State of the Twins, Week 6: Exorcising demons
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It's not easy to make people forget about a 3-25 stretch against the New York Yankees, but OF Jason Kubel may have done exactly that with a go-ahead grand slam off Mariano Rivera in the eighth inning on Sunday, giving the Twins a 6-3 victory -- their first in the Bronx since 2007.
Until Kubel's grand slam, the Twins had been out-homered 47 to 18 by the Yankees over the last 28 games between the two teams.
Under manager Ron Gardenhire, the Twins are now 6-27 at Yankee Stadium.
With that said, here's how things stand after six weeks:
* OF Jason Kubel: OK, he's not really "hot," per se. But any player who exorcises three demons with one swing of the bat deserves mention. Kubel (the team's coldest hitter) hit a grand slam (Twins hitting under .160 with bases loaded) to beat the Yankees (enough said).
* C Joe Mauer, 1B Justin Morneau: Heading into Sunday, Morneau's .366 batting average led the American League, with Joe Mauer's .359 mark a close third. Morneau's 29 walks rank second in the Major Leagues, and his .487 on-base percentage and 37.3 "runs created" rank first. Mauer is actually hitting better against lefties (.378/.432/.595) than he is against righties (.348/.419/.485).
* RHP Nick Blackburn: Props to Blackburn, who has pitched extremely well since leaving the ball club to tend to a family emergency in late-April. Blackburn, who has also battled some elbow soreness this season, has allowed only six earned runs in 23 innings over his last three starts, lowering his ERA from 6.85 to 4.63.
* Twins against the Yankees: Kubel's ridiculously clutch grand slam off Mariano Rivera in the eighth inning on Sunday softens the biting nature of this commentary, because the Twins at least leave New York with a sugary taste in their mouths.
But the Twins' futility against the Yankees overall is both baffling and embarrassing. It also involves a frustrating amount of bad luck. Three examples from this weekend: 1.) Top of the fourth inning on Saturday, Orlando Hudson led off with a base hit. Joe Mauer then lined out to second, causing Hudson to scramble back to first. Justin Morneau then stepped up and lined out to second as well, and Robinson Cano fired to first to double off Hudson. 2.) Top of the fifth on Sunday, Denard Span hit a potential game-tying groundball up the middle that caught just enough of Sergio Mitre's hand to slow it down for a force out at second. 3.) With runners on first and second and one out in the top of the sixth, Michael Cuddyer hit a line drive right to SS Ramiro Pena, who flipped to second to double off Hudson.
Of course, Kubel finally exorcised the demons with a bases-loaded blast into the right field seats to give the Twins a 6-3 victory. But this Yankees hex has been quite perplexing.
* RHP Jesse Crain: It looked like Crain may have found his form after five consecutive scoreless outings over the last two weeks. But Mark Teixeira's upper deck shot to right field on Saturday marked the fourth time this season Crain has allowed a crooked number, raising his ERA to 6.75. The season is young, but Crain is inducing fewer ground balls (27.7%) than at any point in his career (46.1%). This is not good.
HOW THEY STAND
1. Twins (23-14)
2. Detroit (22-16)
3. Cleveland (15-20)
4. Chicago (15-22)
5. Kansas City (14-24)
* C Jose Morales (wrist), who recently suffered a setback after hurting his hip, is back on the rehab path, going 9-for-10 with two walks in three games so far at Class-AAA Rochester.
* RHP Pat Neshek (finger) remains on schedule for a possible rehab assignment later this month.
* SS J.J. Hardy (wrist) is eligible to come off the disabled list on Thursday at Boston.
THE WEEK AHEAD
Monday: @ Blue Jays, 6:07 p.m. RHP Kevin Slowey (4-3, 4.62) vs. LHP Dana Eveland (3-2, 4.81).
Tuesday: @ Blue Jays, 11:37 a.m. RHP Carl Pavano (4-3, 3.30) vs. RHP Shaun Marcum (2-1, 2.78).
Wednesday: @ Red Sox, 6:10 p.m. RHP Scott Baker (4-3, 4.93) vs. RHP Clay Buchholz (4-3, 3.46).
Thursday: @ Red Sox, 6:10 p.m. LHP Francisco Liriano (4-2, 2.63) vs. LHP Jon Lester (3-2, 3.91).
Friday: vs. Brewers, 7:10 p.m. RHP Nick Blackburn (4-1, 4.63) vs. TBD
Saturday: vs. Brewers, 3:10 p.m. Slowey vs. RHP David Bush (1-3, 4.24).
Sunday: vs. Brewers, 1:10 p.m. Pavano vs. TBD
* All games on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities