Just when the Twins looked as if they had their pitching back on track and had figured out how to win within their division, their outfield got clobbered with injuries over the weekend -- including a devastating blow Sunday when they discovered that five-time Gold Glove center fielder Torii Hunter
would miss at least a month because of a stress fracture in his left foot.
Hunter, the team's singular leader who was hitting .269 with 14 homers, was forced to leave Saturday's game early when the pain he'd been playing with got so bad it put him on the brink of tears. He was placed on the disabled list Sunday following an MRI that revealed the fracture in the fourth metatarsal. The move came one day after left fielder Shannon Stewart (foot) went on the DL and two days after outfielder Lew Ford (oblique) was disabled.
"We're in dire straits," said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, who already was carrying an extra pitcher and who on Sunday was down to two bench players.
The Twins lost Hunter to a season-ending injury last year when he broke his left ankle chasing a ball into the triangle area of center field in Fenway Park on July 30, essentially ending their hopes at a long-shot comeback attempt in the wild-card race.
The Twins were 54-48 when Hunter was hurt last year. Counting the July 30 game he left on a cart, Minnesota went 29-31 the rest of the way.
Making his first start since July 7, when he left in the second inning after wrenching his knee, Carlos Silva pitched six strong innings to help the Twins beat Cleveland 5-2 Sunday. Minnesota earned its third consecutive victory following a loss to the Indians in the second-half opener Thursday.
The victory moved the Twins back to 10 games over .500 for the first time since July 4. Their high-water mark was 11 games over .500, after beating Kansas City on July 3. The Twins improved their big-league-best home record to 33-11.
NOTES, QUOTES:The Twins' outfield injury train started right out of the second-half gate when OF Lew Ford was forced to leave Thursday's game with an oblique injury and later went on the disabled list. Then Saturday, CF Torii Hunter (stress fracture, left foot) and LF Shannon Stewart (plantar fasciitis, left foot) both left Saturday's game with injuries, Stewart's so severe he was placed on the DL immediately that night. Hunter went on the 15-day DL the following day after an MRI revealed the fracture.OF/DH Rondell White, the .179-hitting free agent many thought had started his last game for the Twins, was recalled from a minor league rehabilitation assignment early to replace LF Shannon Stewart on the roster. White, who had been out with a strained left shoulder, was back in the Twins' lineup Sunday as the DH. He also made an immediate impact, going 2-for-3 and delivering his first home run of the season. It was White's first homer in 184 at-bats, dating to last Aug. 14 -- the day before he separated his left shoulder and was lost for the season.OF Josh Rabe, who was batting .297 at Triple-A Rochester, was called up to replace CF Torii Hunter, who went on the disabled list Sunday. Rabe's addition gives the Twins five rookies on their active roster, and when he plays, he'll be the fourth player this season to make his major league debut with the Twins (RHPs Willie Eyre, Boof Bonser and Pat Neshek).3B Terry Tiffee missed games Saturday and Sunday after leaving for Little Rock, Ark., to be with his wife, Kelli, for the births of their twin sons Saturday. He was expected to rejoin the team Monday. His absence, and the combination of injuries to outfielders over the weekend, left the Twins with just two bench players by Sunday (C Mike Redmond and OF Jason Kubel).LHP Johan Santana, who earned his 10th victory of the season Saturday against the Indians, also ran his streak of consecutive home starts without a loss to 16. His record in those starts is 10-0.The Twins on Sunday improved to 12-21 against teams in their own division, and they no longer have the worst record in the majors in that category. Their .364 intradivision winning percentage is tied with Tampa Bay (16-28) and better than both Seattle (.357, 10-18) and Kansas City (.342, 13-25). The Twins play four home games this week against Tampa Bay before embarking on a key stretch of nine consecutive division games at Cleveland, at Chicago and vs. Detroit.
BY THE NUMBERS: 3 -- Number of outfielders the Twins placed on the disabled list in a three-day span last week.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "You worry about foul tips off the shoulder, off the hands. Anything can cause a slump to a catcher. It's just too much. It's a hell of a lot to expect, but watching this kid hit, it's a thing of beauty. It's like a big Tony Gwynn." -- Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench, on Joe Mauer's chances to become the third catcher in post-1900 history to win a batting title (Ernie Lombardi in 1938, '42; Bubbles Hargrave in 1926).
In this edition of Twins Inside Pitch, Johan Santana runs his streak of home starts without a loss to 16, Josh Rabe gets the call to the big leagues, the Twins send their third outfielder to the disabled list, and so much more.
An inside look at the Minnesota Twins.
Santana has not lost in 16 home starts.