...AKA "16 games or < until No-Doz(ier)."
The Twins kick off their 2018 Central Division campaign against a young Chicago squad, (losers of 7 of their last 9 games). They went 11-7 against the 67 win club a year ago, the first under coach Rick Renteria. Renteria and GM Rick Hahn are likely hoping that trades of Sale, Eaton*, Quintana, Kahnle, Robertson and Cabrera in 2016 & '17 will begin to bear fruit.
*Today's starter for the Sox, Lucas Giolito was part of the Eaton trade with Washington. The 23-year-old has walked 7 and given up 8 runs in 11 2/3 innings to start the year, but as a former 1st round pick (#16 overall in 2012) with decent minor league numbers (3.18 ERA, 1.248 WHIP, 9.6K/9 in 497 IP over 6 seasons), and good numbers in his (limited) MLB appearances last year (7 starts, 45.1 IP, 2.38 ERA, 181 ERA+, 4.94 FIP, 0.949 WHIP), the boys should not take him lightly.
Opposing Giolito will be the Twins' José Berríos, their very own 23-year-old , former first rounder (#32 overall in 2012). With great numbers during 6 years in the minors (2.77 ERA, 1.075 WHIP, 9.6K/9 in 591 IP), it's safe to say that the big club has high expectations for the young Puerto Rican. Berríos started 25 games for the Twins in 2017, going 14-8 with a 3.89 ERA, 113 ERA+, 3.84 FIP and 1.229 WHIP. He accumulated 139 SO in 145.2 Innings Pitched and averaged 3 BB per 9. In 2018, José has already notched a win in his first career Complete Game, and been knocked out after 4 2/3 innings (5 ER on 6 Hits) in an 11-4 loss to Seattle. Excited to see which version we get in what may be the only "nice" game of the series.
I'll leave you with this: 1,998 - not too far off 2,000. I'm hoping some Citizen is able to bring us a in-person, personal clip of this momentous occasion.
So. Anyone for another Berrios shutout? Yeah. That would be swell.
Day game alert!
Finishing at .500 would not be considered a success this year, would it? With that being the case, I wonder if we get 424 comments today?
With Mauer closing in on 400 doubles, I've been starting to wonder whether he can break the franchise record. He needs 18 to pass Kirby for most doubles in a Twins uniform, but he has a long way to go to catch Sam Rice at 479. I can't imagine Joe playing in any other uniform, so I hope we get to do another countdown like this in 2019.
This is a big series. Cleveland and Minnesota are tied for first place,w ith the Twins having two games in hand, a sweep could make some room at the top. The Twins have the perfect pitcher to continue a long win streak with Ervin Santana. Josh Tomlin starts for the C's. He is coming off his best start of the season (7ip 1r)
Fun fact! With his next run scored, Joe Mauer will reach 900 for his career. He is 5th on the all time Twins list, and only 4 behind Kent Hrbek. If Mauer is helathy and plays all of next year he might be able to catch Kirby (1071) and Harmon (1076 in his Twins years)
Tonight's game features the Twins best starter* of 2016 - Ervin Santana (6-10, 3.54 ERA, 118 ERA+, 1.201 WHIP) who, in pitching for a bad team, is 4-3 in his past 7 starts (49 IP, 13 ER's, 11BB:40K, 2.39 ERA, with an average of 4 runs of support) including a 2-0 loss to Atlanta on July 26, and a 2-1 loss to Kansas City on Aug 21.
The Twins offense will see Jose Quintana, quietly(?) having the best year of his career (11-9, 2.77 ERA, 147 ERA+, 1.103 WHIP). Quintana, also pitching for a (pretty) bad team, is also 4-3 in his past 7 starts (48.2 IP's, 10 ER's, 8BB:38K, 1.85 ERA, also with an average of 4 runs of support).
Based on the remarkable similarity of their results over their past 7 starts, tonight could be a very fun game if you like pitching.
The Twins are 2-2 against Quintana this season, losing their first two meetings, but beating him on June 28th & July 29th (though he recorded 8 & 9 SO's in those games respectively).
-The Twins are 49-84 (6 wins behind their Pythagorean projected 55-79) and are on pace for 102 losses.
-60-102 would tie their worst W-L% since moving to Minnesota - their 1982 record.**
-A loss tonight ties the Twins longest losing streak of 14 games, set between May 19 - June 2, 1982. (The Senators lost 18 consecutive games at least four times: 1903, '04, '48 & '59.)
-Thankfully, they've got a ways to go to catch the '88 Orioles at 21 games lost in a row, or the modern-era-leading 1961 Phillies with a 23 game losing streak.
On a more positive note, highlighted by dw early this morning, Dozier has accumulated 5.4 WAR*** this year, and at 2.5 WAR so far, Joe Mauer is only .6 WAR behind Kirby Puckett on the Twins career WAR list at 50.3, good for 6th all time.
