Category Archives: 2019 Twins Game Recaps

2019 Recap: Game One Hundred Forty

MINNESOTA 2, BOSTON 1 IN BOSTON

Date:  Thursday, September 5.

Batting stars:  Willians Astudillo was 1-for-1.  Miguel Sano was 0-for-1 with three walks.  Mitch Garver was 0-for-1 with three walks.

Pitching stars:  Martin Perez pitched six innings, giving up one run on two hits and two walks and striking out one.  Trevor May pitched a perfect inning and struck out one.  Tyler Duffey struck out two in a perfect inning.

Opposition stars:  Mookie Betts was 2-for-4 with a home run (his twenty-sixth) and a double.  Nathan Eovaldi pitched five innings, giving up one run on one hit and four walks and striking out three.

The game:  Neither team even threatened until the fourth, when Betts led off the inning with a home run to give the Red Sox a 1-0 lead.  The Twins got the run back in the fifth, although it wasn't easy.  They opened the inning with three walks, loading the bases with one out.  Then they did what the Twins usually do with the bases loaded.  A double play scored a run and a line out ended the inning.  Still, at least it was tied 1-1.

Boston threatened in the sixth when Betts got a two-out double and Xander Bogaerts walked, and a pickoff error moved them to second and third, but a ground out ended the inning.  In the seventh, a pair of one-out walks and a two-out walk again loaded the bases for the Twins. Astudillo pinch-hit a single to bring home the go-ahead run.  They missed a chance for more when Max Kepler struck out, but it was a 2-1 lead for the good guys.

It stayed there, but it wasn't easy.  The Twins missed another chance in the ninth, when a two-out walk and and an error put men on first and second.  In the bottom of the ninth, Bogaerts got a one-out single.  A force out made the runner Rafael Devers with two out.  J. D. Martinez then doubled off the Green Monster.  Devers tried to score from first, but was cut down on a perfect throw by Eddie Rosario to end the game.

WP:  Perez (10-6).  LP:  Andrew Cashner (11-8).  S:  Taylor Rogers (24).

Notes:  Byron Buxton remained out of the lineup, although he pinch-ran and stayed in the game for defense.  Jake Cave was in center and Kepler in right, a reversal of the way the Twins have been playing.  I don't know if Kepler's health had anything to do with that.  Luis Arraez was at shortstop in place of Jorge Polanco.

Arraez was 1-for-3 with a walk and is batting .343.  Nelson Cruz was 0-for-4 and is batting .305.  Duffey has an ERA of 2.59.  Sergio Romo gave up one hit and no runs in a third of an inning and has an ERA of 3.00.  Rogers gave up one hit and no runs in two-thirds of an inning and has an ERA of 2.49.

Perez is probably the last Twins starter one would expect to be in an old-fashioned pitchers' duel.  And he did it in an old-fashioned way, getting only one strikeout, but giving up only two hits.  I don't know if he got a lot of soft contact or if his defense made some good plays or some of both.  It's not the recommended way to go about it these days, but it worked.

Was Polanco unavailable for some reason?  I mean, it's one thing to give him a night off--Rocco has actually been very good about keeping everyone rested, and I don't have a problem with that.  But I don't know why, when the Twins had a late lead, you wouldn't play Polanco at short and Arraez at second, rather than leaving Arraez at short and playing Astudillo at second.  They could've gone with Ehire Adrianza at second as well, but the game log indicated that perhaps he was unavailable.  Much as I have faith in A-Stud to be able to do everything that it's humanly possible to do on a baseball field, and perhaps something that are not humanly possible as well, the defensive arrangement they went to late in the game is not the defensive arrangement I'd have preferred.  Still, they won the game.

I was unable to watch any of the game and just turned on the radio to hear the last two batters.  Given that the play at the plate ended the game, I kept expecting to hear that Boston was asking for a review, just because there'd be nothing to lose.  When I saw the play, though, I understood why they didn't.  There was simply nothing to review.  Rosario made a beautiful throw and Devers was as out as it's possible for a baserunner to be.  It was a tremendous way to end a tremendous game.

I wonder sometimes if the Twins might have a better chance to score with two out and nobody on than they do with the bases loaded.  I'm sure that's not literally true, but it sure seems like it is.

So the Twins go into a weekend series with a 6.5 game lead on second-place Cleveland.  Even if the Twins lose all three, they're still up by 3.5 games with three weeks to play, which isn't a bad place to be at all.  If they just win one, they're up 5.5, which is an even better place to be.  If they'd win the series, or even sweep, the Indians would start focusing on winning the wild card.  ubelmann used to tell us that it's not really a "must win" game unless a loss eliminates you, and there's truth in that.  In baseball, as in life, nothing is certain until it actually happens.  Still, I'd much rather be in Minnesota's position than in Cleveland's position right now.

Record:  The Twins are 87-53, in first place in the American League Central, 6.5 games ahead of Cleveland.

Projected record:  We're still on track for 109-53!

2019 Recap: Game One Hundred Thirty-six

MINNESOTA 8, DETROIT 3 IN DETROIT

Date::  Sunday, September 1.

