This week I'm diving into why the Twins have had such a turnaround from week 1 of the 2015 season, where they went 1-5 on the road at Detroit and Chicago versus week 2 of the season where they went 4-2 at Target Field against Kansas City and Cleveland. I will examine what has been different at home this past week and what they will continue to need to do to be successful on this next road trip in Kansas City and Cleveland.
- Quality Starts/Starting Pitching - Other than the opening series game against the Royals, the starting pitching performed much better at Target Field than on the road for week 1 and kept the Twins in or closer in more games which allowed the bullpen to not have to get used as much. The bullpen on the front end is a weakness for the Twins so if the starters can continue to improve and provide more quality starts, this will limit exposure to the bullpen. In this area, I especially highlight Kyle Gibson who continues to have the wide home vs road splits but did put together a solid start last week at Target Field. If Phil Hughes can turn his 0-3 start to the season around soon, the Twins could have a serviceable starting rotation to at least be competitive.
- Improved Bullpen Performance - The Twins bullpen also pitched much better at home this past week versus the first week on the road where Blaine Boyer and others struggled and the bullpen actually cost the Twins a couple of games. The two losses at home during the 4-2 homestand weren't on the bullpen as Trevor May was hit hard in the first game of the Royals series and Phil Hughes was responsible for the four runs allowed in the loss to Cleveland at Target Field on Saturday. This past week at home, the Twins bullpen actually kept them in games, including the walk-off win versus the Indians this past Friday night.
- Timely Hitting - While not yet being where you would to see the Twins in terms of the numbers with RISP, the bats at least are starting to show some promise of being able to get a clutch hit or get hits with RISP. Here I look at Plouffe's walk-off homer and Torii Hunter's performance on Sunday as glimmers of hope that if the pitching staff can continue to keep the Twins in close games, the offense will have a chance to get that timely hit. The club does need to improve their performance overall with RISP and if they want to continue to win series on the road, those clutch hits will need to keep coming as this team isn't going to score 5+ runs every night.