Weapons of Mass Production!

Posted: April 12, 2012 by Kodi in MLB

The M&M brothers are back and hit HR’s in the same game for the first time in nearly two years

Josh Willingham has already hit 4 HR’s in the month of April and was tied for the MLB lead

This is just a two game winning streak but are the Twins moving in the right direction?
Minnesota fans you may step away from the ledge after the Twins recorded their first two victories and won the first series of the season. After being swept by the Baltimore Orioles during the opening series many Twins fans were ready to jump, especially after the 99 loss season in 2011. The Twins lost the opening game to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and dating back to 2010 the Twins had a record of 65-114 including a 3 game sweep by the Yankees during the team’s last playoff appearance. There were many Twins fans that were looking to put themselves out of this misery but a little winning changes everything.

The Twins weren’t expected to be an offensive powerhouse but it was surprising that it took 31 innings for the team to take its first lead. Mauer had an RBI single to tie the game and Josh Willingham brought him home when he hit his 3rd HR of the year putting them ahead of the Angels 3-1. It didn’t last long as Willingham made a horrific play in LF and allowed Peter Bourjos to hit a 3 run inside-the-park HR, the MLB’s first of the season, and the Angels were up 4-3. It’s hard to believe that the Twins LF defense would actually be downgraded after replacing the waddle of Delmon Young. Willingham has made 2 errors in the first 5 Twins games and he only had 3 in all of 2010 and ’11 combined.

The Angels would extend their lead 5-3 but 1B Chris Parmelee came to the plate with Ryan Doumit and Danny Valencia on base. Parmelee hit a ball that squeaked through the infield but after former Twin Torii Hunter nearly lost his face making contact with the RF wall a RBI single turned into a 2 RBI triple. With Parmelee’s hit the Twins had tied the game. The back end of the Twins lineup would be relied on to make a crucial hit to bring Parmelee home and take a late lead. After recording two outs Minnesota had new SS Jamey Carroll stepping up to bat, who was hitless, 0-13, before the 2nd game against LA. Carroll had a solid hit to the outfield to bring home Parmelee and give the Twins a 6-5 lead.

Great pitching by Glen Perkins in the 8th inning gave that same lead to Matt Capps in the top of the 9th but many were holding their breaths after Capps’ tumultuous 2011 campaign. A quick ground out eased the minds of Twins fans until Capps allowed a double to Torii Hunter and once again anxiety levels rose. Capps got out of the situation and the Twins had their first win 5-6 after the 5th game of the season. The next day the Twins welcome backed the Angels for a rubber match day game. It looked to be a pitching duel between Angels Dan Haren and the Twins Francisco Liriano but both pitchers were coming off of disappointing season opening starts.

Franky Liriano has some big expectations to fill coming into the final season of his contract but the guy just can’t keep it together. He has been mechanically sound according to pitching coach Rick Anderson but the problem with Liriano has been mental. Franky was coming off of a phenomenal year in Winter ball as well as a successful Spring Training but in his first two starts he’s been anything but effective.  Liriano has only pitched 9 innings in his two starts and has allowed 15 hits, 12 runs, 10 of them earned, walked 5 batters, struck out 6, while giving up 2 HR’s, posting an ERA of 10, a WHIP of 2.22 and opposing batters hitting .375. Like I said it hasn’t been a good start for Franky. He pitched through just 5 innings and allowed 7 hits, 6 runs, 5 earned, walked 3 and struck out two while just 56 of his 91 pitches were strikes. Liriano and Joe Mauer also allowed 5 stolen bases in that short period of time and is the most the team has given up since Carl Pavano allowed 5 in July of 2010.

After Liriano exited the game the Twins came up to bat in the bottom of the 5th and Denard Span and Jamey Carroll were on base for Joe Mauer. Mauer was just 3-18 coming into Thursday’s game with 2 RBI and 2 walks but in that inning he blasted a 3 run HR into right field. It was his first HR since July 6 of 2010. Later Justin Morneau hit a HR and it was surprising to see that his last HR at home came on July 6 of 2010 and that was also the last time the M&M boys went yard in the same game. The very next day Justin Morneau was concussed during a routine slide into 2B and things haven’t been the same since. Hopefully this is the M&M boys turning it around and they have a new addition to the crew Josh Willingham.

Willingham also hit a HR, it is his 4th of the season and 2nd in as many days and it’s hard to remember the last Twin with 4 HR’s by April 12th.  No Minnesota Twin hit 4 HR’s in the entire month of April in 2011 and I struggled to find out who has done this before, the closest I got was Torii Hunter hitting 3 HR’s by April 13th of 2006.  The power in the Twins lineup is what the organization was expecting last season but the squad was hobbled by injuries. This team has turned it on the past two games offensively but it’s hard to remember a Minnesota team that has struggled defensively.

The Twins had scored 4 runs in the 8th inning to go ahead 10-7 and Matt Capps was given his second save opportunity after recording his first save the night before.  Twins fans understand what they are getting from Matt Capps which still riddles their nerves. He was at it again when he allowed 3 hits and 2 runs before finally getting the third and final out. Capps is now 2-2 in save opportunities but it is Jeff Gray’s stat sheet that is just completely absurd. He is a 30 year old veteran who played for 4 different teams in 4 years before landing a spot in the Twins bullpen this season. Gray pitched in the 7th inning of Wednesday’s game before Minnesota scored 3 runs in the bottom of that inning. That was Gray’s first win of the season and he got it by throwing one pitch to retire OF Peter Bourjos. In Thursdays game Gray entered in the 8th inning and threw two pitches before retiring Howie Kendrick. Gray had just 1 career win in 4 seasons and he just won 2 more games by simply throwing 3 pitches.

Although the Twins are on a two game winning streak and everything seems to be turning around for this ball club there are some major speed-bumps. Earlier in the week the Twins found out that Scott Bakers elbow would require surgery and it is likely the end of his Twins career. That leaves a glaring hole in the Twins rotation and the stop-gap answer of Liam Hendricks or Anthony Swarzack seems to now be a long-term answer. Jason Marquis is still trying to get into shape after missing a large chunk of Spring Training due to a bicycle accident involving his daughter. The Twins may be scoring runs but all true baseball fans know that pitching wins ball games and Minnesota needs to figure out what they are going to do.

On another note I have seen some extreme negativity from Twins fans that immediately jumped ship when Minnesota started out 0-4. I respect all baseball fans, but to say everyone’s theory on baseball is correct would be irresponsible of me. I myself love baseball and the Minnesota Twins. That does not change whether they win or lose. Some fans only route for a team when they’re winning, some clubs like the Yankees always win, whereas a team like Minnesota will have fluctuations in the win column on a year to year basis. I do not appreciate those who jump ship, dawn the luxury of another baseball cap and talk down about a club they love, when they’re winning. We hear your criticism but I myself do not respect it because if for some reason this team comes out of the middle of nowhere those people will try to say they have “been a fan their entire life” but in actuality they’re a fan when the club wins.

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