Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Power of Power

By Intern Sharkey

North Korea has been spending a lot of time in the news lately. Kim Jong Il’s military has been testing a new series of attack boats, able to slowly but consistently deliver gradual damage to whatever targets they select. This new-found military power has drawn global ire for the way these ships have de-stabilized the Pacific region.

Or not.

The Twins finished off a three-game sweep of the White Sox on Wednesday afternoon. Twins hitters pounded out seven home runs in the series, providing the key runs needed for the set of victories. From Joe Mauer’s three-run dinger in the opener to Justin Morneau’s two-run bomb in the finale, the Twins used the long-ball to pull even with Chicago in the Wild Card race.

Over the last few seasons, the Twins’ offense has been more of the slow-and-steady variety than the quick-strike attack seen over the last three games. Just as a long-range missile capable of delivering warheads long distances is more frightening than a fleet of ocean-borne gunships, an offense with the threat of the long-ball brings huge benefits.

Much has been made of the Twins’ long-standing lack of a thirty home-run hitter. Since this recent run of success began in 2001, the offensive attack has relied on being able to string together base hit after base hit. But those days look to be over. Justin Morneau could crack that thirty-home-run barrier by the end of July, and others like Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel are showing legitimate power strokes as well.

The second game of the series is a perfect example. After falling behind one to nothing on a Jim Thome solo shot in the bottom of the first, the Twins came right back with a Jason Kubel bomb to tie the game. After that, two of the best pitchers in the American League traded zeros until the seventh inning. The Twins got two runners aboard in front of Jason Bartlett, who then lifted a fly ball into the wind and over the left field wall. Suddenly it was four to one, and the Twins went on to win four to three. Being able to strike quickly is especially important against elite pitchers (the kind that tend to pop up in the post-season) because of the difficulty of stringing together multiple hits.

Twins fans have seen this first hand: how often does Johan Santana get knocked around for five hits in an inning? Not very. Most of the damage dealt against El Presidente seems to come off of the long ball (all three runs he allowed on Tuesday came off of homers, for example). This ability to strike quickly can be the great equalizer, and should be cause for just as much excitement in Twins-land as the top of the rotation: Minnesota has finally traded in its 19th century gunships for some modern ICBMs.

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