Tag Archives: C. J. Cron

2019 Recap: Game Seventy-four

KANSAS CITY 4, MINNESOTA 1 IN KANSAS CITY

Date:  Thursday, June 20.

Batting stars:  C. J. Cron was 2-for-3 with a walk.  Jorge Polanco was 1-for-4 with a home run, his eleventh.

Pitching star:  Kohl Stewart pitched four shutout innings, giving up two hits and no walks and striking out one.

Opposition stars:  Glenn Sparkman pitched seven innings, giving up one run on five hits and one walk and striking out three.  Jorge Soler was 2-for-3 with a walk.  Lucas Duda was 2-for-4.  Nicky Lopez was 2-for-4.

The game:  Polanco homered in the first inning and it looked like it might be a big night for the Twins.  Instead, it was the only run they scored.  The Royals came right back in the bottom of the first, Their first three batters reached base:  Whit Merrifield doubled, Lopez singled, and Alex Gordon doubled to give Kansas City a 2-1 lead.  Duda had an RBI single later in the inning to make it 3-1 Royals.  They added a run in the fourth on a Martin Maldonado RBI double.

Meanwhile, the Twins weren't really doing much of anything at bat.  They got a pair of two-out singles in the fourth, putting men on first and third, but Jonathan Schoop fanned to end the inning.  They got a couple of harmless singles later in the game, but their last ten batters were retired.  Kansas City only got two hits after the fourth inning as well, but they already had all the runs they needed.

WP:  Sparkman (2-3).  LP:  Jake Odorizzi (10-3).  S:  Ian Kennedy (9).

Notes:  Jake Cave was in right field, with Max Kepler remaining in center.  Luis Arraez was at shortstop, with Polanco at DH and Nelson Cruz on the bench.  Willians Astudillo was at third base, with Miguel Sano on the bench.  Mitch Garver started at catcher but left the game in the eighth, with Astudillo moving to catcher and Sano entering the game at third.

Arraez was 1-for-4 and is batting .375.  Polanco is batting .325.  Odorizzi gave up four runs in four innings and has an ERA of 2.58.

Odorizzi had his second poor start in a row.  He hasn't been dreadful, but he certainly hasn't been good.  There's some regression to the mean, but that's a phrase that describes things without actually explaining them.  Either he was just lucky before and his luck has run out, he's doing something differently from what he was doing before, or the Royals figured out what he was doing and adjusted to it.  The Twins need him to be, not necessarily a Cy Young winner like he was through his first thirteen starts, but a good, reliable pitcher.

The batters have also been in a slump.  But just like "regression to the mean", "in a slump" describes without explaining.  Again, it's either a matter of luck, their doing something differently, or other teams have adjusted.  My opinion, as I said the other day, is that we have too many batters who are trying to hit home runs on every pitch.  Nothing wrong with home runs, but some pitches are not capable of being hit out of the park.  My unsolicited amateur advice is to get back to just trying to hit the ball hard and let the home runs take care of themselves.

The baseball season is long.  You're going to have times when you're not playing well, for a variety of reasons.  It's not as much fun when it happens, but it does.  It happens to every team.  You just have to keep the faith and ride it out.  The thing not to do is to go all StatFreak when we hit one of those times.  If we do that,  we're no better than Yankee fans.

The Twins again try to avoid losing three in a row, this time with Martin Perez on the mound.  That doesn't fill me with confidence, but hey, the guy is 7-3.  Maybe he's due.  Maybe tonight the Twins break out of their slump and score ten runs.  After all, it's baseball.  All kinds of things are possible.

Record:  The Twins are 48-26, first in the American League Central, nine games ahead of Cleveland.

Projected record:  We'll just have to settle for 136-26!

2019 Recap: Game Seventy-two

MINNESOTA 4, BOSTON 3 IN MINNESOTA (17 INNINGS)

Date:  Tuesday, June 18.

Batting stars:  Eddie Rosario was 4-for-8 with three doubles.  Max Kepler was 3-for-5 with a home run (his eighteenth) and three RBIs.  C. J. Cron was 2-for-5 with two walks and a hit-by-pitch.  Jonathan Schoop was 2-for-7.

Pitching stars:  Michael Pineda pitched six innings, giving up one run on five hits and one walk and striking out five.  Trevor May pitched a scoreless inning, giving up a hit and striking out one.  Taylor Rogers struck out two in a perfect inning.  Tyler Duffey struck out three in two shutout innings, giving up one hit.  Blake Parker pitched a scoreless inning, giving up two hits and striking out one.  Matt Magill struck out two in two shutout innings, giving up three hits and a walk.  Zack Littell struck out two in two shutout innings, giving up two hits.

Opposition stars:  Brock Holt was 3-for-7 with a double.  Rafael Devers was 3-for-8 with a home run (his twelfth) and two RBIs.  Andrew Benintendi was 3-for-8 with a stolen base, his eighth.  Jackie Bradley was 2-for-5 with a hit-by-pitch.  Christian Vazquez was 2-for-7.  Xander Bogaerts was 2-for-8 with a double.  David Price pitched five innings, giving up one run on four hits and no walks and striking out two.  Josh Taylor struck out four in two shutout innings, giving up one hit.  Hector Velazquez pitched four innings, giving up one run on three hits and no walks and striking out three.

