It seems like today is the day Eddie Rosario leaves the Twins (although the writing has been on the wall for quite a long time). Let's bring back an old SBG gimmick from long, long ago. Write your six word story about Eddie Rosario. We can have a poll for the best one.
MINNESOTA 12, KANSAS CITY 8 IN MINNESOTA
Date: Sunday, September 22.
Batting stars: Eddie Rosario was 3-for-4 with three doubles, a walk, and three RBIs. Nelson Cruz was 2-for-3 with a home run (his fortieth), two walks, and four runs. Miguel Sano was 2-for-4 with two home runs (his thirty-second and thirty-third), a walk, and four RBIs. Jorge Polanco was 2-for-4 with a double, a walk, and three runs. Marwin Gonzalez was 2-for-4 with a walk and three RBIs.
Pitching stars: Tyler Duffey struck out the side in a perfect inning. Trevor May pitched a scoreless inning, giving up a hit and a walk and striking out one. Cody Stashak struck out two in a scoreless inning, giving up one hit. Brusdar Graterol struck out the side in a perfect inning.
Opposition stars: Whit Merrifield was 3-for-4 with a stolen base, his nineteenth. Nicky Lopez was 2-for-3 with two doubles, a walk, and two runs.
The game: The Royals started the game with singles by Merrifield and Adalberto Mondesi, then immediately pulled off a double steal to put men on second and third with none out. They did not score, however, as the next three batters failed to get the ball out of the infield.
The Twins responded with a big bottom of the first. With one out, Polanco and Cruz singled and Rosario followed with an RBI double. With two out, Gonzalez singled home a run and Sano came through with a three-run homer. It did not kill the rally, as Jake Cave walked and LaMonte Wade and Luis Arraez singled. It was a 6-0 Twins lead, and they then cruised to an easy victory.
Well, not quite. Nick Dini hit a two-run homer in the second to cut the lead to 6-2. In the third, Lopez and Jorge Soler hit back-to-back doubles, Hunter Dozier singled, a ground out scored a run, and Cheslor Cuthbert had an RBI single, cutting the margin to 6-5. Sano homered in the bottom of the third to make it 7-5, but Lopez had an RBI double in the fourth to again cut the lead to one at 7-6. Cruz hit a home run in the bottom of the fourth to put the difference back up to two at 8-6.
Things settled down a bit for a little while. There was no more scoring until the sixth. Polanco doubled, Cruz was intentionally walked, Rosario had an RBI double, and Gonzalez drove in a run with a single to make it 10-6. They added two more in the seventh. With two out, Polanco and Cruz walked, Rosario had another RBI double, and Jason Castro and Gonzalez walked, giving the Twins a 12-6 advantage. The Twins remained in control of the game the rest of the way.
No, not really. They should have. Fernando Romero came in to pitch the ninth with a six run lead. No one needed their bats against him, as he went strikeout, walk, walk, strikeout, walk. With the bases loaded and two down, Rocco had seen enough and brought in Sergio Romo. He immediately walked two men, making the score 12-8 and bringing the tying run to the plate. Finally, however, he struck out Alex Gordon and the victory went to the Twins.
WP: Zack Littell (6-0). LP: Jorge Lopez (4-9). S: None.
Notes: LaMonte Wade was in center in the continuing absence of Byron Buxton. Jake Cave was in right in the absence of Max Kepler. Marwin Gonzalez was at first base in the continuing absence of C. J. Cron. Mitch Garver started the game at catcher, but was removed in the fifth due to "right hip tightness". I have no information on how serious it is.
Luis Arraez was 1-for-6 and is batting .343. Cruz is batting .303. His home run, as I'm sure you know, was the four hundredth of his career.
Zack Littell has an ERA of 2.83. Tyler Duffey is at 2.26.
Remember when Miguel Sano was a total bust, and the Twins should either send him to Rochester or just DFA him?
I seem to hear from a lot of Twins fans who aren't really enjoying this run for the division title. They keep saying, "But with our pitching, we won't do anything in the playoffs." I actually agree with that assessment, although with the caveat that it's baseball and you never know. But even so, that doesn't mean we can't enjoy the success we're having in the regular season.
