Foul tip: South side slaughter, on to KC

The trouble with the weekend series in Chicago wasn't the sweep for the Chox. It was that the play by the Twinkies was so flat that it was hard to watch.

For the record, Brad Radke's streak of giving up home runs within the first three innings remains in tact; he did so against the Angels last week and again in Chicago on Saturday. It's the one preseason prognistication I made that has been right so far.

And I wish it weren't true, but his season has been especially vexing, even by the low standards of Bradke ball. True, the entire starting rotation has been a flop (though I'm not ready to give up on relievers like Jesse Crain and Juan Rincon), but it's clear that whatever quiet powers Radke has possessed are waning.

For instance, on Saturday night, FSN's Dick Bremer wondered aloud how disconcerting it was that Radke's fastball was at times clocking in the mid-80s. Bert Blyleven's insightful reaction? "I'm sure he's throwing as hard as he can," the Dutchman deflected.

On paper, pitching is really all this team has; on the field, the Twins will soon be out of any kind of contention before the hurlers get their act together.

And when the highlight of the week is a home run off J.C. Romero, you know things ain't right.

Other notes of distress:

1) The flailings and failings of Hunter and Morneau. The batting averages are embarrassing for the heart of any lineup (.229 and .215, respectively), though one could almost forgive that by looking at the RBIs for the not-so-fearsome twosome (13 and 14).

But that would be to ignore how impatient and foolish each has looked at the plate. Neither player is capable of working a count or getting on base with any kind of consistency. Hunter has five walks versus 17 strikeouts in 70 at-bats; Morneau has four BOBs and 18 Ks in 65 official trips to the plate.

Hunter, especially, seems to be receiving his swing selection telepathically from Jacque Jones in Chicago.

2. That old dog Sierra. I've been holding out hope that Ruben Sierra would be a Don Baylor-like acquisition for this year's Twinks, but now I'm not so sure. Initially, I thought Sierra would spell Morneau in the field once in a while, but apparently Sierra didn't take to first base. (Although putting Michael Cuddyer there, as the Ron Gardenhire did Friday, didn't seem to present any real problems.)

More than that, I didn't figure in how much his age would make him injury prone. The Twins had to play Rondell White in left in lieu of Shannon Stewart all weekend; the result was that Sierra's stint as a regular DH proved that his body won't allow for such a role.

3. Morneau's mitt. One surprising bright spot has been how comfortable Morneau looks in the field. He won't be picking up any Gold Gloves anytime soon, and he'll probably never be the vacuum that Kent Hrbek was. But his play thus far has been solid, with some flashes of grace and smarts. It's enough to make a Twins fan forget about Doug Mientkiewicz--if Dougie Baseball weren't hitting 50 points higher than the kid right now.

Not to compare the two--Justin's the future, right?--but there will be some head-to-head going on this week as the Twins take on the Royals in KC. If Minnesota isn't within one game of .500 going into the weekend series in Detroit, it's time for this team to offically aim lower. Much lower.


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