2019 Recap: Game Twenty-eight

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!

20 thoughts on “2019 Recap: Game Twenty-eight”

  1. So, realistically, Kimbrel and Keuchel will probably be signed fairly shortly after the draft, since the associated loss of a pick won't be a thing at that point. I'm really not sold on Keuchel (trending the wrong direction). Kimbrel could be a good pickup, though.

    Bumgarner is going to be the marquee name in the trade market, and he's going to cost a ton.

    1. It seems to me they need more help in the pen than the rotation, if Perez's cutter really is for real.

      1. It would be nice if Reed could come back and be something other than a shadow of his former self. I'm not holding my breath, though.

        The one problem with Kimbrel is that he displaces Parker, and Parker appears to be exactly where he should be right now -- getting three outs in clean innings with the lead. I don't know that I'd want him coming into the game with the bases loaded.

        1. Kimbrel doesn't have to replace Parker. But that certainly will factor into his price, etc. There's a part of me that feels like a better bullpen arm might come cheaper via trade.

          1. That's two problems, that's... like... too many problems.

            I think Kimbrel would be fine. I don't imagine he's been sitting on the couch eating bon bons this entire time.

      2. For the regular season, I'd say you're right. But it'd be great to have someone to pair with Berrios for a playoff series. Bump Pineda to the pen, Gibson & Perez (assuming he keeps this up) as #3 and 4...

  2. Somewhat quietly, Max Kepler has been playing really, really great. I think he's cemented at the leadoff spot for this season.

    1. Kepler's ISO from 2016 onward: .189, .182, .184, .287. If the ISO stays that high, the lineup may be better served with him batting in the middle. On the other hand, it's sort of a continuation of Dozier.

        1. HR/FB over those same years: 15.2%, 12.1%, 9.9%, 18.9%. For comparison, Joey Gallo's career average is 30.4%. I think the league average is below 19%, but the ball is flying out this year for everyone. 18.9% would have put him at 28th last year in MLB, right between Aaron Hicks and Stephen Piscotty. This year it puts him at 57th.

          1. Thanks!

            I really hope he turns the corner this year. It's seemed like he's been on the cusp of a breakout for a while.

  3. As has been pointed out in the media, Twins are dominating a few of the lowlife teams, and ~.500 against others, and that is exactly what you need to do to take the division.

    What I see as a missing ingredient right now is OB%. The lineup is sink-or-swim on the XBH, and so far they've been getting them, but that can lead to slumps.

    1. We kind of knew that would be the case, though.

      Schoop, Cron, Gonzalez, Cruz...none of these guys are high OBP guys (Cruz's lack of walks sort of surprises me, but he's only gotten to 70 once). Add them in with guys like Rosario and Buxton, and then toss in the hyper-aggressive approach at the plate they've shown so far this season, and you've got a team that is going to live and die by SLG, not OBP.

      1. Yes, I was chatting about this last night with a Twins fan at the bar. In the past few years SLG has been undervalued and OBP has been overvalued. I think the Twins were smart this off season buying low on SLG instead of overpaying for OBP. It may not look pretty all the time, but they built a roster with a lot of power for a reasonable price. We will probably get 20+ home runs out of every single position this year. We will probably get 30+ home runs from 1B, 2B, LF, RF and DH. It may not lead to a World Series run this year, but it was a creative way to field a very competitive team without giving up payroll flexibility this year or next. They can be buyers at the trade deadline and try to have some success in the playoffs. More importantly, I really like the flexibility we have in 2020 and beyond.

      2. Don't forget to include Cruz' HBPs as well, although still lower OB% than you'd expect. Shoot, a 2017 Joe Mauer in the lineup would be just what the Dr. ordered.

        Wonder how this team would fair against lefty starters? We've only faced one so far.

        1. I've been told that this season is proof that Mauer's salary was holding them back.

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