Well, I didn’t see this coming. Heading into the opening series of the 2013 season the Minnesota Twins were vast underdogs to defeat the defending American League champion Detroit Tigers even once, let alone twice! However, baseball once again demonstrated why it is a unique game and that anything can happen on any given night.
With the Twins taking two out of three from the Tigers, the team is now filled with a renewed sense of optimism. It wasn’t as if the team went into the season planning that it was going to be a down year or that they couldn’t possibly compete during the year, but few could have predicted they would take two of three from the Tigers in the opening series. It could have even been a complete sweep of the Tigers if some managerial errors wouldn’t have cost the team a chance to win in the opening game. At any rate, this series victory has ignited a ballclub and given them confidence as they head into each additional series.
This series demonstrated how important pitching is to the success of a team and what good pitching can do to ignite a lineup and keep the team in close games. The Twins relied on spring training disappointments Vance Worley, Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey to contain the mighty Tigers lineup and each of the starters lived up to—or even surpassed—the expectations that were set for them. This allowed the Twins to rely on the strength of their roster, which is their lineup, and the offense certainly delivered in Thursday’s series finale.
Over the first two games of the series, both teams had experienced a power shortage from their lineups as there had been zero homeruns and no hits even close to leaving the ballpark other than Eduardo Escobar’s towering fly ball from Wednesday’s game. A lot of that can be attributed to the cold temperatures, but those temperatures certainly didn’t hold the Twins’ hitters back on Thursday. Homeruns by Josh Willingham and Trevor Plouffe gave the Twins momentum and a 3-2 lead heading into the eighth inning when the Twins opened up the game with a five run inning.
The ability of the Twins’ lineup to produce is going to be a key for the team as they continue to navigate their way through the early portion of the season. There will be games that the team needs to outslug the opposing team in order to win and that may happen more often than not with the pitching staff we are going to employ this season. The Twins have been fortunate to receive such stellar starting pitching during the opening series against the Tigers, but they may not be able to count on it all year. If the combination of Aaron Hicks, Joe Mauer, Willingham, Justin Morneau, Ryan Doumit and Plouffe can provide consistent offense and if the Twins can receive adequate starting pitching, it is not out of the realm of possibility that this team could compete for a playoff spot. Their lineup one through nine is good enough to compete for a playoff spot, but their bench lacks the pop and depth to become a legitimate threat in my opinion. At the end of the day, however, the team’s success will hinge on the performance of their pitching staff.
It is only one series and I am trying to contain my optimism for the Twins this season, but this first series was definitely a promising one and much needed. I would love to see this team compete this season, but the odds are still heavily stacked against them. The Twins may be a long shot to contend for a playoff spot in 2013; but if they can continue to hit with consistency and pitch with toughness and durability, their shot to make the playoffs won’t be so long after all.