The game:  The Red Sox got on the board in the fourth inning when Mookie Betts walked, stole second, and scored on a two-out single by Devers.  The Twins got the run back in the bottom of the fourth when Rosario hit a two-out double and scored on a Cron single.

The Twins should have taken the lead in the sixth.  Mitch Garver led off with a double and Nelson Cruz singled him to third with none out.  But Garver was picked off third by the catcher and Rosario fouled out.  The Twins still had a chance, as Cron was hit by a pitch and Kepler walked to load the bases, but Miguel Sano fanned to end the inning.  The Red Sox immediately made them pay, as Devers led off the seventh with a home run to give Boston a 2-1 lead.

The Twins tied it up in the eighth.  Walks to Garver and Cron put men on first and second with two out and Kepler delivered an RBI single to make the score 2-2.  It stayed there for a while.  Boston threatened in the tenth and twelfth and the Twins also threatened in the twelfth, but there was no more scoring until the thirteenth, when Betts led off with a home run.  But Kepler led off with a home run in the bottom of the thirteenth to once again tie the score, and the teams played on.

The Red Sox again threatened in the fourteenth, getting leadoff singles from Holt and MIchael Chavis.  A bunt (!) moved them to second and third, but nothing came of it.  In the fifteenth Rosario led off with a double but was doubled off second on Cron's liner.  In the top of the seventeenth, Benintendi singled and got to third on a stolen base-plus-error with none out, but a strikeout and two ground outs ended the inning without a score.

Finally came the bottom of the seventeenth.  Luis Arraez had a one-out single and went to third on Rosario's double.  Cron was intentionally walked, and Kepler again came through with an RBI single to win the game for the Twins.

WP:  Littell (1-0).  LP:  Brian Johnson (1-1).  S:  None.

Notes:  Marwin Gonzalez was again in right field, with Kepler starting the game on the bench.  Jake Cave was in center field.

Arraez entered the game as a pinch-runner in the twelfth and went 1-for-2.  He is batting .385.  Jorge Polanco was 1-for-8 and is batting .326.  Garver was 1-for-7 and is batting .301.

Ryne Harper gave up a run in an inning and has an ERA of 2.17.  Rogers has an ERA of 2.03.  Duffey has an ERA of 2.08.  Mike Morin gave up a run in an inning and has an ERA of 1.65.

Garver was rightly criticized for getting picked off in the sixth.  I also wonder why he did not dive back into the base, rather than going in standing up.  But additionally, I wonder what the third base coach was doing.  With a shift on and the third baseman playing well off the bag, this was obviously a planned play.  It seems like the third base coach should be watching for that and make sure the runner is aware of it.  Instead, it appeared that he became a spectator.

Watching part of the game last night, it seems to me that several Twins batters (not just Sano) have gotten a little homer-happy.  Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against home runs and I'm not calling for a return of the piranhas.  But I saw several batters trying to jerk every pitch out of the park in situations where a single would've served us quite admirably.  This may be something that the batting coach needs to address.

Lost in the long game is the fact that Pineda had his second good start in a row.  Over those starts, he has pitched 11.2 innings and given up two runs on seven hits and three walks while striking out nine.  He only threw eighty pitches last night, so it seems like he could've gone a seventh inning.  Perhaps the Twins are still trying to be careful with him.  But he hasn't had a really bad game in a month and a half and his ERA has fallen steadily from a peak of 6.21 to 4.76.  I'm not nominating him for the Cy Young Award, but he's kept us in the game for eight starts in a row, and has done more than that in his last two.

The much maligned (and properly so) Twins bullpen pitched eleven innings and gave up just two runs.  Further, both the runs came on solo homers, and we all know those don't hurt you.  I won't be surprised if we bring up a "fresh arm for the bullpen", but only three of the eight relievers used threw more than eighteen pitches, so I assume most of them could pitch again tonight if needed.

Each team completely emptied its bullpen, using eight relief pitchers.  Presumably, once the last guy came in he was in for the duration, unless the game had gone twenty-four innings or something.  At that point, the teams would've had to decide whether to use a starting pitcher in relief or use a position player.  That would've been interesting, but I'm fine with winning in the seventeenth instead.

It should be noted, as I'm sure it was numerous times during the game, that the Twins still have not lost three games in a row this season.

Record:  The Twins are 48-24, first in the American League Central, ten games ahead of Cleveland.

Projected record:  We're still on track for 138-24!

2019 Recap: Game Seventy-one

BOSTON 2, MINNESOTA 0 IN MINNESOTA

Date:  Monday, June 17.

Batting star:  C. J. Cron was 2-for-4.

Pitching star:  Jose Berrios struck out ten in eight innings, giving up one run on five hits and no walks.

Opposition stars:  Rick Porcello struck out eight in seven shutout innings, giving up four hits and a walk.  J. D. Martinez was 2-for-4 with a double.  Xander Bogaerts was 2-for-4 with a double.

The game:  The Red Sox jumped on Berrios right away, opening the game with consecutive singles by Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, and Martinez.  That produced one run and would've produced more had not Marwin Gonzalez thrown out Benintendi trying to stretch his hit into a double.

And that was the only scoring for some time.  Nelson Cruz hit a  two-out double in the first but nothing came of it.  After that neither team even got a baserunner until the fifth.  There was no threat to score until the seventh, when Cron hit a one-out double, and again nothing came of it.

