Following an impressive 94-win season in their first year at Target Field the Minnesota Twins were able to capture their 6th AL Central title in 9 years under Ron Gardenhire. Although it led to yet another first round defeat at the hands of the Evil Empire, expectations remained high surrounding a 2011 Twins team bringing back its most important franchise pieces along with a reconstructed bullpen.
The Twins 2011 season began as an unmitigated disaster resulting in abysmal records of 9-17 in April and 8-19 in May. Due to injuries, slumps, struggles and a chaotic bullpen, the Twins sunk to 20 games below .500. Adding injury to insult was the fact that Joe Mauer (.213 with 7 RBI), Justin Morneau (.225 with 4 HRs), Francisco Liriano (9.13 ERA through his first 5 starts), Jason Kubel, Denard Span, Delmon Young and Jim Thome all spent time on the DL. The outlook heading into June was very grim.
June was an entirely different story for the Twins. They rattled off an impressive winning streak (15 of 17 games) and gave up only 2 runs per game over this stretch. Strong pitching and timely hitting from unexpected sources helped the Twins to cut their deficit from a seemingly insurmountable 16.5 games back when June started to a much more manageable 8 games back on June 20th.
During that June streak, the offense was moving because the table-setters were getting on base. Alexi Casilla got a hit in all but 5 games with 8 multi-hit games during the stretch. Top prospect Ben Revere made several web gems in CF and scored 10 runs during the 15-2 winning stretch, with 11 multi-hit games in June. Due to circumstance, Michael Cuddyer (.323/.402/.602 with 17 RBIs) became the clean-up hitter and responded. Cuddyer’s scorching hot June coupled with injuries to the Twins’ best hitters (most notably Kubel who hit .351 in April with 20 RBIs in June) has made Cuddyer the Twins most likely team representative at the All-Star Game.
Unfortunately, after this hot streak the Twins dropped six in a row before turning it around. Now they are back on a winning streak and stand 7.5 games back of the Tigers. If they can cut that deficit down to 5 or 6 by the All-Star break then the Twins will have a very good chance to close the gap in the second half. Since 2002, the Twins have a .574 winning percentage after the All-Star break under Ron Gardhenhire.
The Twins have notoriously been a second half team who start slow and never get much respect until they make a run in the second half. This year they have endured rampant injuries to key players and haven’t really played up to their potential yet. Minnesota has been forced to use a staggering 71 different lineups through the first 75 games. With the return of Kubel, Young and Span the Twins should get enough hitting to complement their pitching and make a run at the AL Central crown.
About the Author
Written by Jonathan Fawkes
I was born and raised in Brooklyn but I'm a diehard Minnesota sports fan (Twins, T'Wolves, Vikings) because my Dad is from there. I met the best running back in football recently (Adrian "All Day" Peterson) and it was one of the highlights of my life. I look to analyze and drop knowledge about my passion which is sports. Follow me at JFawkes22 on Twitter and e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for reading!