Batting stars:  Nelson Cruz was 3-for-5 with two RBIs.  Luis Arraez was 2-for-5 with a double and two runs.  Jake Cave was 2-for-5 with two RBIs.  Jorge Polanco was 2-for-5.

Pitching stars:  Michael Pineda struck out nine in six innings, giving up two runs on five hits and a walk.  Sergio Romo pitched a perfect inning and struck out one.  Brusdar Graterol pitched a scoreless inning, giving up two hits.

Opposition stars:  Brandon Dixon was 2-for-3 with a double and a walk.  Jordy Mercer was 2-for-4 with a home run, his seventh.  Victor Reyes was 2-for-4.

The game:  Neither team did much in the first inning, but that changed quickly in the second.  With one out, Miguel Sano walked, Arraez doubled, and Jake Cave delivered a two-run single.  Willians Astudillo was then hit by a pitch and Jason Castro had an RBI single to make it 3-0.  With two out, RBI singles by Polanco and Cruz built the lead to 5-0.

The Tigers got one back in the bottom of the second on doubles by Dawel Lugo and Dixon.  Neither team did much in the third and fourth, but each team scored one in the fifth.  The Twins got their run when Arraez singled, went to second on a ground out, and scored on an Astudillo single.  In the bottom of the fifth Dixon walked, went to third on a pair of wild pitches, and scored on a Reyes single, leaving the score 6-2.  Mercer homered in the seventh to cut the margin to 6-3.

The Twins put it out of reach in the eighth.  Astudillo was again hit by a pitch.  There was still a man on first with two out, but singles by PolancoCruz, and Rosario brought home two runs and put the Twins up 8-3.  The Detroit threatened in the ninth, getting one-out singles by Dixon and Mercer, but a double play ended the game.

WP:  Pineda (11-5).  LP:  Spencer Turnbull (3-14).  S:  None.

Notes:  Max Kepler was in center field in the absence of Byron Buxton.  Buxton did come in to play defense in the ninth.  Jake Cave was in right field, but moved to center when Kepler came out of the game in the seventh.  LaMonte Wade took over in right field, and Cave came out of the game when Buxton came in.  Astudillo started at first base, but was replaced by C. J. Cron in the eighth.

Arraez is batting .333.  Cruz is batting .309.  Polanco is batting .302.

Graterol made his major league debut and has an ERA of 0.00.  Time will tell, but who knows?  Maybe this game will be remembered as the game in which Graterol began his major league career.  He struck out one batter, gave up one solid hit and one infield hit, and got a man to hit into a double play.  He also threw one to the backstop in an obvious effort to show the Twins brass he belongs on this pitching staff.  I hope next year he'll be given a chance to start, but I'm fine with him being in the bullpen for the rest of this season.

The Twins scored eight runs without a bomba.  Maybe they said and I missed it, but I wouldn't be surprised if that's the most runs they've scored this season without hitting a home run in the game.  I have nothing against home runs, but it is nice to be able to put up a big number without them, too.  It seems to me that the more ways you have that you can score runs, the more likely you are to score runs.  A team that can score by playing big ball and by playing small ball should score more runs than a team that can only do one of those things, no matter how good they are at the one thing they can do.

I know wins and losses are not a good way to judge a starting pitcher.  It does, however, say something about your ball club when you have a pitcher in your rotation whose record is 3-14.

Record:  The Twins are 84-52, in first place in the American League Central, 5.5 games ahead of Cleveland.

Projected record:  We're still on track for 110-52!

2019 Recap: Game One Hundred Thirty-three

MINNESOTA 10, CHICAGO 5 IN CHICAGO

Date:  Thursday, August 29.

Batting stars:  C. J. Cron was 3-for-5 with a home run (his twenty-second), a double, two runs, and three RBIs.  Jonathan Schoop was 3-for-5.  Nelson Cruz was 2-for-4 with a walk and three RBIs.  Jorge Polanco was 2-for-4 with a walk and two runs.  Jake Cave was 2-for-5 with two home runs, his sixth and seventh.  Eddie Rosario was 2-for-5.

PItching stars:  Jose Berrios struck out eight in six innings, giving up three runs on seven hits and two walks.  Randy Dobnak pitched three innings, giving up two unearned runs on five hits.

Opposition stars:  Jose Abreu was 4-for-5 with two doubles.  Eloy Jimenez was 2-for-5.  Josh Osich struck out three in two shutout innings, giving up a hit and a walk.  Jace Fry pitched two perfect innings and struck out one.

The game:  The Twins jumped on White Sox starter Dylan Cease right away, opening the game with five consecutive singles.  Luis ArraezPolanco, CruzRosario, and Ehire Adrianza all singled, and after a double play Cron delivered a single.  The six singles produced four runs for a 4-0 Twins lead.  Singles produced runs again in the second.  Schoop singled, Polanco walked, a wild pitch moved the runners up, and Cruz had a two-run single to make it 6-0.  In the third the Twins got impatient with singles, as Cave and Cron started the inning with home runs to increase the lead to 8-0.