The Twins' best scoring chance came in the eighth.  Jonathan Schoop led off with a single and Max Kepler walked.  Jorge Polanco bunted the runners to second and third with one out, but Cruz hit back to the pitcher and Schoop was thrown out at the plate on a contact play.  Eddie Rosario grounded out to end the inning.

Boston got an insurance run in the ninth on doubles by Martinez and Bogaerts.  The Twins went down in order in the bottom of the ninth.

WP:  Porcello (5-6).  LP:  Berrios (8-3).  S:  Ryan Brasier (7).

Notes:  Gonzalez remained in right, with Kepler in center and Byron Buxton remaining on the bench with a bruised wrist.  I've said this before, but I'm quite pleased that the Twins are allowing Buxton's wrist to heal properly, rather than rushing him back into the lineup.  Maybe that's Rocco's influence, because it sure seems different from recent years.

Polanco was 1-for-3 and is batting .332.  Berrios has an ERA of 2.86.

This was another frustrating loss, although in a different way.  It was frustrating to get such excellent pitching out of Berrios and not be able to take advantage of it.  It should be mentioned that after the Martinez RBI single in the first, Berrios retired the next nineteen batters.  He struck out ten and did not walk anyone.  That's really, really good.  There's no shame in getting shut down by Porcello, who's a good pitcher, too, but you hate to lose a game when your own starting pitcher did so well.

I really didn't have a problem with Polanco's bunt in the eighth inning.  I realize that's going to be a minority opinion here, and that's fine.  No one has to agree with me, and I have neither the time nor the inclination to argue about it this morning.  But he moved the go-ahead run into scoring position with two really good batters coming up.  I don't have a problem with doing that.  It just didn't work.

I do have a problem with the contact play, and always have.  I've never seen a study on it, but it just seems like there are a lot of times it doesn't work, and when it doesn't it pretty much takes you out of the inning.  Earl Weaver once said of the hit-and-run "it has it's place, but most of the time that place is in the back of a deep, dark closet".  That's where I'd put the contact play, too.

But the good news is that we still have the best record in baseball, we still have a ten game lead on the Clevelands, and today is a new day.  Michael Pineda pitched quite well last time and hasn't had a really bad game in quite some time.  The Twins haven't lost three in a row all year.  They probably will at some point, but let's not let it be tonight.

Record:  The Twins are 47-24, first in the American League Central, ten games ahead of Cleveland.

Projected record:  We'll just have to settle for 138-24!

2019 Recap: Game Sixty-seven

MINNESOTA 10, SEATTLE 5 IN MINNESOTA

Date:  Thursday, June 13.

Batting stars:  Nelson Cruz was 3-for-4 with a home run (his twelfth), a walk, two runs, and three RBIs.  Ehire Adrianza was 3-for-5.  Jonathan Schoop was 2-for-4 with a double.  Marwin Gonzalez was 2-for-5 with a double.  Jorge Polanco was 2-for-6 with two runs.  C. J. Cron was 1-for-5 with a two-run homer, his fifteenth.

Pitching stars:  Michael Pineda pitched 5.2 innings, giving up one run on two hits and two walks and striking out four.  Ryne Harper pitched a scoreless inning, giving up a hit and striking out one.

Opposition stars:  Yusei Kikuchi pitched five innings, giving up one run on six hits and two walks and striking out four.  Daniel Vogelbach was 2-for-4 with a walk.  Kyle Seager was 2-for-5 with a double.  Dylan Moore was 1-for-1 with a double, a walk, and two RBIs.

The game:  The  Twins loaded the bases with none out in the second and did not score.  At the time it was a big missed opportunity, although it turned out not to matter.  Cruz homered with one out in the third to give the Twins a 1-0 lead.  It stayed 1-0 through five.  In the sixth, Vogelbach had an RBI single to tie it 1-1.

It didn't stay tied long.  The Twins exploded for six runs in the bottom of the sixth to take control of the game.  Max Kepler walked, Adrianza singled, and a pickoff error gave the Twins the lead.  A wild pitch and a fielder's choice made it 3-1.  Byron Buxton walked and Polanco singled, again loading the bases.  With one out, Cruz delivered a two-run single.  With two out, Schoop walked and Kepler came through with a two-out single.  The Twins scored six runs without hitting a homer and led 7-1.

They would add three more in the seventh on a Polanco RBI single and Cron's two-run homer to go ahead 10-1.  The Mariners scored two in the eighth and two in the ninth off the back of the Twins bullpen to make the final score look better.

WP:  Harper (2-0).  LP:  Brandon Brennan (2-6).  S:  None.

Notes:  Gonzalez was in left field in place of Eddie Rosario.  Adrianza was at third base in place of Miguel Sano.  Cron batted second in the order, with Gonzalez batting fourth.

Polanco is batting .338.  Harper has an ERA of 1.95.  Mike Morin struck out the only man he faced and has an ERA of 1.29.

With all the runs, we should not forget the good game pitched by Pineda.  Oddly, he had gone six starts in a row giving up exactly three earned runs, which seems like it might be a record of some kind.  Yesterday, however, he gave up just one in 5.2 innings.  Ideally, he'd have been able to at least complete the sixth, but you don't expect "ideal" from the back end of the rotation.  If he could do this every time, you'd take it and be very happy.

