Twins weathering injury storm on road trip

Twins weathering injury storm on road trip

Twins weathering injury storm on road trip
CHICAGO -- The question drew a slight smile from Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, and an equally pithy initial response.

The question: "How has your team changed during this road trip, if at all?"

The answer: "Oh, there's been changes. There's been lots of changes ... and body parts."

Gardenhire's Twins, of course, are currently down to just Carl Pavano as the lone remaining starting pitcher who began the season in the rotation. Injuries have forced a number of new faces and new arms into the mix, but over the previous seven games the team has responded well, with a 5-2 record heading into Thursday night's series finale against the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field.

After the chuckles died down from his initial response, Gardenhire got right down to the heart of what's most helped his team succeed during this road swing that's seen Minnesota win series against Detroit and Milwaukee before splitting the first two games in Chicago.

"Confidence," Gardenhire said bluntly. "When you start winning games and you put little streaks together ... I think we've gone 5-2 on this trip and played some pretty good baseball teams and played pretty good ... definitely the confidence level is up there. We expect to win."

The Twins have also started to expect better offensive efforts, excluding a 6-0 loss on Wednesday night in which they stranded six baserunners. Overall in the first seven games, the Twins hit a collective .278 and averaged 6.3 runs per game. They also clubbed seven home runs and hit .307 with runners in scoring position.

That part, according to veteran infielder Jamey Carroll, was instrumental in the team's turnaround from its previous losing ways.

"The combination to being successful is getting good starting pitching and timely hitting, and we seem like we've gotten some big key hits with runners in scoring position," Carroll said. "It allows our pitchers to come out and attack the zone and have more of a comfort level. Obviously, when you win some games it builds your confidence level and it helps out."

On Wednesday night, the Twins lapsed back into some bad habits at the plate by hitting into three double plays to thwart rallies -- which pushed them to 49 on the season to trail only Baltimore's 50 for most in the Majors. However, the trip as a whole hasn't seen quite as many offensive opportunities squandered.

"It's just having a couple guys get some key hits here and there," Carroll said.

"That's big, and that's something that's kind of been missing throughout the year. In most games, it comes down to who gets the key hits and then comes back out and gets a shutdown inning -- and we've been able to do that on this road trip for the majority of it."