Meanwhile, Chicago did nothing through the first three innings.  They threatened in the fourth.  Ryan Goins singled with one out, Abreu walked, and a wild pitch moved them up to second and third.  A pair of strikeouts followed, however, and the threat ended.  The White Sox did break through in the fifth.  Jimenez singled, Matt Skole doubled, and Yolmer Sanchez had an RBI single.  With one out, a wild pitch scored a second run, cutting the margin to 8-2.  They got one more in the sixth when Abreu doubled, went to third on a wild pitch, and scored on a Jimenez single, making the score 8-3.

It was pretty much over at that point.  The Twins loaded the bases with one out in the sixth and managed to score one on a sacrifice fly.  Cave homered leading off the seventh to make the score 10-3.  Chicago opened the seventh with singles by Sanchez and Adam Engel, but a line out and a double play terminated the inning.  They stated the eighth the same way, but a popup, a line out, and a ground out took care of things.

The White Sox did score twice in the ninth, mainly because Polanco temporarily forgot how to play defense.  He made two errors, allowing the first two batters of the inning to reach, and only a fine play by Schoop prevented him from making a third.  A run scored on that play and Abreu doubled home another run, but that was all Chicago got.

WP:  Berrios (11-7).  LP:  Cease (3-7).  S:  Dobnak (1).

Notes:  Arraez was at third base in place of Miguel Sano.  Jake Cave was in center in the continued absence of Byron Buxton.  Adrianza was again in right in the absence of Max Kepler.

Arraez is batting .335.

Dobnak's ERA remains at zero in seven major league innings.  He also got his first major league save.  He has been almost exclusively a starter in the minors, so the only other professional save he has came in 2017 at Elizabethton.  His rise is really rather remarkable.  He went to Alderson-Broddus College in Phillippi, West Virginia, the only major league player that school has produced.  He went undrafted and signed as a free agent with the Twins on July 31, 2017.  He made only six starts in the minors that year, five in Elizabethton and one in Cedar Rapids.  He was with the Kernels for all of 2018 and had a fine season, going 10-5, 3.14, 1.26 WHIP.  In 2019 he made four starts in Fort Myers, where he was almost unhittable, pitched in eleven games (10 starts) in Pensacola, appeared in nine games (7 starts) in Rochester, and here he is in the big leagues.  His combined minor league stats for this season are 12-4, 2.07, 0.98 WHIP.  He's twenty-four, so while there are not guarantees there's every reason to think he'll continue to improve.  A pretty cool story.

Berrios was better, although I don't think we're ready to say he's back  yet.  He did very well for four innings, then ran into trouble in the fifth and sixth.  He also managed to throw (LeBron James voice) not one, not two, not three, but four pitches to the backstop.  He did strike out eight, and again he did pitch well for four innings, so I it's progress.  Maybe some more time with Wes Johnson will lead to some more improvement next time.  We'll see.

It's a little frustrating to have won five in a row and only gained one game in the standings.  But on the other hand, think of how the Indians must feel.  They've won four of five and lost a game in the standings.  The good thing about being in first place is that we don't have to do better than Cleveland from here on out.  All we have to do is keep pace with them, and we win.

Record:  The Twins are 82-51, in first place in the American League Central, 3.5 games ahead of Cleveland.

Projected record:  We're still on track for 111-51!

 

2019 Recap: Game One Hundred Thirty-two

MINNESOTA 8, CHICAGO 2 IN CHICAGO

Date:  Wednesday, August 28.

Batting stars:  Mitch Garver was 3-for-4 with a two-run homer (his twenty-fourth), a hit-by-pitch, and two runs.  Jonathan Schoop was 2-for-4 with two home runs (his twentieth and twenty-first) and four RBIs.  Jorge Polanco was 2-for-5 with a double.

Pitching stars:  Jake Odorizzi struck out eight in six innings, giving up two runs on five hits and two walks.  Trevor May struck out three in a scoreless inning, giving up one hit.  Cody Stashak pitched two shutout innings, giving up three hits and striking out one.

Opposition stars:  Jose Abreu was 2-for-4 with a double.  Tim Anderson was 2-for-4 with a double.  Jimmy Cordero pitched two shutout innings, giving up one hit.

The game:  Doubles by Leury Garcia and Abreu put the White Sox on the board in the first inning with a 1-0 lead.  The Twins came right back in the second.  Eddie Rosario led off with a bloop single, Ehire Adrianza hit a two-out single, and Schoop came through with a three-run homer, putting the Twins up 3-1.   They added two in the third on just one hit.  Garver was hit by a pitch, Jorge Polanco doubled, and Nelson Cruz was intentionally walked to fill the bases.  A force out brought home one run and an error brought home another, making the score 5-1.  The Twins again loaded the bases in the fourth, getting two-out singles from Garver and Polanco and another intentional walk to Cruz, but Rosario grounded out to end the threat.

Chicago got a run back in the bottom of the fourth.  With one out, Yoan Moncada and Anderson singled and Eloy Jimenez walked, giving the White Sox loaded bases.  They were not more successful than the Twins, getting a force out to bring home one run, but no more.  Chicago put two on with two out in the fifth, but could do nothing with that, either.

The Twins put the game out of reach in the eighth.  With one out, Schoop homered, Jake Cave doubled, and Garver homered, making the score 8-2.

