22 days into the month and this is only the 5th post of July here at TBS...our apologies. My excuse is that I was on vacation for awhile and while that one is pretty weak, Matt's excuse is that he has been busy spreading HUGE news...our very own Matt Larson will be a brand-new dad soon! Congratulations to him and to his wife Ali! That's very exciting stuff, can't wait to meet his new daughter, due sometime in mid-January.
After a nice 5-day break from humanity up in the North Woods of Wisconsin, I returned yesterday to a pleasant surprise...the Twins hadn't dropped in the standings! Yay. I didn't get to catch last night's game, but in reading the box score this morning, one thing was clear...the Twins got Verlander'd. 8 innings, 5 hits, 1 run, 9 strikeouts, 0 walks...looks like a Verlander line to me. With the loss last night, the Twins have now lost 10 straight games against the Tigers dating back to last year. If the Twins want to be in the AL Central race come Monday morning, they had better reverse this luck quickly, starting tonight against Max Scherzer. The Twins throw Brian Duensing out there tonight and Duensing has pitched well in July so far with 2 wins and a 2.01 ERA in 22.1 innings. Scherzer hasn't had very good luck against the Twins in his career with a 9.13 ERA in 4 career starts against our hometown team.
The Twins get Jason Kubel back tonight after an extended stint on the DL. Kubel was pretty much the Twins lone bright spot during the first two months of the season, hitting .310/.355/.465 with 30 RBIs in the first 52 games of the season. He hasn't played in a Major League game since May 30th when he went down with a foot injury. During his most recent 5-game rehab stint with Triple-A Rochester, Kubel 6 hits in 18 at-bats with a HR, 2 RBIs, 3 walks and 4 Ks. Hopefully he can provide a spark to an offense that has struggled lately, scoring 5 of more runs only twice in 9 games since the All-Star break. Kubel's activation means that Scott Baker, Denard Span and Justin Morneau (and Kevin Slowey) are the only Twins' players that remain on the disabled list. Baker is expected to be activated for a start tomorrow against the Tigers.
During the "critical 12-game stretch" to start the 2nd half, the Twins are 5-4 so far which isn't great, but it means they haven't lost any ground either. They are currently 6 games out of 1st with 64 games left to play. In order to get to 85 wins, which is how many I believe it will take to win the division this year, they need to go 39-25 (.609, 99-win pace)...not an impossible task, but getting more difficult with each loss. To put it in perspective, the Tigers only need to go 33-31 (.515, 84-win pace) in their final 64 games to get to 85 wins. If Bill Smith decides to add a piece or two within the next 9 days, I'd like to see what we can get in the way of serviceable relievers. That said, my confidence in Smith to make a savvy trade or two is not very high. Hope is still alive though, Go Twins!