Busy day at work, so I don't have time to say a lot. That's okay since no one reads these things anyway. Let's hit some dingers and hack away at that magic number!
Time to start freaking out about Berríos?
MINNESOTA 10, CHICAGO 5 IN CHICAGO
Date: Thursday, August 29.
Batting stars: C. J. Cron was 3-for-5 with a home run (his twenty-second), a double, two runs, and three RBIs. Jonathan Schoop was 3-for-5. Nelson Cruz was 2-for-4 with a walk and three RBIs. Jorge Polanco was 2-for-4 with a walk and two runs. Jake Cave was 2-for-5 with two home runs, his sixth and seventh. Eddie Rosario was 2-for-5.
PItching stars: Jose Berrios struck out eight in six innings, giving up three runs on seven hits and two walks. Randy Dobnak pitched three innings, giving up two unearned runs on five hits.
Opposition stars: Jose Abreu was 4-for-5 with two doubles. Eloy Jimenez was 2-for-5. Josh Osich struck out three in two shutout innings, giving up a hit and a walk. Jace Fry pitched two perfect innings and struck out one.
The game: The Twins jumped on White Sox starter Dylan Cease right away, opening the game with five consecutive singles. Luis Arraez, Polanco, Cruz, Rosario, and Ehire Adrianza all singled, and after a double play Cron delivered a single. The six singles produced four runs for a 4-0 Twins lead. Singles produced runs again in the second. Schoop singled, Polanco walked, a wild pitch moved the runners up, and Cruz had a two-run single to make it 6-0. In the third the Twins got impatient with singles, as Cave and Cron started the inning with home runs to increase the lead to 8-0.
Meanwhile, Chicago did nothing through the first three innings. They threatened in the fourth. Ryan Goins singled with one out, Abreu walked, and a wild pitch moved them up to second and third. A pair of strikeouts followed, however, and the threat ended. The White Sox did break through in the fifth. Jimenez singled, Matt Skole doubled, and Yolmer Sanchez had an RBI single. With one out, a wild pitch scored a second run, cutting the margin to 8-2. They got one more in the sixth when Abreu doubled, went to third on a wild pitch, and scored on a Jimenez single, making the score 8-3.
It was pretty much over at that point. The Twins loaded the bases with one out in the sixth and managed to score one on a sacrifice fly. Cave homered leading off the seventh to make the score 10-3. Chicago opened the seventh with singles by Sanchez and Adam Engel, but a line out and a double play terminated the inning. They stated the eighth the same way, but a popup, a line out, and a ground out took care of things.
The White Sox did score twice in the ninth, mainly because Polanco temporarily forgot how to play defense. He made two errors, allowing the first two batters of the inning to reach, and only a fine play by Schoop prevented him from making a third. A run scored on that play and Abreu doubled home another run, but that was all Chicago got.
WP: Berrios (11-7). LP: Cease (3-7). S: Dobnak (1).
Notes: Arraez was at third base in place of Miguel Sano. Jake Cave was in center in the continued absence of Byron Buxton. Adrianza was again in right in the absence of Max Kepler.
Arraez is batting .335.
Dobnak's ERA remains at zero in seven major league innings. He also got his first major league save. He has been almost exclusively a starter in the minors, so the only other professional save he has came in 2017 at Elizabethton. His rise is really rather remarkable. He went to Alderson-Broddus College in Phillippi, West Virginia, the only major league player that school has produced. He went undrafted and signed as a free agent with the Twins on July 31, 2017. He made only six starts in the minors that year, five in Elizabethton and one in Cedar Rapids. He was with the Kernels for all of 2018 and had a fine season, going 10-5, 3.14, 1.26 WHIP. In 2019 he made four starts in Fort Myers, where he was almost unhittable, pitched in eleven games (10 starts) in Pensacola, appeared in nine games (7 starts) in Rochester, and here he is in the big leagues. His combined minor league stats for this season are 12-4, 2.07, 0.98 WHIP. He's twenty-four, so while there are not guarantees there's every reason to think he'll continue to improve. A pretty cool story.
Berrios was better, although I don't think we're ready to say he's back yet. He did very well for four innings, then ran into trouble in the fifth and sixth. He also managed to throw (LeBron James voice) not one, not two, not three, but four pitches to the backstop. He did strike out eight, and again he did pitch well for four innings, so I it's progress. Maybe some more time with Wes Johnson will lead to some more improvement next time. We'll see.
It's a little frustrating to have won five in a row and only gained one game in the standings. But on the other hand, think of how the Indians must feel. They've won four of five and lost a game in the standings. The good thing about being in first place is that we don't have to do better than Cleveland from here on out. All we have to do is keep pace with them, and we win.
Record: The Twins are 82-51, in first place in the American League Central, 3.5 games ahead of Cleveland.
Projected record: We're still on track for 111-51!
Okay, that's more like it.
This is pretty clearly going to be a dogfight to the end of the season, but last weekend, things were looking pretty dire.
