Tag Archives: Jorge Polanco

2019 Recap: Game Seventy-seven

KANSAS CITY 6, MINNESOTA 1 IN KANSAS CITY

Date:  Sunday, June 23.

Batting stars:  Luis Arraez was 4-for-4 with a double.  Max Kepler was 2-for-5 with a double.  Jorge Polanco was 2-for-5.  Eddie Rosario was 1-for-4 with a home run, his twentieth.

Pitching stars:  Zack Littell pitched a scoreless inning, giving up one hit.  Matt Magill pitched a perfect inning.

Opposition stars:  Homer Bailey pitched 5.1 innings, giving up one run on five hits and a walk and striking out five.  Billy Hamilton was 2-for-3 with two stolen bases, his fifteenth and sixteenth.  Hunter Dozier was 2-for-4 with a three-run homer (his twelfth) and a double.  Alex Gordon was 2-for-4 with two doubles and two RBIs.  Whit Merrifield was 2-for-4.  Kevin McCarthy pitched 2.1 scoreless innings, giving up two hits and striking out two.

The game:  It was basically decided in the third inning.  With one out, singles by Hamilton and Merrifield put men on first and third.  Nicky Lopez' bunt single scored the first run, Gordon doubled home a second, and Dozier hit a three-run homer.  That quickly, the Royals were ahead 5-0 and they would stay ahead the rest of the game.

Rosario got the Twins on the board leading off the fourth.  Arraez had a one-out double and Miguel Sano walked, but Jason Castro was caught looking and Jake Cave grounded out, so the score stayed 5-1.  Facing some mediocre Kansas City pitchers, the Twins only got one other threat going.  That came in the seventh, when Cave was hit by a pitch, Polanco had a two-out infield single, and Nelson Cruz was hit by a pitch to load the bases.  Rosario hit into a force out, however, and the Twins would not threaten again.  Gordon's RBI double in the bottom of the seventh completed the scoring.

WP:  Bailey (7-6).  LP:  Michael Pineda (4-4).  S:  McCarthy (1).

Notes:  Arraez was at second base in place of Jonathan Schoop.  Kepler remained in center, with Cave in right and Byron Buxton still on the IL.

Arraez is batting .436.  Polanco is batting .326.  Mike Morin gave up a run in one inning and now has an ERA of 2.08.

Pineda had been pitching fairly well lately, by his standards.  He pitched well in this game if you take out the third inning, which unfortunately you can't.

The Twins had nine hits, a walk, and two hit batsmen, but could score just one run.  The hits were concentrated in a very few players.  As you can see above, Arraez had four of them.  The top two men in the Twins order, Kepler and Polanco, went 4-for-10.  The three through five batters were 1-for-12, with Rosario's solo homer being the lone hit.  The bottom three batters were 0-for-10.  That led to eleven men being left on base.

The Twins are 5-5 over their last ten games.  A year ago, we'd have looked at that as a hopeful sign, thinking that maybe the Twins were starting to build on something.  This year, we're all disappointed and wondering what the Twins will do to right the ship.  One thing I've noticed abut Rocco, though, is that he does not get into panic mode easily.  He has faith in his players and has faith in his own decision-making ability.  If he believes he has a good reason for doing something, he's not going to change his mind just because it doesn't work right away.  That's a good thing, I think, as long as you don't carry it too far.  It's possible for that attitude to become stubbornness, where you insist on doing things your way despite evidence that your way doesn't work.  I've not noticed that in Rocco, but he's only been a manager for half a season, so I guess time will tell.

The Twins signed Cody Allen to a minor league contract the other day.  He was a really good relief pitcher until a couple of years ago, when he suddenly wasn't any more.  It's a low-risk move that really can only hurt you if you allow it to.  What I mean is that it can hurt you if you allow him to take playing time from a more deserving player, or if you convince yourself that you don't need to do anything else, or if you bring him to the majors even though he hasn't proven he belongs there, just because of who he is.  I have confidence in the current front office that they won't let those things happen.  And who knows?  Maybe the Twins can help him get back to being a useful reliever again.  The Twins could certainly use one of those.

Record:  The Twins are 50-27, first in the American League Central, eight games ahead of Cleveland.

Projected record:  We'll just have to settle for 135-27!

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-four

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!

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 Fifty-four

MINNESOTA 5, MILWAUKEE 3 IN MINNESOTA

Date:  Tuesday, May 28.

Batting stars:  Jorge Polanco was 2-for-4.  Eddie Rosario was 1-for-4 with a home run, his seventeenth.

Pitching stars:  Devin Smeltzer struck out seven in six shutout innings, giving up three hits and no walks.  Matt Magill pitched a scoreless inning, giving up a hit and striking out one.

Opposition stars:  Zach Davies pitched six shutout innings, giving up five hits and two walks and striking out four.  Yasmani Grandal was 2-for-4 with a home run (his eleventh) and a triple.  Ryan Braun was 2-for-4 with two doubles.  Keston Hiura was 1-for-3 with a two-run homer, his third.

