Two weeks ago, we were talking about how the Minnesota Twins were tied for first in the American League Central with the Kansas City Royals and proving the experts wrong on the Twins having another bad season by having a very successful May. They would finish May with a record of 20-7 and a spot atop the American League Central. They had the best record in the American League at 30-19 and the second best record in all of Major League Baseball.
Since then, the Twins have gone 3-7 this month. They were 2-2 in Boston against the Red Sox, 1-2 against the Milwaukee Brewers last weekend and were swept this week at Target Field in a three-game series against the Royals. Now, the Twins are 33-26 and currently sit 2 games behind the division leading Royals.
The reason for the Twins latest struggles isn’t so much a lack in solid starting pitching. If it weren’t for a couple of shutout performances by the Twins pitching staff, they might be 1-9 here in the month of June.
The reason has to do more with the offense struggling again. So far this month, the Twins are batting .203 with runners in scoring position, 26th in the Majors. In April and May, the Twins batted .303 with runners in scoring position, second behind the Colorado Rockies. Not only that, but they have scored only 25 runs this month.
Even worse, several key hitters are struggling at the plate. So far, Torii Hunter is batting .216 in June compared with .333 in May. Trevor Plouffe has seen his batting average drop from .279 to .250 on the season because of his struggles this month. As for Joe Mauer, he’s only batting .176 in June.
Things hit a breaking point Wednesday during the Twins 7-2 loss to Kansas City when Hunter was called out on a questionable third strike call in the eighth inning by home plate umpire Mark Ripperger. Hunter was ejected after arguing the call along with manager Paul Molitor.
But, the fireworks didn’t end there. Hunter preceded to take off his batting gloves, protective gear and jersey and threw them onto the field. He may have also made contact with one of the umpires.
I had written way back in December when Hunter signed that he was going to be a key leader both on and off the field, especially in the clubhouse for this team. Sometimes, I feel that it takes an incident like the one Hunter was involved with to jump start a team.
I would also consider the fact that Hunter is a competitive player. He was certainly feeling the pressure of both him and his teammates not performing like they have been. If the Twins had been doing a lot better than they currently are, I don’t think we would have seen as much theatrics from Hunter.
But, there’s another thing to take in consideration. Baseball is a long season. Perhaps Hunter has the best quote in an article on the Twins website that summarizes the Twins current struggles.
“We just have to be patient and wait our turn. I mean, we haven’t been getting blown out or anything,” Hunter said before Wednesday’s game. “It just doesn’t work out that way. We’ve just got to fight through it. We have tough times in baseball just like you do in life. You just have to make adjustments and try to move on.”
And, the Twins and Hunter will have to move on. They are headed on a five-game road trip to play the Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals before coming home next week. Both of these teams are playing well with Texas two games behind the Houston Astros in the American League West and the Cardinals a comfortable lead in the National League Central.
With the team’s current struggles, one thing is certain. Each new game can be a fresh start. Hopefully the Twins can get a fresh start on Friday when they open up their series in Texas.
Media courtesy of: Minnesota Twins