With big bats silent, rest of Twins lineup works to pick up slack
Joe Mauer, Brian Dozier and Oswaldo Arcia were three players the Minnesota Twins figure to rely on offensively this season. Yet as that trio combined to go hitless Wednesday in Chicago, it was the likes of Jason Kubel, Aaron Hicks, Trevor Plouffe and Kurt Suzuki doing the damage at the plate in Minnesota’s 7-6 extra-innings loss to the White Sox.
Manager Ron Gardenhire drew some criticism prior to Monday’s season opener when he batted Suzuki — a career .253 hitter — second in the lineup. Yet Suzuki wound up driving in all three runs in the Twins’ 5-3 loss. Two days later, Suzuki collected three more hits — although this time as the No. 7 batter in the order. He drove in a run in the top of the ninth inning that appeared to provide some insurance before closer Glen Perkins gave up two runs in the bottom of the inning.
Kubel, who signed with the Twins this offseason after spending the past two years with Arizona and Cleveland, did not play in Monday’s opener against White Sox lefty Chris Sale. With a right-hander on the mound Wednesday, Kubel was in the lineup and in the cleanup spot for the Twins.
The veteran outfielder delivered. With nobody out and runners on first and second in the top of the seventh, Kubel tied things up with a ground rule double to right off Chicago reliever Nate Jones to make it a 3-3 game. Kubel’s first hit of the season scored Mauer from second, while Josh Willingham advanced to third. He finished the day with a pair of doubles and was 2-for-6.
One batter after Kubel’s RBI double, Plouffe came up big with a two-run single to right that scored pinch runner Jason Bartlett from third and Kubel from second. Plouffe batted just .254 with 52 RBI in 129 games last season with Minnesota but already has four hits through two games, as well as three RBI in Wednesday’s win. The Twins were hoping for Plouffe to take a step forward offensively in 2014. It’s only been two out of 162 games, but Plouffe certainly looks to be a more confident player at the plate early on.
It’s been a good start to the season for Hicks, who now has four hits through the first two games after a pair of singles Wednesday. Hicks made the jump from Double-A to the majors last year as the Twins’ starting center fielder on Opening Day. He batted just .192 in 81 games in the big leagues in 2013. Hicks didn’t pick up his fourth hit of the year until his 16th game; he’s now done so in just his second game of 2014.
Minnesota’s big bats went silent once again in Wednesday’s loss after a quiet day in Monday’s opener. Mauer, a three-time batting champion, is now 0-for-8 this year after drawing two walks but going hitless in six plate appearances Wednesday. Dozier, meanwhile, has batted leadoff in both games but is still hitless after going 0-for-6 in Wednesday’s loss. And Arcia, who was a pleasant surprise as a rookie in 2013, is also searching for his first hit of the season; he, too, was 0-for-6 Wednesday.
Those three will almost assuredly get on track before long, and very little can be gleaned from just two games. Yet if players like Hicks, Kubel, Plouffe and Suzuki can continue to find success at the plate, Minnesota’s seemingly anemic offense could prove to be better than expected.
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