The game:  Each team wasted a leadoff extra-base hit in the second, as Grandal tripled leading off the top of the inning and Sano doubled to start the bottom half.  The Twins put two on with one out in the third on singles by Astudillo and Polanco.  Braun doubled to lead off the fourth and again to lead off the seventh.  Still, the game remained scoreless through six and a half.

In the bottom of the seventh, Castro led off with a single and a fielder's cholce-plus-error put men on second and third with none out.  Max Kepler delivered a two-run double to put the Twins on the board.  With one out, C. J. Cron doubled in a run and Rosario hit a two-run homer to put the Twins up 5-0 and seemingly in control of the game.

"Seemingly" because the Brewers came right back in the eighth.  Hernan Perez led off with a single and Hiura hit a two-run homer to cut the lead to 5-2.  Grandal led of the ninth with a home run to make it 5-3.  That was it, though, as two relievers retired the next three batters to end the game without the tying run coming to bat.

WP:  Magill (1-0).  LP:  Alex Claudio (0-1).  S:  Ryne Harper (1).

Notes:  Cron was the DH in this game, with Marwin Gonzalez at first base.  Byron Buxton was injured in the second inning trying to catch Grandal's triple, which resulted in multiple position changes.  Kepler moved from right to center, Rosario moved from left to right.  Gonzalez moved from first to left, and Willians Astudillo entered the game at first base.  In the seventh, Jason Castro came out of the game for pinch-runner Ehire Adrianza, which led to Astudillo going behind the plate and Adrianza taking over first base.

Polanco is now batting .335.  Smeltzer has an ERA of zero.  Magill has an ERA of 1.42.  Blake Parker gave up two runs on three hits in an inning and has an ERA of 1.96.  Taylor Rogers gave up a run on one hit in two-thirds of an inning and has an ERA of 2.38.  Harper retired the only man he faced and has an ERA of 1.61.

Buxton does not appear to be seriously injured, and in fact wanted to stay in the game.  Reports this morning are that he has a bruised right knee.  You can't fault the Twins for being careful with him.  Today's off day will help, but he might well sit out a day or two.  Fortunately, it does not appear that it will be any more than that.

I don't think you can say enough about how well Smeltzer pitched.  Six shutout innings.  Seven strikeouts.  Three hits.  No walks.  From a guy who had made all of four starts above AA.  What impressed me most--other than his stat line--is that he wasn't afraid to throw the ball over the plate.  He's never walked many guys--his walks per nine in the minors is 2.0--but still, a guy with this little experience is likely to be nervous and start nibbling.  It didn't happen.  Even after someone hit the ball hard, he came right back and threw strikes to the next batter.  Each time he gave up a hit, he came back to strike out the next batter.  I don't fault Rocco for taking the six innings and getting him out of there, but he threw only 69 pitches in six innings, 53 of them strikes.  He retired the last eight batters he faced.  There's no obvious reason he couldn't have pitched seven or even eight innings.

I would not have pulled Rogers with two out in the ninth.  Yes, Perez had doubled off him the night before, but that doesn't convince me that Rogers couldn't have gotten him out last night.  I'll say this for Rocco, though--for all the talk about him being The Millenial Manager, he's shown he really couldn't care less about helping any individual's stat line.  He pulled Rogers when he was one out away from a save.  He pulled Jose Berrios in the fifth inning with a big lead, rather than leave him in to try to get the win.  And you remember that he pulled Jake Odorizzi in the first inning when he had given up just two runs at the time he was taken out.  You can agree or disagree with those individual moves, but the point is that Rocco has on several occasions sent a message that he doesn't care about your feelings or your stat line.  He's not concerned with who gets the W or the S.  He's concerned that the team gets the W, and he's going to do what he thinks is most likely to make that happen.  It seems to me that's a pretty good message to send.

I have nothing to say about this that hasn't already been said, but I feel like the recap would not be complete if I did not point out that we are now exactly one-third of the way through the season, the Twins are twenty games over .500, and they have a ten game lead in the division standings.

Record:  The Twins are 37-17, first in the American League Central, ten games ahead of Cleveland.

Projected record:  We're still on track for 145-17!

2019 Recap: Game Forty-nine

MINNESOTA 16, LOS ANGELES 7 IN LOS ANGELES

Date:  Thursday, May 23.

Batting stars:  C. J. Cron was 5-for-6 with a home run (his thirteenth) and two doubles, scoring three times.  Max Kepler was 3-for-5 with a home run (his tenth), a double, a walk, and a stolen base, scoring four times and driving in two.  Eddie Rosario was 3-for-6 with a home run (his fourteenth), scoring twice and driving in two.  Jorge Polanco was 2-for-3 with a home run (his ninth), a double, and a walk, driving in three.  Miguel Sano was 2-for-4 with two home runs (his third and fourth) and a walk, driving in three.  Jonathan Schoop was 2-for-5 with two home runs (his ninth and tenth) and four RBIs.

