The Twins ace gave the offense a chance.
There's nobody else in baseball I'd rather had on the mound in Thursday's win than Johan Santana. He's sick in August historically, and he's generally just really, REALLY good. With a series sweep on the line, in danger of losing more ground in a Wild Card race that they owned just a couple days-come-years ago, number 57 came in and all but blanked the Royals offense.
It was great to have the nie-untouchable Santana on the mound this afternoon. A great fastball, the dancing changeup, a breaking slider...for a minute I thought it was August 2004 all over again.
On a day where the Tampa Bay Devil Rays took out the Chicago White Sox and the New York Yankees beat down the Detroit Tigers, the Twins needed a win to gain the ground they lost on Tuesday and Wednesday. Thanks to a little help, this is how the Wild Card standings will look when we all wake up on Friday morning:
Team W L GB
Chicago 78 55 --
Minnesota 77 55 0.5
Boston 72 62 6.5
Now the Minnesota Twins head to New York, where they'll battle the Yankees at Yankee Stadium for three days. On the mound will be Carlos Silva, Scott Baker and Matt Garza, going against what amounts to a lineup of All Stars.
This series, against the Royals in the Dome, was nothing less than a disappointment. Emotional letdown from the Chicago series or not, a team contending for the post season has to find a way to get it done, especially against the worst team in the league. There's no excuse for allowing pitchers like Mark Redman and Luke Hudson to own you the way they did. If a guy has a new pitch or some kid is "on" a particular day, that's understandable, but you still need to find a way to reach base, move runners over and get them in.
Having said that...it's a long season, and games like this do happen. While it isn't (and shouldn't be) any less disappointing when you understand this, it should temper any feelings you have about the Twins suddenly losing it. Yes, the Twins shouldn't have lost a series to Kansas City, but it's baseball. Bad teams win, and sometimes, they win two in a row.
Case in point is what happens when you're watching a bad team play. On any given day, a pitcher can turn in a strong performance, nice defensive plays can be made and every once in a while a hero emerges. If you watch the team long enough, you start to lose what it is that makes them one of the league's basement dwellers. You lose a general point of reference, and so when all of a sudden your team has a couple of nice games in a row you're thinking Why can't they always just put it together like this?
Well, they can't always put it together because they're a bad team. Just like this happens to bad teams, a good team can go a couple of games in a row where things just don't click. This is what happened to the Twins against the Royals, and the best thing any of us can do is move on and get nervous about the New York series.
Speaking of which...how about we forgo starting pitchers and just throw the bullpen? Rock solid plan!