I think part of the problem is that a lot of fans have no confidence in the Twins' ability to take the next step next year. They don't see this as a division title this year, maybe a deep playoff run the next year, then a world championship. Their fear is that this is a one-off, and next year we'll be back to mediocrity. I understand that. We've never really seen a Twins team that was able to take that next step. The division championships in the first decade of the 2000s were accompanied by post-season futility. The two world championships were not the culmination of a steady building phase--they came from bad teams becoming good in a single bound, and then dropping back to mediocrity or worse within a couple of years. We have no experience with a Twins team going from good to better to best.
I think there are reasons to think this Twins team could, though. The biggest one is the number of young players who are having success this season. Front and center, of course, is Arraez, who is batting .343 with an OPS of .851. But look at the pitchers:
Littell, 2.83 ERA, 1.23 WHIP.
Cody Stashak, 3.13 ERA, 1.22 WHIP.
Randy Dobnak, 2.01 ERA, 1.39 WHIP.
Brusdar Graterol, 4.32 ERA, 1.20 WHIP.
Granted, we're dealing with some small sample sizes, but these guys have all been put into games in important situations and have, for the most part, come through. There's every reason to think they are legitimate big leaguers, and that there are more coming.
I don't remember the last time the Twins brought up this many young players and had them perform well. Part of the reason for that is that, before this year, they would not have been given the chance. Arraez would never have been brought up with so little AAA experience--they'd have found a veteran middle infielder to fill in. And if injuries had forced them to bring Arraez up for a week or two, he'd have been sent back as soon as the veterans got healthy. It would've been "Nice job, kid. Now go back to AAA and prove you belong here." On the pitching staff, we'd still be bumbling along with people like Matt Magill, Blake Parker, and Mike Morin, because "They've been around. They know how to pitch." Current management should be given credit not just for their role in developing these players, but for actually giving them the chance to play. There are never guarantees, but it gives me a lot of hope that this year is not just a one-off, but is instead building toward something even better in years to come.
Record: The Twins are 96-60, in first place in the American League Central, four games ahead of Cleveland. Their magic number is three.
Projected record: We're still on track for 102-60!
BOSTON 6, MINNESOTA 2 IN BOSTON
Date: Wednesday, September 4.
Batting stars: C. J. Cron was 2-for-3 with a walk. Miguel Sano was 2-for-3 with a walk. Eddie Rosario was 2-for-4 with a two-run homer, his twenty-eighth.
Pitching stars: Cody Stashak pitched 1.2 scoreless innings, giving up one hit and striking out one. Brusdar Graterol pitched a scoreless inning, giving up a walk.
Opposition stars: Eduardo Rodriguez struck out eight in seven shutout innings, giving up five hits and four walks. Mookie Betts was 4-for-5 with two home runs (his twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth) and five RBIs. Christian Vasquez was 2-for-4 with a double. Brock Holt was 2-for-4.
The game: Betts led off the bottom of the first with a home run, giving the Red Sox a 1-0 lead. The Twins put men on first and third with two out in the second but could not score. With one out in the bottom of the second, Vazquez singled, Jackie Bradley walked, and Betts homered again, putting Boston up 4-0.
The game was basically over at that point, because the Twins could not score against Rodriguez. They threatened in the fourth, opening the inning with two singles, but a double play ended the threat. The Red Sox added two more in the sixth, as Holt led off with a single, Mitch Moreland walked, Vasquez doubled, and Betts delivered a one-out single.
The Twins got on the board in the eighth, as Nelson Cruz singled and Rosario hit a two-run homer. All that did was avoid a shutout, though. They got a pair of one-out walks in the ninth, but a double play ended the game.
WP: Rodriguez (17-5). LP: Jose Berrios (11-8). S: Brandon Workman (11).
Notes: Max Kepler remains in center with Byron Buxton on the bench. Jake Cave was in right field. Kepler left the game with an injured chest, according to the play-by-play. I don't know anything about what happened or how serious it is. Willians Astudillo was behind the plate.
Luis Arraez entered the game as a defensive replacement and walked in his only time to the plate, so his batting average remains .343. Cruz was 1-for-5 and is batting .308. Jorge Polanco was 0-for-4 and is batting .302. Graterol has an ERA of zero in two games.
You never like to lose, of course, but the loss in itself is not a big deal. The Twins have won nine of eleven--you're not going to win them all. Rodriguez is a good pitcher--the Twins aren't the first team he's shut down and they won't be the last. It happens.
