MINNESOTA 6, HOUSTON 2 IN MINNESOTA
Date: Wednesday, May 1.
Batting stars: Nelson Cruz was 2-for-4 with a double and two RBIs. Jorge Polanco was 2-for-4 with a double. Jonathan Schoop was 1-for-3 with a two-run homer, his fifth.
Pitching star: Martin Perez pitched eight shutout innings, giving up four hits and two walks and striking out seven.
Opposition star: Jose Altuve was 2-for-4 with a double.
The game: The Astros opened the game with a walk and a single, but a fly out and a double play ended the threat. The Twins broke through in the third. Mitch Garver was hit by a pitch and Schoop followed with a two-run homer. It did not kill the rally, as Byron Buxton singled, stole second, went to third on a ground out, and scored on an infield hit by Polanco. The Twins led 3-0 through three.
It went to 4-0 in the fifth. Max Kepler hit a one-out double and scored when Cruz delivered a two-out single. Meanwhile, Houston never got more than one man on base in innings two through eight. Jake Marisnick singled and got as far as second base in the third. Altuve doubled and got as far as third base in the sixth.
The Twins added two more in the eighth. Doubles by Polanco and Cruz made it 5-0. A fly ball moved Cruz to third and a sacrifice fly made it 6-0. The Astros spoiled the shutout in the ninth, as Carlos Correa hit a one-out double and scored on a two-out single by Aledmys Diaz. Diaz took second on defensive indifference and scored on a Tyler White single. It was 6-2, and that was where it ended.
WP: Perez (4-0). LP: Collin McHugh (3-3). S: None.
Notes: Garver was 0-for-2 with a hit-by-pitch and is batting .333. Polanco is batting .327. Cruz is batting. 305.
Perez obviously pitched an excellent game. I'll be honest, I was not particularly thrilled when the Twins acquired him. I saw a guy who had been mediocre to below since 2014, plus had injury problems, and I didn't see how he could help. The Twins said they saw flaws they could fix. I was very skeptical, because we've all heard that line or something similar many times.
It's only May, of course, and he's only made four starts. But in those four starts, Perez has been everything you could hope for, if not more. He's 3-0, 2.08, 1.08 WHIP. He has 18 strikeouts and just 5 walks in 26 innings. I don't expect him to do that all season, of course--he'd win the Cy Young Award easily if he did. But if he can be a solid rotation starter all season, that's a big plus, and it looks like he can be.
With the Twins having the best record in the league, with a 2.5 game lead over Cleveland, with Corey Kluber fracturing his arm, with no one else in the division looking very good, I really think the Twins could be considered the favorite to win the division. So the question becomes--is this a year the Twins should go for it? Not make stupid moves that cripple the franchise for years, obviously. But should they be aggressive? Should they go out and try to acquire some players, even at the expense of giving up some possible minor league stars, in an attempt to win this year?
My answer is a qualified yes. It's qualified by the fact that I have no idea what moves may be available to them and what the cost might actually be. Yes, Keuchel and Kimbrel are still out there, but I have no idea what it would take to actually sign them. I also have no idea who's available in trades and what the cost would be. It's easy to say "Go trade for this guy and that guy", but as fans we really don't know whether this guy and that guy are even available, and if they are we don't know how much teams are demanding in order to get them. I'm not advocating that we do a Ramos-for-Capps trade. But I do think the Twins have a real chance, and you never know how many of them you're going to get. I'd like to see them go for it.
Record: The Twins are 18-10, first in the American League Central, 2.5 games ahead of Cleveland.
Projected record: We're still on track for 152-10!