They still need to tighten up just about every part of their game (the defense,in particular, has looked really sloppy these last few weeks), but now that the Twins are taking on lesser teams, and now that the Clevelanders are taking on actual contenders, this thing looks doable.
Berrios takes on Jurado tonight. This SHOULD be a winnable game. Let's make it happen.
I'm taking MarWIN.
CLEVELAND 7, MINNESOTA 3 IN MINNESOTA (10 INNINGS)
Date: Sunday, August 11.
Batting stars: Luis Arraez was 2-for-3 with two RBIs. Eddie Rosario was 2-for-4 with two doubles and two runs. Marwin Gonzalez was 2-for-4 with a double. C. J. Cron was 2-for-4.
Pitching stars: Jose Berrios pitched six innings, giving up three runs on six hits and a walk and striking out four. Trevor May retired all five batters he faced, striking out two.
Opposition stars: Aaron Civale pitched six innings, giving up one run on four hits and no walks and striking out five. Carlos Santana was 2-for-5 with a grand slam (his twenty-fifth homer), two runs, and five RBIs. Greg Allen was 2-for-5 with a home run (his third) and two runs. Francisco Lindor was 1-for-3 with a double, two walks, and two runs.
The game: The Indians jumped on Berrios for two runs in the first inning. Allen hit a one-out homer, followed by a walk to Santana and a double by Yasiel Puig. The Twins got on the board in the second, as Rosario doubled and scored on a pair of fly outs. Cleveland got the run back in the third when Lindor doubled and scored on a Santana single.
The score was 3-1, and it stayed there for quite some time. The Twins had a chance in the fifth, getting one-out singles from Cron and Gonzalez, but the next two batters could not get the ball out of the infield. Each team had two on with none out in the seventh, but neither could score.
Rosario led off the ninth with a double. With one out, Arraez had an RBI single to cut the lead to 3-2. Cron followed with a single, putting men on first and second, and was pinch-run for with Ehire Adrianza. Gonzalez then delivered an RBI double to tie the score, but Adrianza was thrown out trying to score from first base. Jonathan Schoop grounded out to end the inning, but the Twins had scored two in the bottom of the ninth to tie it 3-3.
It didn't stay tied long. Taylor Rogers came in to pitch the tenth and gave up a single to Kevin Plawecki. A walk to Lindor and a bunt single by Allen filled the bases. Santana emptied them with a grand slam, and the game was gone. The Twins went down on three ground outs in the bottom of the tenth.
WP: Brad Hand (5-3). LP: Rogers (2-3). S: None.
Notes: Max Kepler remains in center field and Gonzalez played right with Byron Buxton out. Arraez was the DH with Nelson Cruz out. I don't know why you wouldn't rather have Arraez at third and Miguel Sano as the DH, but there you have it.
Arraez is now batting .350. Since the last recap, Jorge Polanco fell below .300 and is batting .295. Ryne Harper retired both men he faced and has an ERA of 2.96. Rogers allowed four runs in a third of an inning and has an ERA of 2.68.
There seems to be a perception among Twins fans (not necessarily here) that Berrios has been somewhat of a disappointment. Not that he's been terrible, but that he's not been as good as he should be. It's simply not true. Even with the terrible Atlanta game, his season numbers are 10-6, 3.29, 1.15 WHIP. Those are excellent numbers. He had a 2.06 ERA and 0.97 WHIP in June and a 2.43 ERA with a 1.18 WHIP in July. Even his "bad" games (again, other than the Atlanta game) have been like yesterday--not dominant, but still keeping his team in the game. If he's been a disappointment, it's because the expectations for him were unreasonable. People expect him to be dominant every single time, and nobody can do that. The Twins have some problems, but Berrios is not one of them.
It's never literally true that one play cost you a game. There are all sorts of things that could've gone differently, and if they had the game would've been different. Even after Adrianza was thrown out, Schoop could've gotten a hit and won the game. The Twins could've taken advantage of their chances in the fifth and seventh, or just generally scored more than one run in the first eight innings. Berrios could've not given up two runs in the first, putting the Twins in an immediate hole. Rogers didn't have to give up the grand slam. And it's also not a given that the Twins would've won it in the ninth had Adrianza been held at third--we don't know what would've happened next. What we do know is that Adrianza was thrown out on a play where the only chance he had to score was on a Cleveland error, and that did a lot of damage to the Twins' chances.
After the game Rocco talked a lot of nonsense about how the Indians made a perfect relay. I really can't criticize him for that. His only other option, really, was to throw his third base coach under the bus, and that wouldn't have been a good thing to do. I hope it was addressed privately, but public criticism would not have been helpful in this case.
So, after roughly seventy-three percent of the season has been played, Minnesota and Cleveland have exactly the same records. How they got there may affect our perceptions and feelings, but from here on out it's basically irrelevant. They say that a baseball season is a marathon and not a sprint, but these two teams essentially have a forty-four game sprint for the division title. Whoever has the better record in this forty-four game "season" will win. It's as simple as that.
Record: The Twins are 71-47, tied for first with Cleveland in the American League Central.