The concern, though, is the continuing question of "What's Wrong With Jose Berrios?" Rocco tried to pass it off as just getting beat by one great player, Betts, which I might be able to buy if this was just a random bad game. It's clearly not. His average game score for the six starts prior to this one was thirty-six, and while I don't have access to last night's game score I don't think it helped that average much. He hasn't had a good game since July 31, when he dominated a bad Miami team.
My guess--and I emphasize that's all it is--is that he's hiding an injury, and that it's working about as well as it usually does. Again, I have no solid evidence to support that. It just seems like the majority of the time, when a good player suddenly isn't, there's a physical reason why. If so, then ten out of ten for being a tough guy and a gamer, but minus several hundred for good sense. The way he's pitching now the Twins have to score about ten runs to win, and not even the Twins can do that consistently.
The Twins basically have about three and a half weeks to figure this out. They can win the division without a healthy and effective Berrios, but they can't win in the playoffs without him. As it stands right now, the Twins basically have two reliable starters--Jake Odorizzi and Michael Pineda. I know they won in 1987 with two reliable starters, but it wasn't easy then, and with the extra levels of playoffs it's pretty much impossible now. The only way you can do it is if you have such an awesome and resilient bullpen that you can consistently go to it in the third or fourth inning and win, and while the Twins bullpen has been better it's not in that category. The only way the Twins have a chance in the post-season is if Jose Berrios pitches like he did in the first four months of the season. The Twins have the rest of this month to figure out how to make that happen.
Record: The Twins are 86-53, in first place in the American League Central, 5.5 games ahead of Cleveland.
Projected record: We'll just have to settle for 109-53!
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 Arraez, Polanco, Cruz, Rosario, 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!
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!
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 Arraez, Cruz, 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!
MILWAUKEE 6, MINNESOTA 5 IN MILWAUKEE
Date: Wednesday, August 14.
Batting stars: Mitch Garver was 1-for-5 with a home run, his twenty-third. Eddie Rosario was 1-for-4 with a home run (his twenty-sixth) and a walk. Miguel Sano was 1-for-4 with a home run (his twenty-first) and a walk.
Pitching stars: Sam Dyson struck out two in a scoreless inning, giving up one hit. Trevor May struck out two in a scoreless inning, giving up a walk.
Opposition stars: Eric Thames was 3-for-4 with a double and two RBIs. Trent Grisham was 2-for-4 with a three-run homer (his second), a walk, and two runs. Keston Hiura was 2-for-4 with a walk.
The game: It looked good for quite a while. Garver led off the game with a home run and Rosario hit a two-out homer to give the Twins a 2-0 lead in the first inning. The Brewers got one back in the bottom of the first when Grisham singled, Yasmani Grandal walked, and Hiura delivered an RBI single.
Each team scored once in the third. Sano hit a one-out homer in the top of the inning. In the bottom, a one-out single by Hiura and two-out singles by Lorenzo Cain and Thames made the score 3-2.
With one out in the top of the fourth, Max Kepler walked, Jonathan Schoop doubled, and Kyle Gibson walked to load the bases. Garver struck out, but Jorge Polanco came through with a two-run single to put the Twins up 5-2. Milwaukee again got one back in the fifth when Mike Moustakas doubled and scored on a Thames single.
The score stayed 5-3 until the eighth. Ryan Braun led off by reaching on a Polanco error. Hernan Perez singled and Grisham followed with a three-run homer, giving the Brewers their first lead of the day at 6-5. The Twins tried to rally in the ninth. With two out, walks to Polanco, Sano, and Rosario loaded the bases. Unfortunately, Matt Albers then found the strike zone again and retired C. J. Cron on a deep fly to center to end the game.
WP: Junior Guerra (6-3). LP: Sergio Romo (2-1). S: Albers (4).
Notes: Kepler remained in center and Marwin Gonzalez in right with Byron Buxton out. Schoop was at second base rather than Luis Arraez, who was used as a pinch-hitter in the ninth. Arraez went 0-for-1 and is batting .348.
It's probably past time to admit that Gibson is never going to take that step forward and become a top pitcher. He is what he is--an average major league starting pitcher--and as he approaches his thirty-second birthday it's unlikely that he'll ever be more than that. That's not a criticism, exactly. There's value in being an average major league starting pitcher. Teams have missed the playoffs because they didn't have one. But I think a lot of the frustration with him comes from people thinking that he could be better than that and that he ought to be better than that. It's just not likely to happen. It's time to simply accept what he is.
