With all the mistakes that were made prior to the 2006 season, whether it was Tony Batista, Juan Castro at shortstop, or Ruben Sierra, the Twins have made the right moves lately, and it has shown in their record. The young guns are stepping up, and it seems like anybody they put into the puzzle turns in a nice performance (see Nick Punto). So here were the Twins, three games back of Wild Card leading Chicago, and in total control of their destiny going into Monday night's matchup.
The White Sox have been players during the trade deadline, picking up reliever Mike McDougal, and possibly slugger Alfonso Soriano. The Twins have found the pieces they need in house, and if they need more, they can always dip once again into the most talent-laden farm system in baseball. So the two teams squared off on Monday night, and with the playoffs in sight, the Twins put a hurting on the Sox, defeating the defending champions 7-2.
After a ho-hum first three innings, the White Sox got on the board first, scoring one run in the bottom of the fourth. Paul Konerko blasted a home run off the ever-improving Brad Radke with one out, but the Sox were unable to do anything else in the inning. They would notch another run in the bottom of the fifth, as Juan Uribe homered to lead off the inning, which was followed by a double by Brian Anderson. After a sac fly by Scott Podsednik, Radke settled down, and worked his way out of the jam.
That would be all she wrote for the Sox, as the Twins would go on to score three runs in both the top of the sixth and top of the seventh, giving themselves the lead for good. Nick Punto singled to open the sixth, running his career-high hit streak to 16 games. After a Joe Mauer strikeout, Michael Cuddyer blasted his 13th home run of the season to tie the game, and was followed by Justin Morneau's 26th shot. The Twins would end the inning up 3-2, and their incredible bullpen would hold up their end of the bargain once more.
"Our pitching staff is what is going to lead us to the playoffs," one Twins official said. "But we are definitely providing some power at the plate lately."
The Twins would show more of that pop in the seventh inning, when Mauer blasted a three-run home run, which was his eighth of the season. Jason Tyner had led off the inning with a single, and Jason Bartlett followed with a double to put runners on second and third. Punto then grounded into a fielder's choice, as Tyner was nailed at the plate, to give the Twins runners on first and third. After Punto stole second, Mauer launched his three-run dinger, giving the Twins a 6-2 lead.
In the ninth, the Twins added more insurance, as Mauer drove in Tyner with a sacrifice fly to make the score 7-2. With the bases loaded, Morneau would pop out to second, but by then the outcome of the game was pretty much set.
Kyle Lohse would come on to pitch the ninth for the Twins, and the Sox tried to make it interesting as Brian Anderson blasted a two-run home run to left-center. Lohse would settle in to record the third out, and the Twins would take the first game of the series. Johan Santana goes for the Twins on Tuesday, as he takes on Jose Contreras in game two.
If the Twins play like they did on Monday night, then there is every reason in the world to think that the playoffs are no longer a dream.