Tag Archives: Jonathan Schoop

2019 Recap: Game Seventy-five

MINNESOTA 8, KANSAS CITY 7 IN KANSAS CITY

Date:  Friday, June 21.

Batting stars:  Eddie Rosario was 3-for-5 with a stolen base (his third) and two RBIs.  Jonathan Schoop was 2-for-4.  Jorge Polanco was 2-for-5 with a double and two runs.  Max Kepler was 2-for-5.  C. J. Cron was 1-for-5 with a home run, his sixteenth.  Miguel Sano was 1-for-5 with a home run, his eighth.

Pitching stars:  Tyler Duffey pitched a perfect inning.  Taylor Rogers pitched two shutout innings.

Opposition stars:  Cheslor Cuthbert was 3-for-4 with a home run (his fourth, a double, two runs, and four RBIs.  Jakob Junis struck out eight in six innings, giving up three runs (two earned) on six hits and two walks.  Jorge Soler was 1-for-3 with a home run (his twenty-first) a walk, and two runs.

The game:  In the bottom of the first, a pair of walks put men on first and second with two out.  Cuthbert then doubled home one run, an error allowed a second run to score, and Martin Maldonado's RBI single made it 3-0 Royals.

The Twins came back.  Cron homered leading off the second to make it 3-1.  In the fifth, Schoop led off with a single.  He was still on first with two out, but then Nelson Cruz walked and Rosario delivered an RBI single to make it 3-2 and put men on first and third.  Rosario then stole second and Cruz was able to score on a throwing error, tying the score 3-3.

It didn't stay tied long.  In the bottom of the fifth Whit Merrifield walked and Nicky Lopez was hit by a pitch.  A pair of strikeouts gave hope that Martin Perez might get out of the inning, but Cheslor Cuthbert, whose name sounds like he ought to be sitting around the smoking room of the Drones Club having a drink with Bertie Wooster rather than playing major league baseball, hit a three-run homer to put Kansas City back up 6-3.

The Twins again battled back.  In the seventh, singles by Max Kepler and Jorge Polanco were followed by a wild pitch, putting men on second and third with none out.  Cruz then delivered a two-run single to cut the margin to 6-5.  In the eighth, Sano led off with a home run to tie the score.  Pinch-hitter Mitch Garver walked and was replaced on the basepaths by pinch-runner Willians Astudillo.  Singles by Schoop and Kepler gave the Twins the lead 7-6.  Men were on second and third with none out.  Twice the Twins put the contact play on only to have their batter hit back to the pitcher, putting men on first and third with two out.  Rosario came through, however, getting a run-scoring single to give the Twins an insurance run at 8-6.

They needed it, as Soler led off the bottom of the eighth with a home run.  Cuthbert then singled, but Rogers came into the game at that point.  There was a scare in the bottom of the ninth, when an error by right-fielder Astudillo put the tying run on base with one out, but a line drive double play ended the game.

WP:  Ryne Harper (3-0).  LP:  Jake Diekman (0-5).  S:  Rogers (9).

Notes:  Polanco is batting .326.  Duffey has an ERA of 1.99.  Harper gave up a run in one inning and has an ERA of 2.35.  Rogers' ERA is 1.91.

Kepler was again in center, with Jake Cave in right.  Garver pinch-hit for Cave in the eighth inning, with Astudillo coming in to play right in the bottom of the eighth.

Martin Perez continues to struggle.  He hasn 't posted a game score above fifty since May 17.  In that span, he has posted an ERA of 5.66.  Whatever magic he had since mid-April to mid-May is gone.  We may be approaching the time to give Devin Smeltzer or someone else a shot at the fifth starter position.

For all the criticism of Sano, it's worth noting that Cave is 0-for-15 with eight strikeouts since coming back.  I understand that the expectations for the two are far different, but their outs count exactly the same.  Sano at least has the ability to hit the long ball, as he did last night to tie the score.

I love Harper, but he's been struggling in June.  Mainly, he's been hurt by the home run ball.  In eight innings he's given up four runs and three of them have been home runs.  At least they've all been solo homers, which as we all know don't hurt you.

In the Twins' recent down stretch, which to me started with last weekend's Kansas City series, they are 4-4.  It seems to me that a down stretch during which you still play .500 ball is a good sign.  Yes, it's helped that they've played the Royals in several of those games.  Still, I see no reason to think they won't start to play better again, and they're weathering the stretch of worse play pretty well so far.

Record:  The Twins are 49-26, first in the American League Central, nine games ahead of Cleveland.

Projected record:  We're still on track for 136-26!

2019 Recap: Game Seventy-two

MINNESOTA 4, BOSTON 3 IN MINNESOTA (17 INNINGS)

Date:  Tuesday, June 18.

Batting stars:  Eddie Rosario was 4-for-8 with three doubles.  Max Kepler was 3-for-5 with a home run (his eighteenth) and three RBIs.  C. J. Cron was 2-for-5 with two walks and a hit-by-pitch.  Jonathan Schoop was 2-for-7.

