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The Twins find themselves in a familiar spot right now, albeit with some key differences from other similar situations this season.
On multiple occasions, as we are doing right now, it has been fair to wonder whether a team playing primarily .500 ball was heading on a nosedive south from which they would never recover.
Early this year, when they fell to 3-6 after a three-game sweep in their first three home games ... they rallied to win their next three against Kansas City to even their record.
They dropped four in a row after starting 12-11, but then they won three in a row to get back to 15-15.
Four more consecutive losses in late May pushed them to 23-25, but they leveled themselves by going 9-8 over the next 17.
That, though, brought them to this recent stretch: five consecutive losses, four by one run, many in heartbreaking fashion and none more so than Wednesday's game in Boston. The mental difference between winning a 1-0 game in extra innings and losing it 2-1 -- not to mention snapping a losing streak and salvaging a once-promising road trip with a 4-5 mark instead of 3-6 -- is hard to calculate, but it is significant.
The Twins are now 32-38, six games under .500 for the first time all year. So once again we find ourselves asking: is this the point where the Twins break? Do five losses in a row become 11 of 13, 14 of 17? Our guess this season is no based on the starting pitching being better than in past seasons; then again, we just watched three starting pitchers throw about as well as possible at Fenway, only to have the bats go silent in a sweep.
Still, though, our guess is no. This is a cycle with this year's Twins, not a trend like it was from 2011-13. But we could be wrong, and it's precarious regardless heading into this four-game series vs. the White Sox.
No shortage of wonderful platitudes have come in after the death of Tony Gwynn earlier this week, but it's hard to resonate more than a first-person account from a former Padres bat boy who had idolized Gwynn his whole life.
Here's a sampling of what he wrote on Deadspin:
You know where this story ends for most kids. They idolize a figure they know from afar, they get an improbable chance to meet the guy, and he turns out to be a bum. He cheats on his wife. He kicks over trash cans. He shouts at clubhouse attendants. My first day at the stadium, I stood getting dressed in my sparkling new uniform in the bat-boy locker area, which was tucked around a corner from the main locker room, and located about 10 feet from the bathroom. Players filed by, most of them ignoring us. Suddenly, he appeared.
"Hey," he said to me, holding out his hand. "I'm Tony. How are you?" Flustered, I stammered, "Uh, nothing much." He laughed.
Sometimes you just have to sit back, relax and let the press release do the work (though we did add our own bold for emphasis.
Please come over and join the World Cup live blog if you are so inclined. And if you want to attend the Canseco event Tuesday evening, let us know and a guest post could be yours!
Celebrity Slugger Jose Canseco begins his “Home Run Challenge” tour with a public appearance at Fan HQ in the Ridgedale Center mall on Tuesday, June 17th, from 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.. Jose will meet with fans, pose for photos and sign autographs.
After the stop at Fan HQ, Jose Canseco’s Home Run Challenge Tour will run for over two months as he visits 17 cities in Canada and the U.S. covering 16,500 miles in 10 weeks in the CansecoMobile – a 40-foot custom RV. The former Major League Baseball Most Valuable Player, Rookie of the Year, and World Series champ will be accompanied on the tour by his four dogs and three tortoises.
Canseco will appear at minor league ballparks and charity events challenging local sluggers as he attempts to break the official world record longest softball home run of 510 feet by Bruce Meade and Babe Ruth’s longest baseball home run of 570 feet. “This will be fun for the fans and kids,” said Canseco. “I’m going for 600 feet for both records to really raise the bar.”
Few things in a baseball game are more disheartening then giving back a lead right after getting one. Even on a decent offensive team, runs are precious and leads are a thing to cherish. You want pitchers to put up zeroes in every inning, but there does seem to be a certain emotional lift to a shutdown inning right after a big inning of your own -- or a letdown if the opposite occurs.
Twins pitcher Ricky Nolasco has been on the wrong end of those innings a lot, it feels like -- so much so, that we've decided to go back, start-by-start, to see if it really is the case or if it just feels that way because of a few poorly timed meltdowns. As it turns out, it's happened quite often:
March 31, Nolasco's debut: White Sox score 2 in the bottom of the second for a 2-0 lead. The Twins rally with 2 in the top of the third, and Nolasco gives them right back with 2 in the bottom of the third. Twins lose 5-3.
April 6, his next start: Twins score 2 in the top of the second; Cleveland gets 2 in the bottom of the second. Twins score 3 in the top of the third and another 1 in the top of the fourth; Nolasco gives up 2 in the bottom of the fourth. Nolasco gets a no-decision, but the Twins manage to win 10-7.
April 24: Twins score 3 in the top of the first and 1 in the top of the second. Nolasco gives up 3 to Tampa Bay in the bottom of the second. Twins get 4 more in the fifth and one more in the sixth; Nolasco gives up one in the sixth and two in the seventh. The Twins escape again with a 9-7 win.
May 7: Twins get 1 in the top of the third to take a 1-0 lead; Nolasco gives up two in the bottom of the third. Though he has a decent outing (6 IP, 3 ER), the Twins lose 4-3 to Cleveland.
May 18: Twins score 2 in the bottom of the third to take a 2-0 lead on Seattle. Nolasco gives up 1 in the fourth and 2 in the fifth. He leaves trailing 3-2 and the Twins lose 6-2.
May 25: Twins score 1 in the top of the third to pull within 2-1 of the Giants. Nolasco gives up a run in the bottom of the third. Twins end up losing 8-1.
June 4: Twins score 3 in the bottom of the fourth and 1 in the fifth for a 4-1 lead on Milwaukee. Nolasco gets through the sixth but gives up three in the seventh for a 4-4 tie. The Twins still win 6-4.
June 9: Twins score 2 in the top of the first at Toronto; Nolasco gives up three in the bottom of the first. Twins lose 5-4.
Yesterday: Twins score three in the top of the sixth to take a 3-2 lead. Nolasco allows a run in the bottom of the sixth and leaves with the bases loaded and one out. The Twins escape that jam with no more damage but lose 4-3.
Those are nine cases, some more egregious than others, in which Nolasco failed to deliver a shut-down inning when the Twins really could have used it. Sometimes it's circumstance; runs are going to happen. But the Twins simply need their highest-paid pitcher to perform better, particularly in those situations.
The Hunt Down
Name: John Moses
Claim to Fame, Minnesota: outfielder for your Minnesota Twins from 1988-1990. The Twins, as careful readers may recall, won the World Series in 1987 and 1991. John Moses picked a bad time to be a Minnesota Twin.
Claim to Fame, Everywhere Else: also played for Seattle and Detroit as a pro. More interesting is that he played for your 1980 College World Series Champion Arizona Wildcats with former major leaguers Craig Lefferts, Casey Candaele and Terry Francona, that year’s College World Series Most Outstanding Player. In more important ONE OF US news, that team was managed by former Twin and St. Paul native Jerry Kindall.
Where He Is Now: he’s a hitting instructor for the Lynchburg Hillcats, an Atlanta Braves single-A affiliate that should probably be called the Hellcats if they want to be cool.
Is He on Twitter: there are a lot of John Moseses, but he doesn’t appear to be one of them.
Has He Ever Been in a Twitter Feud with Patrick Reusse: no.
Glorious Randomness: I checked in on Moses because Mike brought him up earlier this week and because Junior Ortiz has vanished. If you have any good leads, let me know!
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