The standings don't reflect it and consecutive one-run losses argue against it, but the Twins just might have something going here.
Chicago starting pitcher Jake Peavy is convinced the 44-60 Twins are underrated after battling through eight innings for a 3-2 White Sox victory on Wednesday afternoon. He got a glimpse at why the division's fourth-place team scored more runs than any other American League team in July.
Twins management can only hope the big righthander is right.
"People don't give the Twins as much credit as they deserve over the past month," Peavy said following his ninth win that included eight strikeouts and only one earned run. "To come here and pitch as well as we did and come out with a series win, we feel fortunate.
"That's a great lineup. This team can swing the bat. They really can."
The extra emphasis was required to convince any doubters. But that's not quite good enough for Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. There is a reason his team is at the bottom of the division. Including the past two games, the Twins have lost eight of their past 10 that have been decided by one run. Inability to take advantage of scoring opportunities is getting old for Gardenhire.
"Unfortunately, we couldn't find a way to get one more big hit, again, at the end," the manager said.
"In between we had opportunities to get another big hit and get back in the game and it never happened. We come up another run short here in another one-run ballgame."
Three times the got runners to third base and didn't drive them in. The first came in the fifth inning when Denard Span lined out to first base and Brian Dozier was caught on the move to complete a double play. In the eighth, with runners on third and first, Joe Mauer popped out to the shortstop. And in the ninth, with the potential winning run on second base, Dozier flew out to end the game.
It was the eighth-inning clean-up that most impressed Peavy.
With one of the American League's top hitters at the plate in Mauer, White Sox manager Robin Ventura visited the mound to evaluate the situation. Peavy was comfortable finishing the inning, though he admitted later that nobody wants to face a .300-plus hitter in that situation. The White Sox starter responded by inducing the popout.
"We decided to stay hard in and try to get [Mauer] to hit the ball in the air," Peavy said. "Fortunately we were able to do that."
Though the Twins' rotation showed signs of growth by contributing consecutive starts that lasted into the eighth inning, there were no wins to show for it. The pitching staff still maintains the American League's worst ERA, but Span sees improvement.
"The last two days, we've definitely got what we needed from starting pitching," he said. "But offensively, we haven't been able to get anything going. If we can continue to get starting pitching like that, things will be good from here on out."
The White Sox did everything they could to get the Twins' most consistent starter, Scott Diamond, off the mound Wednesday afternoon. It required the go-ahead run and a pair of physical blows to the lefthander.
With a runner on third and one out, Alejandro De Aza finished Diamond's afternoon in the eighth inning when he lined a ball off Diamond's inner thigh. Diamond quickly ran to the ricocheted ball, but his throw home was off and Tyler Flowers scored the winning run.
"I think it's a little reassurance that we're starting to get back to a consistent routine and getting back to that attack mode," Diamond said about the starters' ability to extend outings. "As quick as we can get back in the dugout and let our guys hit, that just reinstates to them that we're here to play."