State of the Twins, week 12: Reliable arms dwindling
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The Twins finished 3-6 on their nine-game interleague road trip, which is a huge problem considering the White Sox used a 15-3 mark in interleague play to close to within 1 1/2 games. The Tigers also sit just 1/2 game back, and they will travel to Minneapolis to begin a three-game series at Target Field on Monday.
How soon until the Twins ramp things up for Cliff Lee?
Here's where things stand after 12 weeks:
• RHP Carl Pavano: Pavano is absolutely dealing right now. With a complete game shutout against Johan Santana and the Mets on Saturday -- the sixth shutout of Pavano's career -- the mustached master has shaved his ERA down to 3.33 for the season. In 15 starts this season, Pavano has pitched at least seven innings 12 times. He has also allowed two earned runs or fewer in 10 of those 15 starts. Only two American League pitchers have thrown more innings this season than Pavano (105 1/3) -- Felix Hernandez (112 2/3), and C.C. Sabathia (108 1/3) -- and both of those guys have started one more game than Pavano.
• OF Delmon Young: The wide-ranging improvements of Young have been well-chronicled, but it's worth mentioning that heading into Sunday he was hitting .327/.350/.527 with six home runs, 15 doubles, 40 RBI, and only 20 strikeouts since May 1. Young is also batting .382/.400/.588 with runners in scoring position this season.
• RHP Nick Blackburn: The "who's not" section is becoming a second home for Blackburn, but there's really no way to avoid discussing how terrible he has been lately. In five June starts, Blackburn has allowed 25 earned runs, 38 hits, nine walks and six home runs in only 18 2/3 innings. And that includes a seven-inning performance against Atlanta where he allowed only two earned runs. It's as if Blackburn stepped into somebody else's body in May, when he pitched at least seven innings in all five starts, posting a 2.65 ERA. If we eliminate May from the equation, Blackburn has failed to pitch seven innings in seven out of nine starts. It's fair to suggest his time in the rotation may be dwindling.
• Twins on the road: About the only thing the Twins do better on the road than at home is hit home runs (44 to 19). Beyond that, the splits are rather incredible. In 38 road games heading into Sunday, the Twins were hitting .257/.323/.414, as opposed to .286/.369/.416 in 36 home games. The same goes for Twins pitchers, who have posted a 3.19 ERA and 1.15 WHIP at the spacious Target Field, and a 4.51 ERA and 1.35 WHIP everywhere else. Oh, and most importantly, they're 23-13 at home, and 18-21 on the road.
• RHP Scott Baker's breaking ball: He hung breaking balls to Jeff Francoeur and David Wright on Sunday, and both wound up landing in the left-field seats for two-run homers. For added measure, he also left a 91-mph fastball over the middle to Ike Davis, who teed off into the right-field bleachers. Baker has now allowed a team-leading 15 home runs this season. So much for that 12-strikeout gem against Colorado...
HOW THEY STAND
1. Twins (41-34)
2. Detroit (40-34) .5 GB
3. Chicago (39-35) 1.5 GB
4. Kansas City (32-44) 9.5 GB
5. Cleveland (27-47) 13.5 GB
• SS J.J. Hardy (wrist) was eligible to come off the DL last Tuesday, but the slow process continues. Hardy resumed taking swings off a tee last weekend, and he continues to progress. There's a chance he could be ready to rejoin the team in Toronto the week of July 6.
• RP Clay Condrey (right elbow strain) is currently rehabbing with the Twins' rookie league club in the Gulf Coast. He threw one inning on June 23, allowing no runs, two hits, and a walk, while striking out two. Condrey pitched again on Friday, allowing three earned runs on four hits in 1 1/3 innings. All four outs he recorded were via strikeout.
• 2B Alexi Casilla (elbow) has been swinging in the batting cage and could resume taking batting practice with the team at Target Field this week. Casilla had surgery on June 4 to clean up bone spurs in his elbow.
THE WEEK AHEAD
• Monday: vs. Detroit, 7:10 p.m. Probable starters -- LHP Francisco Liriano (6-5, 3.11 ERA) vs. RHP Jeremy Bonderman (3-5, 4.20).
• Tuesday: vs. Detroit, 7:10 p.m. Probable starters -- RHP Nick Blackburn (6-5, 6.10 ERA) vs. RHP Armando Galarraga (3-1, 3.68).
• Wednesday: vs. Detroit, 12:10 p.m. Probable starters -- RHP Kevin Slowey (7-5, 4.79 ERA) vs. LHP Andrew Oliver (0-1, 3.00).
• Thursday: vs. Tampa Bay, 7:10 p.m. RHP Carl Pavano (9-6, 3.33) vs. RHP Jeff Niemann (6-2, 2.72).
• Friday: vs. Tampa Bay, 7:10 p.m. RHP Scott Baker (6-7, 4.97) vs. LHP David Price (11-3, 2.44).
• Saturday: vs. Tampa Bay, 3:10 p.m. Liriano vs. RHP Wade Davis (5-8, 4.90).
• Sunday: vs. Tampa Bay, 1:10 p.m. Blackburn vs. RHP James Shields (6-7, 4.55).