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Updated: August 1st, 2011 9:52pm
Twins Daily: Offense struggles mightily against groundball pitchers

Twins Daily: Offense struggles mightily against groundball pitchers

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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It's not often a team might welcome the prospect of facing a pitcher coming off throwing a no-hitter, but the Minnesota Twins could do worse.

That's not to say Los Angeles Angels right-hander and Tuesday night's starter Ervin Santana -- who struck out 10 while no-hitting Cleveland last week -- is a pushover. With a 3.47 ERA this season and an assortment of electric stuff, Santana is a tough beat.

But Santana is a fly ball pitcher (57% this season, 62% career), which is better suited for a Twins' offense that owns the league's worst OPS (.563) against groundball pitchers this season.

Some of it may boil down to which groundball pitchers the Twins have faced, but the team's .216/.275/.288 batting line with only seven home runs in 864 plate appearances speaks volumes.

The Red Sox, on the other end of the scale, hit .289/.369/.451 with 21 homers and 50 doubles in 862 trips against groundball pitchers.

Alexi Casilla (.730) is the only Twins hitter with an OPS over .700 against groundball pitchers, with Jason Kubel (.690) and Michael Cuddyer (.690) close behind.

The Twins will face only one groundball-heavy starter in Anaheim -- right-hander Joel Pineiro (48% grounders) on Wednesday.

Numbers game

.720: The Twins' OPS against fly ball pitchers (.262/.325/.395), which ranks 11th in baseball.

68%: Ben Revere's groundball percentage this season, which ranks him as the most prominent worm-killer in baseball, ahead of Derek Jeter's 66%.

57%: Groundballs for Joe Mauer this season, which is much higher than his 50% career average.

16-13: The Twins' record in July, after going 17-9 in June.

Health report

• 1B Justin Morneau (neck surgery, wrist) had his batting practice session wiped out by rain on Monday, according to the Pioneer Press, but the team is hopeful he can start playing in simulated games and/or rehab games within the next week.

• OF Denard Span (concussion) went 1-for-5 with a single in his final rehab game for Triple-A Rochester Sunday before hopping on a flight to join the Twins in Anaheim. Span will return to the lineup on Tuesday.

• 2B Alexi Casilla (pulled hamstring) remains on the disabled list for what will likely be at least another two weeks.

On deck

A lengthy AL West road trip comes to a close with three games against the Los Angeles Angels (59-50), beginning Tuesday (9:05 p.m., 1500 ESPN) when left-hander Brian Duensing (8-8, 4.35) takes on Santana (6-8, 3.47).

The Twins are in desperate need of some solid starting pitching, especially after Nick Blackburn and Carl Pavano were both knocked around in Oakland over the weekend. Duensing is coming off one of his better performances of the season -- 6 2/3 solid innings against the Rangers where he allowed only one earned run on seven hits and a walk while striking out six.

Including the no-hitter last week, Santana has now allowed three earned runs or fewer in seven consecutive starts, and he has walked only eight batters in his last 50 2/3 innings. Mauer is the one Twins hitter who seems to have no problems against Santana -- 11-for-19 with four doubles, a home run, two walks and seven RBIs.

Coming up

• Wednesday: @ LA Angels, 9:05 p.m. RHP Scott Baker (8-6, 2.86) vs. RHP Joel Piniero (5-5, 4.91)
• Thursday: @ LA Angels, 9:05 p.m. LHP Francisco Liriano (7-8, 4.67) vs. RHP Tyler Chatwood (6-7, 3.93)
• Friday: vs. White Sox, 7:10 p.m. RHP Nick Blackburn (7-8, 4.49) vs. LHP Mark Buehrle (8-5, 3.21)

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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