Pitching, Reserves Leading The Way

The Twins look like they are ready to try and make a run at the Wild Card, after winning five of their last six games. After taking two of three from Wild Card leading Oakland, and on the verge of sweeping American League Central leading Chicago, the Twins have shown they have the depth and the pitching to turn some heads. Here is an inside look at the Twins:

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Left for dead a week ago, the Minnesota Twins have poked their heads back into the American League Wild Card race. On the strength of great pitching and some timely hitting, the "Little Franchise That Could" has brought themselves to within five games of the coveted Wild Card spot.

On Wednesday, the Twins will trot out their ace pitcher to do what many people thought unthinkable at the beginning of the series, sweep the Chicago White Sox. Yes those White Sox, the same team that has been burying the entire American League all season long.

So when Johan Santana takes the ball Wednesday in Chicago, there is much more on the line than just another win. It is about redemption, it is about pride, and most importantly, it is about making a statement. A statement that tells the South-Siders that the Twins will not be a doormat anymore.

To recap what has been going on in Minnesota this past week, one only has to look at the performances by the Twins' starting pitchers. Since being blanked by Seattle Mariner phenom Felix Hernandez on August 9, the Twins have won five of six, and have gotten a quality start every game. Most impressive was Santana's complete-game shutout of the Wild Card leading Oakland Athletics on August 12, a game that seems to have turned the season around.

In the past seven days, the Twins pitching staff has been so good that of the eleven pitchers who have thrown at least one inning, eight of them have an ERA under 2.00. In fact, only starter Joe Mays has an ERA over 5.00, proving that pitching and defense really are the cogs of a great team.

However, there have been many minor pieces that have become major links in the chain. When Juan Castro went to the disabled list, the Twins brought up journeyman Brent Abernathy, and he has been just what the doctor ordered. Since being called up, Abernathy is 4-9, and has raised his season average from .263 to .321.

Lew Ford, who has become the everyday centerfielder with Torii Hunter on the disabled list, has at least one base hit in five of his last six games. In his last ten games, Ford has batted .286, with four RBI and three stolen bases.

Still, if the Twins want to be a legitimate contender for the Wild Card, they need to get more out of Justin Morneau. Fact is, he has looked lost at the plate, and is batting .196 in his last ten games. Even though he has two home runs in his last four games, the Twins are hoping for more consistency from a guy who batted .271 with 19 home runs in only 74 games in 2004.

Probably the hottest stick in the lineup right now is Joe Mauer, who is batting .370 over his last six games. He has driven in five runs in that time, and has ripped six doubles. If he continues to hit like this, he could finish the season well above the .300 mark.

Still 13.0 games back in the race for the American League Central crown, the Twins should see their run end at three straight titles. But with the way Oakland has fallen off lately, and with the Yankees and Red Sox battling for that American League East crown, the Twins just may be able to sneak in and snatch the Wild Card.

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