We've discussed the number of winnable games the Twins have lost this season. The term "winnable game" is not easy to define. The only way to really know how many the Twins have lost would be to go back through all their games, and even then the definition would be somewhat subjective. And yes, one of the reasons that they've lost more winnable games this year is that they've played more winnable games--there haven't been that many times when they've been blown out. Still, if you want to be a top team, you have to win a pretty high percentage of your winnable games. That's the only way you get a good won-lost record, and that's the way we determine what teams are the top teams. Every time you lose one of those winnable games, it costs you.
The good news, though, is that the Twins are still a half game up on Cleveland. They don't have to win a specific number of games or achieve a certain winning percentage to win the division. They just need to win one more game than Cleveland does in the last forty-two games of the season. We'll see if they can.
Record: The Twins are 72-48, in first place in the American League Central, a half game ahead of Cleveland.
Projected record: We'll just have to settle for 114-48!
MINNESOTA 7, MILWAUKEE 5 IN MILWAUKEE
Date: Tuesday, August 13.
Batting stars: Marwin Gonzalez was 2-for-4 with a three-run homer (his fourteenth) and two runs. Eddie Rosario was 2-for-4 with a double, a walk, and two runs. Mitch Garver was 1-for-5 with a two-run homer, his twenty-second.
Pitching stars: Martin Perez pitched six innings, giving up an unearned run on six hits and four walks and striking out three. Tyler Duffey 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. Sergio Romo pitched a scoreless inning.
Opposition stars: Yasmani Grandal was 2-for-4 with a three-run homer (his twentieth) and a walk. Manny Pina was 2-for-4 with a double and a hit-by-pitch. Keston Hiura was 2-for-4 with a walk.
The game: Each team missed chances early. The Brewers had men on first and third in each of the first two innings and did not score. The Twins put men on first and second with one out in the second and did not score. In the third, however, Max Kepler led off with a walk and Garver followed with a two-run homer. With one out, Rosario walked, went to third on a Miguel Sano single, and scored on a ground out to put the Twins up 3-0.
Milwaukee again put two men on in the third and did not score. They got on the board in the fourth, though. Hernan Perez got a one-out single. Chase Anderson's bunt should have resulted in an inning-ending double play, but an error instead put men on first and third with one out. A force out brought home a run, cutting the lead to 3-1. The Brewers again missed a chance in the fifth, as they failed to do anything with a leadoff double.
The Twins got an insurance run in the seventh, as Gonzalez singled, went to second on a wild pitch, and scored on Ehire Adrianza's pinch-hit double. It was 4-1 and looking good for the visitors. In the bottom of the seventh, however, Hiura led off with a single and scored on a Christian Yelich double. Catcher's interference put men on first and second and Grandal delivered a three-run homer, giving Milwaukee its first lead at 5-4. Suddenly, things weren't looking so good for the visitors after all.
But the Twins would not be denied. Rosario led off the eighth with a double and Sano walked. The next two batters went out, but Gonzalez came through with a three-run homer for the Twins, putting them up 7-5. Dyson and Romo came in to slam the door and make it a Minnesota victory.
WP: Duffey (2-1). LP: Drew Pomeranz (2-10). S: Romo (19).
Notes: It remained Kepler in center and Gonzalez in right, with Byron Buxton remaining out.
Luis Arraez was 1-for-3 with a walk and is batting .350.
Perez got through six innings and gave up just an unearned run. It wasn't pretty, as the Brewers had a threat in pretty much every inning. For the game, Milwaukee stranded twelve runners and went 1-for-12 with men in scoring position. It's hard to tell whether Perez actually pitched better or just got lucky. Whatever it was, though, we'll take it.
It may well be that this is well-known and I just missed it (I went to bed before the ninth), but I don't know why Romo was used to close the game rather than Taylor Rogers. I saw a game story that said Rogers was "apparently unavailable", but it didn't say why. It worked out, but the Twins definitely need a healthy Taylor Rogers coming down the stretch.