The Twins scored six in the sixth without hitting a home run.  My guess is that this may be the biggest inning they've had all year without a homer.  The home runs are fun, and I'm all for them, but it's also good to be able to score runs in other ways.  The more ways you have to score, the more you're likely to score.

Fernando Romero, the latest "fresh arm for the bullpen", faced four batters yesterday and retired exactly none of them.  This was the entirely foreseeable result of bringing a man to the majors who has done nothing to show that he belongs there, simply because the letter "P" appears next to his name on the roster sheet.  I'm not a big fan of carrying thirteen pitchers, but I would complain less about it if the thirteenth pitcher could actually pitch.  If the thirteenth pitcher is of the Chase De Jong/Andrew Vasquez/Austin Adams variety--someone you can't even trust to fill an inning of a blowout--then he's worthless.  You might as well have the extra position player, someone who might actually be able to contribute something.

And to be honest, the twelfth pitcher, Matt Magill, hasn't gotten much accomplished lately, either.  He did well Tuesday night, but in his last five appearances he has pitched 4.2 innings and allowed twelve runs (eleven earned) on twelve hits and five walks.

I'm sure the front office is aware of the problem--it would be hard for them not to be.  And I'm sure they're working on it.  One of the nice things about having an eleven game lead in the division is that they don't have to feel like they have to make a move right now.  They can wait and try to get the player(s) they want on favorable terms.  Whether they'll actually be able to do that is another question, but the point is that there's no reason to panic and make a move just to make a move.  It's much better to wait and make a good move than to do something now just so they can say they did something.

Record:  The Twins are 45-22, first in the American League Central, eleven games ahead of Cleveland.

Projected record:  We're still on track for 140-22!

2019 Recaps: Game Sixty-four

MINNESOTA 12, DETROIT 2 IN DETROIT

Date:  Sunday, June 9.

Batting stars:  Nelson Cruz was 3-for-6 with a home run (his eleventh) and three RBIs.  Eddie Rosario was 3-for-6 with a home run (his nineteenth), two runs, and two RBIs.  Ehire Adrianza was 2-for-3 with a double, a walk, and three runs.  Byron Buxton was 2-for-5 with a two-run homer (his eighth) and two runs.  C. J. Cron was 2-for-5 with a double and two RBIs.  Miguel Sano was 2-for-5 with a home run, his sixth.

Pitching stars:  Jake Odorizzi struck out eight in six innings, giving up one run on five hits and a walk.  Tyler Duffey struck out two in a scoreless inning, giving up one hit.

Opposition stars:  John Hicks was 2-for-4 with a double.  Christin Stewart was 2-for-4.

The game:  The Twins scored three in the first inning, as Jorge Polanco led off with a single, Mitch Garver had an RBI double, and Cruz hit a two-run homer.  It looked like the Tigers might get the runs right back in the bottom of the first, as Niko Goodrum walked and Stewart singled him to third, but Nicholas Castellanos hit into a double play and the damage was limited to one run, leaving the Twins up 3-1.

The Twins put the game out of reach in the fourth.  Sano led off with a home run.  Adrianza and Buxton singled and Polanco hit a sacrifice fly, making it 5-1.  Garver walked, and with two out Rosario had an RBI single and Cron hit a two-run double, putting the Twins up 8-1.

The Twins tacked on a few more.  Cruz singled home a run in the fifth, Buxton hit a two-run homer in the sixth, and Rosario homered in the seventh.  Odorizzi remained in control for six innings.  Detroit got a run off Mike Morin in the seventh but did not threaten to get back into the game.

WP:  Odorizzi (9-2).  LP:  Ryan Carpenter (1-3).  S:  None.

Notes:  Adrianza was at second base, replacing Jonathan Schoop.

Polanco was 1-for-5 and is batting .333.  Garver was 1-for-4 with two walks and is batting .317.  Odorizzi has an ERA of 1.92.  Morin gave up a run in two innings and has an ERA of 1.35.  Duffey has an ERA of 2.55.

It was nice to see the boys break out like this after a rather lackluster performance Saturday.  It's been a long road trip, and it's a long season, and games like Saturday have to be expected once in a while.  But it was nice to see that it didn't continue into the next day.

Odorizzi remains on a roll.  At this time last year, he was 3-3, 4.24.  His lowest ERA in a season is 3.35, which was with Tampa Bay in 2015.  His career ERA going into this season was 3.95.  None of those numbers are terrible, but he'd been pretty much an average pitcher coming into this season, and now he's pitching like a Hall of Famer.  The odds are against him doing it all season, of course.  We can hope, however, that he has discovered something which will permanently make him a better pitcher than he was prior to this season.  Not necessarily a Hall of Fame-level pitcher, but a very good pitcher.  So far, he and Jose Berrios have been a very effective one-two punch, and are a big reason why the Twins have yet to lose more than two consecutive games.

Record:  The Twins are 43-21, first in the American League Central, 10.5 games ahead of Cleveland.

Projected record:  We're still on track for 141-21!

2019 Recap: Game Forty-nine

MINNESOTA 16, LOS ANGELES 7 IN LOS ANGELES

Date:  Thursday, May 23.

