Unbearable Sox, Twins bear watching

A couple of days ago, I tweeted that the two-game Twins-Sox series would be like watching a table of cheapskates trying to settle a tab. It will be worked out eventually, but nobody will look good doing it.

None of the developments over the last 36 hours have convinced me otherwise. Have you ever seen Multiplicity? I have not, but I know one of the underlying concepts - the clone isn't as sharp as the original. That's pretty much at play here.

The White Sox are a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of a respectable Major League Baseball team.

And the Twins are a copy of the White Sox.

The similarities are multifold:

  • The White Sox just snapped a five-game losing streak; the Twins have lost six in a row.
  • The Sox have the second-worst run differential in the league (-32); the Twins are twice as bad (-64).
  • Both teams have their most expensive players on the DL, due in some part to mismanagement in the spring. But most figured Jake Peavy wouldn't start the season with the Sox. The Twins weren't nearly as prepared to deal with Joe Mauer's absence.
  • The White Sox have developed a typical way to lose, but Twinkie Town has a boilerplate recap.
  • Adam Dunn has been struggling, and yet he has three times as many homers as Justin Morneau.
  • The White Sox are returning to spring training drills at the start of May; the Twins held a team meeting after a blowout loss, only to get blown out the next day.

There are more, and they will be touched upon later. In the meanwhile [/Ozzie], I'll focus on the rather large implications of the first pitching matchup. Plainly put, it would be a splendid time for all parties involved for Edwin Jackson to resume his contract drive.

Jackson will face Francisco Liriano, and Liriano embodies his team's problems. His season got off a weird start before it actually began -- he was surrounded by persistent rumors regarding a trade to the Yankees, mainly because the Twins weren't interested in signing him to a long-term contract. In spring training, Minnesota pitching coach Rick Anderson called out Liriano for not keeping up on conditioning in the offseason.

After his second start, Ron Gardenhire said he wanted Liriano -- who struck out 201 batters in 192 innings in 2010 -- to pitch to contact. That didn't help. Now, Liriano is 1-4 with a 9.13 ERA, with 18 walks and 18 strikeouts over 23 2/3 innings, and tonight's start could be his last for a while should his struggles continue.

We shouldn't assume they will, of course, considering the way Brad Penny used the White Sox offense to springboard back into mediocrity. But if Liriano stumbles once again, it could do irrevocable damage to the Twins' 2011 plans.

The problem is that Jackson hasn't been much better. Look at their last four starts:

  • Liriano: 1-3, 9.31 ERA, 19 1/3 IP, 23 H, 13 BB, 15 K, 2 HR
  • Jackson: 0-3, 8.44 ERA, 21 1/3 IP, 34 H, 12 BB, 12 K, 2 HR

They're basically the same pitcher, at least as much as you could expect two pitchers to resemble each other across one random sample. Liriano's problems seem to stem from bad mechanics, but Jackson too has had release point problems. The slider that dominated the Tampa Bay Rays in his second start is now being thrown high and wide far too often.

This Liriano-Jackson matchup is a fascinating one. They're both high-ceiling pitchers with big problems on their hands. They have a history of ineffectiveness against their opponents (see: Liriano vs. Sox, Jackson vs. Twins), but neither team could hit a pinata right now -- even without the blindfold. They have terrible defenses behind them. Really, this game could unfold in a dozen different ways, including a couple of bloodcurdling outcomes.

If Liriano struggles, we know what'll happen: Hello, Kevin Slowey. If Jackson can't shake his slump, that answer is far more unclear. It might not even be a question for the Sox brass.

However, now that Mark Buehrle has shook off the cobwebs, the rest of the rotation is leaving Jackson behind. There's an impending crunch with Jake Peavy on the cusp of a return. Right now, Phil Humber is considered the odd man out, at least halfway. From what I'm watching, Jackson shouldn't be a given.

(Caveat break: Jake Peavy isn't starting for the White Sox until he's starting for the White Sox, and while Humber is throwing a new pitch, that alone isn't enough evidence to suggest his success is sustainable. OK, onwards and upwards...)

Both Jackson and Humber will face run-starved clubs this week, as the latter will pitch against the Seattle Mariners on Friday. If the current trends continue -- Jackson can't locate, while Humber pitches backwards to success -- will Jackson start facing the same scrutiny that now weighs Liriano down?

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