My brain is ready. It's been ready for a little while now. But I still cannot give up. Until the Twins are mathematically eliminated, I'm going to be pulling for them. But my brain knows the reality of it. And that reality is that the Twins are 6 games back in the division, even with the Tigers and White Sox losing today, and they are playing their worst baseball of the season. That reality is that the Twins are 5 games under .500, their worst mark of the season, and just went 2-4 on a homestand that was against 2 of the 3 worst teams in the American League. That reality is that they aren't going to make the playoffs.
At this point, it seems like every Twins game is on repeat: maybe the bats take a small lead, maybe they don't, but then the starting pitcher gives up way too many runs in way too few innings. The bullpen then adds a little insult to the injury before someone finally manages to stop the bleeding. Along the way the offense scores a modest-to-good number of runs, but fails in a few key situations, and Joe Mauer continues his ridiculous season in what amounts to yet another loss.
That's certainly what happened today, as Nick Blackburn amassed an abysmal start and Delmon Young and Orlando Cabrera made quick work of the Twins' scoring opportunities by grounding into three double plays between them (Young did at least hit a 2-run homer earlier in the game). The bullpen at least put together a good outing, although it now stands to be completely overworked if Francisco Liriano doesn't pitch like he did in his last turn.
It's just so hard to watch this season crumble as so many hitters are having great years. Joe Mauer, of course, is on another planet, making his 2008 self look like Chris Heintz; Justin Morneau is having perhaps his best season, placing third in the AL in home runs and first in RBIs; Jason Kubel is finally having that breakout season we've all been waiting for, currently ranking 7th in the AL in OPS; Michael Cuddyer is having a very solid year, despite the unwarranted criticism he's been facing; and Denard Span is repeating his break-through performance from last season.
But it's also not hard to see why the Twins aren't competing for a division title. Second base has been a sinkhole, compiling an OPS of .507; the starting pitching has become a carousel of short batting practice outings (from Glen Perkins to Anthony Swarzak to Nick Blackburn to Francisco Liriano); the bullpen has managed an astounding inconsistency outside of Joe Nathan and Matt Guerrier (and sometimes Jose Mijares). Sure, Bobby Keppel may look good and throw two scoreless innings and strikeout four batters, but I'm betting next time around he allows three runs and only gets one out.
By no means, though, am I going to stop watching. And I'll still enjoy it. A lot of that credit has to go to Joe Mauer. Will he hit .400? No, but he's close enough that we're talking about. Will he break the record for batting average for a catcher in a season? Will he capture his third batting average title in four seasons? Will he win the MVP even if the Twins continue to fade? All of these things will keep me excited to turn on the games every night.
That and the fact that the Twins could still make the playoffs.
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