Batting stars:  C. J. Cron was 5-for-6 with a home run (his thirteenth) and two doubles, scoring three times.  Max Kepler was 3-for-5 with a home run (his tenth), a double, a walk, and a stolen base, scoring four times and driving in two.  Eddie Rosario was 3-for-6 with a home run (his fourteenth), scoring twice and driving in two.  Jorge Polanco was 2-for-3 with a home run (his ninth), a double, and a walk, driving in three.  Miguel Sano was 2-for-4 with two home runs (his third and fourth) and a walk, driving in three.  Jonathan Schoop was 2-for-5 with two home runs (his ninth and tenth) and four RBIs.

Pitching stars:  Martin Perez pitched five innings, giving up two runs on six hits and four walks and striking out three.  Ryne Harper pitched a perfect inning, striking out one.  Tyler Duffey struck out two in two shutout innings, giving up one hit.

Opposition stars:  Tommy La Stella was 2-for-5 with a grand slam, his twelfth homer.  Luis Rengifo was 2-for-4 with a walk.  Brian Goodwin was 1-for-4 with a home run, his fifth.  David Fletcher was 1-for-5 with a home run, his fourth.  Taylor Cole pitched 2.1 scoreless innings, giving up a hit and a walk and striking out two.

The game:  The Angels threatened in the first, putting men on second and third with one out, but a strikeout and a ground out ended the inning.  The Twins broke it open in the second.  Singles by Rosario and Cron were followed by a wild pitch, putting men on second and third.  A sacrifice fly brought home the first run, Sano walked, and Schoop hit a three-run homer to make it 4-0.  With two out, Kepler doubled and Polanco hit a two-run homer to make it 6-0.  In the third, homers by Cron and Sano increased the Twins' lead to 8-0.

Los Angeles made a comeback attempt in the bottom of the third.  Fletcher hit a one-out homer and Mike Trout followed with a double-plus-error.  He scored on a ground out to cut the lead to 8-2.  A pair of singles and a walk off of suddenly wobbly Twins starter Perez loaded the bases, but he came back to strike out Kole Calhoun to end the inning.  In the fifth the Angels got a pair of one-out walks and a two-out infield single, again loading the bases for Calhoun, but he hit into a force out to end the inning.

The Twins put it out of reach for good after that.  In the sixth Kepler drew a two-out walk, stole second, and scored on Polanco's double.  In the seventh, Cron hit a one-out double.  With two -out, Sano and Schoop hit back-to-back homers, Willians Astudillo walked, and Kepler homered, putting the Twins up 14-2.  Rosario homered in the eighth to make it 15-2.  In the ninth, Kepler singled, Ehire Adrianza walked, and Rosario had an RBI single to make it 16-2.

Los Angeles did get some runs in the ninth to make the score look better.  Goodwin led off with a home run.  Walks to Trout, Dustin Garneau, and Jonathan Lucroy loaded the bases and La Stella hit a grand slam to cut the margin to 16-7.  A two-out single by La Stella chased Austin Adams from the game, and Mike Morin retired Zack Cozart on a ground ball to end the contest.

WP:  Perez (7-1).  LP:  Matt Harvey (2-4).  S:  None.

Notes:  Kepler was in center and Marwin Gonzalez in right, with Byron Buxton on the bench.  Luis Arraez was the DH.  Willians Astudillo caught and batted ninth, taking Buxton's place as the second leadoff man.

Arraez was 0-for-3 with a walk and is batting .467.  Polanco is batting .345.  Perez has an ERA of 2.95.  Harper's ERA is 1.69.  Morin has an ERA of 1.08.

Perez has been substantially less awesome in his last three starts.  He has pitched 16.2 innings and allowed six runs, which isn't bad, but he's also allowed fifteen hits and ten walks.  He obviously wasn't going to keep it going as well as he had, but the walks, especially, are not a good trend.

Nothing personal, but if Austin Adams can't protect a fourteen-run lead for one inning he really doesn't have a place on a major league baseball team.  You might as well have an extra position player.

I feel like I should be saying more about all the home runs, but I don't really know what to say about except that it's fun to see.  It was nice of them to do it in a day game while I was on the road, so I could enjoy all the homers live.

Even more notable than the eight home runs might be the fact that Astudillo drew a walk.

freealonzo linked an interesting article about Rocco in yesterday's game log.  I don't know about all the generational stuff, but I have noticed how much more complimentary Rocco is about his players compared to recent Twins managers.  It's easier to do that when you're winning, of course, but it was already clear in spring training.  Rather than looking for things to criticize or cautioning us against getting too excited when a player is doing well, Rocco actually praises them.  It seems like that would have to create a more positive environment in the clubhouse.

I also think the Twins have not received enough credit for the coaching staff they put together.  It's hard to know, from the outside, how much credit/blame to give coaches--we can see the results, but we don't know how much of it is due to the coaches versus the players themselves.  But the Twins have a substantial number of players who are doing better this year than last year, and some who are doing better than they ever have before.  It seems to me that's a pretty good indication that the coaching staff knows a thing or two.

The caution about all this, of course, is that we're still not quite a third of the way into the season.  We've all seen teams that looked like world-beaters in May but fell apart in August and September.  I don't think that's going to happen with this team, though.  That's not to say they'll win over two-thirds of their games all season.  In fact, they'll probably have a down stretch at some point--almost everyone does--and then all the so-called "fans" who delight in running their team down will be out in full force.  But unless they get a string of injuries, I don't see this team collapsing.  This is a good baseball team.

