MINNESOTA 9, TAMPA BAY 7 IN TAMPA BAY
Date: Sunday, June 2.
Batting stars: Miguel Sano was 3-for-3 with two doubles and a walk. C. J. Cron was 2-for-3 with a double and three RBIs. Jorge Polanco was 2-for-4 with two RBIs. Byron Buxton was 2-for-4 with a double and two runs. Jonathan Schoop was 1-for-4 with a two-run homer, his eleventh.
Pitching stars: Jake Odorizzi struck out nine in six shutout innings, giving up three hits and a walk. Taylor Rogers struck out the side in a perfect inning.
Opposition stars: Ji-Man Choi was 2-for-3 with a double, a walk, and two runs. Austin Meadows was 2-for-5 with two RBIs. Brandon Lowe was 2-for-5. Christian Arroyo was 1-for-3 with a two-run homer.
The game: The first threat came in the second inning, when Choi led off with a double, was bunted to third, but failed to score. The Twins started the scoring in the third. Sano opened the inning with a single and a one-out double by Buxton put men on second and third. Mitch Garver then singled home a run and a sacrifice fly made it 2-0 Twins. With two out in the fourth, Marwin Gonzalez singled and Sano followed with a run-scoring double to make it 3-0.
The Twins had a big inning in the fourth. Buxton had a one-out single and advanced to third on a stolen base-plus-error. Garver was hit by a pitch and Polanco had an RBI single. A ground out moved the runners to second and third and Eddie Rosario walked to load the bases. C. J. Cron unloaded them with a three-run double to give the Twins a 7-0 lead.
It looked like the Twins were in control, and they were as long as Odorizzi was pitching. He came out after six, however, and in the seventh the Rays got back into the game. Willy Adames and Choi singled to start the inning. With one out, Kevin Kiermeier drove in a run with a single and a hit batsman loaded the bases. A strikeout gave hope that the Twins might get out of the inning, but Meadows had a two-run single, Yandy Diaz walked, and Lowe had a two-run single to cut the Twins' lead to 7-5.
The Twins got two back in the top of the eighth. With two out, Sano doubled and Schoop hit a two-run homer to make it 9-5 and again give the Twins a seemingly secure lead. But the Rays got back into it again, as Choi walked leading off the bottom of the eighth and Arroyo hit a two-run homer to cut the lead to 9-7. That was all the would get, though, as Rogers came in to strike out the side in the ninth and preserve the Twins' victory.
WP: Odorizzi (8-2). LP: Ryan Yarbrough (4-2). S: Rogers (5).
Notes: Gonzalez was in right field, with Max Kepler on the bench. Willians Astudillo was the DH.
Polanco raised his average to .338. Garver returned to the lineup and went 1-for-4, making his average .325. Odorizzi's ERA is 1.96. Blake Parker allowed two runs in 1.1 innings to raise his ERA to 2.61. Rogers has an ERA of 2.06.
The bullpen meltdown was discouraging, of course. Still, it should be pointed out that most of the damage came of Matt Magill, who would probably not have been in the game had the score been closer. Magill has been pitching quite well, though, and almost everyone has a bad game once in a while. It's the second poor outing out of three for Parker, but to his credit he did get the side out in order after giving up the two-run homer. It is obviously easier to be forgiving about all this when the Twins win, but even though a lot of them have pitched pretty well I don't think anyone looks at this as a lockdown bullpen.
I like Cory Provus, but for some reason this year he seems to go on and on talking about "momentum". When the Twins were ahead 7-0, they had momentum. Then the Rays scored five in the seventh and they had momentum. Then the Twins got a two-run homer in the eighth and they had momentum. Then the Rays got a two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth and they had momentum. Confidence and enthusiasm are important in sports, of course, but it appears that the best way to acquire momentum in baseball is to bat well, pitch well, and field well, and the best way to stop the other team's momentum is to bat well, pitch well, and field well. If you consistently do those things, momentum will probably take care of itself.
So, this team that supposedly can only beat up on bad teams took three out of four from Tampa Bay on the road. After a day off, they go to Cleveland for a three-game series which it would appear is much more important to the Indians than it is for the Twins. The Twins currently lead Cleveland by 11.5 games. A Cleveland sweep would make us all unhappy, but the Twins would still have a comfortable lead. If the Twins sweep, or even take two out of three, the Indians might be done. As it stands now Cleveland is tied for second with Chicago, and when all is said and done it may be that the White Sox will be our toughest competition. There's still a lot of season to go, however, so we shall see.
Record: The Twins are 40-18, first in the American League Central, 11.5 games ahead of Cleveland.
Projected record: We're still on track for 144-18!