Pitching stars:  Martin Perez pitched five innings, giving up two runs on six hits and four walks and striking out three.  Ryne Harper pitched a perfect inning, striking out one.  Tyler Duffey struck out two in two shutout innings, giving up one hit.

Opposition stars:  Tommy La Stella was 2-for-5 with a grand slam, his twelfth homer.  Luis Rengifo was 2-for-4 with a walk.  Brian Goodwin was 1-for-4 with a home run, his fifth.  David Fletcher was 1-for-5 with a home run, his fourth.  Taylor Cole pitched 2.1 scoreless innings, giving up a hit and a walk and striking out two.

The game:  The Angels threatened in the first, putting men on second and third with one out, but a strikeout and a ground out ended the inning.  The Twins broke it open in the second.  Singles by Rosario and Cron were followed by a wild pitch, putting men on second and third.  A sacrifice fly brought home the first run, Sano walked, and Schoop hit a three-run homer to make it 4-0.  With two out, Kepler doubled and Polanco hit a two-run homer to make it 6-0.  In the third, homers by Cron and Sano increased the Twins' lead to 8-0.

Los Angeles made a comeback attempt in the bottom of the third.  Fletcher hit a one-out homer and Mike Trout followed with a double-plus-error.  He scored on a ground out to cut the lead to 8-2.  A pair of singles and a walk off of suddenly wobbly Twins starter Perez loaded the bases, but he came back to strike out Kole Calhoun to end the inning.  In the fifth the Angels got a pair of one-out walks and a two-out infield single, again loading the bases for Calhoun, but he hit into a force out to end the inning.

The Twins put it out of reach for good after that.  In the sixth Kepler drew a two-out walk, stole second, and scored on Polanco's double.  In the seventh, Cron hit a one-out double.  With two -out, Sano and Schoop hit back-to-back homers, Willians Astudillo walked, and Kepler homered, putting the Twins up 14-2.  Rosario homered in the eighth to make it 15-2.  In the ninth, Kepler singled, Ehire Adrianza walked, and Rosario had an RBI single to make it 16-2.

Los Angeles did get some runs in the ninth to make the score look better.  Goodwin led off with a home run.  Walks to Trout, Dustin Garneau, and Jonathan Lucroy loaded the bases and La Stella hit a grand slam to cut the margin to 16-7.  A two-out single by La Stella chased Austin Adams from the game, and Mike Morin retired Zack Cozart on a ground ball to end the contest.

WP:  Perez (7-1).  LP:  Matt Harvey (2-4).  S:  None.

Notes:  Kepler was in center and Marwin Gonzalez in right, with Byron Buxton on the bench.  Luis Arraez was the DH.  Willians Astudillo caught and batted ninth, taking Buxton's place as the second leadoff man.

Arraez was 0-for-3 with a walk and is batting .467.  Polanco is batting .345.  Perez has an ERA of 2.95.  Harper's ERA is 1.69.  Morin has an ERA of 1.08.

Perez has been substantially less awesome in his last three starts.  He has pitched 16.2 innings and allowed six runs, which isn't bad, but he's also allowed fifteen hits and ten walks.  He obviously wasn't going to keep it going as well as he had, but the walks, especially, are not a good trend.

Nothing personal, but if Austin Adams can't protect a fourteen-run lead for one inning he really doesn't have a place on a major league baseball team.  You might as well have an extra position player.

I feel like I should be saying more about all the home runs, but I don't really know what to say about except that it's fun to see.  It was nice of them to do it in a day game while I was on the road, so I could enjoy all the homers live.

Even more notable than the eight home runs might be the fact that Astudillo drew a walk.

freealonzo linked an interesting article about Rocco in yesterday's game log.  I don't know about all the generational stuff, but I have noticed how much more complimentary Rocco is about his players compared to recent Twins managers.  It's easier to do that when you're winning, of course, but it was already clear in spring training.  Rather than looking for things to criticize or cautioning us against getting too excited when a player is doing well, Rocco actually praises them.  It seems like that would have to create a more positive environment in the clubhouse.

I also think the Twins have not received enough credit for the coaching staff they put together.  It's hard to know, from the outside, how much credit/blame to give coaches--we can see the results, but we don't know how much of it is due to the coaches versus the players themselves.  But the Twins have a substantial number of players who are doing better this year than last year, and some who are doing better than they ever have before.  It seems to me that's a pretty good indication that the coaching staff knows a thing or two.

The caution about all this, of course, is that we're still not quite a third of the way into the season.  We've all seen teams that looked like world-beaters in May but fell apart in August and September.  I don't think that's going to happen with this team, though.  That's not to say they'll win over two-thirds of their games all season.  In fact, they'll probably have a down stretch at some point--almost everyone does--and then all the so-called "fans" who delight in running their team down will be out in full force.  But unless they get a string of injuries, I don't see this team collapsing.  This is a good baseball team.

Record:  The Twins are 33-16, first in the American League Central, eight games ahead of Cleveland.

Projected record:  We're still on track for 146-16!