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Updated: May 23rd, 2010 6:05pm
State of the Twins, week 6: Morneau continues to sizzle

State of the Twins, week 6: Morneau continues to sizzle

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins missed out on another sweep opportunity Sunday when a ninth-inning rally came up just short. The 4-3 loss to Milwaukee dropped the Twins to 26-18 on the season, with a rematch against the Yankees looming on Tuesday.

Since April 24, the Twins have played exactly .500 baseball. Interpret that however you want.

Here's where things stand after six weeks:

HOT
* 1B Justin Morneau: We're nearly one-third of the way though the season, and Morneau should hypothetically cool off at some point, but man, what an incredible burst out of the gate. Morneau reached base four more times on Sunday, going 2-for-3 with two walks, a double, and an RBI, raising his batting line to a ridiculous .383/.497/.701. He leads the American League in all three of those categories (BA, OBP, SLG), and also has 11 home runs (4th in A.L.), and 35 walks (1st in MLB). Defensively, Morneau has made several spectacular plays at first base, and he's become a master at turning the 3-6-3 double play.

"I've kind of always thought that he was very underrated defensively anyways," manager Ron Gardenhire said, "so I think it's about time he starts getting a little bit of credit for being a good first baseman."

* RHP Matt Guerrier, LHP Brian Duensing: In 20 innings so far this season, Guerrier has allowed only four earned runs -- one of them on a home run to Alex Rodriguez in a situation Guerrier probably should have never been put in -- good for a 1.80 ERA, and he's allowed only the one home run after serving up 22 over the previous two seasons. Duensing has emerged as the Twins' most reliable left-handed reliever, posting a 1.65 ERA. His 3.30 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching), along with an unsustainable .212 batting average of balls in play suggest Duensing is in line for a drop-off at some point, but a pleasant surprise thus far, nevertheless.

COLD
* RHP Kevin Slowey: In nine starts this season, Slowey (5-3, 4.53) has pitched into the seventh inning only once, and chronic mid-inning struggles have prevented him from maintaining low pitch counts. Slowey has allowed 25 earned runs this season, and 12 of them have come in the fifth inning. Opposing hitters are actually hitting .469/.500/.735 with nine extra base hits off Slowey in 8 2/3 fifth-inning innings.

* LHP Ron Mahay: After joining the club on April 15, Mahay rolled off 11 consecutive scoreless appearances, but he's been shelled for seven runs in his last three outings, including loading the bases in the ninth inning with nobody out on Saturday. That debacle eventually led to the Brewers taking a 7-6 lead, although the Twins were able to come back and win in dramatic fashion.

HOW THEY STAND
1. Twins (26-18)
2. Detroit (25-19)
3. Chicago (18-25)
4. Kansas City (18-27)
5. Cleveland (16-26)

HEALTH REPORT
* SS J.J. Hardy (wrist) still feels some soreness, but he is hopeful to return on Tuesday against the Yankees. He will be re-evaluated by trainers over the next two days.

* 3B Nick Punto received a cortisone shot in his finger, and there's a chance he could miss Tuesday's game. Manager Ron Gardenhire didn't sound too concerned on Sunday afternoon, however.

* RHP Pat Neshek (hand) threw two bullpen sessions this weekend, and his hand/finger is feeling much better. He may be in line for a rehab assignment sometime before the end of the month.

* RHP Joe Nathan (elbow) visited Dr. David Altchek in New York last week, and "everything is going along on schedule," according to Gardenhire. Nathan had Tommy John surgery two months ago, and he is hoping to return prior to the 2011 season.

THE WEEK AHEAD
Monday: off day
Tuesday: vs. Yankees, 7:10 p.m. RHP Scott Baker (4-4, 4.88) vs. RHP A.J. Burnett (4-2, 3.86).
Wednesday: vs. Yankees, 6:05 p.m. LHP Francisco Liriano (4-3, 3.25) vs. LHP Andy Pettitte (5-1, 2.68).
Thursday: vs. Yankees, 7:10 p.m. RHP Nick Blackburn (5-1, 4.50) vs. RHP Javier Vazquez (3-4, 6.69).
Friday: vs. Rangers, 7:10 p.m. RHP Kevin Slowey (5-3, 4.53) vs. RHP Colby Lewis (4-2, 3.45).
Saturday: vs. Rangers, 3:10 p.m. RHP Carl Pavano (4-5, 4.17) vs. LHP Derek Holland.
Sunday: vs. Rangers, 7:05 p.m. Baker vs. TBD
* All games on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
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