Staff Ace Phil Hughes.
We said yesterday that the Twins would need Staff Ace Phil Hughes to pitch like an actual ace, and he did. He struck out eight in seven innings, giving up one run on five hits and no walks. The only real blemish on his game came in the fifth, when he allowed a home run to Zach Walters. Hughes has allowed exactly one run in each of his last four starts, pitching 27.1 innings, which works out to an ERA of 1.32. He has a WHIP below 1.00 in that span with two walks and thirty strikeouts. That's pretty good by any measure.
The offense didn't exactly bash the ball all over the place, but it did enough. Kennys Vargas got three hits including a home run, his fourth. He's now hitting .316 with an OPS of .867. I'm trying not to get too excited, because it's still only 76 at-bats and we've all seen guys come up and be hot for a little while and then not do much of anything. But he sure looks like a good hitter to me. He'll probably go into a slump at some point--everyone does--but his minor league number suggest what he's doing isn't a fluke. When he does slump, I hope the Twins stick with him.
As for the rest of the offense, Trevor Plouffe bounced a two-run double down the left field line and Oswaldo Arcia had an RBI double in the ninth. Arcia's double got kind of lost when it came time to look at the highlights, but it was very important at the time. The difference between a two-run lead and a three-run lead in the ninth is pretty big. That extra run made things a lot easier going into the bottom of the ninth inning.
We said yesterday that if, in fact Gardy wants to see more of Santana at shortstop, then he should write "Santana, SS" on the lineup card. Perhaps Gardy reads these recaps, because yesterday afternoon he did just that. Having learned this secret, we'll see if he does it more often. I don't think Santana has received nearly enough credit for how well he's played given that he's learning a new position at mid-season in the big leagues. I wonder if it's ever occurred to Gardy that perhaps the reason Santana's struggled a bit with the all-important skill of bunting might be because he's busy trying to learn how to play center field, and there are only so many hours in the day to work on stuff. If the Twins learned anything this year, it should've been that it's not that easy for an infielder to suddenly become an outfielder. Santana's done an outstanding job of it, and as far as I know he's never once complained about learning a new position or indicated that he wished he could go back to shortstop. He's done everything asked of him, he's hit .300 while doing it, and he deserves praise for that, not carping about his bunting.
So the Twins welcome in the Detroits for a three-game series. Young Robbie Ray, who's 22 and has made only five major league starts, goes against Tommy Milone, who had just about everything go wrong that could go wrong last time out. That means, of course, that everything will go right this time. We've started our season-ending thirty-seven game winning streak! We're still on track for 92-70!