If the Orioles had any momentum after sweeping the Red Sox last weekend, they left most of it in New York where they failed to beat the Yankees. The O’s now head to the mid-west to take on the Minnesota Twins. It will be the teams first visit to the new open air ballpark in the Twin Cities and things do not expect to get much easier. The Twins are 19-9, riding a 4 game win streak, and sit atop the AL Central. Can the Orioles go to Minnesota and play well? Will GM Andy MacPhail’s strong statements about the job security of struggling players serve as motivation, or cause guys to tighten up more? Is there any light at the end of this tunnel?
The Twins are off to a hot start and they feature a strong pitching staff from top to bottom. Fransico Liriano looks like the pitcher we saw in 2006. Kevin Slowey is a consistent performer in their rotation and the Twins are actually getting quality starts from Alyssa Milano’s ex-boyfriend Carl Pavano. 16 of the Twins 27 starts have been quality starts and the bullpen has not missed a beat without Joe Nathan. Closer Jon Rauch has 8 saves and set-up men Brian Duensing and Matt Guerrier have been lights out. Offensively the Twins are lead by Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer. The O’s may catch a bit of a break due to a heel injury putting Maur’s availability for the series in question. That could make it easier to pictch around the white hot Morneau, who leads the Twins regulars with a .354, 6 and 24 line. Morneau also has an astounding 1.129 OBPS right now.
What can we say about the O’s? The starters are still keeping them in ballgames. And the bats are keeping them from winning them. In New York the club was up to their old tricks by not hitting in the clutch. Markakis, Tejada and Wieters continue to swing the bat fairly well, but the big hits were hard to come by against the Yanks. The club will need to hit well with RISP in Minnesota to win a couple of games. It will also be interesting to see how struggling players like Adam Jones, Nolan Reimold, Luke Scott, Lou Montanez and Cesar Izturis respond to McPhail’s recent comments. McPhail basically indicated that the Orioles are not married to under-performing players. Unless guys start to step it up, the club would look to promote players from the minors in an effort to win games and allow some guys a chance to work through their struggles. Who will get teh message and step up? Who will wilt under the pressure of their job being on the line?
Thursday and Friday’s games begin at 8:10 pm. Saturday at 1:10 and Sunday at 2:10. All for games will air in HD on MASN2. Here are the probable starters:
Brad Bergesen (1-2, 10.57) vs. Carl Pavano (3-2, 3.73)
Kevin Millwood (0-3, 3.15) vs. Francisco Liriano (4-0, 1.50)
Jeremy Guthrie (0-4, 4.78) vs. Scott Baker (3-2, 5.35)
Brian Matusz (2-2, 3.93) vs. Nick Blackburn (2-1, 5.79)