digital sports editor Howard Sinker used to cover the Twins and now shares season tickets with friends in Section 219 of Target Field. He blogs about baseball from the perspective of a long-time fan who loves the game, doesn’t always believe the hype and likes hearing what others think. Howard sometimes talks about sports with Cathy Wurzer on MPR's Morning Edition.

Section 219: Is the Twins lost weekend a sign of the slide to come?

Posted by: Howard Sinker Updated: May 20, 2013 - 9:26 AM

The Twins-Red Sox series was as ugly a weekend of baseball as has been played so far this season by the home team. There were different failures in all three losses -- hitting, fielding and pitching -- and the results were pretty consistent with the ones anticipated by people who were expecting the worst from the Twins in 2013.

And the weekend ended with the Twins in their pretty much anticipated place at the bottom of the American League Central. About the only ways it could have been worse would have been if the inept Boston infielder Pedro Siriaco had been playing for the Twins or if Ham and Squints had suited up for the home team.

At least, if the latter had happened, Ham could have looked in Josh Willingham's direction and lightened the mood a bit (if everyone took it the right way) by yelling, "You're killing me, Hammer!" after one of his weekend foibles.

Willingham was the main face of the Twins' struggles over the weekend and through the homestand in which they won only two of nine games. In his last 11 games, including three at Fenway Park, Willinghams has four hits and 14 strikeouts in 40 at-bats, including the grand finale on Sunday when he struck out as a pinch hitter in the eighth inning after getting ahead in the count 3-and-0. (Gardy had tried to give Willingham the day off after an outburst of some sort during Saturday's loss but needed him after the three-hour rain delay.)

The encore -- a reverse curtain call, I guess -- was when Willingham channeled his inner Butch Huskey and poked Dustin Pedroia's fly ball over the wall with his glove in the ninth for a two-run homer that extended ther Boston lead from two runs to four.

Here it is, if you were doing other things by the time Sunday's game + rain delay + movie reached Hour Six.

I don't intend to focus the Twins problems on Willingham's struggles. He's slumping, and I assume it will pass. The entire offense shut down after the fifth inning on Friday and Oswaldo Arcia robbed Aaron Hicks of a chance to throw out the game-winning run in the 10th that night when he didn't get out of the way on a fly ball to left-center that was Hicks' to own. (If you didn't think Hicks had at least a chance to make the play, you haven't seen him throw enough.)

It was a rookie mistake on Arcia's part and one of the things we have to accept if we buy into the idea of major league training for Hicks and Arcia. I expect them to improve steadily, but it is foolish to think that improvement will come without bumps along the way -- the fly ball that Hicks mishandled on Sunday, for example.

This is what the Twins have signed on for with the bet that it will make them better major leaguers down the road. The bigger issue may be whether Gardy should relegate Willingham primarily to DH duties so Arcia can work through his defensive lapses in the same manner as Hicks.

More unexpected were the failures of the veteran players -- Willingham, Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer -- in clutch situations that could have altered the weekend outcomes. Even in the ugly seven-run loss on Saturday, which featured a terrible start by Scott Diamond, there were chances on offense that could have changed the game.

The oddest thing is that, with Mauer and Morneau, there's hardly a statistic that would predict their recent clutch failures. (The only thing that jumps out in reviewing their numbers is a valley for Mauer in "late and close" at-bats.) You figure it out, and when you have a chance, read Jim Souhan's column on Mauer's altered approach at the plate, which explains why his strikeouts have increased markedly this season while some of his other numbers are among baseball's best..

That the Twins have settled into last place should come as little shock. Forty games into the season, the biggest surprise may have been for how long they flirted with a .500 record. In retrospect, you can see how hard they had to work in order to be a game or so on either side of breaking even. There's a poll on the web site right now asking folks where they think the Twins will finish and, in the first hour of voting, 91 percent picked fourth or fifth.

The next seven games are against first-place Atlanta and division-favorite Detroit. So things could easily get worse. Whether you strap yourself in for the ride or walk away to follow something else, that's the reality we have right now.





Fla Southern 2 FINAL
Detroit 12
Miami 7
Toronto 114 FINAL
Philadelphia 103
Golden State 108 FINAL
Brooklyn 110
Phoenix 98 FINAL
Miami 115
LA Clippers 110 FINAL
Minnesota 105
New Orleans 93 FINAL
Dallas 102
Nashville 1 FINAL
NY Rangers 4
Carolina 2 FINAL
Chicago 5
Montreal 0 FINAL
San Jose 4
Virginia 59 FINAL
Syracuse 47
Baylor 59 FINAL
Texas 61
SE Louisiana 79 FINAL
Northwestern St 92
Central Arkansas 49 FINAL
Sam Houston St 76
Norfolk State 59 FINAL
Howard 61
Bethune-Cookman 50 FINAL
NC A&T 67
Hampton 75 FINAL
Delaware State 85
Lamar 69 FINAL
McNeese State 70
Nicholls 89 FINAL
New Orleans 79
Incarnate Word 62 FINAL
Stephen F Austin 83
NC Central 62 FINAL
Savannah State 49
Texas Southern 77 FINAL
Alabama A&M 75
Prairie View 67 FINAL
Alabama State 65
Oklahoma 70 FINAL
Iowa State 77
Grambling St 62 FINAL
Miss Valley St 66
Boston College 66 FINAL
Virginia Tech 59
Jackson State 62 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 64
Bethune-Cookman 55 FINAL
NC A&T 58
Hampton 78 FINAL
Delaware State 63
Norfolk State 63 FINAL
Howard 60
NC Central 54 FINAL
Savannah State 65
Texas Southern 83 FINAL
Alabama A&M 46
Prairie View 42 FINAL
Alabama State 60
Jackson State 78 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 74
Grambling 56 FINAL
Miss Valley St 61
Tulsa 71 FINAL
Cincinnati 58
(1) Connecticut 88 FINAL
South Florida 65
East Carolina 67
Central Conn St 53 FINAL
Bryant 55
Wagner 66 FINAL
Robert Morris 60
Sacred Heart 75 FINAL
Fairleigh Dickinson 84
St Francis-NY 73 FINAL
Long Island 49
Mount St Marys 87 FINAL
St Francis-PA 90
Temple 56 FINAL
Houston 45
Texas Tech 65 FINAL
(6) Baylor 75
Iowa State 64 FINAL
Kansas 68
Memphis 53
Oklahoma 66 FINAL
Oklahoma St 56
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