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Cake or death?!?

Um...cake, please.

At least that's how the Twins answered for the first 19 innings of the series.  Taking Chicago to task in game one and scoring 8 unanswered runs to take game two, when Minnesota scored 7 massive runs in the bottom of the first inning in game three you could almost feel yourself going this is it...we're going to take three in a row from the White Sox...

After that inning however, the Twins decided they'd had enough cake.

Silva proceeded to get hit like he has all spring.  Defesive ineptitudes (if not misques) played roles in extending innings.  Chris Widger had a career day yesterday, Scott Podsednik hit his first home run of the season, and Scott Baker couldn't keep the Chicago offense in check.

Chicago managed to salvage a series split after taking Monday's game decisively.  Prior to the series, a split didn't sound like too bad of an idea for the Twins.  After winning the first two games and seeing how things looked after the first inning on Sunday, a split is a disappointment.  No ground was lost in the division, but no ground was gained.

You could say that taking a pair from the reigning baseball champions is a morale victory; morale victories don't close the gap between the division leaders and the Twins.

A Recap In Pictures

Things started out well for Santana and the Twins.  Johan has a nice string of starts going, and he turned in a fine performance in game one of the series.  Indeed, when you can throw Santana, things probably will start out well...

In addition to Santana's July-come-May start on Friday, the offense joined into the fray.  Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer each homered, allowing the hammer to fall swiftly in game one.

During the first two games of the series, it certainly appeared as though the Twins offense could do no wrong.  Chicago has a very, very good defense, but they could do nothing to stop the Twins from scoring runs.

Things began to snowball on the Sox as Guillen was ejected...

...and even a shaky Radke performance wouldn't stop the Minnesota offense from mustering out consecutive victories.

In game three, Silva got out to an auspicious start, but was bailed out in the bottom of the first innings by an explosive offensive.  Through every way they could, the Twins reached base, and through any way possible, the hitters drove the runners in.

But Silva proved why he was sent to the bullpen after the game...

...and problems in the field attributed to a Chicago rally.  Early on, Castillo attempted a double-play instead of getting the sure out, allowing runners to advance when Castro couldn't handle the relay.

Buerhle locked the Twins down after the first inning and got himself into a groove...

...and without further offensive support, thanks in part to a triple play, Carlos Silva let the game get away.  Pictures say a thousand words.

Finally, in yesterday's game, Baker never did get himself under control (or was there too much control?), and the game appeared lost before it was even over.

Challenging Game Strategies

In spite of playing the biggest series of a still young season, Ron Gardenhire chose to sit Joe Mauer in game three of the series.  While Mark Buehrle is a southpaw, you can't have one of your two best hitters out of the lineup.  If Gardenhire felt he needed a day off from kneeling behind the plate, Mauer should have been a designated hitter.  When you're trying to make up as much ground as the Twins are in the division race, giving one of your few consistent offensive sparks a day off is inexcuseable.  Mike Redmond did a nice job at the plate, but it's obvious from innings two through nine that the lineup could have used Joe Mauer.  There were a number of sqaundered opportunities in the game, and having Mauer hitting instead of Rondell White could have prevented some bad at-bats and given the Twins that much better of an opportunity to capitalize on yet another scoring chance.

Yesterday, with Nick Punto on second base following a nice base hit and a stolen base, Shannon Stewart attempted a bunt with nobody out.  Resembling a bad bunt that led to a nice triple play for Chicago on Sunday, Stewart's bunt went right to a fielder.  The only thing that went well was that Punto wasn't doubled off second base.

With a runner on second base and nobody out, especially with Luis Castillo coming up, there's no excuse to BUNT a man (especially one with speed) from second base to third base.  Castillo isn't a flyball hitter.  Hit the ball to the right side of the infield; swing and get an out.  At least that way you're making the effort to move the player over AND you're putting on a play that has a better chance of success than a bunt.  On a base hit, Punto could score from second base.

The difference between scoring with one out and a man on third, to scoring with no out and a man on second, is negligable.  Why attempt to waste an out with a bunt?  Because "that's what you do" in baseball?  Because Joe Morgan says so?

Don't even get me started...

Statistical Briefs

Torii Hunter has continued to have a good month of May, including a 10-game hitting streak from May 3-May 13.  He's taken as many walks in May as he did in all of April; he's getting hits with two strikes; he's laying off more pitches that are out of the zone.  I'm not going to make out as though Torii is the hitter we hoped he would be 4 years ago, but the numbers speak for themselves.  He's playing within himself, and it's making him a much more efficient hitter.

May Totals
AB  H  2B  HR  RBI  BB  SO  Avg  Obp  Slg   Ops
55 21   4   3   13   6  10 .382 .443 .618 1.061

Torii won't hit .382 forever, and he won't slug .600+ over an entire season.  He doesn't have to.  Hunter has a tendency to be a hot/cold type of player, and his May numbers have given his yearly totals a surge to closely mirror his career averages.  At the end of the year, Hunter is probably going to be hitting .265, will probably hit around 22 or 23 home runs, and will probably have an OPS nearer to .800 than .750.

But, if he feels like continuing his hot play and having an above-average season, I won't argue.  Keep it up, Torii.

On the other side of the ball, I earlier eluded to Santana's string of solid starts.  He's now rattled off five consecutive quality starts, dating back to April 21.  So far in May he's been even better over just his last three outings.

May Totals
GS  W  L   IP  H  ER  BB  SO  ERA
 3  3  0 21.0 15   4   2  30 1.71

According to inside sources, every month on the calendar in Santana's locker says "July".

Like Hunter, it's unlikely Santana's year will continue on this trend.  It is likely, however, that Santana will continue to be VERY, VERY GOOD.  He's a joy to watch, and there's not much reason to NOT want to go to a ballgame any time he's on the mound.  You don't get to see a player like Santana come around often.  Especially one in a Twins uniform.

Other Weekend Notes

TwinkieTown was busy over the weekend.  SBG stopped by and posted 360 Degrees, a very nice (and apparently overlooked) article around the Twins rotation, via the numbers.  You thought the rotation was struggling?  Take a look at what happens when you pull Johan's numbers from the totals.

There's also been some great debate about Silva being pulled from the rotation, thanks to a brief post from Mutt.  Also, RJTWIN vents a little frustration following Sunday's fiasco of a defeat.

One last thing. I posted a Game Thread for the first game of the series, and I need to give out some mad, MAD props to our man ubelmann, who managed to create an entire game thread on his own. This is absolutely fantastic. Games threads are something we'll be doing more often as the season progresses, and I hope we can build off of ubelmann's one-man show on Friday.

Take a look around, there's plenty to be found to feed your Twins addictions...