Hey, all. Pretty busy today as I'm guessing you are as well. The Odoreater is up against the Zimm dog, pitching better after a recent IL stint, though he's still afflicted with being on the Tigers. Hoping for a fun-filled donger fest today!
MINNESOTA 8, CHICAGO 2 IN CHICAGO
Date: Wednesday, August 28.
Batting stars: Mitch Garver was 3-for-4 with a two-run homer (his twenty-fourth), a hit-by-pitch, and two runs. Jonathan Schoop was 2-for-4 with two home runs (his twentieth and twenty-first) and four RBIs. Jorge Polanco was 2-for-5 with a double.
Pitching stars: Jake Odorizzi struck out eight in six innings, giving up two runs on five hits and two walks. Trevor May struck out three in a scoreless inning, giving up one hit. Cody Stashak pitched two shutout innings, giving up three hits and striking out one.
Opposition stars: Jose Abreu was 2-for-4 with a double. Tim Anderson was 2-for-4 with a double. Jimmy Cordero pitched two shutout innings, giving up one hit.
The game: Doubles by Leury Garcia and Abreu put the White Sox on the board in the first inning with a 1-0 lead. The Twins came right back in the second. Eddie Rosario led off with a bloop single, Ehire Adrianza hit a two-out single, and Schoop came through with a three-run homer, putting the Twins up 3-1. They added two in the third on just one hit. Garver was hit by a pitch, Jorge Polanco doubled, and Nelson Cruz was intentionally walked to fill the bases. A force out brought home one run and an error brought home another, making the score 5-1. The Twins again loaded the bases in the fourth, getting two-out singles from Garver and Polanco and another intentional walk to Cruz, but Rosario grounded out to end the threat.
Chicago got a run back in the bottom of the fourth. With one out, Yoan Moncada and Anderson singled and Eloy Jimenez walked, giving the White Sox loaded bases. They were not more successful than the Twins, getting a force out to bring home one run, but no more. Chicago put two on with two out in the fifth, but could do nothing with that, either.
The Twins put the game out of reach in the eighth. With one out, Schoop homered, Jake Cave doubled, and Garver homered, making the score 8-2.
WP: Odorizzi (14-6). LP: Ross Detwiler (2-4). S: None.
Notes: Cave was in center in the absence of Byron Buxton. Adrianza was in right in the absence of both Max Kepler and Marwin Gonzalez. An outfield of Rosario-Cave-Adrianza is obviously less than ideal, but the Twins don't have a lot of options. LaMonte Wade has just started a rehab assignment in Pensacola. Zander Weil is probably the next-best outfielder in Rochester, but I know nothing about his defense. The best option may be to hope Kepler and Gonzalez can bounce back quickly.
I see that Miguel Sano was hit by a pitch and was eventually replaced by Luis Arraez. I don't know whether that's something to be concerned about. Arraez was 1-for-2 and is now batting .336.
The first three batters hit Odorizzi pretty hard, but he certainly settled down after that. He allowed only three more hits and one more run over the next six innings. That's the Odorizzi the Twins need. The bullpen came through as well. Trevor May has quietly been pitching quite well over the last month. In his last eleven games (12.1 innings), he has given up just one earned run on five hits and three walks and has struck out fifteen. Other than one game against Atlanta, Stashak has also done pretty well.
In his last five games, Schoop has gone 6-for-17. That's good, but what's really impressive is that five of the six hits have gone over the fence. That's a slugging average of 1.235, which I'm pretty sure would be a record if you did it for a season. He won't do it for the season, of course, but it's a pretty good run, even in a small sample size.
Today the Twins go for the sweep. Whether they get will depend to a large extent on whether Jose Berrios can pitch like Jose Berrios. I said a couple of weeks ago that he was not one of the Twins' problems, and since then he's gone out and proven me wrong. In his four August starts, he is 0-2, 8.44, 1.97 WHIP. The Twins say it's an issue with his mechanics. Hopefully a trip to Wes Johnson's repair shop has solved his mechanical problems and he can get back to pitching the way the Twins need him to.
Record: The Twins are 81-51, in first place, 3.5 games ahead of Cleveland.
Projected record: We're still on track for 111-51!
This sucks, folks.
No way around it. Yes, Cleveland has done insanely well over the past 50+ games, but a double digits lead evaporated quick enough to make my head spin. It sucks.
But! We've still got the easiest schedule in baseball going forward, and I still feel that we've got this.
One of the most important pieces moving forward toward the division title takes the hill today. Odorizzi played like a deserving all star in the first half, and has played like someone who wants to go into free agency looking for a pillow contract so far in the last month or so. That needs to turn around. We need Buxton and Cruz, but it all begins with getting better starts from our rotation.
Get it done, Odo.
The wife is on a business trip, and I've got two little rugrats, so I'll be keeping this brief. A pretty decent Braves team is coming through Minnesota starting a three game series tonight. This will be immediately followed by a four game series against the Spiders. Safe to say this will be a very important homestand. Thankfully, they started it off right with a sweep against the Royals. Let's continue the current trend.
