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Some odds and ends as we roll into the second half on Friday.

The All-Star Break

In case you missed it, Justin Morneau won the Home Run Derby on Monday night!  As exciting as the exploits of Josh Hamilton were (and trust me...they were), watching Morneau take that trophy was a fantastic moment in Twins history.

As for the game itself, our boys represented.  Joe Mauer started at catcher, going 1-for-1 with a single and a walk.  After his single in the bottom of the fifth, Mauer was lifted for Ian Kinsler.  In the top of the sixth, Morneau relieved Kevin Youkilis at first base, and he ended up impacting the American League's comeback in the bottom of the seventh.  Leading off the inning, he doubled off of Reds pitcher Edinson Volquez (who's a friggin' stud by the way).  Kinsler followed with a groundout before Volquez made Dioner Navarro look like a bitch.  But J.D. Drew had Navarro's back, blasting the fourth pitch he saw on a frozen rope line drive into the right-field seats.  Morneau scored along with Drew, and the AL squad was back in business.  Of course, Justin wasn't done yet.  Finally, Joe Nathan made his appearance in the top of the seventh, needing a mere eight pitches to dispatch Ryan Braun on a strike out, and both Nate McLouth and Russell Martin on fly balls to Grady Sizemore in center field.

Amazingly, the game went to 15 innings, and thankfully nobody declared the game a  tie.  Closers on both teams ran multiple innings, including Yankee great Mariano Rivera, who was respectfully used in a situation where he would be able to win the game for the AL All-Stars.  The game outran him, however, and he finished both the ninth and tenth innings keeping the game knotted at three.

In the bottom of the 15th, once again, Morneau played a pivotal role.  He led off against Brad Lidge and singled on a hard liner into center field.  Kinsler lined out before Navarro singled and Drew walked, which loaded the bases for Michael Young.  Young took Lidge's first offering, a fastball over the plate, and lofted it to right field.  Morneau's toe crossed the plate mere moments prior to the tag, and we can thank right fielder Corey Hart for not getting behind the ball.  Instead of lining himself up and getting a solid center of balance for his throw, he caught the ball over his head and went directly into a relay, which meant he didn't get as much on the throw as he could have, and he probably wasn't as accurate as he could have been, either.  The throw was a couple of feet up the first base line, and because Brian McCann had to retrieve the ball and then turn to apply the tag, Morneau had a hair of extra time to touch the plate, and that's all he needed.  He scored from third, and for the second time in as many nights the Twins and Rangers combined to highlight a victory for the American League.  It was a great game, and a fitting farewell to Yankee Stadium.

The Beltre Conundrum

This stuff is popping up all over the place.  Not only is the Pioneer Press throwing out me-like speculation, but our friend Andrew over at Twins Fix has a two-part special on the Mariner third baseman and what it would take for Minnesota to pick him up.  We had a Facebook conversation the other night where we bounced around some ideas, and it looks like he took the best of both worlds and put them together.  Even if you don't think it's going to happen, it's worth a read.

Personally, I believe the feasibility of this transaction would depend on a number of things that need to fall into place perfectly.  A lot of my ideas on the subject, and Andrew's, have to do with publicized rumors; so if those rumors aren't true, the argument falls apart.  All the same, this time of year is fun for this kind of speculation.

Interestingly enough, Will Carroll had this to say about the Twins and third base:

A lot more discussion of Adrian Beltre to the Twins has come up lately, though the Twins have also taken a hard look at Hank Blalock, Garrett Atkins, and even Casey Blake. The Twins have pitching to trade and seem willing to make a move as they chase the White Sox.

Trends

The Twins have been successful scoring runs, and therefore winning, based on one primary statistic:  Hitting with runners in scoring position.  And as beaten to death as that factoid has been, the insistance that the Twins mid-range numbers in team on-base and slugging percentages indicate a scoring decline has been hammered over our heads just as often.

That doesn't make it not true, of course.  The Twins will need a great deal of luck to continue hitting as well as they have with runners in scoring position.  But looking at how the Minnesota offense has done month-by-month, there is reason for optimism.

Split OBP MLB Rank SLG MLB Rank Runs MLB Rank
April .302 28 .361 26 99 26
May .341 8 .399 19 154 4
June .335 15 .435 10 142 5
July .387 2 .465 8 66 9
Season .336 12 .407 17 464 6
AL Average .332 .410 438

While we only have half of July under our belts, those are some encouraging numbers.  More importantly, they're numbers that back up how the team has scored this month without resorting to "well, they're just benefactors of luck with RISP."  The team on-base percentage the last three months has been more than adequate, and team slugging in June and July has been better than expected.  Both months the Twins slugged in the top third of the league or better, and if those numbers are sustainable then there's no reason the Twins can't continue to be one of baseball's better run-scoring offenses.

Overall the team is still around league average in both on-base and slugging, but trends indicate that hitters are doing better on the whole.  Some of this success can be attributed to contributions of Alexi Casilla, Denard Span and Brian Buscher, but it's not just those three.  Jason Kubel is performing, Nick Punto has been a pleasant surprise and Delmon Young's numbers are up across the board.  At the center of it all of course are the M&M boys, who are each having great years at the plate.

But it certainly is nice having production from the bottom of the order.

Liriano's Unrest

Apparently, Francisco Liriano is "frustrated" that he isn't with the Twins yet.  Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal apparently spoke with Cisco's agent, who's considering filing a grievance.  While Liriano has certainly done well, the single largest factor keeping him from Minnesota is the presence of Livan Hernandez.  Whether Hernandez really should still be with the team or not is up for debate, but with the Twins wanting to use the young southpaw out of the rotation there isn't any room for him until a move is made, and that is the ultimate stopping point.

I believe Liriano has a right to be disappointed, but the fact is that this isn't about the money; the Twins gave him a shot out of the gate in April.  If it was about the money, that wouldn't have happened.  Ultimately, it's a difficult situation for Francisco because he's subject to the decisions of the organization.  Unfortunately he and his agent are handling the situation poorly.  It sucks for them, and it sucks for some of us fans as well, but he'll have to wait until the Twins decide it's time to make a move on Hernandez.

That's it for tonight.  See you tomorrow!