Pitching stars:  Michael Pineda pitched six innings, giving up one run on five hits and one walk and striking out five.  Trevor May pitched a scoreless inning, giving up a hit and striking out one.  Taylor Rogers struck out two in a perfect inning.  Tyler Duffey struck out three in two shutout innings, giving up one hit.  Blake Parker pitched a scoreless inning, giving up two hits and striking out one.  Matt Magill struck out two in two shutout innings, giving up three hits and a walk.  Zack Littell struck out two in two shutout innings, giving up two hits.

Opposition stars:  Brock Holt was 3-for-7 with a double.  Rafael Devers was 3-for-8 with a home run (his twelfth) and two RBIs.  Andrew Benintendi was 3-for-8 with a stolen base, his eighth.  Jackie Bradley was 2-for-5 with a hit-by-pitch.  Christian Vazquez was 2-for-7.  Xander Bogaerts was 2-for-8 with a double.  David Price pitched five innings, giving up one run on four hits and no walks and striking out two.  Josh Taylor struck out four in two shutout innings, giving up one hit.  Hector Velazquez pitched four innings, giving up one run on three hits and no walks and striking out three.

The game:  The Red Sox got on the board in the fourth inning when Mookie Betts walked, stole second, and scored on a two-out single by Devers.  The Twins got the run back in the bottom of the fourth when Rosario hit a two-out double and scored on a Cron single.

The Twins should have taken the lead in the sixth.  Mitch Garver led off with a double and Nelson Cruz singled him to third with none out.  But Garver was picked off third by the catcher and Rosario fouled out.  The Twins still had a chance, as Cron was hit by a pitch and Kepler walked to load the bases, but Miguel Sano fanned to end the inning.  The Red Sox immediately made them pay, as Devers led off the seventh with a home run to give Boston a 2-1 lead.

The Twins tied it up in the eighth.  Walks to Garver and Cron put men on first and second with two out and Kepler delivered an RBI single to make the score 2-2.  It stayed there for a while.  Boston threatened in the tenth and twelfth and the Twins also threatened in the twelfth, but there was no more scoring until the thirteenth, when Betts led off with a home run.  But Kepler led off with a home run in the bottom of the thirteenth to once again tie the score, and the teams played on.

The Red Sox again threatened in the fourteenth, getting leadoff singles from Holt and MIchael Chavis.  A bunt (!) moved them to second and third, but nothing came of it.  In the fifteenth Rosario led off with a double but was doubled off second on Cron's liner.  In the top of the seventeenth, Benintendi singled and got to third on a stolen base-plus-error with none out, but a strikeout and two ground outs ended the inning without a score.

Finally came the bottom of the seventeenth.  Luis Arraez had a one-out single and went to third on Rosario's double.  Cron was intentionally walked, and Kepler again came through with an RBI single to win the game for the Twins.

WP:  Littell (1-0).  LP:  Brian Johnson (1-1).  S:  None.

Notes:  Marwin Gonzalez was again in right field, with Kepler starting the game on the bench.  Jake Cave was in center field.

Arraez entered the game as a pinch-runner in the twelfth and went 1-for-2.  He is batting .385.  Jorge Polanco was 1-for-8 and is batting .326.  Garver was 1-for-7 and is batting .301.

Ryne Harper gave up a run in an inning and has an ERA of 2.17.  Rogers has an ERA of 2.03.  Duffey has an ERA of 2.08.  Mike Morin gave up a run in an inning and has an ERA of 1.65.

Garver was rightly criticized for getting picked off in the sixth.  I also wonder why he did not dive back into the base, rather than going in standing up.  But additionally, I wonder what the third base coach was doing.  With a shift on and the third baseman playing well off the bag, this was obviously a planned play.  It seems like the third base coach should be watching for that and make sure the runner is aware of it.  Instead, it appeared that he became a spectator.

Watching part of the game last night, it seems to me that several Twins batters (not just Sano) have gotten a little homer-happy.  Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against home runs and I'm not calling for a return of the piranhas.  But I saw several batters trying to jerk every pitch out of the park in situations where a single would've served us quite admirably.  This may be something that the batting coach needs to address.

Lost in the long game is the fact that Pineda had his second good start in a row.  Over those starts, he has pitched 11.2 innings and given up two runs on seven hits and three walks while striking out nine.  He only threw eighty pitches last night, so it seems like he could've gone a seventh inning.  Perhaps the Twins are still trying to be careful with him.  But he hasn't had a really bad game in a month and a half and his ERA has fallen steadily from a peak of 6.21 to 4.76.  I'm not nominating him for the Cy Young Award, but he's kept us in the game for eight starts in a row, and has done more than that in his last two.

The much maligned (and properly so) Twins bullpen pitched eleven innings and gave up just two runs.  Further, both the runs came on solo homers, and we all know those don't hurt you.  I won't be surprised if we bring up a "fresh arm for the bullpen", but only three of the eight relievers used threw more than eighteen pitches, so I assume most of them could pitch again tonight if needed.

Each team completely emptied its bullpen, using eight relief pitchers.  Presumably, once the last guy came in he was in for the duration, unless the game had gone twenty-four innings or something.  At that point, the teams would've had to decide whether to use a starting pitcher in relief or use a position player.  That would've been interesting, but I'm fine with winning in the seventeenth instead.