WP:  Odorizzi (14-6).  LP:  Ross Detwiler (2-4).  S:  None.

Notes:  Cave was in center in the absence of Byron Buxton.  Adrianza was in right in the absence of both Max Kepler and Marwin Gonzalez.  An outfield of Rosario-Cave-Adrianza is obviously less than ideal, but the Twins don't have a lot of options.  LaMonte Wade has just started a rehab assignment in Pensacola.  Zander Weil is probably the next-best outfielder in Rochester, but I know nothing about his defense.  The best option may be to hope Kepler and Gonzalez can bounce back quickly.

I see that Miguel Sano was hit by a pitch and was eventually replaced by Luis Arraez.  I don't know whether that's something to be concerned about.  Arraez was 1-for-2 and is now batting .336.

The first three batters hit Odorizzi pretty hard, but he certainly settled down after that.  He allowed only three more hits and one more run over the next six innings.  That's the Odorizzi the Twins need.  The bullpen came through as well.  Trevor May has quietly been pitching quite well over the last month.  In his last eleven games (12.1 innings), he has given up just one earned run on five hits and three walks and has struck out fifteen.  Other than one game against Atlanta, Stashak has also done pretty well.

In his last five games, Schoop has gone 6-for-17.  That's good, but what's really impressive is that five of the six hits have gone over the fence.  That's a slugging average of 1.235, which I'm pretty sure would be a record if you did it for a season.  He won't do it for the season, of course, but it's a pretty good run, even in a small sample size.

Today the Twins go for the sweep.  Whether they get will depend to a large extent on whether Jose Berrios can pitch like Jose Berrios.  I said a couple of weeks ago that he was not one of the Twins' problems, and since then he's gone out and proven me wrong.  In his four August starts, he is 0-2, 8.44, 1.97 WHIP.  The Twins say it's an issue with his mechanics.  Hopefully a trip to Wes Johnson's repair shop has solved his mechanical problems and he can get back to pitching the way the Twins need him to.

Record:  The Twins are 81-51, in first place, 3.5 games ahead of Cleveland.

Projected record:  We're still on track for 111-51!

2019 Recap: Game One Hundred Thirty

MINNESOTA 7, DETROIT 4 IN MINNESOTA

Date:  Sunday, August 25.

Batting stars:  C. J. Cron was 1-for-2 with a three-run homer (his twenty-first), two walks, and two runs.  Jonathan Schoop was 1-for-3 with a two-run homer (his eighteenth) a walk, and two runs.

Pitching stars:  Martin Perez pitched six innings, giving up two runs on five hits and a walk and striking out five.  Cody Stashak pitched two shutout innings, giving up one hit and striking out one.

Opposition stars:  Jordy Mercer was 2-for-4 with two doubles and two runs.  John Hicks was 2-for-4 with a double and two RBIs.  Harold Castro was 2-for-4.

The game:  The Tigers put two men on in the second but did not score.  In the third, the Twins broke through for two runs.  Schoop walked and scored on a Mitch Garver double.  A pair of ground outs, which should have brought all kinds of joy to the old school baseball types, brought Garver home and made the score 2-0.

It went to 5-0 in the fourth.  Miguel Sano led off the inning with a double, Max Kepler was hit by a pitch, and Cron delivered a three-run homer.  The Tigers bounced right back with two in the fifth, though.  Mercer and Hicks started the inning with doubles, making it 5-1, and a two-out single by Castro cut the margin to 5-2.

The Twins got the run back in the sixth.  Cron drew a one-out walk and with two down, Schoop hit a two-run homer, making the score 7-2.  Detroit made it somewhat interesting in the ninth.  With one out, Willi Castro singled, Mercer doubled, and Hicks singled, dropping the lead to three runs at 7-4.  The next two batters went out, however, and the victory was preserved.

WP:  Perez (9-5).  LP:  Matthew Boyd (6-10).  S:  None.

Notes:  Kepler was in center and Marwin Gonzalez in right in the continued absence of Byron Buxton.  Luis Arraez was in left in the absence of Eddie Rosario.  Arraez was 0-for-2 with a walk and is batting .335.

The Twins were out-hit in this game 9-5, and yet still won 7-4.  They drew six walks and had a hit batsman, which helped.  It also helped that of the five hits, one was a double and two went over the fence.  And it helped that the two that went over the fence came with a combined total of three men on base.  The Twins went 1-for-3 with men in scoring position.  That's a good average, but it's hard to score seven runs with only three at-bats with men in scoring position.  It worked for this game, though.  If someone has time, I'd be curious to know what some of the extremes are for that sort of thing--most runs on fewest hits, most runs with only a few at-bats with men in scoring position, that sort of thing.  Obviously, I'm not going to take the time to find out, but if someone else wanted to, that would be cool.

Now that players weekend is over, I hope someone takes those white-on-white uniforms and burns them.  I wasn't crazy about the black ones, either, but at least you could read the numbers and the nicknames on them.  The whole Players Weekend thing doesn't do much for me, but if we have to have it, let's at least do it well.  It's hard for me think how many people had to look at those white-on-white things and approve them.  I don't know what they were thinking.

