Amid criticism about under-using Joe Nathan, Ron Gardenhire's team probably won a game last night because his opposing manager did EXACTLY what we've all been suggesting.
On Tuesday night, Kansas City manager Trey Hillman rode his closer in a non-save, but critical situation. Joakim Soria threw 31 pitches over two innings in a game the Royal's lost. Meanwhile, Nathan was pulled after one inning and just ten pitches, causing one irresponsible blogger to suggest that maybe Gardy was covering up some health problems for his closer.
And so, in last night's game, when the Twins started nibbling away at a five run deficit, and turned the game into a save situation in the last inning, KC's closer was unavailable. And when the Twins took a one-run lead in the tenth inning, their closer "slammed the door". I'm just saying....
It's time to come to the conclusion that this is not a rebuilding year, and that another AL Central division championship might well be within reach for the Twins. In part, thats because I expected this fairly young team to get better as the year progressed. But mostly it's because the rest of the division is so mediocre.
Starting at the bottom of the divison...
- The Royals (21-32) appear to still be the Royals. That's a little harsh, because I continue believe this team is considerably better than in previous years and are on the right track, but this young lineup needs to improve across the board.
- The Tigers (22-31) are better than their record, and still capable of a major run. But it's worth noting that they STILL haven't scored as many runs as they've given up. Neither have the Twins, btw, but the Twins aren't starting nine games under .500.
- The Indians (24-29) are by no means out of this thing, but similarly they aren't a lock for 90 wins this year. In fact, even to get to 86 wins, they need to go 62-47 over the remaining four months, winning almost 57% of their games. So far, they've won 45%.
- The team the Twins are trailing, the White Sox, won 72 games last year. They also collapsed over the second half of the season.
Just to be clear, I'm not giving the Twins the title. But you look at that list and tell me who the clear-cut favorite is.