It should be noted, as I'm sure it was numerous times during the game, that the Twins still have not lost three games in a row this season.

Record:  The Twins are 48-24, first in the American League Central, ten games ahead of Cleveland.

Projected record:  We're still on track for 138-24!

2019 Recap: Game Seventy

KANSAS CITY 8, MINNESOTA 6 IN MINNESOTA

Date:  Sunday, June 16.

Batting stars:  Max Kepler was 4-for-6 with two doubles and two RBIs.  Jonathan Schoop was 3-for-5.  Miguel Sano was 2-for-4 with a home run (his seventh) and a walk.  Nelson Cruz was 2-for-5 with a home run (his thirteenth), a double, and three RBIs.  Eddie Rosario was 2-for-5.  Jorge Polanco was 1-for-4 with two walks.

Pitching star:  Matt Magill pitched a scoreless inning, giving up a walk and striking out one.

Opposition stars:  Martin Maldonado was 3-for-4 with a double, scoring twice and driving in two.  Jorge Bonifacio was 2-for-5 with a double and two RBIs.

The game:  The Twins got a pair of runners on in the bottom of the first but did not score.  This would be a theme.  In the second, the Royals put together a walk and four singles to score three runs and take a 3-0 lead.

Martin Perez settled down after that, and the Twins got back in the game with two in the fourth.  Sano led off with a home run, Marwin Gonzalez was hit by a pitch, and singles by Schoop and Kepler cut the lead to 3-2.  Polanco was intentionally walked to load the bases with two out, but Nelson Cruz struck out to strand the runners.

In the seventh, two singles, a bunt, and an error plated to Kansas City runs to make it 5-2.  Cruz homered in the bottom of the seventh to make it 5-3.  Three singles loaded the bases with one out, but Schoop struck out and Mitch Garver flied out to strand the runners.  The Royals extended their lead in the eighth on an error, RBI doubles by Bonifacio and Maldonado, and a run-scoring single by Billy Hamilton.  It was 8-3 and it looked like the game was gone.

To the Twins' credit, they came back to make a game of it.  In the bottom of the eighth, a walk to Ehire Adrianza and singles by Kepler and Polanco again loaded the bases, this time with none out.  Cruz doubled home two to make it 8-5, but the Twins could do no more.  In the ninth, Schoop singled, Kepler had an RBI double, and Polanco walked to bring the winning run to the plate, but Cruz struck out to end the game.

WP:  Jorge Lopez (1-6).  LP:  Perez (7-3).  S:  Ian Kennedy (7).

NotesGonzalez was in right field, with Kepler in center and Byron Buxton still resting a bruised wrist.  Adrianza was at first base with C. J. Cron on the bench.

Polanco is batting .332.  Garver, who came in as a pinch-hitter in the seventh, was 0-for-2 and is batting .310.  Mike Morin allowed three runs in 1.1 innings, but the runs were all unearned, so his ERA is down to 1.17.

The Twins stranded fifteen men and went 4-for-18 with men in scoring position.  The good news is that they had fifteen hits, five walks, and a hit batsman, giving them twenty-one baserunners.  It was a frustrating game, no question, but it happens once in a while.  If they keep getting twenty-one baserunners a game, I think they'll be okay.

All the runs against Morin were unearned, but you can't argue that he pitched well.  After the error, which put a man on first with one out, there was an RBI double, a fly out, another RBI double, a run-scoring single, and a walk before the third out was recorded.  It seemed odd that Morin remained in the game that long.  I wonder if Rocco thought the game was gone at that point and didn't want to burn another reliever.  That's mere speculation on my part, but it's hard to think Morin would've pitched that long if the manager thought the game was on the line.

In regard to the game-ending checked swing, I really thought that was a call that could've gone either way, and it didn't go the Twins' way.  But Cruz had stood there and watched two good strikes, then started to swing at a pitch well out of the strike zone.  I don't think he or the Twins have much complaint coming on that.

On the one hand, it was a frustrating game to lose.  On the other hand, I didn't think the Twins played all that well in the whole series.  Maybe it was the hubbub over Joe Mauer weekend, maybe they're getting a little bit tired, maybe they just find it hard to get up for a series against Kansas City.  It just seemed to me that the team was a little bit off all weekend, and they were fortunate to win two out of three.  But maybe that's the mark of a good team, too--to be able to win even when you're a little bit off.

Record:  The Twins are 47-23, first in the American League Central, ten games ahead of Cleveland.

Projected record:  We'll just have to settle for 139-23!

2019 Recap: Game Sixty-seven

MINNESOTA 10, SEATTLE 5 IN MINNESOTA

Date:  Thursday, June 13.

Batting stars:  Nelson Cruz was 3-for-4 with a home run (his twelfth), a walk, two runs, and three RBIs.  Ehire Adrianza was 3-for-5.  Jonathan Schoop was 2-for-4 with a double.  Marwin Gonzalez was 2-for-5 with a double.  Jorge Polanco was 2-for-6 with two runs.  C. J. Cron was 1-for-5 with a two-run homer, his fifteenth.