A 3-3 homestand against two of the weakest teams in the league is not exactly what we hoped for.  On the other hand, it's a lot better than the 1-3 we had two days ago.  And you know, you can have all kinds of fun with artificial endpoints.  In their last six games, the Twins are 3-3.  If you look at their last ten games, they're 7-3.  If you look at their last eighteen games, they're 9-9.  If you look at their last twenty-two games, they're 13-9.  And so on.

Ultimately, the only numbers that really matter are the ones that are shown below:  their record for the season and how far ahead they are of the second place team.  As we've said before, they don't have to win a certain number of games to win the division, they just need to win one more than their nearest rival.  Right now, they've won three more with thirty-two games to play.  Those are really the only numbers that count.

Record:  The Twins are 79-51, in first place in the American League Central, 3.5 games ahead of Cleveland.

Projected record:  We're still on track for 111-51!

2019 Recap: Game One Hundred Twenty-seven

CHICAGO 4, MINNESOTA 0 IN MINNESOTA

Date:  Wednesday, August 21.

Batting stars:  None.

Pitching stars:  Ryne Harper pitched a scoreless inning, giving up a hit and a walk and striking out one.  Sam Dyson pitched a perfect inning and struck out one.  Tyler Duffey struck out two in a perfect inning.  Trevor May pitched a scoreless inning, giving up a hit and striking out one.

Opposition stars:  Lucas Giolito struck out twelve in a complete game shutout, giving up three hits and no walks.  Jose Abreu was 3-for-5 with a double and two RBIs.  Leury Garcia was 2-for-5 with two runs.  Tim Anderson was 2-for-5.

The game:  The Twins helped the White Sox get two runs in the first inning.  Garcia led off with a single, and runners were on first and second when Jorge Polanco failed to touch second on what should have been a force out.  Abreu then singled home a run, a wild pitch moved runners to second and third, and Matt Skole singled to make it 2-0.

In the third, singles by Garcia, Anderson, and Abreu made it 3-0.  In the fifth, Abreu doubled, went to third on a ground out, and scored on a wild pitch to make it 4-0.

Meanwhile, the Twins could get nothing accomplished on offense.  Polanco had a bunt single in the first, Nelson Cruz had a one-out single in the fourth, and Jonathan Schoop had a one-out double in the eighth.  That was all the offense the Twins had, with Schoop the only Twin to get as far as second base.

WP:  Giolito (14-6).  LP:  Jake Odorizzi (13-6).  S:  None.

Notes:  Max Kepler remained in center field, with Jake Cave in right, in the continued absence of Byron Buxton.  Luis Arraez was at third base, with Miguel Sano moving to first.  Eddie Rosario started in left, but was removed in the fifth inning due to a tight hamstring.  Rather than use an outfielder, the Twins moved Arraez to left, Sano to third, and put Ehire Adrianza in the game at first base.  I'm not sure why you'd rather have Sano at third than Adrianza, but I admit that I haven't looked at their defensive stats at third base.

Arraez was 0-for-3 and is batting .341.  Cruz was 1-for-4 and is batting .303.  Duffey has an ERA of 2.95.

The Twins made another error and threw three more pitches to the backstop.  I'm probably sounding like Johnny One-note mentioning this all the time, but I'd be happy to stop mentioning it if the Twins would stop doing it.  I could easily have missed it, but I don't remember Rocco or the front office publicly addressing the defensive lapses.  The only thing I've hears is the occasional comment that "No one feels worse about that than [the responsible player]", which is probably true but doesn't do anything to solve the problem.  I have no idea what may be going on privately, of course, nor is there any reason I should.  But whatever they may be doing privately doesn't seem to be helping, and publicly they don't seem very concerned.  They should be.  When you play bad teams, you can sometimes rely on your batting to overcome your defensive woes.  When you play good teams, you can't afford to give them free bases and extra outs.  The Twins had better get the defense tightened up pretty soon.

It's obviously disappointing to lose two of three to the lowly White Sox, and it's tempting to get really upset about it.  But the thing is, that's baseball.  A bad team takes a series from a good team sometimes.  Giolito is a very good pitcher, and he'll shut a team down sometimes.  Ivan Nova is not as good as Giolito, but he's good enough that he'll have an occasional really good game, too.  And the Twins did not have a lot of luck in this series--fourteen hits with only four runs in the first game, lots of soft-contact hits for the White Sox in the last game.  It happens.  Yes, the Twins made some contributions to their bad luck, but it was still a factor.  It happens, because it's baseball.  That's why there's no such thing as an upset in any particular baseball game.  As Joaquin Andujar told us, the one word that describes baseball best is youneverknow.

The good news is that Cleveland lost, too.  The Twins don't have to win any specific number of games to win the division.  They just have to win one more than the Indians.  Right now, they've won three more.  I'm not saying "All is well", but I'd still rather be three games up than three games back.

Record:  The Twins are 77-50, in first place in the American League Central, three games ahead of Cleveland.

Projected record:  We'll just have to settle for 112-50!

