Josh Willingham Heats Up, Helps Minnesota Twins Continue Win Streak

By Thom Tsang
Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Twins were never going to be a team that overwhelms their opponents with offense up and down their lineup in 2013, and as their big bats go, so too will the team.

Well, fortunately, one of their big bats is getting going at the right time.

Josh Willingham has been arguably one the the most underrated 30-homer potential hitter in the bigs over the last couple of seasons, but slotted behind superstar Joe Mauer (doing his usual thing with a .375 average) at the Twins’ No. 3 spot, he might just be the team’s most important hitter these days.

Case-in-point: with the Twins tied 2-2 in the seventh inning against divisional rival Chicago White Sox on Sunday, it was Willingham’s big two-out, bases-loaded double that completed a four-run rally to allow the team’s bullpen to finish off the 5-3 win and return above .500 on the season.

The 34-year old slugger was 2-for-4 on the day, and has now hit in three consecutive games for the first time in 2013. Sure, you could say it’s only a coincidence that his fourth straight game with at least an RBI just happened to be running parallel with the team’s four-game win streak, but then again, that’s why he’s put in the position he’s in to begin with, no?

On top of now leading the team with nine RBIs after Sunday, Willingham has also been showing an improved batting eye, and has drawn 11 walks over his first 57 PA — good for a team-leading 19.3 percent rate, and well above his 11.6 percent career mark.

That fact that he’s getting on base at a .421 clip and has just four runs scored especially highlights the early struggles of Justin Morneau (.696 OPS) as well as Ryan Doumit (.581), and also suggest that the run-facilitating aspect of Willingham’s game can’t be overstated enough for the Twins in the early goings of the 2013 season.

Simply put, this is a Twins lineup that’s depending on his $7 million bat to keep their run production above water and to give them a chance to continue their winning ways; and even though lineup-dependent stats like RBIs don’t usually tend to tell you too much about a given player, it tells you everything you need to know about what Willingham means to Minnesota right now.

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