Pitchers' duels are fun.
They're a lot more fun when you win them, of course, and that's what happened for the Twins yesterday. Kyle Gibson pitched seven shutout innings before allowing a run in the eighth, and even then the Astros didn't hit the ball hard. The bullpen came in and shut the door, with Fien getting a key out in the eighth and Perkins pitching a perfect ninth. The Twins didn't do much against Brett Oberholtzer, but they managed to get a couple of runs against his replacement, and it was enough.
It's amazing how much better the Twins lineup looks with Joe Mauer in it, especially when Mauer is hitting like Mauer hits. Santana and Dozier in the first two spots, Mauer third, and Vargas fourth actually looks the way a major league lineup is supposed to look. That group combined to go 9-for-18 yesterday, which was nine of the Twins' eleven hits.
Four of the hits went to Danny Santana, who has raised his average to .331. I've been trying to keep from getting too excited about Santana, mainly because his minor league record does not suggest he should hit this well. And of course, it's still not 250 major league at-bats, and we've all seen guys hit well for half a season and then fall down. i have to admit, though, that he sure looks real to me. To hit this well while learning a new position in the big leagues seems pretty special.
Two of the hits went to Kennys Vargas, who has raised his average to .300. Vargas has hit quite well in the minors, but we have a substantially smaller sample size on him--only 50 at-bats, and he's being jumped from AA. All we can really say for sure is that he's done well so far. It's certainly possible that pitchers will make adjustments and figure him out. But I have to admit that he looks real to me, too. The offense still has a ways to go, but if the Twins can fill the first four spots successfully, that's a good start.
I feel like I should be giving more credit to Joe Mauer, but I also don't know what I can say about him that you don't know. While some "fans" seem to have forgotten it, people around here know that Joe Mauer Is Very Good at Baseball. He had a poor first half, but he had started to hit before going on the disabled list, and so far has hit since coming off it. This won't be one of his best seasons, but if he plays well over the last month and a half he can still end the season with some pretty decent numbers.
So we're down to forty-three games left. No game today. Tomorrow the Twins come home to host the first-place Kansas City Royals, which still seems odd to say. Ricky Nolasco makes his comeback for the Twins. Perhaps he will be healthy for the first time all year and show us what he can do. Whether he is or not, though, we know that the Twins will continue their season-ending forty-four game winning streak. We're still on track for 97-65!