2019 Recap: Game One Hundred Twenty-six

MINNESOTA 14, CHICAGO 4 IN MINNESOTA

Date:  Tuesday, August 20.

Batting stars:  Nelson Cruz was 4-for-5 with a home run (his thirty-third), three doubles, three runs, and three RBIs.  Max Kepler was 2-for-5 with a home run (his thirty-fourth), three runs, and three RBIs.  Eddie Rosario was 2-for-5 with two RBIs.  Jorge Polanco was 1-for-4 with a two-run homer (his nineteenth) and two runs.

Pitching stars:  Michael Pineda pitched seven innings, giving up four runs on six hits and no walks and striking out four.  Trevor May pitched a perfect inning and struck out one.

Opposition stars:  Tim Anderson was 2-for-4 with a home run (his thirteenth), a double, two runs, and two RBIs.  Jose Abreu was 1-for-3 with a two-run homer, his twenty-eighth.

The game:  It didn't look good early.  The Twins did nothing for the first two innings, as their first six batters were retired on just twenty-one pitches.  In the third, Yolmer Sanchez singled and scored on a two-out double by Anderson.  Abreu followed with a two-run homer and the White Sox quickly took a 3-0 lead.

Mitch Garver led off the bottom of the third with a double, but with two out he had only gotten as far as third base.  Kepler solved that problem, hitting a two-run homer to get the Twins back into the game at 3-2.  In the fourth, Cruz led off with a home run, tying the score 3-3.

The Twins took control in the fifth.  The first two batters went out, but Jake Cave singled and Kepler reached on an error.  Jorge Polanco was hit by a pitch, putting the Twins in the dreaded bases loaded situation.  But Cruz said, "Fear not" and belted a two-run double.  Rosario followed with a two-run single and the Twins led 7-3.

Anderson homered leading off the sixth, cutting the margin to 7-4, but that was as close as Chicago would come.  The Twins put it away in the eighth.  Cruz led off with a double and scored on Miguel Sano's double.  Luis Arraez singled, putting men on first and third, and later stole second, moving men to second and third with two out.  Marwin Gonzalez was intentionally walked, and again the Twins came through with the bases loaded.  This time it was pinch-hitter C. J. Cron delivering a three-run double.  He would score on Kepler's double and Polanco then hit a two-run homer.  It was 14-4, and that's where it would stay.

WP:  Pineda (9-5).  LP:  Reynaldo Lopez (7-11).  S:  None.

Kepler returned to the lineup in center field, with Jake Cave in right in the continued absence of Byron Buxton.  Gonzalez was at first base in place of Cron.  Cron remained in the game after his pinch-hit and played first, with Gonzalez moving to right field.

Arraez was 1-for-4 and is batting .346.  Cruz raised his average to .303, the first time he's been over .300 since May 6.

The Twins did not throw any wild pitches, and they were not charged with any errors, although there were at least two that could have been scored.  Still, I guess it's progress.  I know there's a lot more to defense than not making errors, but most of the errors have been on routine plays, and coupled with wild pitches and baserunning mistakes, it just leads to an overall sloppiness of play that I find annoying.  They've been able to hit enough to overcome it most of the time, and they did so again last night, but it still bothers me.

There was some discussion in the game log about Rocco making an unnecessary pitching change in the eighth, bringing in Sergio Romo with two out and none on with the Twins holding a three-run lead.  I would tend to agree that the change was unnecessary, but on the plus side:  a) Romo got the job done, b) he only threw three pitches, so he should be fine to pitch today, and c) there's an off day tomorrow, so he'll have at least one day where he won't pitch.  So, even if it was unnecessary, it looks like there's no harm done.

Cruz has to be having one of the best seasons a thirty-nine-year-old ever had.  I'm sure Barry Bonds has him beat, and there are probably a few others, but there can't be very many.  He is batting .303/.390/.667, for an OPS of 1.057.  He has thirty-three home runs.  And he's not wearing down as the season goes on--granted that he missed some time, but August is so far his best month of the season.  It's pretty incredible.

Record:  The Twins are 77-49, in first place in the American League Central, three games ahead of Cleveland.

Projected record:  We're still on track for 113-49!

2019 Recap: One Hundred Twenty-five

CHICAGO 6, MINNESOTA 4 IN MINNESOTA

Date:  Monday, August 19.

Batting stars:  Luis Arraez was 3-for-5 with a double.  Eddie Rosario was 3-for-5.  Jake Cave was 2-for-4.  Jorge Polanco was 2-for-5 with a home run (his eighteenth), a double, three runs, and two RBIs.  Nelson Cruz was 2-for-5.  Miguel Sano was 2-for-5.

Pitching stars:  None.

Opposition stars:  Ryan Goins was 3-for-4 with two runs.  Jose Abreu was 1-for-4 with a three-run homer, his twenty-seventh.  Ivan Nova pitched 5.1 innings, giving up two runs on ten hits and one walk and striking out two.

The game:  The Twins once again scored early.  Arraez and Polanco started the first inning with back-to-back doubles and Cruz followed with a single, putting the Twins up 2-0.  They missed a chance to add to the lead in the second, putting two on with two out but failing to score.  It cost them, because in the third singles by Matt Skole, Yolmer Sanchez, and Goins and a three-run homer by Abreu put the White Sox ahead 4-2.

