Hector Santiago vs. Trevor Bauer, 12:10 p.m.
Happy Mother's Day! Everyone, think pink!
The Twins are roughly 1/5 of the way through their season and they have already booted 3 pitchers from their rotation, DFA-ed Michael Tonkin, came close to demoting a struggling Byron Buxton (again) and have a losing record at home.
So, of course, the Twins are 5 games over .500 and are ensured of leaving Cleveland today in first place.
How have they done it? Well, it must be the new additions made by the new front office, right. Well, not really. At least, not on the surface. Despite a hot start by new catchers Jason Castro and Chris Gimenez, Twins catchers have combined for a .627 OPS. And Matt Belisle, the only other addition, has an ERA over 8.00.
So how have they done it? One big difference is defense. The Twins were 28th in MLB in Defensive Runs Saved last year and were 3rd coming into Saturday's game. Development of young players has helped as Miguel Sano and Eddie Rosario have shown improved plate discipline, Kennys Vargas and Jorge Polanco are giving more consistent quality at-bats and even Buxton is showing signs of getting back to the exciting player he was in September last year.
Perhaps the biggest difference is the Twins now finally have 2 quality starting pitchers and perhaps even 3 with the addition of Jose Berrios. Ervin Santana has been outstanding, allowing 1 run or less in 7 of his first 8 starts. His great start has somewhat overshadowed Santiago, who rather quietly has a 2.76 ERA, which is a 144 ERA+.
So far, Santana and Santiago have given the Twins their best 1-2 starting pitcher punch since rookie Francisco Liriano was outpitching the eventual Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana, which was 11 years ago. If Berrios continues to pitch like he did Saturday, that would give the Twins a trio of outstanding starters, all from the Caribbean. There's got to be a nickname in there somewhere.