Let’s suspend discussion about how Kyle Gibson is doing or when other prospects, such as Alex Meyer or Trevor May, will be promoted to focus for a moment on who is actually in the majors and helping the Twins to an 11-10 record that some didn’t think possible.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson arrive at the ballpark each day believing their team has a better chance of winning than a year ago because their starting rotation is more reliable. Is it true? Well, that’s hard to tell if you look up the stats and see that they entered Sunday with the fewest innings thrown by a starting rotation and a starters’ ERA of 4.85 that was 29th in the majors.
But the past four games might back up their claims.
Sunday, the Twins got another standout performance from righthander Kevin Correia in beating the Texas Rangers 5-0 to salvage a split of the four-game series at Target Field. Twins starters have thrown 13 consecutive scoreless innings and have given up two runs over their past 18 innings.
“For the most part, they are giving us a chance,” Gardenhire said of his starters.
The starters helped hold the Texas offense, which still isn’t too shabby even after the departure of Josh Hamilton, to eight runs in the series. That includes Vance Worley looking shaky but managing to pitch five innings in a 2-1 loss on Thursday; Scott Diamond scattering 12 hits and dealing with poor defense in a 4-3 loss Friday; rookie Pedro Hernandez looking unflappable for five innings in a 7-2 victory Saturday; and Correia on Sunday becoming the first pitcher ever to start his Twins career with five starts of at least seven innings.
And, of course, the bullpen has been sharp, too.
“It’s pretty good,” catcher Joe Mauer said when asked of the significance of pitching well against the Rangers. “That’s a good ballclub over there. Guys are executing pitches and today Kevin was great. That’s a good ballclub we won the last two against.”
Correia, the alleged interloper from the National League, got 13 ground-ball outs on Sunday. He pitched out of a two-on, no-out jam in the fourth by striking out Adrian Beltre — who entered the game 4-for-10 against him with two home runs — before getting A.J. Pierzynski and Nelson Cruz each to ground out.
Correia, now 3-1 with 2.33 ERA this season, said the breaking ball he struck out Beltre on wasn’t that good of a pitch.
“I don’t know what people were expecting,” he said. “I’m only five starts in. I’m not going to be pitching on a high all year. I’m going to have some starts where it doesn’t work. But it is nice to get off to a nice start when I go to a new team.”
To manage expectations, keep in mind that Correia is the first Twins pitcher to start a season with five quality starts (at least six innings, no more than three earned runs) in a row since Ramon Ortiz in 2007.
Again, that’s Ramon. Ortiz.
The Twins made Correia’s outing worthwhile by getting a sacrifice fly by Chris Parmelee in the fourth, a two-run homer by Justin Morneau in the sixth and RBI singles by Jamey Carroll and Brian Dozier in the seventh.
Mike Pelfrey (Monday) and Worley (Tuesday) will face stiff tests this week in Detroit, where they will pitch opposite of Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander. On Wednesday, Diamond draws Anibal Sanchez — who is coming off a 17-strikeout performance.
The numbers aren’t too sexy, but the Twins have confidence in their revamped rotation.
“When you got some veterans out there, they know how to survive without their best stuff,” said Anderson, who includes Diamond in that group with Worley, Correia and Pelfrey. “Last year, we had a bunch of kids out there just trying to feel their way out, trying to figure out how to survive. I think that’s the big difference.”