MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins batted a Major League-best .305 with runners in scoring position during the 2008 season. But so far this year, the club hasn't found it so easy to duplicate that success.
Minnesota is hitting .265 with runners in scoring position through the first 20 games of the '09 season, ranking near the middle of all big league teams. The club has particularly struggled in those situations over the last two games, going just 1-for-18 (.056) with RISP in two losses.
Knowing how successful they were hitting with RISP last year, are the Twins confident these struggles won't last long?
"I wish it was that simple to say we're going to turn it around," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "For every team, it goes in cycles. You get in those streaks where you bloop balls, bang them hard and they are all falling in. Then you get in the other cycle, where you are hitting line drives right at people. We did that on [Monday] and did that in the game before, where we hit a bunch of balls really hard right at people. You just have to keep swinging."
The Twins had two runners on base with one or no outs in four different innings in Monday's 7-1 loss to the Rays, but they were unable to convert any of those opportunities. Twins hitting coach Joe Vavra said he believes a big reason for some of the recent trouble has been related to pitch selection.
"We haven't been hitting hitters' pitches; we've been swinging at pitchers' pitches in offensive counts," Vavra said. "We've been swinging at pitches we have no business swinging at -- and that's trying to do too much."
Minnesota's average with RISP still is better than the team's overall average on the season (.257). But one stark difference between the Twins' wins and losses this year has been their batting average with RISP. In the club's nine wins, the team is batting .394 (41-for-104) with RISP. But in the club's 11 losses, they are hitting just .091 (7-for-77) in those situations.
"We weren't too successful early in the year hitting with runners in scoring position last year, but they keep working on it every day," Vavra said. "They're probably putting a little more pressure on themselves right now. If you aren't hitting really well and if your average is struggling, instead of maybe trying to get one run, then maybe you are trying to get both runners in. We need to get back to focusing on getting the job done."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.