This felt like a really big win for the Twins. Yes, momentum is as good as the next day's starting pitcher, and if the Twins go on to lose five of the next six this game won't mean much of anything. But when the Twins lost the lead in the seventh, a lot of people (including me) thought, "Here we go again". Another winnable game lost. Another game blown by the bullpen. Couple that with Cleveland appearing to come back on Boston, and it looked like the Twins would lose yet another game in the standings. Instead, they gained a game and find themselves back in first place. Time will tell how big this game actually was, but it feels pretty big right now.
Record: The Twins are 72-47, first in the American League Central, a half game ahead of Cleveland.
Projected record: We're still on track for 115-47!
CLEVELAND 7, MINNESOTA 3 IN MINNESOTA (10 INNINGS)
Date: Sunday, August 11.
Batting stars: Luis Arraez was 2-for-3 with two RBIs. Eddie Rosario was 2-for-4 with two doubles and two runs. Marwin Gonzalez was 2-for-4 with a double. C. J. Cron was 2-for-4.
Pitching stars: Jose Berrios pitched six innings, giving up three runs on six hits and a walk and striking out four. Trevor May retired all five batters he faced, striking out two.
Opposition stars: Aaron Civale pitched six innings, giving up one run on four hits and no walks and striking out five. Carlos Santana was 2-for-5 with a grand slam (his twenty-fifth homer), two runs, and five RBIs. Greg Allen was 2-for-5 with a home run (his third) and two runs. Francisco Lindor was 1-for-3 with a double, two walks, and two runs.
The game: The Indians jumped on Berrios for two runs in the first inning. Allen hit a one-out homer, followed by a walk to Santana and a double by Yasiel Puig. The Twins got on the board in the second, as Rosario doubled and scored on a pair of fly outs. Cleveland got the run back in the third when Lindor doubled and scored on a Santana single.
The score was 3-1, and it stayed there for quite some time. The Twins had a chance in the fifth, getting one-out singles from Cron and Gonzalez, but the next two batters could not get the ball out of the infield. Each team had two on with none out in the seventh, but neither could score.
Rosario led off the ninth with a double. With one out, Arraez had an RBI single to cut the lead to 3-2. Cron followed with a single, putting men on first and second, and was pinch-run for with Ehire Adrianza. Gonzalez then delivered an RBI double to tie the score, but Adrianza was thrown out trying to score from first base. Jonathan Schoop grounded out to end the inning, but the Twins had scored two in the bottom of the ninth to tie it 3-3.
It didn't stay tied long. Taylor Rogers came in to pitch the tenth and gave up a single to Kevin Plawecki. A walk to Lindor and a bunt single by Allen filled the bases. Santana emptied them with a grand slam, and the game was gone. The Twins went down on three ground outs in the bottom of the tenth.
WP: Brad Hand (5-3). LP: Rogers (2-3). S: None.
Notes: Max Kepler remains in center field and Gonzalez played right with Byron Buxton out. Arraez was the DH with Nelson Cruz out. I don't know why you wouldn't rather have Arraez at third and Miguel Sano as the DH, but there you have it.
Arraez is now batting .350. Since the last recap, Jorge Polanco fell below .300 and is batting .295. Ryne Harper retired both men he faced and has an ERA of 2.96. Rogers allowed four runs in a third of an inning and has an ERA of 2.68.
There seems to be a perception among Twins fans (not necessarily here) that Berrios has been somewhat of a disappointment. Not that he's been terrible, but that he's not been as good as he should be. It's simply not true. Even with the terrible Atlanta game, his season numbers are 10-6, 3.29, 1.15 WHIP. Those are excellent numbers. He had a 2.06 ERA and 0.97 WHIP in June and a 2.43 ERA with a 1.18 WHIP in July. Even his "bad" games (again, other than the Atlanta game) have been like yesterday--not dominant, but still keeping his team in the game. If he's been a disappointment, it's because the expectations for him were unreasonable. People expect him to be dominant every single time, and nobody can do that. The Twins have some problems, but Berrios is not one of them.
It's never literally true that one play cost you a game. There are all sorts of things that could've gone differently, and if they had the game would've been different. Even after Adrianza was thrown out, Schoop could've gotten a hit and won the game. The Twins could've taken advantage of their chances in the fifth and seventh, or just generally scored more than one run in the first eight innings. Berrios could've not given up two runs in the first, putting the Twins in an immediate hole. Rogers didn't have to give up the grand slam. And it's also not a given that the Twins would've won it in the ninth had Adrianza been held at third--we don't know what would've happened next. What we do know is that Adrianza was thrown out on a play where the only chance he had to score was on a Cleveland error, and that did a lot of damage to the Twins' chances.
