Thoughts for the Next Week
1.) Can the Twins beat AL Central opponents on the road?
The next six games against the Indians and White Sox, in Cleveland and Chicago, will be tremendously important for the team. They've managed to pull themselves back into the wild card race, but unless they can win on the road (and unless they can beat Chicago at all), they won't be able to get any closer than they are now.
2.) Will there be any trade deadline activity?
The Twins won't be able to move Shannon Stewart or Torii Hunter at the deadline, but will they make a play to pick up an outfielder, third baseman, or reliever? It seems unlikely that there will be any major moves, but it seems very likely that Kyle Lohse will be going somewhere, and it's possible that Lew Ford will also be on the move if he gets healthy and someone is interested in him.
3.) Are the White Sox really in trouble?
It's only indirectly a Twins question, but I'm pretty sure Twins fans are curious. They're 1-5 since the All-Star break, and their pitching is nothing like what it was last year. Will the White Sox continue to struggle, or will they pull out of their rut? I believe it will be hard for the Sox to recover if they go through much more of a rough stretch, because everything came so easily for them last year. They aren't used to having to battle, and they look just plain tired. That, and Ozzie Guillen seems like the type to overreact, so if the team continues to lose games he isn't going to be a lot of fun to play for, and that could easily affect how the White Sox finish the season.
4.) Can Pat Neshek and Rondell White continue to produce?
Two completely different players, at completely different stages of their career. I lump them together because they're both important for the Twins continued success. If Neshek can continue to hold down the 7th inning job, it frees up Dennys Reyes for situational relief. Meanwhile, the Twins need Rondell to hit, preferably for power, if they are going to weather the current injury storm, and also if they are going to make a run for the playoffs. The next week will go a long way to showing whether or not White is really better, or whether it's been a bit of a fluke.
5.) Will the Starting Pitching continue to shine?
It seems that almost nothing can stop Francisco Liriano or Johan Santana, but the Twins need Brad Radke to continue to pitch solidly, and they need Carlos Silva to get quality starts regularly. If they were ahead in the race, they could afford to just survive when the 5th starter pitches, but they need Scott Baker to step up and contribute as well. Can the back three in the rotation keep it up, or is there going to be trouble there?