Mackey: Losing three on road was a blessing in disguise for Twins
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Twins general manager Terry Ryan acknowledged last homestand that phone calls from opposing GMs "have come earlier" this year than than at any point during his previous stint as GM.
Nothing came from those phone calls -- yet, anyways -- because internally the Twins didn't feel as if they were officially out of contention in a division that to this point lacks a runaway horse.
But last week's road trip through Detroit and Texas changed the landscape.
Last Thursday in Detroit the Twins tallied 12 hits and a walk in 3 2/3 innings against the very beatable Rick Porcello yet somehow managed to score only three runs. This left the door ajar for Prince Fielder to mash a decisive three-run bomb off rookie lefty Tyler Robertson.
On Saturday, in a 3-3 game against the Rangers, the Twins had at least one runner in scoring position in the seventh, eighth, ninth and 10th innings but failed to plate the go-ahead run. Texas ended it in the bottom of the 10th when Nelson Cruz drove an 0-2, thigh-high fastball thrown by Kyle Waldrop into the left-field corner to score Adrian Beltre from first base.
Despite these two inexcusable missed opportunities, the Twins still had a chance to take two out of three from the defending A.L. champs, but a 3-0 ninth-inning lead on Sunday apparently wasn't enough. The Rangers took advantage of a throwing error by shortstop Brian Dozier and rallied for four hits off Glen Perkins to tie the game 3-3, and Ian Kinsler singled home the game-winning run four innings later.
The exact opposite, in fact.
Losing three close, winnable games on the road last week was perhaps the best thing that could have happened to the Twins. Consider those losses blessings in disguise for a team waffling between "should we or shouldn't we?" and "are we or aren't we?" for much of the past two seasons.
Had the Twins won those three games they'd be sitting seven games under .500 (39-46), eight games out of first place in the American League Central, and 24-14 since May 27 -- just good enough to continue pushing forward.
Last season the Twins rode an early-summer surge into U.S. Cellular Field and took three out of four games from the Chicago White Sox prior to the All-Star break. The series victory brought the Twins (41-48 at the time) to within seven games of .500 and within 6.5 games of first place in the A.L. Central.
Catching fire at this exact point in 2011 helped perpetuate the myth that the Twins were on pace to complete a miraculous comeback from 16 games back in the division.
They obviously didn't.
And while chasing that rainbow, a front office led by former general manager Bill Smith elected to hold onto impending free agents Michael Cuddyer, Joe Nathan, Denard Span and Jason Kubel (although, in fairness, Kubel wasn't activated from the disabled list until July 22). Carl Pavano and Francisco Liriano as well.
Heading into the second half this year, the Twins sit 13 games below .500 and 11 games out of first place -- behind four teams -- with the trade deadline less than three weeks away.
There should be no such false hope.