It's hard to recall the last time a team's fortunes went from so bad to so good in so short a time as those of the 1994 Twins. Through April 29, Minnesota had lost 16 of its 24 games, was last in the American League Central (6� games out of first) and had allowed 10 or more runs in a game eight times. As bad as the numbers looked, the Twins themselves looked even worse on the field.
But, suddenly, through Sunday they had won 14 of their next 18 games, without giving up 10 runs in any of those games, and had climbed into a tie for second place, 2� games behind the White Sox. What's more, Minnesota had taken seven of eight games from the three best teams in the powerful American League East—the Orioles, the Yankees and the Red Sox—in a home stand that ended Sunday with a 9-2 loss to Boston. "The spirit around here is certainly better than it was three weeks ago," said Minnesota closer Rick Aguilera, who, now that the Twins are a Central contender, has been taken off the trading block.
The resurgence was sparked by the return to action of outfielder Shane Mack, another player the Twins had tried to unload recently because he makes so much money ($3.25 million). Since coming off the disabled list (injured right shoulder) on May 3, Mack had hit .393 with three homers and 15 RBIs in 16 games. Also, during the big home stand, 42-year-old DH Dave Winfield homered three times and had a five-RBI game and a four-RBI game.
While the Minnesota pitching staff remains suspect (6.19 ERA through Sunday, second worst in the majors), vast improvement was made this month. Scott Erickson won consecutive starts for the first time since September 1992 (a span of 44 starts), and Pat Mahomes (4-1) won three times after having mastered his breaking pitch.
Given the Twins' curious season, it should come as no surprise that they beat the Red Sox 21-2 and 1-0 in two games played within 24 hours of each other last Friday and Saturday. In the lopsided win, Minnesota's Kirby Puckett had three hits and seven RBIs after five innings, and in the narrow one, Kevin Tapani and Aguilera combined for the shutout.
A Drop in the Crime Rate
Through Sunday, after seven weeks of the season, Rickey Henderson had three stolen bases, Tim Raines had three times as many home runs (six) as steals (two), and the Mets had only eight thefts in 18 tries. There has been an average of 1.38 stolen bases a game, a pace that if it holds up, would be the lowest since 1975, when there were 1.31 stolen bases a game.
Base thieves are as plentiful as ever, so why have steals been on the decline?
Most observers of the game note that with the ball flying out of the park at a record pace, managers are less inclined to risk having a runner thrown out trying to steal if the next guy up might hit a home run. Then, too, as Pirate pitching coach Ray Miller says, "Pitching has been extremely bad, and if a pitcher has nothing, you're not going to give him an out."