Pitching stars:  Michael Pineda pitched 5.2 innings, giving up one run on two hits and two walks and striking out four.  Ryne Harper pitched a scoreless inning, giving up a hit and striking out one.

Opposition stars:  Yusei Kikuchi pitched five innings, giving up one run on six hits and two walks and striking out four.  Daniel Vogelbach was 2-for-4 with a walk.  Kyle Seager was 2-for-5 with a double.  Dylan Moore was 1-for-1 with a double, a walk, and two RBIs.

The game:  The  Twins loaded the bases with none out in the second and did not score.  At the time it was a big missed opportunity, although it turned out not to matter.  Cruz homered with one out in the third to give the Twins a 1-0 lead.  It stayed 1-0 through five.  In the sixth, Vogelbach had an RBI single to tie it 1-1.

It didn't stay tied long.  The Twins exploded for six runs in the bottom of the sixth to take control of the game.  Max Kepler walked, Adrianza singled, and a pickoff error gave the Twins the lead.  A wild pitch and a fielder's choice made it 3-1.  Byron Buxton walked and Polanco singled, again loading the bases.  With one out, Cruz delivered a two-run single.  With two out, Schoop walked and Kepler came through with a two-out single.  The Twins scored six runs without hitting a homer and led 7-1.

They would add three more in the seventh on a Polanco RBI single and Cron's two-run homer to go ahead 10-1.  The Mariners scored two in the eighth and two in the ninth off the back of the Twins bullpen to make the final score look better.

WP:  Harper (2-0).  LP:  Brandon Brennan (2-6).  S:  None.

Notes:  Gonzalez was in left field in place of Eddie Rosario.  Adrianza was at third base in place of Miguel Sano.  Cron batted second in the order, with Gonzalez batting fourth.

Polanco is batting .338.  Harper has an ERA of 1.95.  Mike Morin struck out the only man he faced and has an ERA of 1.29.

With all the runs, we should not forget the good game pitched by Pineda.  Oddly, he had gone six starts in a row giving up exactly three earned runs, which seems like it might be a record of some kind.  Yesterday, however, he gave up just one in 5.2 innings.  Ideally, he'd have been able to at least complete the sixth, but you don't expect "ideal" from the back end of the rotation.  If he could do this every time, you'd take it and be very happy.

The Twins scored six in the sixth without hitting a home run.  My guess is that this may be the biggest inning they've had all year without a homer.  The home runs are fun, and I'm all for them, but it's also good to be able to score runs in other ways.  The more ways you have to score, the more you're likely to score.

Fernando Romero, the latest "fresh arm for the bullpen", faced four batters yesterday and retired exactly none of them.  This was the entirely foreseeable result of bringing a man to the majors who has done nothing to show that he belongs there, simply because the letter "P" appears next to his name on the roster sheet.  I'm not a big fan of carrying thirteen pitchers, but I would complain less about it if the thirteenth pitcher could actually pitch.  If the thirteenth pitcher is of the Chase De Jong/Andrew Vasquez/Austin Adams variety--someone you can't even trust to fill an inning of a blowout--then he's worthless.  You might as well have the extra position player, someone who might actually be able to contribute something.

And to be honest, the twelfth pitcher, Matt Magill, hasn't gotten much accomplished lately, either.  He did well Tuesday night, but in his last five appearances he has pitched 4.2 innings and allowed twelve runs (eleven earned) on twelve hits and five walks.

I'm sure the front office is aware of the problem--it would be hard for them not to be.  And I'm sure they're working on it.  One of the nice things about having an eleven game lead in the division is that they don't have to feel like they have to make a move right now.  They can wait and try to get the player(s) they want on favorable terms.  Whether they'll actually be able to do that is another question, but the point is that there's no reason to panic and make a move just to make a move.  It's much better to wait and make a good move than to do something now just so they can say they did something.

Record:  The Twins are 45-22, first in the American League Central, eleven games ahead of Cleveland.

Projected record:  We're still on track for 140-22!

2019 Recap: Game Sixty-five

MINNESOTA 6, SEATTLE 5 IN MINNESOTA

Date:  Tuesday, June 11.

Batting stars:  Jorge Polanco was 3-for-3 with two doubles.  Jonathan Schoop was 1-for-4 with a two-run homer, his twelfth.  Jason Castro was 1-for-3 with a home run, his eighth.

Pitching stars:  Tyler Duffey pitched a perfect inning and struck out one.  Matt Magill pitched a perfect inning and struck out one.  Trevor May pitched a scoreless inning, giving up two hits and striking out one.

Opposition stars:  Domingo Santana was 3-for-5 with two runs.  Mallex Smith was 2-for-4 with a walk and two runs.  Kyle Seager was 2-for-5.  Edwin Encarnacion was 1-for-3 with a three-run homer (his twenty-first) and two walks.  Mike Leake pitched seven innings, giving up three runs on six hits and no walks and striking out six.

The game:  The Mariners put together a pair of two-out singles and Encarnacion hit a three-run homer in the third to give Seattle a 3-0 lead.  The Twins tied it in the fourth.  Eddie Rosario led off the inning with a double, and with two out Schoop and Castro hit back-to-back homers, tying the score at 3-3.

