The All-Star break has come and gone. Twins starters have righted the ship, sporting a record of 13-2 since the break. Instead of Carl Pavano and Francisco Liriano carrying the load, pitchers Kevin Slowey, Scott Baker, and newcomer Brian Duensing have started to get involved. The Twins have gone from 4 games out to 1 1/2 as the White Sox just keep winning, too.
But the Tigers appear to be ready to call it quits. The loss of Magglio Ordonez seems to have shut this team down completely. The rookie Brennan Boesch slumped and the team went cold. Detroit never really had the starting pitching necessary to stay in the race. Justin Verlander ahs been the only semi-reliable starter. Armando Galarraga and Rick Porcello just are not ready for prime-time.
Chicago presents a problem for Minnesota. They have better pitching and a coach in Ozzie Guillen that has them firing on all cylinders. Juan Pierre has added speed, swiping 40 bases already this season. Throw in Alex Rios' resurrection, an All-Star type year from Paul Konerko, and then contributions from role players like Gordon Beckham, Alexei Ramirez, and others and you have a good team.
The Twins are in the middle of a 10 game road trip, with two more games in Cleveland and then three in Chicago. They are 2-3 so far, having split with the Rays and losing last night to the Indians in a wild 7-6 loss. Meanwhile the White Sox are facing the Orioles in Baltimore before their return trip tp Chicago for the battle with Minnesota. Chicago lost 2-1 to the birds, thanks to an Adam Jones game winning hit in the 10th inning.
The series in Chicago will be important. Given how close the two teams are, and this being the beginnings of August. last year the Twins rallied from five games back late in the year. This year they have a much more powerful batting order, thanks to the emergence of Delmon Young. He seems to have found his 'mojo', moving up to 5th in the league in hitting, and closing in on the RBI leaders as well, despite hitting 7th in the order most of the year.
But the Twins have received help from everyone at times, maybe most notable is the play of AAA call-ups during an injury filled season. No less than the entire infield has been out at times, and guys like Alexi Casilla, Wilson Ramos, Jason Repko, Drew Butera, Trevor Plouffe, and Danny Valencia have been major role players at different times. Valencia seems to have won the 3rd base position with his defense and hitting, though Nick Punto has been out and might platoon in the near future. Butera, besides becoming Pavano's permanent catcher, has taken over for an ailing Mauer and delivered in all facets of the game.
A lot of season left. But this is August, where you cannot win the division, but you certainly can lose it. Just ask Detroit.