There is nothing more satisfying than sweeping a hated division rival at home (except maybe sweeping them, no...better yet, clinching the division in their ballpark), especially one as whiny as the Pale Hose. Brian Duensing stepped in for an injured Francisco Liriano and successfully shut down the White Sox for five innings. He surrendered a couple of solo homers to Jayson Nix and Carlos Quentin, but pitched pretty well for the most part, allowing only three hits and a walk while racking up a pair of strikeouts. Duensing was hardly dominant, but he posted a decent 48/16 K/BB ratio and managed to induce quite a few ground balls. The lefty hadn't fared well as a reliever, posting a 5.50 ERA and 1.50 WHIP in nine appearances, but maybe that was just because he didn't get to use most of his secondary stuff pitching out of the bullpen. Obviously, it will take more than one decent start to prove Duensing can pitch effectively in the major leagues, nor am I ready to give up on F-bomb just yet (he can be fixed), but it was gratifying to see a rookie confound the Sox hitters all the same.
It's amazing the difference one series can make. After the last West Coast disaster, the Twins were trailing the Tigers by four games and looked to be falling out of contention fast. One sweep of the White Sox, and a subsequent series loss by Detroit to the Rangers, and the Twins are right back in the hunt. They could use some pitching help, both in the rotation and the bullpen, and it sounds like they have been aggressively pursuing a few players but aren't close on anything. That might not be a bad thing. As frustrating as it is to watch the team sit on its hands at the trade deadline, I would hate for them to mortgage away a significant part of the future in a misguided attempt to win now. A season and a half of Freddy Sanchez isn't worth losing Danny Valencia (or maybe even Aaron Hicks, for that matter), a top prospect who will probably be the starting third baseman next year. Considering how difficult it's been for the Twins to find a decent third baseman since Corey Koskie left five years ago, it would be foolish to deal Valencia for a midseason rental. Few of these blockbuster deals for rental players ever work out, and some end up screwing over the organization for decades. Case in point: the 1987 Detroit Tigers. The Tigers found themselves in contention despite getting off to a slow 11-19 start, and dealt a top pitching prospect to the Braves for Doyle Alexander in an effort to bolster their rotation. The result: they finished the season 98-64 and made it all the way to the ALCS before nearly being swept by the eventual WS champion Twins. Detroit would fail make the playoffs again for almost 20 years, while posting 15 losing seasons in the meantime. Oh, and that prospect they dealt? Some guy named John Smoltz. I'm pretty sure the Tigers would like to have that one back.
The Twins have an off day today before opening a three game series against the Angels at home. I'll be out of town all weekend, visiting my aunt who lives in the wilderness of Northern Minnesota/Southern Cananda. There's no cable, internet, or cell phone access so I'll have no idea what in the hell is going on until sometime Monday afternoon. It may be for the best, considering the miserable effort the Twins put up against the Angels the last time around. Still, the Twins did sweep the Angels the last time they were in town (when Jason Kubel had a very memorable game), and they do lead the season series 4-3 despite nearly being swept in Anaheim. Back-to-back series sweeps would put the team in a very good position to win the division, though that might be a little too much to ask.