The Twins put two on with two out in the fourth and did not score.  They had men on second and third with one out in the sixth, but the contact play cost the Twins again, as Sano was thrown out at the plate on a grounder to third.

In the seventh, Tim Anderson doubled, went to third on a ground out, and scored on a squeeze bunt to make the score 5-2.  Polanco hit a home run in the  bottom of the seventh to cut the margin to 5-3 and give the Twins some hope.  The hope was quickly dashed, however, as Chicago got the run back in the eighth.  Goins singled, Jon Jay walked, and Eloy Jimenez singled to make the score 6-3.

The Twins did threaten in the ninth.  Singles by ArraezCruz, and Rosario cut the lead to 6-4 and brought the winning run to the plate with two out.  But Sano struck out, and the game was over.

WP:  Nova (9-9).  LP:  Kyle Gibson (11-6).  S:  Alex Colome (24).

Notes:  Max Kepler was held out of the game, presumably due to lingering effects of his heat-related illness Sunday.  That means the Twins went with an outfield of Rosario-Cave-Marwin Gonzalez.  That's not a good defensive outfield.  It's hard to tell whether it made any difference--no defense can stop a three-run homer--but it certainly didn't help.

Cruz returned to the lineup as the DH.

Arraez is now batting .348.

Gibson pitched 6.2 innings, giving up five runs on six hits and one walk and striking out four.

This was not the way the start of the "soft spot in the schedule" was supposed to go.  Still, it's not realistic to expect the Twins to win every game, even against bad teams, and if the Twins win the next two to take the series, that would be an acceptable outcome.  It also seems like, as much as anything, the Twins simply had some bad luck.  They out-hit the White Sox 15-8.  They had twelve singles, two doubles, and a home run.  They also drew a walk.  And they were 3-for-9 with men in scoring position, so it's not like they weren't producing in the clutch.  Yet, they managed to score only four runs.  That's not very easy to do.  It's frustrating, but it's baseball, and it happens.  I'll go out on a limb, though, and predict that if the Twins get fifteen hits again tonight they will score more than four runs.

Record:  The Twins are 76-49, in first place in the American League Central, two games ahead of Cleveland.

Projected record:  We'll just have to settle for 113-49!

2019 Recap: Game One Hundred Twenty-four

MINNESOTA 6, TEXAS 3 IN TEXAS

Date:  Sunday, August 18.

Batting stars:  Jorge Polanco was 2-for-4 with a triple, a walk, and three RBIs.  Ehire Adrianza was 2-for-5 with a double.  MIguel Sano was 1-for-3 with a double, two walks, and two runs.

Pitching stars:  Martin Perez pitched five innings, giving up two runs on five hits and four walks and striking out two.  Zack Littell pitched a perfect inning and struck out one.  Sergio Romo pitched a scoreless inning and struck out one.  Taylor Rogers struck out two in a scoreless inning, giving up two hits.

Opposition stars:  Hunter Pence was 3-for-4 with a walk.  Shin-Soo Choo was 2-for-5 with a home run (his twentieth) and a stolen base (his ninth).  Willie Calhoun was 2-for-5.  Taylor Guerrieri struck out four in two perfect innings.

The game:  The Twins again took an early lead, as Max Kepler walked, Polanco singled, and Marwin Gonzalez delivered a two-out two-run double.  The Twins loaded the bases with two out in the second, but that worked out the way it usually does for the Twins.  The Rangers put two on with two out in the bottom of the second and the Twins did the same in the top of the third, but neither team did anything with that.

The Twins stretched their lead to 3-0 in the fourth when Sano doubled, went to third on a wild pitch, and scored on a sacrifice fly.  Texas got back into the game in the bottom of the fourth.  Pence led off with a single, Delino DeShields hit a two-out single, a wild pitch advanced the runners, and Jeff Mathis hit a two-run single.  It was 3-2, and it stayed 3-2 until the seventh, when Choo led off the inning with a home run to tie it 3-3.

In the eighth, Adrianza led off with a single and Jason Castro doubled.  The first out came on a strikeout, and Adrianza was thrown out at home on a grounder to short, as the Twins once again put on the contact play.  A walk to Sano loaded the bases, and this time it did not work out the way it usually does for the Twins.  Instead, Polanco hit a bases-clearing triple to right-center, giving the Twins a 6-3 lead.  The Rangers threatened in the ninth, bringing the tying run to the plate on a pair of two-out singles, but Rogers struck out Rougned Odor to end the game.

WP:  Sam Dyson (5-1).  LP:  Emmanuel Clase (0-2).  S:  Rogers (19).

Notes:  Kepler started the game in center and Jake Cave was in right in the continued absence of Byron Buxton.  Marwin Gonzalez started at third base, with Sano at designated hitter in the continued absence of Nelson Cruz.  Adrianza was at first base, with C. J. Cron on the bench.  In the seventh inning, the heat apparently got to Kepler, so Cave moved to center, Gonzalez went to right, Adrianza moved to third, and Cron came into the game at first base.

