SAN FRANCISCO – The Twins got reacquainted with an old pal Friday night — their ability to draw lots of walks — but it didn’t do them much good. Tim Lincecum walked six batters over his six innings in the series opener, and the Twins drew seven overall, though not one of the free runners came around to score.
Still, it was a noteworthy event. The Twins drew a half-dozen or more walks 13 times between Opening Day and May 1, but the free passes have dried up; Friday was only the second time it had happened since then. The Twins averaged 5.13 walks per game in April, a franchise-record pace, but they had collected only 3.10 per game in May.
All those extra runners made it easier to score, and their absence shows now, too. The Twins averaged 5.45 runs per game in April but only 3.48 in May. They scored six or more runs 11 times through May 3 but reached the number only once in the three weeks since.
But that’s no reason for alarm, Brian Dozier said, because as he pointed out, the record hasn’t suffered. The Twins went 12-12 in April and entered Saturday night’s game 11-10 in May.
“We’re playing a different style of game now, but we’re still winning,” Dozier said. “We’re getting better pitching, and we’re doing a good job of winning close games.”
Indeed, the Twins are 8-4 in one-run games. Manager Ron Gardenhire said the drop in walks has more to do with opposing pitchers, and warmer weather, than his team’s hitters.
“Pitchers have a better feel for it now. And once those numbers start flying around, that these guys take a lot of pitches, that means teams are going to start attacking you different, start throwing the ball over a little more,” Gardenhire said. “That’s kind of how scouting reports go.”
Mauer coming around
Joe Mauer was 4-for-12 in the first three games of the road trip, and while that’s a tiny sample size, it’s still welcome progress, Gardenhire said, for a guy who was in a 7-for-30 rut since returning from a sore back.
Gardenhire said he expects Mauer to get hot soon, because he’s figuring out how to hit against defenses that shift against him.
“I noticed every time he hits a line drive to left, they’ve got six guys over there,” Gardenhire joked. “He’s been hitting rockets to left field, right field, third base, and there’s a lot of guys playing over that way, it seems like. He’s making an adjustment because they’re playing him where he likes to hit the ball.”
• Gardenhire said the Twins, who have fallen to 13th in the AL in home runs, are eager to get Josh Willingham and Oswaldo Arcia back in the lineup from Class AAA Rochester when the team gets home Monday. “They’re both swinging well. Willingham is seeing the ball and his timing is looking really good,” the manager said. “We’d like to see what it’s like having some pop in the lineup again.”
• The return of the two outfielders means two cuts are coming, and that’s assuming the Twins stay with seven relief pitchers. Chris Herrmann seems a likely candidate, but the identity of the other player headed to Rochester is a matter of intrigue, especially after Gardenhire declared, “It means you’ve got some people who are being sent out who have done OK here.” Rookie infielder Danny Santana, who has batted .321 in 10 games, would fit that description, as would Chris Parmelee, who homered three times in 10 days.
And so would Chris Colabello. He still leads the Twins with 30 RBI, but he has been in the starting lineup only once since May 11 and was stuck in an 0-for-23 slump. A decision is likely to be announced after Sunday’s game.