Twins struggle to score
Twins averaging just 2.71 runs through seven games
By La Velle E. Neal III
MINNEAPOLIS — It sounded like a great way to kick off the first road trip of the season.
Twins veterans planned to make the rookies sing while they traveled to Chicago (Denard Span feared that he would have to croon a George Strait tune). Then a large group of players wanted to roll into one of the Windy City’s fine restaurants for a good meal.
After losing, 3-1, to Kansas City on Sunday, hopefully the Twins can scribble out a plan on a dinner napkin that will unleash the deeper and more dynamic offense they were supposed to have when they left spring training.
Royals journeyman righthander Brett Tomko shut them down for five innings and Kansas City’s bullpen limited them to a solo homer by Justin Morneau as they avoided getting swept in the three game series.
Closer Joakim Soria struck out the side in the ninth to end the game, forcing Twins manager Ron Gardenhire to utter the cliche’ about tipping his cap to the opponent.
"They just pitched a little better than us," Gardenhire said. "We made (Tomko) throw a lot of pitches early but he made some pitches too."
Carlos Gomez can be a disruptive force when he gets on the bases. The Twins started rookies Matt Tolbert and Denard Span on Sunday but they didn’t look overmatched at the plate. Morneau has homered in two straight games. Joe Mauer (.318) and Delmon Young (.296) haven’t shown much power but have been productive.
The Twins’ new-look offense, however, has been up to its old ways.
The Twins are batting .252 through seven games.
They are averaging 2.71 runs a game.
They are batting .216 with runners in scoring position.
They grounded into two double plays on Sunday, giving them 15 through seven games — they entered the game tied for the A.L. lead in that category.
Early season trends are misleading, but it’s not the way the Twins want to be swinging as they head for a three-city road trip against A.L. Central foes: Their rivals in Chicago, the improved Royals and the powerful Tigers.
"As the week went on, guys got a little more relaxed," hitting coach Joe Vavra said. "We’re not there yet but I still like the quality of at-bats.
"It’s going to get better because they are learning. It’s all going to take shape."
Twins starters, a group considered a work in progress before the season began, have an 3.89 ERA through seven games. That includes righthander Boof Bonser, who gave up some hard hits Sunday but emerged with three earned runs given up over a seven innings.
He gave his team a chance to win. But after Morneau’s 429-foot homer in the sixth made it 3-1, 10 of the next 11 Twins were retired. Joey Gathright made a nice running catch of a dangerous drive to right-center by Jason Kubel in the seventh. That was the only time they looked dangerous at the plate during the late innings.
"We have guys who can hit. It’s just a matter of time for guys to get comfortable hitting in the lineup," Morneau said. "I have confidence in this lineup. There’s a little more power, more balance in this lineup. We have a better chance to force pitchers to pitch to guys."