Twins Notes: Baker Solid Once Again

The Twins have made some moves in the playoff race, but that is mostly due to other teams in the Division playing poorly. The middle of their lineup is struggling, as Torii Hunter, Justin Morneau, and Michael Cuddyer are all mired in a slump. In other news, Scott Baker has looked great on the mound, Juan Rincon has not pitched well, Thomas Watkins makes his Major League debut, and much more.

The Twins remain on the fringe of the pennant race, at least in their own minds. Too bad their play isn't the reason.

Minnesota remained 6-1/2 games behind first-place Cleveland in the AL Central on Friday, and five games behind second-place Detroit. But it's only because the Indians are 8-12 over their last 20 games, and the Tigers are in a 3-12 freefall.

The Twins, meanwhile, have lost four of their last five, and most discouraging of all is the reason. They have scored two runs total in those four losses, an offensive drought that appears to be getting worse as the season wears on.

The Twins rank 11th in the American League in scoring, an ineptness at the plate that undoes all the good work of their pitching staff, which ranks fourth in runs allowed.

And the heart of the order has been particularly unproductive lately. Excluding their 11-4 victory on Wednesday, the 4-5-6 hitters in Minnesota's lineup are in a horrible slump -- Michael Cuddyer is hitless for his last 20, Justin Morneau is two for his last 26, and Torii Hunter is four for his last 19.

Last Game: ANGELS 10, TWINS 1: Maicer Izturis belted a Scott Baker pitch into the right-field stands Friday for his first career grand slam, handing the Twins their fourth loss in five games. Minnesota, which suffered its worst loss since a 13-1 defeat in Toronto July 25, has scored one or zero runs in five of its last six games.


  • LF Rondell White returned to the outfield on Friday, 111 games after he last manned the position for the Twins. Calf and hamstring injuries have cost the veteran most of the season, and he collected just four hits in 28 at-bats as a designated upon his return. White, 35, is optimistic that returning to the field will awaken his bat, too. He drove in the Twins' only run with a line-drive single in the sixth inning.
  • RHP Scott Baker lost for just the third time in eight starts Friday, and one mistake was responsible for it. Baker had been pitching out of trouble for the most part, but loaded the bases with Maicer Izturis at the plate in the sixth inning. He tried to use a high fastball, but Izturis was ready and lined it into the right-field seats.
  • RHP Juan Rincon walked three of the five hitters he faced on Friday and allowed one run in two-thirds of an inning, continuing the reliever's slump. Rincon has allowed a run in five of his last six appearances, and his ERA since the All-Star break is 6.63.
  • 3B Brian Buscher had the abscess on his right leg drained in a Minneapolis hospital on Friday, and the rookie will receive antibiotic treatment for the infection for the next several days. Buscher, who suffered the injury by fouling a pitch off his leg on July 27, may be ready to return when his 15 days on the disabled list expire Aug. 22, according to manager Ron Gardenhire.
  • IF Tommy Watkins made his major-league debut Friday after 10 seasons in the Twins' minor-league system. Watkins, called up to replace Brian Buscher, grounded to second base in his only at-bat.

    BY THE NUMBERS: 6 -- Shutouts, of the Twins' major-league high of 11 (through Aug. 10), in games started by RHP Carlos Silva.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "Power outage? Yeah, we haven't hit a homer in a while." -- Ron Gardenhire, whose team didn't hit a home run during the first week of August, asked about a 34-minute delay when a bank of lights failed in Kauffman Stadium.)


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