Twins have yet to provide us reason to believe

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 30, 2009 - 2:09 PM

Congratulations to the Minnesota Twins. Monday night, they lost to an older version of the Lansing Lugnuts.

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Nick Blackburn gave up two homers against the punchless Royals.

Photo: Orlin Wagner, Associated Press

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Congratulations to the Minnesota Twins. Monday night, they lost to an older version of the Lansing Lugnuts.

Congratulations to Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. Monday night, he watched his boys throw away a game with lousy fielding, lousy at-bats, lousy thinking and lousy pitching. Then he won the D.B. Cooper Award for ingenious escapes by getting thrown out in the sixth.

The Kansas City Royals, in the 16th year of their three-year rebuilding program, have won more than 77 games once since 1993. They are getting "better'' the same way noise pollution gets "better.'' You just get used to it.

A local fast-food chain gives away soft drinks when the Royals steal a base. If the Royals gave away shots of bourbon after winning seasons, they'd be a baseball version of AA.

Through 29 games, the 2009 Royals were 18-11. Entering Monday's game with the Twins at Kauffman Stadium, they had lost 31 of 45 games despite the presence of Zack (10-3) Greinke.

The Royals have no starters batting .300. They rank next-to-last in the American League in average, runs, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. Their team ERA ranks 10th in the American League, and their bullpen ranks 12th.

Willie Bloomquist appears to be one of their better players. I'm not sure whether I just insulted Bloomquist, or the Royals.

So the Twins' 4-2 failure Monday might represents their worst loss of the season. Or century.

They sent their de facto ace, Nick Blackburn, to the mound. He was 6-3 with a rotation-best 3.11 ERA. The Royals "countered'' with Luke Hochevar and his 5.87 ERA.

The Twins had two of the best players in baseball, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, in the middle of the lineup. The Royals "countered'' with Billy Butler and Mike Jacobs. Or is it Billy Jacobs and Mike Butler?

Somehow, the Royals won, anyway, as the Twins committed these baseball sins:

• Left fielder Delmon Young cut in front of center fielder Denard Span to catch a fly, then threw home off-balance, which would have cost the Twins a run had the Royals been smart enough to try to score from third on the play.

• Span twice caught fly balls and hesitated throwing the ball in as runners advanced.

• Shortstop Brendan Harris booted a grounder and tried a drag bunt with one on and no out in the first. "That is not his forte,'' Gardenhire said. "That set a bad tone. That was ugly. I didn't like that.''

• Right fielder Michael Cuddyer tried an ill-advised throw to second that, because he hurried, wound up in left field.

• The lineup squandered four walks and an error in the first three innings, and a leadoff double in the fourth, making Hochevar look like Greg Maddux, not a kid hoping the lineup would give him some help.

• Blackburn allowed consecutive homers to Alberto Callaspo and Miguel Olivo to start the sixth.

Had the Twins won, they would have moved two games over .500 for the first time this season, would have ensured a winning road trip, would have positioned themselves to win a fourth consecutive road series.

Instead, this road trip is starting to feel like one of those golf holes where you crush your driver, hit a wedge to 3 feet and miss the birdie. Suddenly par feels like a root canal.

The Twins should have swept Milwaukee, and would have if not for that strange sequence of events Wednesday -- Blackburn allowing a drive off the top of the wall to the powerless Jason Kendall, and then throwing the ball into left field to score the winning run.

The Twins could have swept St. Louis, but Kevin Slowey, Mr. Control & Command, threw two cookies to Albert Pujols.

Despite their serious star power, the Twins have failed to put together one streak that would give anyone reason to believe in them, and the midpoint of the season is near.

Maybe this is what the Twins are this year -- a disappointing, opportunity-squandering, .500 team.

Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon on AM-1500 KSTP. jsouhan@startribune.com

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