The Mariners got the lead back in the fifth.  A pair of walks preceded an RBI single by Dan Vogelbach to make it 4-3.  Seager's run-scoring single in the seventh increased the lead to 5-3.

The Twins took their only lead, but the only lead they would need, in the eighth.  Max Kepler and Polanco led off the inning with back-to-back doubles to cut the lead to 5-4.  Nelson Cruz walked, a fly out put men on first and third, and a wild pitch tied the score 5-5.  With two out, Marwin Gonzalez delivered a single that scored Cruz and put the Twins up 6-5.  All they needed to do was retire Seattle in the ninth to win the game.

And they did, but it wasn't easy.  Smith and Santana led off the inning with singles, putting men on first and second with Encarnacion at bat.  But he was caught looking at a third strike (the game log indicates it may not have been a correct call by the umpire), Vogelbach popped up, and Seager hit a fly to left.  Victory was ours.

WP:  Magill (2-0).  LP:  Brandon Brennan (2-5).  S:  May (1).

Notes:  Gonzalez was at first base, replacing C. J. Cron.

Polanco raised his average to .341.  Duffey has an ERA of 2.41.  Ryne Harper pitched one inning and gave up one run, making his ERA 2.03.

I don't really understand why Duffey was not allowed to go more than one inning.  Not that going to Harper is a dumb move or anything, but it means the Twins used four relief pitchers last night when they could perhaps have gotten by with three or even two.  I still don't really understand how Rocco makes his bullpen decisions.  I don't mean that as critically as it might sound--I'm sure he has reasons for what he does, and he's not obligated to explain them to me.  And I actually like that he seems to be responding to specific situations rather than just reflexively going to "the ninth inning guy" or "the eighth inning guy".  Also, I have to say that for the most part, whatever he's doing seems to be working.  The Twins have bullpen problems, but I think Rocco has made the best of the situation so far.

Martin Perez appears to have regressed to the mean.  Over his last six starts, he has an ERA of 5.59, not far off his ERA of 6.22 last season.  I don't know how to calculate FIP, but the eye test tells me he has not been particularly unlucky.  His first few starts as a Twin are looking more and more like a mirage.  If he really was doing something different, as the media kept telling us, it looks like it didn't take long for the league to figure out what it was.  He'll probably keep getting starts, though, because the Twins have nothing in AAA to replace him with other than possibly Devin Smeltzer, and there's certainly no guarantee that Smeltzer would be better.  I assume Falvey and Levine are looking for help, just as I assume they're looking for bullpen help  I have no idea what might be available or at what cost.  But the Twins need better pitching if they're going to make a deep playoff run.

It's funny--all during the game last night I kept believing that the Twins were going to come back and take the lead.  Whether they could keep the lead was another question, but when they were down 3-0, when they were down 4-3, when they were down 5-3, I was convinced that the offense would rally.  It's nice to be able to have that kind of confidence in the team you root for.

Record:  The Twins are 44-21, first in the American League Central, 10.5 games ahead of Cleveland.

Projected record:  We're still on track for 141-21!

2019 Recap: Game Fifty-eight

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!

2019 Recap: Game Fifty-six

MINNESOTA 5, TAMPA BAY 3 IN TAMPA BAY

Date:  Friday, May 31.

Batting stars:  Jonathan Schoop was 2-for-2 with a walk, a hit-by-pitch, a stolen base, and two runs.  Jorge Polanco was 2-for-4 with two doubles, a walk, and three runs.  Willians Astudillo was 2-for-4 with a hit-by-pitch and two RBIs.  Marwin Gonzalez was 2-for-4.

Pitching stars:  Jose Berrios struck out eight in 6.2 innings, giving up three runs on three hits and three walks.  Taylor Rogers pitched 2.1 scoreless innings, giving up one hit and striking out one.

Opposition stars:  Willy Adames was 2-for-4.  Kevin Kiermeier was 1-for-4 with a two-run homer, his sixth.  Emilio Pagan struck out two in 1.2 scoreless innings, giving up one hit.

The game:  The Twins took the lead in the first inning, when with one out Polanco doubled and Astudillo singled him home.  Schoop got to third with two out in the second, but was stranded there.  In the bottom of the second, the Rays went in front when Christian Arroyo drew a one-out walk and Kiermeier followed with a home run.  They increased the lead to 3-1 in the third when Austin Meadows walked, Adames singled him to third, and the two pulled off a double steal of second and home.

The Twins got even in the fifth.  Schoop led off the inning with a walk but was still on first base with two out.  But Polanco delivered an RBI double and Astudillo followed with a run-scoring single to make the score 3-3.  Tampa Bay put men on first and second with two out in the bottom of the fifth and the Twins put men on first and second with two out in the sixth, but the score remained 3-3 until the ninth.

Schoop led off the ninth inning by being hit by a pitch.  Byron Buxton bunted him to second and a ground out moved him to third with two down.  Polanco was intentionally walked and Astudillo was hit by a pitch, loading the bases.  Eddie Rosario then delivered a two-run single that gave the Twins a 5-3 lead.  The Rays got a two-out single in the ninth, bringing the tying run up to bat, but a ground out ended the game.