Record:  The Twins are 33-16, first in the American League Central, eight games ahead of Cleveland.

Projected record:  We're still on track for 146-16!

2019 Recap: Game Forty-three

MINNESOTA 11, SEATTLE 6 IN MINNESOTA

Date:  Thursday, May 16.

Batting stars:  C. J. Cron was 4-for-5 with a two-run homer, his tenth.  Eddie Rosario was 3-for-5.  Byron Buxton was 2-for-5 with a three-run homer (his third) and two runs.  Miguel Sano was 2-for-5 with two doubles.  Jorge Polanco was 2-for-5.  Max Kepler was 1-for-4 with a home run, his ninth, and two runs.  Jason Castro was 1-for-5 with a home run (his seventh), scoring twice and driving in two.

Pitching star:  Michael Pineda pitched seven innings, giving up three runs on five hits and no walks and striking out six.

Opposition stars:  Mitch Haniger was 2-for-4.  Daniel Vogelbach was 1-for-4 with a three-run homer, his twelfth.  Mallex Smith was 1-for-4 with a home run, his second.  Ryon Healy was 1-for-4 with a home run, his seventh.  J. P. Crawford was 1-for-4 with a home run.  Connor Sadzeck pitched two perfect innings, striking out one.

The game:  It was scoreless through two, but Castro changed that by leading off the third with a home run.  Kepler also homered in the inning, giving the Twins a 2-0 lead.  Smith got one of the runs back with a home run of his own in the bottom of the third, making the score 2-1.

The Twins then broke it open with a big fourth inning.  Rosario singled and Cron homered to make it 4-1.  Marwin Gonzalez singled, Sano doubled, and a fielder's choice/error made the score 5-1.  Buxton then hit a three-run homer to increase the lead to 8-1.  The Twins still weren't done, as Kepler was hit by a pitch, Polanco singled, and an error brought home a run to make the score 9-1.

The Mariners got back-to-back homers from Healy and Crawford leading off the fifth to cut the margin to 9-3.  There was no more scoring, or even threats, until the eighth, when Buxton singled, took second on a wild pitch, and score on Polanco's single.

With the score 10-3, it was deemed safe to let Tyler Duffey pitch.  He retired Dee Gordon, but Haniger doubled, Edwin Encarnacion singled, and Vogelbach hit a three-run homer to cut the lead to 10-7.  To Duffey's credit, he regrouped to retire the next five batters.  The Twins added a run in the ninth on singles by Rosario and Cron and a double by Sano.

WP:  Pineda (3-3).  LP:  Erik Swanson (1-5).  S:  None.

Notes:  Sano returned to the lineup, playing third base and batting seventh.  There is probably some wisdom in not throwing him into the middle of the lineup right away, although I assume he'll be put back up there at some point.  Gonzalez moved to first, with Cron taking the DH spot and Nelson Cruz still out of the lineup.  Jonathan Schoop batted third.  He's not really an ideal third-place hitter, of course, and he didn't get the job done last night, either, going 0-for-5.  Still, it didn't hurt them.

It had to feel good to Sano to get a couple of doubles in his first game back.  I gather that one of them was not exactly hard hit, but still, a double's a double.  One game proves nothing, of course, but at least he's off to a good start.

By game scores, last night was not Pineda's best start of the season.  That would be his first start, when he pitched four shutout innings against Cleveland.  I think most of us would agree that this one was better, though.  He gave up a few gopher balls, but this start would be the perfect illustration of "solo home runs don't hurt you".  He has gotten steadily better in his last few starts.  It is to be hoped the trend will continue.

This would seem to have been a perfect game to use new Twin Austin Adams.  Perhaps they wanted to give him more chance to get acclimated before using him in a game.  Or, perhaps they would've used him to pitch the ninth if Duffey had pitched a clean eighth.

Over the last two weeks, the Twins have played Toronto, the Angels, Detroit, and now Seattle.  Not exactly a tough schedule, but at least a couple of those teams are close to .500.  Over that same time, Cleveland has played the White Sox, Oakland, the White Sox again, and now Baltimore.  That's certainly no tougher schedule, and arguably an easier one.  Over that stretch, the Twins have gained 2.5 games on the Indians.  That strikes me as a good sign.

Record:  The Twins are 28-15, first in the American League Central, 4.5 games ahead of Cleveland.

Projected record:  We're still on track for 147-15!

2019 Recap: Game Thirty-five

MINNESOTA 9, TORONTO 1 IN TORONTO

Date:  Wednesday, May 8.

Batting stars:  Jorge Polanco was 5-for-5 with a two-run homer (his seventh) and a double, scoring twice.  C. J. Cron was 4-for-5 with a two-run homer, his seventh.  Eddie Rosario was 2-for-4 with a home run (his thirteenth), two runs, and three RBIs.  Jonathan Schoop was 2-for-5 with a two-run homer, his sixth.  Max Kepler was 2-for-5 with a walk and two runs.

Pitching stars:  Kyle Gibson struck out eleven in six shutout innings, giving up two hits and one walk.  Ryne Harper pitched a perfect inning and struck out one.  Mike Morin pitched a perfect inning and struck out one.  Blake Parker pitched a scoreless inning, giving up a walk and striking out one.

Opposition stars:  Billy McKinney was 1-for-3 with a home run, his second.  Derek Law struck out four in two shutout innings, giving up one hit.

