We're off by one crummy day. Such is the fickle nature of the baseball gods.
Memorial Day has always been a special day for baseball in Minnesota, even before the Twins arrived. When the Minneapolis Millers and St. Paul Saints were the dueling minor league clubs in town, they would schedule home-and-away doubleheaders on Memorial Day, July 4th and Labor Day. Some of those games (and the ensuing brawls) were legendary.
Monday's Memorial Day game at Target Field had a chance for that kind of excitement. The kids are off of school, the weekend chores are already done (right?) and they're even giving away 10,000 Kingsford grill tongs at the game. All that was needed was that premier pitching matchup....
And it's happening one day late. Tuesday night the Twins will send out developing ace Phil Hughes to face the Rangers perennial ace Yu Darvish. That, I'm afraid, is this series' hot ticket. If, like me, you're taking the family to see the Memorial Day game today, you might want to opt for bleacher seats in right field for a home run ball; Kevin Correia is squaring off against Rangers pitcher Nick Tepesch.
The truth is, you almost can't go wrong this week. Summer is truly here, and other than some chances of a thunderstorm, it looks gorgeous. It also helps that the word most used to describe the Rangers lately is "reeling." Or maybe"decimated."
Both describe the recent news that slugging first baseman Prince Fielder will likely miss the rest of the year due to surgery on a herniated disk in his neck. It might not surprise you that the 275-pound Fielder has some spinal issues, and that might explain the significant dip in his stats over the last year-and-a-half. But Fielder has also been the model of durability, playing 547 consecutive games before being sidelined last week.
It's rare that one would describe Fielder as a "tip" instead of an "iceberg," but in this case, it's true. His injury just adds to the plethora of injuries the Rangers have been facing. Three starting pitchers are hurt. Most of the infield has been out at one time or another. Four relievers are out, three of them possibly for the rest of the year.
It's not hard to see the impact. Texas enters the series ranked 11th in runs scored in the American League and 11th in runs against. Their 25-25 record is still respectable, but it hides that they started the season 14-8, and have been sliding ever since. Even the GM, John Daniels, sounds a little defeated when he says quotes like "I haven’t ever been a part of anything like this — never across the board to this degree. You try to plan all offseason to give yourself depth. ... But there is a limit to how many premium innings you can replace, and how many premium offensive players you can replace.
That sort of quote just breeds overconfidence, but the Rangers still stole a series from the Tigers this weekend, scoring a dozen runs in each of the last two games. The Twins have an opportunity to kick the Rangers while they’re down, and before they head to Yankee Stadium for a weekend series. Best take advantage of it.
Yu vs Hughes
At the very least, Rangers fans can look forward to every fifth day. Like Felix Hernandez last weekend, the Twins will get to face one of the very best pitchers in the American League on Tuesday night. Darvish sits near the top of the AL leaderboard in nearly every pitching category: ERA (2.35 - 3rd), strikeouts (73- 7th), WHIP (1.11 - 7th) and even WAR (2.4 - 2nd). Whether you like it or not,the Twins are getting to face a lot of very good pitchers this year. Let's not forget about Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, James Shields, Chris Sale and Justin Masterson, all in the AL Central. But even among the best, Darvish can lay claim to being a King of the Hill.
An interesting question is whether we're watching a Twins pitcher grow into that elite class. Phil Hughes has been demonstrating the same promise he showed as a minor league prospect now that he has escaped from New York. Hughes started slowly; in his first three starts he only went five innings in each and gave up four earned runs in each. But over his last six starts, check out his stats next to Darvish’s last six:
Clearly, this is selective sampling. And Hughes may want to continue this trend for more than a month before we start comparing him to the best in the game. But there is hope that Tuesday night’s game could be close to a competitive affair. That’s not something that we could say too often over the last three years when a pitcher like Darvish came to town.
As one might expect, tickets are getting scarce for Target Field now that the weather is heating up. Now is when having a local ticket broker on your side makes a lot of sense. Monday's game still has good lower level seats available, but the cheap seats are gone. Believe it or not, the Darvish/Hughes duel still has some $6 tickets available. Wednesday night's prices look inviting, too. Finally, Thursday's Twins day game tickets are so good you can't afford TO go to work. All are an even better deal if you use the promo code DAILYDOUBLE, which will get you 10% off and supports Twins Daily. Whatever your needs, your local ticket supplier,Ticket King, can help.