Startribune.com 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.

All that ails the Twins in nine Cleveland innings

Posted by: Howard Sinker Updated: April 5, 2014 - 12:16 PM

Here's the starting point: Anyone who cares about the Twins want things to be better, unless you're the person who watches NASCAR only  for the crashes or hockey only for the fights. No matter the level of suspicion that we brought to the first week of the season, fans wanted to start building a case that enough things would be better to compensate for the areas that are still lacking.

Watching Chris Colabello bring home seven runs in Thursday's and Friday's games is that kind of salve.

But I'm hard pressed through this first weekday of games to give you anything beyond that Exhibit A, and I have little for you to counter the argument that Friday's loss in Cleveland was a return to the same old same old. The "best" thing that happened was the game being delayed long enough by weather that I could give it a thorough viewing.

Here we go:

*Twins take a 2-0 lead and blow a chance to expand it when Joe Vavra, the third-base coach, made the horrific decision to send home Kurt Suzuki on Brian Dozier's two-out single to left in the second inning. Cleveland's left fielder had the ball as Suzuki reached third base. The bad judgment ended the inning instead of giving Joe Mauer a chance to bat with the bases loaded.

*No hitting in clutch situations. The Twins loaded the bases with one out in the fifth, when they were still ahead 2-0, and failed to score. Down 7-2, they had runners on second and third with one out in the eighth and again didn't score. Dozier's hit mentioned above was the only one Friday with runners in scoring position.

*In the sixth, Suzuki struck out on an awful swing (on a 3-and-2 pitch) that resulted in a double play when Oswaldo Arcia was easily thrown out at second. Suzuki has done more than his share of heavy lifting on offense through these first four games, which makes it even more painful to bring up that single shortcoming. But it was flat-out glaring.

*Here's a statistic: Colabello, Suzuki and Trevor Plouffe have 18 hits through four games. The rest of the team has 19. Those three have a combined .419 average; everyone else is a combined .181. Without naming names, "everyone else" includes the guys who are supposed to carry the offense. (This also is my first chance in 2014 to use the phrase "small sample size," but I'm citing this to show only that the Twins are getting a chunk of offense from some unexpected sources.)

*It's only one start, but the Mike Pelfrey of 2014 didn't inspire much confidence with his sudden meltdown in the sixth. He retired 12 straight, battled through the fifth and then melted down in the sixth -- exiting after giving up two home runs and three walks, not to mention giving up the lead. The bullpen didn't bail him out.

*Bert Blyleven rightfully called out the defense for misplaying a rundown in the fifth inning that allowed the batter to reach second base on a grounder to Pelfrey. No harm came from the misplay, but it did nothing for any notion that the Twins are improved at basic things you need to do well to compensate for the things you don't.

*Another reminder of 2013: The Twins struck out 11 times.

Most of the numbers with certainly right themselves. Joe Mauer won't hit .125 with a .263 on-base percentage and the bullpen won't yield an earned run per inning (13 ER in 13 1/3 innings, so far). But neither is Colabello going to get extra bases in two of every three hits or Plouffe and Suzuki have an OPS (on base-plus-slugging percentage) north of 1.000.

The issue will become whether that evening-out process will result in something better than what we've been seeing for the last few years. I really want to build you a case for optimism. But if you've read this far, you'd be too smart to buy it.

Maybe we can try again in a couple of weeks.

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UAB 48
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Virginia 20
Western Mich 34 FINAL
Purdue 43
(5) Ohio State 34 FINAL
Navy 17
Appalachian St 14 FINAL
Michigan 52
Ga Southern 23 FINAL
NC State 24
Boston College 30 FINAL
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(2) Alabama 33
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(17) Notre Dame 48
(10) South Dakota St 18 FINAL
(24) Missouri 38
Fla Atlantic 7 FINAL
(22) Nebraska 55
California 31 FINAL
Northwestern 24
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Miami-Ohio 27
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(12) Georgia 24
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(23) North Carolina 21
Ohio U 14 3rd Qtr 6:41
Kent State 7
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(4) Oklahoma 24
Stephen F Austin 0 2nd Qtr 11:13
(20) Kansas State 21
Fresno State 0 1st Qtr 3:25
(15) USC 14
Southern Miss 0 1st Qtr 5:20
Miss State 7
Texas-El Paso 0 1st Qtr 15:00
New Mexico 0
North Texas 0 1st Qtr 13:32
Texas 0
(1) Florida State 7:00 PM
Oklahoma State
Idaho 0 Delayed
Florida 0
(14) Wisconsin 8:00 PM
(13) LSU
South Dakota 9:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(25) Washington 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Utah State 8/31/14 6:00 PM
Tennessee
SMU 8/31/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
Miami-Florida 9/1/14 7:00 PM
Louisville
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
SMU 9/6/14 11:00 AM
North Texas
Fla Atlantic 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(2) Alabama
Buffalo 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Army
(24) Missouri 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Toledo
Arkansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
(8) McNeese State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(22) Nebraska
Central Mich 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Akron 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Western Ill 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(14) Wisconsin
(20) Kansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
(4) Oklahoma 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tulsa
Western Ky 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
SC State 9/6/14 11:30 AM
(16) Clemson
Navy 9/6/14 12:00 PM
Temple
UAB 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Miss State
South Alabama 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Kent State
New Mexico St 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Colorado 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Fresno State 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Utah
(1) Eastern Wash 9/6/14 2:00 PM
(25) Washington
(15) USC 9/6/14 2:30 PM
(11) Stanford
Ohio U 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Middle Tennessee 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Minnesota
Northern Ill 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Missouri State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Ball State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Iowa
Maryland 9/6/14 2:30 PM
So Florida
Eastern Mich 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Florida
Georgia Tech 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Tulane
(18) Ole Miss 9/6/14 3:30 PM
Vanderbilt
Old Dominion 9/6/14 5:00 PM
NC State
(8) Michigan State 9/6/14 5:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(19) Arizona State 9/6/14 6:00 PM
New Mexico
Louisiana Tech 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
San Jose St 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(6) Auburn
East Carolina 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(9) So Carolina
Duke 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Troy
Idaho 9/6/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(17) Sam Houston St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(13) LSU
Michigan 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
Lamar 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(21) Texas A&M
Northwestern St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
BYU 9/6/14 6:30 PM
Texas
Citadel 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(1) Florida State
San Diego St 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Virginia Tech 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(5) Ohio State
Memphis 9/6/14 9:00 PM
(7) UCLA
Colorado State 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Boise State
Air Force 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Wyoming
Oregon State 9/6/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Texas Tech 9/6/14 10:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Colorado 0 FINAL
Seattle 1
New England 3 FINAL
Toronto FC 0
Columbus 0 1st Half 25:00
Montreal 0
FC Dallas 7:30 PM
Chicago
Real Salt Lake 9:30 PM
San Jose
Portland 9:30 PM
Vancouver FC
Ottawa 10 FINAL
Montreal 20
Winnipeg 8/31/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Toronto 9/1/14 12:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 9/1/14 3:30 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 9/5/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Saskatchewan 9/7/14 3:00 PM
Winnipeg
Chicago 33 3rd Qtr
Indiana 42
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