidence in their future down the stretch, any number of the little "piranhas" could go belly-up at any time, and I'd written off Carlos Silva long ago. It seemed that the team leaned too much on Johan Santana and Francisco Liriano to be Supermen. With Liriano out of action for a significant length of time, how could the team win the 95 games or more to make a serious playoff bid?

As it's happened, the Twins are 13-10 since August 12, the first day Boof Bonser replaced Liriano in the rotation, and 3-2 in Bonser's starts. Good enough to make up 2 games on the White Sox, turning a deficit of 1.5 games into a half-game lead in the wild card race, while the Red Sox have tumbled from a half-game behind Minnesota to a full 6 games back. Even the Tigers have done the Twins the favor of slipping on a 9-16 skid to put Minnesota within 4 games of the division lead now--and only 3 games behind in the Loss column. Mighty considerate of the other guys to take a nap, just when the Twins must go without such an essential part of the team's success.

Still, do the Twins have the look of a legitimate pennant threat?

The Twins offense lately has often looked shaky, leading Batgirl to curse even worse than Bert Blyleven and the local press to make snide remarks about dead fish. In the last 10 games, the team has scored 2.7 runs per game. Luis Castillo missed an important series last weekend with an ankle injury, and Torii Hunter's bad foot still makes him a liability in Centerfield. Joe Mauer looks tired at the plate. Nick Punto and Jason Tyner have cooled off. The only help acquired by Terry Ryan is Phil Nevin, now hitting .210/.297/.398 as an AL player this season, as opposed to his .274/.335/.497 line in the 67 games he got to enjoy in the friendly environs of Wrigley Field and the NL. (Why do the Twins keep getting hitters after they go off the steroids?) Brad Radke has a stress fracture in his shoulder which may end his season and career. The starting rotation after Santana still seems like a grab bag, and nobody still knows for sure what Liriano may be able to contribute after he returns.

Yet, Johan Santana continues to be heroic as usual, winning one game after another. The team is 6-0 in Santana starts since placing Liriano on the DL, while the man has posted a 1.43 ERA; and, in fact, the Twins have not lost in a Santana start since July 9, a streak of 11 wins. Cy Young, once again, is saving his team's season.

In a race where the competition is playing like it belongs in the playoffs, perhaps just one Superman pitcher would not be enough to lift his team over the top. Santana has five more starts; and even if the team can win them all, to reach 95 wins the Twins would still need a 10-9 mark in the other remaining games, which is better than the team has been doing since losing Liriano. But as long as the White Sox and Tigers continue to struggle with their own flaws, the story could have a happier ending.

Everything else about the season has been so improbable, why not?


At 9/08/2006 10:27 AM, Anonymous Jim H. said...

Mr. Wig:

I like the tightrope you walked in this piece. To use another cliche, it's nail-biting time in Minnesota. This morning on 89.3 (a show as tired as Mauer), Dale Connelly was 'analyzing' the Tigers series. As Bert is wont to do, he pinted out the obvious: that the possible outcomes are (after last night's loss): 2 games back or 3 games back or 4 games back. And, in any event, still technically in the division race and still in the wild card race (maybe even ahead). So, based on all the injuries and all the lethargy, it doesn't look good. But....

Maybe the remainder of the season can be encapsulated in that single syllable -- but....

Fun (in a painful kind of way) to watch!

Jim H.

At 9/10/2006 4:53 PM, Blogger Moss said...

Mr. Wig, thanks! Too bad it took Moss four days to find the new post. But now Moss can reflect on three wins instead of speculating.

Indeed things looked bleak with Liriano out and the offense struggling lately. But amazingly the Twins have picked up, Moss believes, 8 1/2 games on the Tigers since then. Obviously thanks to the Tigers returning to earth, but impressive nonetheless.

And how exciting will the last three weeks be? Moss is somewhat skeptical of the chances of success in the playoffs, because of the lack of consistent, productive offense and the curse that is the Gardentool. But who would have thought, way back in May, that September would be fun?

Not to mention the Cy Young race, the potential batting title, and even the MVP candidacy of one or more Twins. And indeed, if there is any justice in MLB, Santana should win a Gold Glove as well. And it's not even close.

In the immortal words of Mike Tice, "Enjoy the season!"

At 9/12/2006 6:30 AM, Blogger Batgirl said...

Dearest Mr. Wig,

Your last line pretty much sums up my attitude about this. Nothing has happened as it should these last couple of months, so....why not?


At 9/26/2006 10:44 PM, Blogger frightwig said...

Jim, Moss, Batgirl: thanks for commenting. I've not been so diligent with the blog this season, but I really appreciate hearing from each of you. I'm glad to know that someone is still checking in now and then.


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