The wins by Toronto & Baltimore yesterday, combined with the Twins loss, results in a virtual 3-way tie for the 2nd Wild Card spot. Technically, Minnesota and Baltimore are tied and Toronto is virtually tied, though actually a few meager decimals of percentage points behind the Orioles and Twins.
Also technically, Ervin "Not Johan" Santana took the Loss yesterday, but one could argue (as a few of us have recently) that the offense was at fault for the outcome. Now, the Twins were facing newly-acquired ace David Price, who is 4th in the AL in ERA (2.45) & Strikeouts (149), 5th in WAR (3.4), Tied for 6th in WHIP (1.08) and 3rd in Innings Pitched (154). For those who weren't watching or listening, I'd argue that the biggest inning was the 4th when, with the game tied at 1, the Twins managed to load the bases with nobody out. Rosario popped out to short, Hicks struck out looking and Suzuki struck out swinging. Not one productive out, though Suzuki at least had a long at-bat before succumbing to Price. That was it. Price then retired the next 12 batters in order and LaTroy Hawkins took care of the Twins' 3, 4 & 5 hitters in the 9th to salt it away. The Twins struck out 12 times - 11 at the hands of Price.
Santana was facing a Toronto club that is full of great hitters; a team leading all of baseball with 566 Runs scored, and he gave up two Home Runs and only lasted 6 Innings - not enough considering the recent slippage by the bullpen. However, the 5 Runs scored were less than the per-game average scored by the Blue Jays this year (5.3) and they only ended up with 8 hits in the game.
Couple of things.
The offense has been fairly streaky thus far, with lots of young(er) guys getting regular playing time, and their few known quantities batting about as expected. Only Dozier is in the top-20 in the league in OPS (.828) and Mauer leads qualified Twins players* with a .269 BA and a .333 OBP, though his .712 OPS is below league average. On offense, the pleasant surprises (Rosario, Hicks, Sano) have been offset by the disappointments (Vargas, Santana, Arcia and - though limited to 11 games - Buxton). The catcher position has been a black hole and the roster, as constructed, offers Molitor a bench with defensive capabilities, but limited offense. As I noted in the game log yesterday -
"...the fellas have been remarkably consistent - month-to-month - hitting .255/.306/.413 in May (hot) & June (not hot) combined and .255/.311/.420 in July. On the season, they've hit .276/.346/.439 with RISP."
We (I) was wondering what the Twins management would do at the trade deadline, considering where the club is at roster-wise right now, where they're
likely hopeful to be at in the coming years, and how the current season has shaped up. We don't know what moves Terry Ryan attempted, only the one that he consummated - bringing in relief pitcher Kevin Jepsen in exchange for a couple of minor-league prospects. My guess is that, being realistic about this team and being unwilling to sell the farm for a chance at the Wild Card, knowing what he's put together in the bullpen and seeing the offense at work (and that Santana won't be available for any post-season play), Terry was not willing to sacrifice prospects to try and upgrade SS, Catcher and the Bullpen.
Secondly: They moved Mauer from behind the dish to try and protect him and prolong his career, expecting that being healthy would keep his bat in the line-up. In two years as a DH/1B, his line is .273/.349/.375 with a 101 OPS+ (good for 2.8 WAR), compared to career numbers of .323/.405/.468 and a 135 OPS+ before the move (good for 44.2 WAR). Is it time to wonder if this is the new normal for Joe? Of note, his .269 BA is 4th in the league for 1B but his .712 OPS is 9th of 12 qualifiers.
*There are only four players who currently qualify for the batting title: Dozier, Mauer, Plouffe! and Hunter. The next closest qualifier is Suzuki with nearly 70 fewer at-bats than Torii.