WPRogers (2-1).  LP:  Diego Castillo (1-4).  S:  None.

Notes:  Polanco was feeling better, but was still not a hundred percent, so he was the DH with Gonzalez at shortstop.  Polanco raised his average to .338.  Rogers now has an ERA of 2.16.

I find it very hard to pick up any patterns in what Rocco does.  That's not to say the patterns aren't there, and maybe if I had time to study it I'd figure them out, but they're not obvious.  It's also not intended as a criticism--I don't think he's just making moves at random or anything.  But look at his use of Rogers last night.  For the last several games, when it was close late in the game, Rocco was mixing and matching his relievers, using four or five relievers for an inning or less.  Yet last night he used Rogers for 2.1 innings, even leaving him in the game in the ninth when he'd given up a hit to bring the tying run to the plate.  It's working, for the most part, and I'm sure he has reasons for what he does.  In fact, it's really kind of fun to see a manager who doesn't reflexively make the same move every time, who appears to actually evaluate each situation and think about what he wants to do.

This felt like a bigger game than it probably was.  No matter how many times we say this is a good baseball team, and no matter how much we truly believe it, there's still a part of some of us that has a hard time feeling it.  We keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, for the collapse to come.  We feel like the Twins' record is an illusion, that all they've done is beat up on bad teams.  That's not really true--they've actually done okay against good teams--but it's still the feeling.  Then they play a good team and get blown out, and we think, well, here we go.  A late-inning loss last night would've fed into that even more.  Again, in reality this was just one game, and I suspect the players looked at it exactly that way.  But as a fan, it felt like it was an important one to win.

Really, the criticism that "all the Twins have done is beat up on bad teams" is phony.  For one thing, beating up on bad teams is what a good team is supposed to do.  What, it would be better if the Twins were losing to bad teams?  Second, there just aren't a lot of good teams in the American League.  There are only four teams that are more than a game over .500, and one of them is the Twins themselves.  Every one of those four teams has their record because they beat up on bad teams--that's mostly who they play.

And third, it always seems like a good team has an easier schedule simply because of the way we perceive things.  If you're the Twins, and you go to play the White Sox, you think, "They're not that good.  Those are some games we should win."  If you're the Kansas City Royals, and you go to play the White Sox, you think, "This is a good, young, up-and-coming team.  These are going to be some tough games for us."  When you're a good team, there are a lot of games that seem like easy games.  When you're a bad team, every game seems like a tough game.

Record:  The Twins are 38-18, first in the American League Central, 10.5 games ahead of Chicago and Cleveland.

Projected record:  We're still on track for 144-18!

2019 Recap: Game Forty-two

MINNESOTA 8, LOS ANGELES 7 IN MINNESOTA

Date:  Wednesday, May 15.

Batting stars:  Ehire Adrianza was 2-for-3 with a double, a walk, and two RBIs.  Jorge Polanco was 2-for-4 with a triple.  Jonathan Schoop was 2-for-4.  Jason Castro was 1-for-3 with a two-run homer (his sixth) and a walk.  Byron Buxton was 1-for-4 with a two-run homer, his second.

Pitching star:  Jake Odorizzi pitched 5.1 innings, giving up three runs on nine hits and two walks and striking out three.

Opposition stars:  Brian Goodwin was 4-for-4 with two doubles and two runs.  Tommy La Stella was 4-for-5 with a home run (his eleventh) and a walk.  Jared Walsh was 3-for-5.  Jonathan Lucroy was 2-for-4 with a home run (his sixth), a double, and a walk.  David Fletcher was 2-for-5.

The game:  The Angels threatened in the first two innings but did not score.  They started the game with a walk and a single, but a line out and a double play ended the threat.  Goodwin had a leadoff double in the second, but nothing came of that, either.  The Twins got on the board in the bottom of the second.  C. J. Cron reached on a strikeout/wild pitch, Schoop had an infield single, and Adrianza hit a two-run double to give the Twins a 2-0 lead.

The Angels immediately cut it to 2-1 in the third on La Stella's home run.  It then stayed 2-1 until the fifth, when the Twins had a big inning.  Castro walked and Buxton hit a two-run homer to make it 4-1.  With one out, Polanco tripled and scored on Eddie Rosario's double.  A wild pitch moved Rosario to third and a Willians Astudillo sacrifice fly scored him to give the Twins a 6-1 advantage.

The Angels again immediately cut it to 6-3 in the sixth when Goodwin singled and Lucroy homered.  The Twins got the two runs back in the bottom of the sixth when Adrianza singled and Castro homered.  It was 8-3 through six and it looked like it should be an easy Twins win.  Los Angeles got one in the seventh on two singles and a sacrifice fly, but it was still a comfortable 8-4 lead going to the ninth.