The game:  The Twins threatened to take a big lead in the first inning.  Singles by Kepler and Polanco put men on first and third with none out.  A popup and an Eddie Rosario sacrifice fly put them up 1-0.  Cron singled and Marwin Gonzalez walked to load the bases, but Mitch Garver popped up, leaving the score 1-0.

It didn't matter.  In the second, Kepler walked and Polanco homered, making the score 3-0.  In the third, Rosario singled and Cron homered, and later in the inning Gonzalez singled and Schoop homered, making the score 7-0.  McKinney got the Blue Jays on the board with a home run in the fifth, but in the sixth Polanco doubled and Rosario homered to put the Twins ahead 9-1.

Other than the home run, the only time the Blue Jays got a man as far as second was the ninth, on a walk and a fielder's choice.  It was total dominance by Gibson and three relief pitchers.

WP:  Gibson (3-1).  LP:  Trent Thornton (0-4).  S:  None.

Notes:  Garver was 1-for-5 and is batting .354.  Polanco is batting .344.  Harper has an ERA of 1.84.  Parker has an ERA of 1.54.  Morin's ERA is 3.00.

As you probably heard, Polanco is the first Twin to have more than one five-hit game in a season since Joe Mauer in 2010.

Four two-run homers in one game is probably not the record, but it would seem like it has to be at least within shouting distance of it.

Going into the Houston series a week and a half ago, I said that after the next ten games we'd have a better idea of how good the Twins are.  Well, they went 7-3 in those ten games.  Two of the losses were games started by Michael Pineda, and at that only one of them was a blowout--in the other, the Twins just ran into a really good pitcher they couldn't do much with, which happens to everybody sometimes.  It seems to me that we have to say this is a good baseball team.

That's not to say they're going to win the World Series.  I do think they're now the favorites to win the division, though.  They might not do it--it's a long season, and lots of things can happen (injuries, slumps, etc.).  But it's looking good now.  That's why I hope the front office is not willing to settle for just winning the division, and is looking for ways to improve the team so it can actually go somewhere in the playoffs.  Again, I say that not knowing what deals may be available to them.  I'm not advocating a move of the Ramos-for-Capps variety.  But I think they have a real chance this year, and you never know for sure how many of them you're going to get.  When you get one, I think you need to go for it.

Record:  The Twins are 23-12, first in the American League Central, four games ahead of Cleveland.

Projected record:  We're still on track for 150-12!

2019 Recap: Game Twenty-three

MINNESOTA 6, BALTIMORE 1 IN MINNESOTA

Date:  Friday, April 26.

Batting stars:  Nelson Cruz was 3-for-4 with two home runs, his fourth and fifth.  Max Kepler was 2-for-4 with a home run, his fourth.  C. J. Cron was 1-for-3 with a home run, his fourth.  Eddie Rosario was 1-for-4 with a home run (his eleventh) and two runs.

Pitching stars:  Martin Perez pitched six innings, giving up one run on six hits and no walks and striking out four.  Ryne Harper pitched a perfect inning, striking out one.  Fernando Romero struck out two in a scoreless inning, giving up a hit and a walk.

Opposition stars:  Trey Mancini was 3-for-5 with a double.  Jonathan Villar was 2-for-4 with a walk.  Gabriel Ynoa pitched 3.1 innings, giving up one run on four hits and no walks and striking out one.

The game:  With two out in the first, the Twins hit back-to-back-to-back home runs, with CruzRosario, and Cron all going deep to give Minnesota a 3-0 lead.  The Twins missed a chance to add to their lead in the second, as they put men on first and second with none out and did not score.  In the third, however, Rosario singled, went to second on a ground out, and scored on an error to make it 4-0.

The Orioles, who did not have a baserunner through three innings, opened the fourth with consecutive singles, but a double play took them out of the inning.  Meanwhile, Kepler homered in the fourth and Cruz hit his second homer of the game in the fifth to make the margin 6-0.

The Orioles sixth opened the same way their fourth had, with consecutive singles by Villar and Mancini.  This time there was no double play, however, and a one-out single by Dwight Smith got Baltimore on the board at 6-1.  They threatened in the eighth, as a Mancini double and two-out walks to Smith and Rio Ruiz loaded the bases.  Trevor May came in and retired Hanser Alberto on a force out.  Baltimore also put a couple of men on in the ninth but again did not score.

WP:  Perez (3-0).  LP:  Alex Cobb (0-2).  S:  None.

Notes:  Mitch Garver was 1-for-3 with a walk and is batting .400.  Jorge Polanco was 0-for-4 and is batting .349.  Willians Astudillo was 1-for-1 as a pinch-hitter and is batting .313.  Cruz raised his average to .308.

Harper lowered his ERA to 2.45.  Matt Magill made his season debut and pitched two-thirds of an inning, giving up a hit and two walks but no runs, so his ERA is zero.

As you can see, the Twins hit five solo home runs in this game.  I don't know what the record is for solo home runs in a game, but I'd think five has to be fairly close.  If you just look at most solo home runs without getting any other kind of home run, it seems like it'd be even closer.