*No other Twins starter has an ERA below 5, though reliever Ryan Pressly is 6-6 with a 3.65 ERA in 62 games
**There are 9 Senators teams with worse W-L%'s
***A career best. Maybe it goes without saying that 32 HR's and 81 RBI's (so far) are also career bests
First pitch – 1:15 PM
BREAKING: The Minnesota Twins equipment manager is offering apologies after shipping mostly ass bats with the team for their season-opening road trip. According to the front office, there was a mix up in the packing process and the ass bats were affixed with the wrong shipping labels. Replacements are being requisitioned as quickly as possible. The Twins front office responded to the incident by transferring the equipment manager to the training staff.
Because Ervin Santana pitched but two innings in the rain-delayed season opener and the Twins’ skipper was afforded the chance to use him again on Friday, we’re not seeing our first look at our last starter, Ricky Nolasco, until the 6th game of the new campaign. Now, I’m inclined to think that the less we see of Nolasco the better, but we are paying a premium for the privilege of not watching him pitch while he recovers from the injuries that have made him such a disappointment since the Twins acquired him. My hope for Nolasco is that he can redeem himself and have a solid year anchoring the rotation. Alas, the tempest that spawns when one’s expectations are not aligned with one’s hopes.
Squaring off on the mound against Nolasco today is Edinson Volquez in his second start of the season. In his Opening Day effort against the Mets in Willits Point, Volquez gave up just two hits over six frames while striking out five and walking three. He’s coming off a 2015 season of 13 wins and nine losses with 200.1 innings pitched and a 3.55 ERA.
On the other side of the ball, the Twins offensive outcomes to date have ranged from feeble to frustrating. A team that strikes out this much – 58 times in just 5 games – should be playing in a beer league or on a sandlot. Meager bright spots in an otherwise dull offense include Eduardo Escobar sporting a 1.104 OPS powered by four doubles, Joe Mauer with his .880 OPS, and Byung Ho Park compiling an .837 OPS while hitting at just a .231 clip.
We’re burning daylight. Play ball!
Facing the reigning Cy Young winner, Corey Kluber, the Twins swung early & often and their first five hits went: double (Mauer), double (Sano), homerun (Plouffe), double (Hunter), double (Rosario). These five players accounted for all eight of the hits for the Twins - Brian Dozier added a sacrifice fly and a BB, Herrrmaaann reached twice (BB & HBP) and Escobar also had a BB.
Eddie further celebrated his 24th Birthday with a couple of singles, going 3-4. Despite 114 K's to only 14 BB's, Rosario's had a very nice rookie year: .270/.290/.463 with 18 Doubles, 15 Triples, 12 Homeruns, 49 RBI's, 56 Runs and 11 Stolen bases.
Tommy Milone, tapped to start in place of an ill Phil Hughes a mere four hours before the game, rebounded nicely from his previous two starts at the beginning of September (the results of which - combined with Hughes' return from the DL and Duffy's effectiveness - caused a move to the bullpen). He gave Molitor & Co. 5 2/3 quality innings, allowing only two earned runs on four hits, no walks and four strikeouts. In the sixth, Kipnis blasted a fly ball to deep centerfield that it appeared Hicks had a play on. Instead, he leapt & missed it and the ball caromed off the wall, allowing Kipnis to reach third base. The Indian's rookie SS phenom, Francisco Lindor, then added his second RBI of the night (first was a 1st inning HR) by grounding out to SS. That was all they'd get as the Twins bullpen went on to shut the Cleveland lineup down. Boyer, Fien, Perkins & Jepsen pitched 3 1/3 innings of shutout baseball, allowing only two hits and striking out three (two by Perk-n-Play - yay!).
With this win, the Twins have guaranteed themselves the first .500 or better season in five years. Considering I couldn't find any/we didn't do any predictions this year, I'd say none of us expected much from this club to begin the season. That they're still in the playoff hunt with six games to play is a minor miracle.
Consensus after the game seemed to be that:
a) Molitor made some curious moves re: pinch-running and defensive substitutions which came back to bite him (see socal's comments in the Game Log),
b) The Twins offense had numerous chances to put this thing away, but simply couldn't get it done (3-13 w/ RISP),
c) Jepsen was bound to blow a save with the Twins at some point - unfortunately, it came in game that was both very winnable and very important,
d) Hicks still has some work to do on keeping his head in games: he was doubled off 2nd in the 6th and didn't hit the cut-off man in the 9th, allowing the eventual tying runner to advance to 2nd.
e) Duensing sucks,
f) It's all Mauer's fault, all the time.*
And the positive:
With his solo homer off Norris in the third, Eddie Rosario became the 17th rookie to record 10 homers, 10 triples, 10 doubles and 10 stolen bases in a season. He was the first do it since Hanley Ramirez in 2006. He's also just the sixth rookie to reach those marks with at least 10 outfield assists.
They're still only 1.5 games behind Houston for the 2nd Wild Card spot, with seventeen games left and a fairly favorable list of opponents. Channeling JeffA, I'd say they're ready to start their seventeen game winning streak tonight against LAAAAA.