It got uncomfortable in a hurry.  Trevor Hildenberger started the inning and got the first out, but then gave up doubles to Goodwin and Lucroy and a single to Fletcher, making the score 8-6.  Mike Morin came in and gave up a single to Walsh.  He struck out Luis Rengifo, but La Stella singled to load the bases and Mike Trout was hit by a pitch to force in a run, cutting the margin to 8-7 and bringing up Shohei Otani.  Otani, however, grounded to short and the Twins escaped with a victory.

WP:  Odorizzi (6-2).  LP:  Trevor Cahill (2-4).  S:  Morin (1).

Notes:  With Nelson Cruz still out, Polanco was the DH and Adrianza was at short.  Willians Astudillo was at third, with Marwin Gonzalez given the day off.  It seems odd to give Gonzalez a day off with Miguel Sano presumably returning to third base soon, but then I don't know just what Rocco Baldelli might have in mind over the next few games.

Polanco raised his average to .331.

Blake Parker retired the only man he faced and his ERA is now 1.17.  Ryne Harper gave up two hits but did not allow a run in two-thirds of an inning and has an ERA of 1.50.  Morin also gave up two hits but did not allow a run in two-thirds of an inning and has an ERA of 1.80.  Matt Magill gave up a walk but no runs in two-thirds of an inning and has an ERA of 2.35.  Trevor May gave up a run on two hits in a full inning and has an ERA of 2.76.

Odorizzi did not have one of his best games, especially compared to the way he's been pitching recently.  He was constantly in trouble and finally, in the sixth, couldn't get out of it.  On the other hand, it wasn't reasonable to think he would keep pitching as well as he had been, and he got through 5.1 innings keeping the Twins in the game.  It's not what you want, but if that's as bad as it gets he'll be in good shape.  His ERA is now 2.63.

The Twins' bullpen did not have one of its best games, either, but they did do a good job cleaning up each other's messes.  They then created messes of their own, of course.  But May came in with men on first and third and one out and got out of the inning with neither runner scoring.  Magill came in with men on first and third and one out and allowed only one to score on a sacrifice fly.  Parker came in with men on first and second and two out and retired the man he faced.  Even Morin came in with men on first and second and one out and only allowed one to score.

My first thought for the ninth was that Rocco should've left Parker in.  But Parker had pitched 1.1 innings the night before, and the Twins had a four run lead.  If you can't trust Hildenberger for one inning with a four run lead there's no point in having him on the team.  As it turned out, unfortunately, you can't and there's not, at least not right now.  Hildenberger is kind of a puzzle.  He has stretches where he seems unhittable, and he has other stretchers where he seems to be throwing batting practice.  I wonder if there's some sort of flaw in his delivery that he slips into sometimes and has a hard time getting out of again.  That's just speculation, of course.  But I can't blame the Twins for wanting him to go to Rochester until he gets straightened out.

It was asked if the Twins didn't have someone in Rochester better to bring up than Austin Adams.  The answer, in my opinion, is no, they really don't.  Kohl Stewart, maybe, but I suspect the Twins want him to continue starting.  Devin Smeltzer has made two really good starts for the Red Wings, but it's only two starts, so I suspect a) they want him to get more experience before bringing him up and b) they want him to continue starting as well.  Adams appears to be a replacement-level pitcher at best.  He will presumably try to fill the Fernando Romero groundskeeper role, but I'm not sure I wouldn't rather have another position player on the team instead.

Record:  The Twins are 27-15, first in the American League Central, 4.5 games ahead of Cleveland.

Projected record:  We're still on track for 147-15!

2019 Recap: Game Thirty-five

MINNESOTA 9, TORONTO 1 IN TORONTO

Date:  Wednesday, May 8.

Batting stars:  Jorge Polanco was 5-for-5 with a two-run homer (his seventh) and a double, scoring twice.  C. J. Cron was 4-for-5 with a two-run homer, his seventh.  Eddie Rosario was 2-for-4 with a home run (his thirteenth), two runs, and three RBIs.  Jonathan Schoop was 2-for-5 with a two-run homer, his sixth.  Max Kepler was 2-for-5 with a walk and two runs.

Pitching stars:  Kyle Gibson struck out eleven in six shutout innings, giving up two hits and one walk.  Ryne Harper pitched a perfect inning and struck out one.  Mike Morin pitched a perfect inning and struck out one.  Blake Parker pitched a scoreless inning, giving up a walk and striking out one.

Opposition stars:  Billy McKinney was 1-for-3 with a home run, his second.  Derek Law struck out four in two shutout innings, giving up one hit.

The game:  The Twins threatened to take a big lead in the first inning.  Singles by Kepler and Polanco put men on first and third with none out.  A popup and an Eddie Rosario sacrifice fly put them up 1-0.  Cron singled and Marwin Gonzalez walked to load the bases, but Mitch Garver popped up, leaving the score 1-0.

It didn't matter.  In the second, Kepler walked and Polanco homered, making the score 3-0.  In the third, Rosario singled and Cron homered, and later in the inning Gonzalez singled and Schoop homered, making the score 7-0.  McKinney got the Blue Jays on the board with a home run in the fifth, but in the sixth Polanco doubled and Rosario homered to put the Twins ahead 9-1.

