Exhibit A: Offense.
So this is what confidence looks like. Not just hits dropping, not just poor pitching, but the belief that you can succeed. Of course, it gets easier once you have a 6-0 lead, or a 13-5 lead. It's amazing how a change in mindset can change what do physically.
I'm not, as nobody should, take tonight's show of offensive prowess as a sign that "it's all coming together" for the Minnesota hitters. Castillo and Mauer have earned their stripes, yes. Cuddyer and Hunter have been hitting better, too. But the fact that a 3-for-5 Justin Morneau has raised his average to .224, that's not encouraging. Neither is Rondell White's 2-for-6; he's up to .169. Lew Ford is up to .227 on a 2-for-4 evening. You can't run a potent offense with players like this, especially when you include guys like Castro or Punto or Batista(or all three). It hurts even more when two of the guys were meant to be a very large part of your developing offense (Morneau and White) have been duds.
Carlos Silva, who managed to somehow negotiate himself through three entire innings without a run, returned to 2006 form in the second half of his outing. At the end of his day he "scattered" 11 hits over 6 innings, allowing 5 runs while striking out 1.
Hey, everyone has their off nights. But one strikeout? It's no wonder they eventually figured him out; they didn't have to worry about being fooled.
But let's get back to the positives. The Twins did win, after all. First, everyone had a hit tonight. One through nine, all nine men found a way on base. Amazingly enough, the four-five-six hitters (I know, the middle of the lineup!) each reached base FOUR TIMES tonight. A combined 9-for-15 with 3 walks and 10 RBI. Second, Torii Hunter continues to look better at the plate. We'll look at him a bit closer in a minute. Third, Liriano looked good tonight. He got himself into trouble in the ninth but got himself out of it. He earned his first save, of the three-inning variety (nice to stretch him out a bit, yes?), and struck out three. Four, well...nobody got hurt. Right?
Since May 1, Torii Hunter has gone 16-for-34 (.471 Avg) with 4 walks (.526 Obp) and 9 RBI. He appears to have leveled his swing, and it looks to give him better hand-eye coordination and bat control. Now that he's closer to his career averages, hopefully Torii can continue to carry a heavier portion of the offensive load.
Avg Obp Slg Ops
2006 .266 .323 .480 .803
Career .267 .321 .459 .780
Holy cow. For the past couple of years there have been these comparisons of how Cuddyer hits better when he plays in the outfield. Remember when I mentioned earlier how a change in mindset can change what you do physically? It's certainly beginning to appear you can apply this hypothesis to Cuddyer's defensive positioning as well.
Tonight, Cuddyer doubled in his first three at-bats, as he finished 3-for-5 with 2 RBI, 3 runs and a walk. Before the game, Cuddyer was boasting a .394 Obp and a .667 Slg to combine for (get this) a 1.061 Ops!
Cuddyer is rewarding his coach for giving him the starting job in right field, and nobody is arguing. It's nice to see him succeed, it's nice to see him play every day, and it's VERY nice to see a bat in the middle of the order that hits like it's supposed to be there. Congratulations, Cuddy Bear. Keep it going!
Justin go BOOM.
See you tomorrow.