Twins' offensive surge raises confidence
MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Twins have said all season that hitting is contagious.
It looks like the entire team is currently infected.
For the third time in 10 games this month, the Twins' offense exploded for 10 or more runs when they beat the Philadelphia Phillies by an 11-7 final on Tuesday at Target Field. Eight of Minnesota's nine starters had at least one hit, and the team had 17 hits as a whole. Four players had three hits, the second time this season that's happened.
It was an example of just how dangerous the Twins' offense can be when the entire lineup contributes like it did Tuesday.
"Any time any team has the opportunity to do that, everybody contributes, it's going to be a positive day," said second baseman Jamey Carroll, who had three hits and drove in two runs Tuesday. "Today's just a pure example of it."
Coming out of spring training, the Twins figured their offense would be good, but they weren't exactly sure how good. With the addition of several free agent bats in Carroll, Josh Willingham and Ryan Doumit, Minnesota's lineup was filled with plenty of veterans, including former MVPs Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau.
Throughout much of the first few months of the season, scoring runs wasn't Minnesota's biggest problem. The starting pitching was the team's Achilles heel, as the rotation had the worst ERA in all of baseball.
As of late, though, the Twins' rotation has slowly started to stabilize, while the lineup seems to be producing at an even higher level.
Since losing five in a row in late May, the Twins have not lost consecutive games. During that span, they're 10-3 and have averaged 5.54 runs per game. In the 47 games before that, Minnesota was scoring just 3.91 a game.
"We're making the hitting coach look pretty nice right now," said Ben Revere, who had three hits Tuesday to boost his average up to .340. ". . . One through nine can put the bat on the ball and drive it. If we can keep this going, we're going to be a tough team to beat."
A sign that the Twins' lineup is becoming more potent was Minnesota's ability to score runs with two outs on Tuesday. Of the 11 runs the Twins scored Tuesday, seven came with two outs. Revere, Carroll and Joe Mauer all had two two-out RBI. Prior to Tuesday, Minnesota was batting .241 with two outs and runners in scoring position.
"You've got to be able to get key hits, and key hits come with two outs," said Willingham, whose solo homer came with two outs in the sixth inning. "We got several of those tonight. Guys put together really good at-bats."
Willingham was one of three Twins to homer on Tuesday. Denard Span led off the first inning with a solo homer to right, his fifth career leadoff home run. One inning later, the red-hot Trevor Plouffe sent a two-run shot to left field. It was Plouffe's third home run in the last four days. He finished with a game-high three RBI and has now driven in 12 runs in nine games this month.
"Coming out of spring training, I think everyone thought this is how we could play," Plouffe said. "We knew it. I had confidence in the team, and therefore I had confidence in myself. Now that we're winning games, baseball's a lot more fun when you're winning. I think we're confident as a team right now."
Confidence is one thing, but the Twins are making sure not to get overconfident now that they're starting to win a few games. They're still 10 games under .500 and nine games out of first place in the American League Central.
As good as the Twins' offense has been as of late, there's always the chance the bats may go quiet. That happened against Cleveland on June 1 when Derek Lowe and the Indians held the Twins to one run. On June 5, Bruce Chen and the Royals blanked Minnesota in a 1-0 win in Kansas City.
Then there are games like Tuesday, when Minnesota shows it's capable of putting up plenty of runs on any given night.
"Do we feel like we're capable? Sure. But it's not (always) going to happen," Willingham said. "It's baseball. Sometimes you're going to run into a good pitcher that's going to throw the ball great that night. You've got to be able to win those games 3-2. It's not like we're just going to throw a lineup out there and score eight, 10 runs a game. We've got to be able to win 3-2 games as well."
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