After the game Rocco talked a lot of nonsense about how the Indians made a perfect relay. I really can't criticize him for that. His only other option, really, was to throw his third base coach under the bus, and that wouldn't have been a good thing to do. I hope it was addressed privately, but public criticism would not have been helpful in this case.
So, after roughly seventy-three percent of the season has been played, Minnesota and Cleveland have exactly the same records. How they got there may affect our perceptions and feelings, but from here on out it's basically irrelevant. They say that a baseball season is a marathon and not a sprint, but these two teams essentially have a forty-four game sprint for the division title. Whoever has the better record in this forty-four game "season" will win. It's as simple as that.
Record: The Twins are 71-47, tied for first with Cleveland in the American League Central.
Projected record: We'll just have to settle for 115-47!
MINNESOTA 6, OAKLAND 3 IN MINNESOTA
Date: Thursday, July 18.
Batting stars: Eddie Rosario was 1-for-1 with a three-run homer, his twenty-first. Mitch Garver was 1-for-4 with a home run, his sixteenth. C. J. Cron was 1-for-4 with a home run, his eighteenth. Luis Arraez was 1-for-2 with a double and two walks. Miguel Sano was 1-for-2 with two walks and two runs.
Pitching stars: Kyle Gibson struck out seven in seven innings, giving up three runs on six hits and no walks. Taylor Rogers pitched two shutout innings, giving up two hits and striking out one.
Opposition stars: Ramon Laureano was 3-for-4 with two runs. Jurickson Profar was 1-for-4 with a two-run homer, his fourteenth. Mike Fiers pitched 6.1 innings, giving up three runs on six hits and four walks and striking out four.
The game: The Athletics put men on first and third with two out in the second, but there was no score until the third, when Sano walked, went to second on a Jake Cave single, took third on a bunt, and scored on a wild pitch. Oakland immediately tied it in the fourth, as Laureano singled, went to second on a wild pitch, and scored on a Khris Davis double.
The Twins missed a chance in the fifth, putting men on first and second with none out and running themselves out of the inning. It looked like it would be costly, as the Athletics took the lead in the sixth. Laureano singled with one out and Profar hit a two-out two-run homer, putting Oakland up 3-1. But in the seventh, Arraez hit a one-out double, Sano walked, and Rosario, pinch-hitting for Cave, hit a three-run homer to give the Twins a 4-3 lead.
Oakland got a pair of one-out singles in the eighth, but a strikeout and a fly out ended the inning. The Twins then got some insurance, as Garver and Cron each homered to make it 6-3. The Athletics went down in order in the ninth.
WP: Gibson (9-4). LP: Yusmeiro Petit (2-2). S: Rogers (14).
Notes: Max Kepler was in center field and Cave in right, with Byron Buxton still out. Marwin Gonzalez was in left, replacing Rosario. When Rosario entered the game, he went to left, with Gonzalez in right. Arraez was at second base with Jonathan Schoop still out. Ehire Adrianza was at shortstop, replacing Jorge Polanco.
Arraez raised his average to .382. Rogers has an ERA of 1.61.
The Twins made two more errors, although this time none of them led to runs. Everyone keeps saying, "Well, Buxton's out", but Buxton isn't going to stop infielders from booting grounders or throwing the ball away. Anyone who says, "Defense doesn't go into a slump" hasn't been watching the Twins lately.
But, all's well that ends well. Gibson pitched a good game--not dominating, but seven innings, three runs, six hits, no walks is something you'd take from him every time. Rogers remains outstanding. Arraez had another good game. And Rosario, well, what more can you say?
And Miguel Sano has quietly been batting very well lately. He was 1-for-2 last night and he drew two walks, both of which led to runs. He's only batting .236 on the season, which isn't great, but his OBP is .324. Since June 27, when he went 0-for-7 in the eighteen inning game, he's batting .340/.436/.702. A productive Sano would be really helpful over the last two and a half months of the season.
Record: The Twins are 59-36, in first place in the American League Central, four games ahead of Cleveland.
Projected record: We're still on track for 126-36!