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6/26 Game Thread: Los Angeles Dodgers @ Minnesota Twins

First game of the series.  Twins:  39-35.  Dodgers:  40-35.

Minnesota Twins
Name        POS   AVG HR  OBP
Castillo    2B   .275  2 .336
Punto       3B   .268  0 .361
Mauer       C    .368  5 .438
Cuddyer     RF   .268 11 .365
Morneau     1B   .282 19 .338
Hunter      CF   .264 11 .340
Kubel       LF   .301  6 .324
Tiffee      DH   .259  1 .333
Bartlett    SS   .368  0 .455

Los Angeles Dodgers
Name        POS   AVG HR  OBP
Furcal      SS   .254  4 .334
Lofton      CF   .295  0 .349
Garciaparra 1B   .362  9 .426
Drew        DH   .282  9 .376
Kent        2B   .274  8 .381
Ethier      LF   .333  4 .338
Kemp        RF   .333  7 .375
Izturis     3B   .471  0 .550
Martin      C    .307  4 .379

Name        ERA
Silva      6.87
Billingsly 3.48

Who are the LA Dodgers?

Three or four years ago, the top five guys in the Dodger lineup would have made for a terrifying top-half of the order.  In 2006, they're dangerous, but nothing like they could have been in the past.  Now the lineup is balanced, but is either inexperienced or unpredictable in many places.

Furcal is having a down year, but Twins pitching still needs to be aware of him on the basepaths.  Kenny Lofton is 39, yet had a great 110 games with the Phillies last year and is having a solid time of it so far in Los Angeles.  He's lost all pretense of a power stroke, but because he never strikes out (that should change between Liriano and Santana) he finds ways to reach first base.  He's already stolen 14 bases.  That's a quick 1-2 punch at the top for the Dodgers.

Next up is Garciaparra, who is having his best year since 2000.  When he plays, he produces; 56 games and counting.  Drew is hitting cleanup for LA, and is having another good year.  Like Nomar, when he plays, he produces.  Rounding out the middle of the order is Jeff Kent, who's been a pretty decent hitter since about 1993.  Kent is 38 and has also had some health problems this year, but he's hitting .341/.413/.659 since coming off the DL June 13.

At the bottom of the order are Ethier, Kemp, Izturis and Martin.  Ethier is 24, and has hit well since being called up at the beginning of May.  Kemp is also a youngster who doesn't turn 22 until the end of September, and he's been on fire since arriving on the scene in late May.  Izturis (26), who just returned to the club on June 20 (and was an All Star last year; Gold Glove winner the year before), has done well in his 6 games.  There's still no power to him, but he's 8-for-17 with three walks on the year.  Finally, there's Russell Martin behind the plate.  Martin is 23, and since May 31 has raised his line from .253/.345/.387 to .307/.379/.467.  Not a bad turn around.

On the mound is 21-year old Chad Billingsly, who is 0-0 through 2 starts (June 15 and 21) and 10 1/3 innings, with a 3.48 ERA.  He's sent down 4 and walked 6.  He's struck out more than a batter per inning in the minors, and the Dodgers are higher on him than they were on Edwin Jackson.

The Dodgers look to be a blend of experience and well-performing youth.  This hasn't led to an outstanding record; not that we have anything to brag about in that area (yet).  This series looks to be two teams with young players, eager to make names for themselves.

Game kicks off (...or...whatever...) in just over an hour.  I'm off to a St. Paul Saints game, but feel free to leave your comments here.  Go Twins!