Other than the home run, the only time the Blue Jays got a man as far as second was the ninth, on a walk and a fielder's choice.  It was total dominance by Gibson and three relief pitchers.

WP:  Gibson (3-1).  LP:  Trent Thornton (0-4).  S:  None.

Notes:  Garver was 1-for-5 and is batting .354.  Polanco is batting .344.  Harper has an ERA of 1.84.  Parker has an ERA of 1.54.  Morin's ERA is 3.00.

As you probably heard, Polanco is the first Twin to have more than one five-hit game in a season since Joe Mauer in 2010.

Four two-run homers in one game is probably not the record, but it would seem like it has to be at least within shouting distance of it.

Going into the Houston series a week and a half ago, I said that after the next ten games we'd have a better idea of how good the Twins are.  Well, they went 7-3 in those ten games.  Two of the losses were games started by Michael Pineda, and at that only one of them was a blowout--in the other, the Twins just ran into a really good pitcher they couldn't do much with, which happens to everybody sometimes.  It seems to me that we have to say this is a good baseball team.

That's not to say they're going to win the World Series.  I do think they're now the favorites to win the division, though.  They might not do it--it's a long season, and lots of things can happen (injuries, slumps, etc.).  But it's looking good now.  That's why I hope the front office is not willing to settle for just winning the division, and is looking for ways to improve the team so it can actually go somewhere in the playoffs.  Again, I say that not knowing what deals may be available to them.  I'm not advocating a move of the Ramos-for-Capps variety.  But I think they have a real chance this year, and you never know for sure how many of them you're going to get.  When you get one, I think you need to go for it.

Record:  The Twins are 23-12, first in the American League Central, four games ahead of Cleveland.

Projected record:  We're still on track for 150-12!

2019 Recap: Game Twenty-nine

MINNESOTA 8, HOUSTON 2 IN MINNESOTA

Date:  Thursday, May 2.

Batting stars:  Marwin Gonzalez was 2-for-3 with a double and two runs.  Jorge Polanco was 2-for-3 with a triple and a double.  Jason Castro was 2-for-4 with a home run (his third) and a double, scoring twice and driving in four.  Jonathan Schoop was 2-for-4.

Pitching stars:  Jose Berrios pitched seven innings, giving up two runs on seven hits and no walks and striking out five.  Ryne Harper pitched a scoreless inning, giving up a hit and striking out one.  Trevor May pitched a perfect inning and struck out one.

Opposition stars:  Aledmys Diaz was 2-for-4.  Alex Bregman was 1-for-4 with a home run, his sixth.

The game:  Bregman homered with two out in the first to give the Astros a 1-0 lead.  Each team got a two-out double in the second but did not score.  In the third, singles by Tony Kemp and George Springer put men on first and second with none out, but a strikeout, a fly out, and another strikeout left them there.  Castro led off the bottom of the third with a home run to tie the score at 1-1.

The Twins took control in the fourth.  With one out, C. J. Cron walked and Marwin Gonzalez singled, putting men on first and third.  Schoop delivered an RBI single, Castro had a two-run double, Byron Buxton had a run-scoring triple, Max Kepler hit a sacrifice fly, Polanco doubled, and Nelson Cruz had an RBI double.  In all, six runs scored, putting the Twins up 7-1 and effectively ending the game right there.

They kept playing, of course.  The Twins added a run in the fifth when Gonzalez walked, went to third on a Schoop single, and scored on a fielder's choice.  Polanco hit a one-out triple in the sixth but did not score.  Houston threatened to get back into it in the seventh.  Singles by Yuli Gurriel, Josh Reddick, and Diaz loaded the bases with none out.  A strikeout, a sacrifice fly, and another fly out limited the damage to one run, making the score 8-2, and neither team threatened after that.

WP:  Berrios (5-1).  LP:  Brad Peacock (2-2).  S:  None.

Notes:  Polanco raised his average to .336.  Cruz was 1-for-4 with a double and is batting .302.

Even though it was a day game, Rocco did not go with any sort of B lineup.  The regulars played.  The Twins alternate their catchers quite a bit, so that's not really an issue, but there were no substitutes at any other position, either.

Eddie Rosario was 0-for-4 and is now riding an 0-for-24 streak.  He hit two balls hard, though.  I'm not too worried about him.

Berrios pitched a fine game.  It shows the difference expectations can make, though.  If Michael Pineda ever had a game like this, we'd be ecstatic.  When it's Berrios, we just kind of nod our heads.  We expect Berrios to have games like this every time out.  That's a compliment to him, but at the same time, it's something that shouldn't be taken for granted.

Since reaching a low point of .213 on April 17, Schoop has gone 17-for-50 and is now batting .278.

Entering this series, I said the next ten games would tell us a lot about how good the Twins are.  They're off to a good start, winning three of the first four.  Now, of course, we go to New York to play the Big Bad Yankees.  I have a feeling that this year things are going to be different.  I don't have a lot to back that feeling up--the pitching matchups aren't particularly favorable or anything.  But it's a new day, it's a new team, and I just think this is the year things change.  I guess we'll find out soon enough.

Record:  The Twins are 19-10, first in the American League Central, three games ahead of Cleveland.