The Twins will face a very sharp rightie (and Cy Young candidate) in Soroka tonight. The Twins counter his stinky pitches with their very own Odor Eater.
Well, that was fun! Let's do it again.
I think Gibson is a decent pitcher, but he is prone to the type of game he had last night, where he just doesn't have it. Rocco realizing that in the fourth inning and taking him out probably saved the ballgame. That's the type of good decision making that adds up over a season and becomes magnified in the postseason.
It also turned "I don't have a good feeling about this series" to "hey, this could work..."
Trying to keep the good vibes going today is Jake Odorizzi. He's taken a bit of a tumble lately, bit I'm thinking that his true self is somewhere between the truly great April and May that he had and the significantly less good June where he lost his hold on the All Star Game start and, eventually, a couple of layers of skin on one of his fingers.
We all know this series is big. A win or (dare I even a think it) a sweep puts Cleveland back in their places and (hopefully) gives them a seller's mentality here in the next few weeks.
Cleveland counters with Trevor Bauer. He's been up and down lately after his strong start. The Twins got to him last time. Hopefully, they do it again.
I've got Kepler today, btw. Go Twins!
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!
Winning series’s against the likes of Tampa Bay, Houston ... even Cleveland (and eventually New York and Boston) is what I hope to see over the remainder of the season. That being said, I certainly don’t mind another mid-season series against the Kanas City-type teams in this league - non-ass-bats make watching the individual games more enjoyable and (when they handle their business) continues their pursuit of the big prize: securing playoffs games & winning series’s in October. That said, watching career years out of our 1A & 1B starters is certainly worth the price of admission.
Odorizzi vs. Sparkman
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!
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!
MINNESOTA 7, CHICAGO 0 IN MINNESOTA
Date: Sunday, May 26.
Batting stars: Max Kepler was 2-for-4 with a home run (his twelfth), a double, two runs, and four RBIs. Eddie Rosario was 1-for-4 with a three-run homer, his sixteenth.
Pitching stars: Jake Odorizzi struck out nine in 5.1 scoreless innings, giving up one hit and one walk. Tyler Duffey struck out six in two shutout innings, giving up three hits and a walk.
Opposition star: Charlie Tilson was 2-for-4.
The game: The White Sox put men on first and second with two out in the third, but Yoan Moncada struck out to end the threat. With one out in the bottom of the third, Byron Buxton singled, went to third on a stolen base-plus-error, and scored on Kepler's double. Jorge Polanco walked, and with two out Rosario hit a three-run homer to give the Twins a 4-0 lead. While you can never put a game in the bank in the third inning, it really did feel like the game was over at that point.
They kept playing, of course. There were no threats, however, until the seventh, when Jose Abreu walked and Yonder Alonso doubled, putting men on second and third with none out. But Eloy Jimenez lined to right, Jose Rondon fanned, and Yolmer Sanchez flied out, leaving Chicago off the board. In the bottom of the seventh, one-out singles by Willians Astudillo and Juan Castro and a two-out home run by Kepler gave Minnesota a 7-0 lead. The White Sox put two men on in the ninth but did not score.
WP: Odorizzi (7-2). LP: Dylan Covey (0-4). S: None.
Notes: Marwin Gonzalez was in left field, with Rosario at DH. Luis Arraez was at second and Astudillo at third, with Jonathan Schoop and Miguel Sano on the bench.
Arraez was 0-for-3 and is batting .389. Polanco was 0-for-3 with a walk and is batting .335. Odorizzi has an ERA of 2.16. Matt Magill retired both men he faced and has an ERA of 1.54. Taylor Rogers retired the only man he faced and has an ERA of 1.31. Duffey has an ERA of 2.63.
With Nelson Cruz out, Rocco seems to be using the DH spot to give various starting players a rest. That makes sense. They don't have anyone on the bench who's really a DH-type, and they've got a couple of guys who, as Gordo used to say, "can play around", so you might as well take advantage of that.
The Twins used four relief pitchers yesterday, three of them for less than an inning. Rocco seems to have done that sort of thing a lot lately, using multiple relief pitchers for one or two batters. As a general rule I'm not a huge fan of that, but it certainly appears to be working. The Twins have five relief pitchers with ERAs under two (six if you count Zack Littell). I know ERA isn't necessarily the best way to evaluate a relief pitcher, but that still is pretty darn good.
It's been nice to see the Twins bring in some mopup relievers who can actually get the job done in the last few games.
We've reached Memorial Day, one of the traditional markers of how the season is going. The Twins are 36-16, twenty games over .500, and are in the lead by ten games. I said early on that the Twins had a chance this year, but I most definitely did not expect this.
Record: The Twins are 36-16, first in the American League Central, leading Cleveland by ten games. They have won six in a row and eleven of their last twelve.
Projected record: We're still on track for 146-16!