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.




Cleveland «0310300007100
@Ballpark Replay
Preview | Matchup | Lineup | Log | Wrap | Box
W:T.House(4-3) L:T.May(3-5) S:M.Rzepczynski (1)
HR: CLE- Y.Gomes (20) MIN- B.Dozier (21)


Los Angeles - LP: B. Wilson 7 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - WP: J. Grimm 8
Detroit - WP: M. Scherzer 3 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: J. Shields 2
Philadelphia - WP: J. Williams 3 FINAL
Oakland - LP: D. Otero 0
Toronto - WP: M. Stroman 6 FINAL
NY Yankees - LP: C. Capuano 3
Arizona - LP: T. Cahill 1 FINAL
Colorado - WP: E. Butler 5
Boston - LP: R. De La Rosa 2 FINAL
Baltimore - WP: C. Tillman 7
Milwaukee - WP: Z. Duke 1 FINAL
Pittsburgh - LP: M. Melancon 0
Washington - WP: J. Zimmermann 3 FINAL
Miami - LP: J. Cosart 2
NY Mets - WP: J. Niese 4 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: M. Minor 2
Chicago WSox - LP: H. Noesi 1 FINAL
Tampa Bay - WP: C. Archer 3
Cleveland - WP: T. House 7 FINAL
Minnesota - LP: T. May 3
Seattle - LP: C. Young 1 FINAL
Houston - WP: D. Keuchel 10
Cincinnati - LP: M. Leake 4 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: J. Motte 8
San Francisco - LP: Y. Petit 2 FINAL
San Diego - WP: A. Cashner 3
Texas - LP: C. Lewis 5 FINAL
LA Angels - WP: J. Weaver 8
San Diego 12:00 PM
Dallas 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Washington 12:00 PM
Houston 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Minnesota 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Tennessee 12:00 PM
Baltimore 12:00 PM
Green Bay 12:00 PM
Indianapolis 12:00 PM
Oakland 12:00 PM
New England
San Francisco 3:05 PM
Denver 3:25 PM
Kansas City 3:25 PM
Pittsburgh 7:30 PM
Chicago 9/22/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Connecticut 14 FINAL
So Florida 17
Old Dominion 45 FINAL
Rice 42
Troy 0 FINAL
(13) Georgia 66
Georgia Tech 27 FINAL
Virginia Tech 24
Eastern Mich 14 FINAL
(11) Michigan State 73
Iowa 24 FINAL
Pittsburgh 20
Bowling Green 17 FINAL
(19) Wisconsin 68
Maryland 34 FINAL
Syracuse 20
Tulane 13 FINAL
Duke 47
Hawaii 12 FINAL
Colorado 21
Marshall 48 FINAL
Akron 17
North Carolina 41 FINAL
East Carolina 70
Army 21 FINAL
Wake Forest 24
Virginia 33 FINAL
(21) BYU 41
(6) Texas A&M 58 FINAL
Rutgers 31 FINAL
Navy 24
Central Mich 10 FINAL
Kansas 24
Utah 26 FINAL
Michigan 10
Florida 21 FINAL
(3) Alabama 42
Louisville 34 FINAL
Fla Atlantic 19 FINAL
Wyoming 20
Indiana 31 FINAL
(18) Missouri 27
San Jose St 7 FINAL
Minnesota 24
Texas State 35 FINAL
Illinois 42
Massachusetts 7 FINAL
Penn State 48
Georgia State 14 FINAL
Washington 45
Appalachian St 20 FINAL
Southern Miss 21
Miss State 34 FINAL
(8) LSU 29
Northern Ill 14 FINAL
Arkansas 52
Middle Tennessee 17 FINAL
Memphis 36
Utah State 14 FINAL
Arkansas State 21
Miami-Ohio 24 FINAL
Cincinnati 31
Idaho 24 FINAL
Ohio U 36
Ball State 23 FINAL
Toledo 34
(14) So Carolina 48 FINAL
Vanderbilt 34
(4) Oklahoma 45 FINAL
West Virginia 33
Ga Southern 28 FINAL
South Alabama 6
Houston 47
Miami-Florida 31 FINAL
(24) Nebraska 41
New Mexico 38 FINAL
New Mexico St 35
(22) Clemson 17 FINAL
(1) Florida State 23
California 45 FINAL
Arizona 49
San Diego St 7 FINAL
Oregon State 28
(2) Oregon 38 FINAL
Washington St 31
Louisiana 9 FINAL
Boise State 34
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(25) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(12) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:00 AM
NC State
Duke 9/27/14 2:00 AM
North Carolina 9/27/14 2:00 AM
(22) Clemson
Texas-El Paso 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(20) Kansas State
Tennessee 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Vanderbilt 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Wyoming 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Northwestern 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
TCU 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Iowa 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Tulane 9/27/14 11:00 AM
So Florida 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Colorado State 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Western Mich 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
Maryland 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Akron 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Bowling Green 9/27/14 2:00 PM
Arkansas 9/27/14 2:30 PM
(6) Texas A&M
Kent State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Western Ky 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Minnesota 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest 9/27/14 2:30 PM
FIU 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Miami-Ohio 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Colorado 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Louisiana Tech 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(5) Auburn
Texas 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Temple 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(16) Stanford 9/27/14 3:15 PM
TX-San Antonio 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
South Alabama 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Cincinnati 9/27/14 5:00 PM
(23) Ohio State
Rice 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
(18) Missouri 9/27/14 6:00 PM
(14) So Carolina
Boise State 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Air Force
Central Mich 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Troy 9/27/14 6:00 PM
New Mexico St 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(8) LSU
Memphis 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(10) Ole Miss
Texas State 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Washington St 9/27/14 7:00 PM
(9) Notre Dame 9/27/14 7:00 PM
(7) Baylor 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Iowa State
UNLV 9/27/14 7:00 PM
San Diego St
Illinois 9/27/14 8:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
Oregon State 9/27/14 9:30 PM
(17) USC
Nevada 9/27/14 9:30 PM
San Jose St
Vancouver FC 0 FINAL
Portland 3
Houston 0 FINAL
Philadelphia 0
New England 0 FINAL
Columbus 1
San Jose 0 FINAL
Montreal 2
Seattle 1 FINAL
Red Bull New York 4
Chicago 3
FC Dallas 1 FINAL
Los Angeles 2
Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
Edmonton 23 FINAL
Hamilton 25
Calgary 12:00 PM
Ottawa 3:00 PM
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: How sure are you that the Twins are on the road to improving?

Weekly Question