State of the Twins, Week 10: Delmon still streaking, backups struggling
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Sunday's 7-3 loss to Atlanta exposed the Minnesota Twins' short-handed offense and trimmed their lead in the American League Central to 2½ games.
Here's where things stand through 10 weeks:
• LF Delmon Young: A three-run homer on Sunday provided the Twins' only runs and extended Young's hitting streak to 10 games -- a stretch in which he's hitting .371 (13-for-35) and slugging .657 with three home runs and 13 RBIs. Manager Ron Gardenhire's insistence on hitting him seventh in a depleted batting order is becoming somewhat baffling. On Sunday, light-hitting Nick Punto and Trevor Plouffe each got four plate appearances at the top of the order -- they went a combined 0-for-7 with a walk -- and Young got only three.
• RHP Carl Pavano: Since getting blasted for six runs in four innings May 18 at Toronto, Pavano has gone seven or eight innings in four consecutive outings and compiled a 3.60 earned-run average. Though his record is only 6-6, Pavano's ERA (3.92) would hold up as his best since 2004, and his WHIP (1.170) would be his best in 13 big-league seasons.
• RP Jon Rauch: The Twins' closer has pitched four consecutive scoreless innings without facing more than four batters and delivered his finest performance on Friday, when he struck out the side to finish off a 2-1 win over the Braves. He's now 16-for-18 in save opportunities.
• Backup infielders: The Twins badly miss 2B Orlando Hudson's bat, and at this point, they're even missing SS J.J. Hardy's too. Brendan Harris (.160 batting, .237 on-base, .217 slugging), Matt Tolbert (.152/.194/.152) and Plouffe (.130/.125/.174) all have been brutal offensively, and Danny Valencia's .286 average is somewhat deceiving because he doesn't have an extra-base hit, several of his singles haven't left the infield and he's struck out eight times in 28 at-bats while drawing only one walk. Toss in Punto (.221/.295/.290) -- who batted lead-off on Sunday and combined with Plouffe, Harris and C Drew Butera to go 0-for-13 at the top and bottom of the lineup -- and the Twins' offense is sorely missing any sort of production from three infield positions.
• DH Jim Thome: At-bats have been hard to come by the past month for Thome, who is hitting .171 (6-for-35) with three doubles, two RBIs and 13 strikeouts since May 12. It won't be any easier for him to get in a rhythm the next two weeks either. After a three-game series against Colorado, the Twins embark on a nine-game stretch of interleague road games, removing the designated hitter and reducing Thome to pinch-hitting duties only.
In the fifth inning on Sunday, Jason Kubel extended the Twins' streak to 26 games with at least one double. It's longest streak in baseball this season and the Twins' longest since July 19 to Aug. 19, 2003, when they doubled in 30 straight games.
HOW THEY STAND
1. Twins (36-27)
2. Detroit (33-29) 2.5 GB
3. Chicago (28-33) 7.0 GB
4. Kansas City (27-37) 9.5 GB
5. Cleveland (25-37) 10.5 GB
* Entering Sunday night
• 2B Orlando Hudson (wrist) hasn't played since May 30. But he resumed taking batting practice and grounders on Saturday and told Gardenhire he'll be ready to play when he's eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list on Tuesday.
• SS J.J. Hardy (wrist) landed on the 15-day DL on Thursday for the second time with the bone bruise he originally sustained May 4. A cortisone shot on Tuesday alleviated the additional pain that had been spreading throughout the wrist, but not the bone bruise itself.
• RP Clay Condrey (right elbow strain) joined the Twins' extended spring training in Fort Myers, Fla., on Saturday and is expected to face live hitters in the coming days.
• 2B Alexi Casilla (elbow) will miss at least a few more weeks, and perhaps close to two months, after undergoing surgery to clean up bone spurs June 4.
THE WEEK AHEAD
• Monday: Off.
• Tuesday: vs. Colorado, 7:10 p.m. RHP Carl Pavano (6-6, 3.92 ERA) vs. RHP Aaron Cook (2-3, 4.76).
• Wednesday: vs. Colorado, 7:10 p.m. RHP Scott Baker (5-5, 4.81) vs. RHP Jhoulys Chacin (3-5, 4.04).
• Thursday: vs. Colorado, 12:10 p.m. LHP Francisco Liriano (6-3, 2.90) vs. RHP Ubaldo Jimenez (12-1, 1.16).
• Friday: at Philadelphia, 6:05 p.m. RHP Nick Blackburn (6-3, 4.96) vs. RHP Joe Blanton (1-5, 7.28).
• Saturday: at Philadelphia, 3:10 p.m. RHP Kevin Slowey (7-4, 3.84) vs. LHP Cole Hamels (6-5, 3.71).
• Sunday: at Philadelphia, 12:35 p.m. Pavano vs. RHP Roy Halladay (8-4, 1.96).