When the Twins were going through a 10-game losing streak from May 14-24, they made it look like they were headed for another disastrous season just like the ones they had in 2011 and 2012.
Then they beat Milwaukee in four games, and split the first two with Seattle — winning Saturday 5-4 thanks to a three-run ninth inning — and looked more like a team that should have a winning record.
This year’s squad is 24-29 through 53 games, compared to 20-33 a year ago and 17-36 in 2011.
And while many in the media and in the fanbase can’t see this team playing .500 baseball this season, one person who believes the present roster has the ability to post a winning record in 2013 is Ron Gardenhire.
“Well we feel we have hitters all the way up and down our lineup,” the Twins manager said. “We have some athletic guys. The starting pitchers have a few track records, we just have to get them going. We know it’s not perfect right now. We know a few of our starters are coming off injuries. We’re trying to be as patient as we can and get as many in as we can.
“We’ve relied too much on our bullpen. We need our starters to go deep like [Kevin] Correia did [pitching into the seventh inning]. We’ll be a better club when that happens.”
After getting shut out Friday, the offense was again quiet for much of Saturday before the ninth-inning comeback, when the Twins drew three walks in a row off Mariners closer Tom Wilhelmsen. Josh Willingham hit a sacrifice fly and then Ryan Doumit’s two-run triple won it.
“In Milwaukee we started coming up with some big two-out base hits and some big RBIs,” Gardenhire said. “You need to continue that if you’re going to keep on winning.”
One hitter who can make a big difference between winning and losing is the switch-hitting Doumit who, after going 3-for-5 Saturday, is still only hitting .230 on the season. But he is hitting .320 over his past six games, with two doubles, a triple, two home runs, four runs and 10 RBI.
“We talked about it; He’s big, he’s big in that lineup,” Gardenhire said. “He was scuffling a little bit early trying to find his swing and trying to find a feel for it. I think you’re seeing the guy we had last year that drove in a lot of runs and did a lot of good for us [hitting .275 with 75 RBI in 2012]. None were bigger than that one today, that was a huge hit to finish off a very good closer.
“Right now his confidence is really high and he’s seeing the ball really good and squaring it up again.”
Another good sign about Saturday was that this Seattle team seems to have the Twins’ number. Over the past three seasons, the Mariners have posted a 14-6 record against the Twins, who have had a hard time scoring runs off Mariners pitching.
Joe Webb said he has been very comfortable in the switch from quarterback to wide receiver, and the Vikings organized team activity drills going on at present have given him a chance to prove to coaches that he can be successful at a new position.
“I like it, it’s coming along good. The coaches are doing a great job with me and it’s getting better each day,” Webb said.
He said the adjustment is easy because he played some receiver in college. He also believes that having played quarterback gives him a big advantage.
“I know a lot that’s going on, like the type of coverage the defense is trying to play,” Webb said.
There has also been discussions about Webb’s role on special teams this season. “Doing a little work there,” he said. “Definitely will work on special teams and everything will come together.”
Pitino likes recruits
New Gophers men’s basketball coach Richard Pitino describing the three recruits he recently signed: “The thing I love about [Florida International transfer] Malik [Smith] is he’s as fearless a shooter as there is in the country. He had games where he hit eight threes one time in the conference tournament. He believes every shot is going in, that’s what I love about him.
“Daquein McNeil is a kid that we signed who has great potential. He had a very good high school career and prep career at Vermont Academy. A great kid, and his best basketball is ahead of him. He’s the type of guy who can play multiple positions.
“The last guy is Dre Mathieu, we really don’t have a guy like him on our team. He’s fast, he can get up the court as quick as anyone in the country, very good passer, rocket athlete. I think he brings a different dimension as well.”
Asked if these players will be able to step in right away, Pitino said: “It’s hard to say right now just because when you watch a kid in high school and junior college it’s a different environment. Malik is the one guy where I know what I’m getting with him and I anticipate he’d play right away.”
Meanwhile, Steve Goodson, who had been appointed director of basketball operations for Pitino, has put in his two weeks’ notice. Goodson could wind up back with Tubby Smith as the director of basketball operations at Texas Tech because Joe Esposito, who held that position for Smith here, is going to be a Red Raiders assistant coach.
• Seattle receiver Percy Harvin went on the “Jim Rome Show” this week and denied a Yahoo! Sports report that said his relationship with Christian Ponder had anything to do with his wanting out of the Vikings organization. “That was false,” Harvin said. “Me and Christian had a great time together. I respect him a whole heck of a lot. I never had a problem with him.”
• Former Gophers standout Eric Decker recently talked about what it’s like to be going through workouts with Wes Welker, the Broncos’ newest addition at wide receiver. “I think he knows defensive schemes better than any receiver I’ve been around,” Decker said. “It’s fun to learn those little tips and keys from a guy that’s played so long and had a lot of success.”
• Chris Wipson, the Wayzata High School linebacker who signed with the Gophers, graduated in the top 10 percent of his class.
• Denard Span and Ben Revere, the two center fielders the Twins dealt in the offseason, are among the major league leaders in plate appearances without a home run this season. Span, who entered Saturday batting .275 for Washington with 23 runs scored and five triples, had no homers in 224 plate appearances. Revere, who is hitting .251 in Philadelphia, has no homers in 185 plate appearances, making it 1,248 career plate appearances without a home run.
• Former Twins player and coach Al Newman is managing the Alexandria Blue Anchors in the Northwoods League.
• NBA Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard was in Italy doing promotional work when he said Ricky Rubio is one of the players he looks up to most in the league. Lillard called the Timberwolves point guard “a great passer who can always find the open man.” Rubio was 10th in the NBA in assists this season at 7.3 per game, while Portland’s Lillard was 16th at 6.5.