It was kind of lost in all the home runs, and kind of discounted because they were playing the Orioles, but Perez had another fine game.  I was pretty skeptical about Perez when the Twins acquired him, and his first few relief appearances did nothing to dim my skepticism.  In his three starts, however, he has pitched very well.  He has pitched six innings in each game and has given up six runs, giving him an ERA of 3.00 with a WHIP of 1.17.  He has struck out eleven and walked just three.  We'll see if he can keep it going, but so far he's pitched quite well as a starter.

I don't know why A-Stud didn't start on La Tortuga night, but you can't argue with the results.  I've said before that I have no idea how Rocco decides who his catcher is going to be on a given night, and that continues to be true.  I assume he has a method, that it's not just random, but he doesn't seem to want to tell anyone what it is.  And that's fine--he doesn't owe it to me or anyone else to explain how he chooses his lineup, and I haven't heard anything about any of the players complaining.  Winning helps a lot with that, of course.

One can feel a bit for the Orioles fans.  We've all rooted for some bad Twins teams, and we know it's not any fun.  But there's nothing we can do for them, just as no one did anything for us when the Twins stunk.  The Twins are doing what you're supposed to do with bad teams--take care of business and beat them.  The Orioles will be good again someday, and I'm sure they'll return the favor to us if they can.  That's just how it works.

Record:  The Twins are 14-9, in first place in the American League Central, leading Cleveland by percentage points.

Projected record:  We're still on track for 153-9!

2019 Recap: Game Thirteen

TORONTO 5, MINNESOTA 3 IN MINNESOTA

Date:  Monday, April 15.

Batting stars:  Jorge Polanco was 3-for-3.  C. J. Cron was 1-for-4 with a three-run homer, his second.

Pitching stars:  Martin Perez pitched six innings, giving up one run on seven hits and two walks and striking out five.  Ryne Harper struck out two in a perfect inning.

Opposition stars:  Teoscar Hernandez was 3-for-4 with a  three-run homer.  Randal Grichuk was 3-for-4 with two doubles.  Justin Smoak was 2-for-3 with a walk and a double.

The game:  The Blue Jays got a man to second with two out in the first and with none out in the second, but could not score.  They broke through in the fourth when Smoak doubled, Hernandez singled, and Alen Hanson hit a sacrifice fly.

The Twins came back in the bottom of the fourth.  Polanco led off with a single, Eddie Rosario drew a one-out walk, and Cron hit a three-run homer to put the Twins up 3-1.

It looked like that would be enough.  Perez cruised through the fifth and sixth, although he was helped in the sixth by a strange baserunning blunder (more on that in the notes).  Harper had a perfect seventh.  It appeared that this one would go into the win column for the Twins.

It wasn't to be.  Adalberto Mejia came in to pitch the eighth and the roof fell in (if there had been a roof).  Freddy Galvis singled and Grichuk doubled.  Smoak singled home a run to make it 3-2 and Hernandez followed with a three-run homer to put Toronto up 5-3.  The Twins could do nothing in the last two innings and the game was lost.

WP:  Sam Gaviglio (1-0).  LP:  Mejia (0-1).  S:  Joe Biagini (1).

Notes:  MItch Garver was moved to the leadoff spot in the batting order.  It didn't work in this game, as he went 0-for-4, but of course that doesn't mean it was a bad move.  He's still batting .423.  I like that Rocco seems to be willing to be creative and do some things that are unconventional.  They're not all going to work all the time, but going by the book doesn't work all the time, either.

Polanco raised his average to .420.

I was pretty skeptical about Perez, but he pitched a fine game last night.  One game does not a season make, but he got out of trouble a couple of times and didn't seem at all rattled when he was in trouble.  All in all, a good performance.

That baserunning play in the sixth.  I'm still recovering from illness, so I was no longer following the game at that point.  Hernandez was on first with one out.  The play-by-play then reads "Hernandez caught stealing first, pitcher to first", which is something I don't think I've ever seen before.  I gather what happened is that both the batter, Brandon Drury, and Hernandez thought that ball three to Drury was ball four.  Drury trotted to first, Hernandez started to go to second, and was tagged out.  As Tim Kurkjian says, every time you go to the park there's a chance you'll see something you've never seen before.

The decision to go to Mejia in the eighth was unfortunate, but it was really more a product of circumstances rather than a managerial blunder.  As socal and others have pointed out, there weren't a lot of good options for Rocco.  HildenbergerRogers, and Parker had each pitched in the last two games, and I can see not wanting to use them three days in a row, especially with no off days coming up for a while.  May did not pitch two games in a row, but he had pitched Sunday and had warmed up Saturday, so I can see not wanting to use him for two innings.  Perhaps he'd have pitched the ninth had the Twins remained in the lead, but we'll never know.  Given all that, the options were Mejia and Andrew Vasquez, and Mejia certainly seems to be the better choice.

Another option, of course, would've been to leave Harper in to pitch a second inning.  We'll never know how that might have worked.  But there may be another thing playing into this, too.  Rocco is still trying to find out what some of his players can and can't do.  He needs to know if Mejia is someone he can bring into a situation like this, or if he's simply a groundskeeper.  And it's not like he brought him into the game with the bases loaded--he came in to start the inning, leading by two.  That's an important situation, of course, but it doesn't seem like he was putting Mejia into a situation that was clearly too big for him.  Mejia just didn't get the job done.

Record:  The Twins are 8-5, in first place in the American League Central, a half game ahead of Cleveland.

Projected record:  We'll just have to settle for 157-5!