Luis Arraez was 0-for-4 with a walk and is now batting .342.  Rogers has an ERA of 2.59.

There was some discussion of the strike zone in the game log.  I wasn't able to see enough of the game to comment on that.  I did, however, see the last strike of the game, and I don't think Texas has any complaint coming on it.  Yes, it may have been an inch off the plate.  I don't think it's reasonable to complain if the umpire misses a ninety-five mph fastball by an inch.  If you want to say that's why we need robo-umps, that's fine.  But as long as we have human umps, I think we have to cut them a little bit of slack.  When they're missing pitches by three or four inches, it bothers me.  But not when they miss one by an inch or less.

As the schedule turns in the Twins favor, it's now possible to use the cliche that the Twins' fate is in their hands.  They lead Cleveland by 2.5 games with thirty-eight to play.  They have six games left with the Indians, plus three with Boston and three with Washington.  The other twenty-six games are against the White Sox, Detroit, and Kansas City.  Scoreboard watching is fun, and I'll still be rooting for Cleveland to lose.  But if the Twins simply win the games they should win, they'll win the division.  And if they don't, they won't deserve to win the division.

Record:  The Twins are 76-48, first in the American League Central, 2.5 games ahead of Cleveland.

Projected record:  We're still on track for 114-48!

2019 Recap: Game One Hundred Twenty-two

MINNESOTA 4, TEXAS 3 IN TEXAS

Date:  Friday, August 16.

Batting stars:  Marwin Gonzalez was 3-for-4.  Jonathan Schoop was 1-for-3 with a two-run homer, his seventeenth.  Max Kepler was 1-for-4 with a two-run homer, his thirty-third.

Pitching stars:  Sam Dyson pitched a scoreless inning, giving up a hit and a walk.  Taylor Rogers struck out two in a scoreless inning, giving up two hits.  Sergio Romo pitched a scoreless inning, giving up a hit and a walk.

Opposition stars:  Mike Minor pitched seven innings, giving up four runs (three earned) on eight hits and a walk and striking out five.  Nomar Mazara was 3-for-4 with two doubles and two RBIs.  Willie Calhoun was 2-for-3 with a walk.

The game:  The Twins got two on in the first inning, but couldn't do anything with them.  The Rangers got two in the second, but a double play took them out of it.  The Twins broke through with one out in the fourth.  Miguel Sano reached on an error and Kepler followed with a two-run homer.  Texas immediately got one back in the bottom of the fourth on singles by Elvis Andrus and Calhoun and a wild pitch by Odorizzi.  Still, it was 2-1 Twins through four.

The lead lasted until the sixth.  Shin-Soo Choo led off with a double.  He had only made it to third with two out, but Calhoun then walked an Mazara delivered a two-run double, giving the Rangers a 3-2 advantage.

That lead lasted until the next half-inning.  With one out in the seventh, Gonzalez singled and Schoop followed with a two-run homer, putting the Twins up 4-3.

Texas threatened after that, but could not put the tying run across.  They had men on first and third with one out in the seventh, but a double play ended the inning.  They had men on first and third with two out in the eighth, but a strikeout ended the inning.  They got a one-out double in the ninth, but again could not score him.  The Twins held on for the victory.

WP:  Dyson (5-1).  LP:  Minor (11-7).  S:  Romo (20).

Notes:  Luis Arraez was in left field, with Eddie Rosario given the night off.  Rosario came in for defense late in the game, with Arraez moving to second and Schoop coming out of the game.  Jorge Polanco was at designated hitter in the absence of Nelson Cruz, with Ehire Adrianza playing shortstop.  Kepler remained in center and Gonzalez in right in the absence of Byron Buxton.

Arraez was 1-for-4 and is batting .353.  Rogers has an ERA of 2.63.

The Twins did not make any errors and only threw one pitch to the backstop.  Improvement!

The game featured a matchup between Odor and Odorizzi.  Odor walked once and flied out.

It may have been mentioned during the broadcast, but Kepler's home run gave him the record for most home runs in a season by a European-born player.  He broke the record of thirty-two set by Bobby Thomson in 1951.

When the Twins went down 3-2 in the sixth, I was confident that they were going to get the lead back.  I was not confident that they would keep it, but I was confident that they would get it back.  I can't tell you why, I just was.  And, of course, they did.

I did not hear an explanation for why Rogers pitched the eighth and Romo pitched the ninth, rather than the other way around.  There may have been some matchups that influenced Rocco's thinking.  Rocco has never said that Rogers is the closer, even though he's been using him that way.  As we observed early in the season, if you don't announce that someone is your closer, then you don't have to explain why you didn't use them in that role.

We've talked about the Twins losing winnable games.  One might say that here, the Twins won a loseable game.  The only scored two runs in the first six innings, and only had four total.  They lost the lead in the sixth.  The Rangers had men all over the bases in the last three innings but did not tie the score.  They went just 1-for-11 with men in scoring position, while the Twins went 0-for-2 in that situation.  The Twins had more runs at the end, and that's all that matters.

Record:  The Twins are 74-48, in first place in the American League Central, 1.5 games ahead of Cleveland.

Projected record:  We're still on track for 114-48!