Twins 9 Oakland 4

Beating Detroit three out of four on the weekend was just fine, but the Twins can't afford to let down. Tonight, they looked great against the A's. Carlos Silva, statistically the worst starting pitcher in the American League this season, turned in his second consecutive excellent performance. Now the Twins trail the Tigers by only one-and-a-half games.

Baseball is so strange. Nowhere is the law of averages more dictatorial. For example, there is no way the Tigers could keep winning at a .676 clip. Sure enough, over the past month they have come to earth with a thud, now back below .600 for the year. No way Joe Mauer is going to hit .390. Sure enough, he slumps to .345 before rebounding to .350.

It goes the other way, too. There is no way a once excellent pitcher in his apparent prime like Silva is going to put up an ERA of over 7.00. Sure enough, he starts chiseling it down. No way Rondell White is going to hit below .200--he's just too good. Sure enough, he has been hitting well of late.

The story of the Twins this season has been that the second tier players have taken turns helping out in big ways. Right now, the starting pitching when you get past Santana, which is the team's alleged weakness since Liriano and Radke went down, has been picking up the slack. Bonser and Silva in particular have allowed the Twins to win their games.

But there are other pieces to the puzzle which fell together.

Michael Cuddyer is having his first big season. Finally. He had the talent, but whenever he was given a chance to play everyday in the past, he blew it. Now, he has turned into a good clean-up hitter and has unexpectedly become one of the finest right-fielders in the game. He has thrown out several runners, and the threat of his arm keeps other teams conservative on the bases, which is worth just as much.

Dennys Reyes provides good left-handed relief. The chubby-faced Mexican is having the best season of his career, and he attributes it to Ron Gardenhire's handling of the bullpen. That's something since Reyes wasn't too happy with Gardenhire in spring training when the Twins manager sent him to the minors to work on his pick-off move to first.

Pat Neshek is really been a gem. He recently had a rough loss, followed by two good outings in dramatic situations, and what does he write about on his weblog today? Check it out. He's thrilled with the new box of baseball cards he opened up and he wants to trade some of the extra cards with fans.

Jason Tyner has been solid in the field and is batting over .300. He's one of those players like Randy Bush that the Twins have had when they are successful who always play smart. If the Twins get into the playoffs, I look for Tyner to have one huge, savvy play to match Randy Bush's famous slide into home in the 1991 Series.

Jason Bartlett is playing a great shortstop and is solid at the plate. Big surprise. Gardenhire took a long time to accept Bartlett, sending him down to the minors several times to get more seasoning, despite his good hitting.

Probably the heart of the team is Nick Punto. Despite his idiotic slides into first base, which should get him benched sometime just to make the point that you just don't slide into first ever, Punto's spark has been crucial. A quick third baseman can make such huge difference in the game by stopping balls down the line which would otherwise go for extra bases. Punto has done that several times in the past few weeks. A converted second baseman, nobody upon nobody expected him to hit or field as well as he has for the past three months.

Morneau and Mauer have matured quickly. Morneau finally adjusted to major league curveballs, a transition not all hot-shot minor league sluggers make.

Mike Redmond is the best back-up catcher in baseball, a good hitter (which almost no back-up catchers are) and the chairman of team morale.

Oh, and Torii Hunter is hitting well. Have to give him credit, although tonight he cost the Twins a run by inexplicably refusing to slide into home and getting tagged out instead.

Bottom line: This is a fun team. And I didn't even mention the real superstars, Santana, Nathan and Liriano.