Projected record: We'll just have to settle for 115-47!
Minnesota & Chicago have identical 3-7 records over their past 10 games and both have lost two in a row. The difference being, the Twins faced the Yankees, Athletics, Mets (derp) and Cleveland while Chicago managed that against the Marlins, Rays and Royals. On the season, Minnesota has scored 576 runs and given up 468 for a run differential of +108. The White Sox have plated 418 and given up 514 runs for a differential of -96.
So ... you're thinking this should be a bounce back
game series after the heartbreaker on Tuesday and non-competitive start last night? We'll see - 24-year-old Chicago Ace and former 1st rounder Lucas Giolito has seemingly "figured it out" over 19 starts this year to the tune of 3.14 ERA, 1.092 WHIP, 134 K's in 112.2 innings pitched. He's leading his team in WAR at 3.8 (a full 'Win' ahead of their #2 player, catcher James McCann). All that said, 3 of his 4 losses have come in his past four starts (though the lone 'W' in there was against the Twins on June 30).
After watching Twins starters struggle mightily over the past 10 games (only Gibson secured a starter 'W'), it'd be nice to see José Berríos get the group back on more solid ground. Unfortunately, Berríos hasn't won a start since June 6 (1-3 w/ 4 no decisions) though he has had some nice games where the Ass Bats© did him no favors - he's had 5 or more runs of support only three times in that span. We can only hope that the seemingly awakened Bomba Squad continues to hit; José - and the club - could use a laugher.
Game in progress with Polanco taking on Kershaw. That's a less scary sentence these days than several seasons ago.
I got nothing - Happy Independence Day!
The Twins are in a bit of a rough stretch lately. Now, they're merely the best team in the AL. Whether it's that the opponents have adapted a bit, or whether the team is just tilting a bit, they've seemed a bit flat lately.
This is still a good team, though. I know we're all looking for that thing to push us into postseason glory, but for now, let's concentrate on today's game and enjoy the ride.
Today's game features Berrios for the Twins. No matter what anyone says, he's pretty clearly one of the top 10 starting pitchers in the game right now. If that's not an "ace", then the designation is meaningless.
Also, I'm picking Cruz for Bombagame today.
Let's blow the Royals out of the water.
BOSTON 2, MINNESOTA 0 IN MINNESOTA
Date: Monday, June 17.
Batting star: C. J. Cron was 2-for-4.
Pitching star: Jose Berrios struck out ten in eight innings, giving up one run on five hits and no walks.
Opposition stars: Rick Porcello struck out eight in seven shutout innings, giving up four hits and a walk. J. D. Martinez was 2-for-4 with a double. Xander Bogaerts was 2-for-4 with a double.
The game: The Red Sox jumped on Berrios right away, opening the game with consecutive singles by Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, and Martinez. That produced one run and would've produced more had not Marwin Gonzalez thrown out Benintendi trying to stretch his hit into a double.
And that was the only scoring for some time. Nelson Cruz hit a two-out double in the first but nothing came of it. After that neither team even got a baserunner until the fifth. There was no threat to score until the seventh, when Cron hit a one-out double, and again nothing came of it.
The Twins' best scoring chance came in the eighth. Jonathan Schoop led off with a single and Max Kepler walked. Jorge Polanco bunted the runners to second and third with one out, but Cruz hit back to the pitcher and Schoop was thrown out at the plate on a contact play. Eddie Rosario grounded out to end the inning.
Boston got an insurance run in the ninth on doubles by Martinez and Bogaerts. The Twins went down in order in the bottom of the ninth.
WP: Porcello (5-6). LP: Berrios (8-3). S: Ryan Brasier (7).
Notes: Gonzalez remained in right, with Kepler in center and Byron Buxton remaining on the bench with a bruised wrist. I've said this before, but I'm quite pleased that the Twins are allowing Buxton's wrist to heal properly, rather than rushing him back into the lineup. Maybe that's Rocco's influence, because it sure seems different from recent years.
Polanco was 1-for-3 and is batting .332. Berrios has an ERA of 2.86.
This was another frustrating loss, although in a different way. It was frustrating to get such excellent pitching out of Berrios and not be able to take advantage of it. It should be mentioned that after the Martinez RBI single in the first, Berrios retired the next nineteen batters. He struck out ten and did not walk anyone. That's really, really good. There's no shame in getting shut down by Porcello, who's a good pitcher, too, but you hate to lose a game when your own starting pitcher did so well.
I really didn't have a problem with Polanco's bunt in the eighth inning. I realize that's going to be a minority opinion here, and that's fine. No one has to agree with me, and I have neither the time nor the inclination to argue about it this morning. But he moved the go-ahead run into scoring position with two really good batters coming up. I don't have a problem with doing that. It just didn't work.
I do have a problem with the contact play, and always have. I've never seen a study on it, but it just seems like there are a lot of times it doesn't work, and when it doesn't it pretty much takes you out of the inning. Earl Weaver once said of the hit-and-run "it has it's place, but most of the time that place is in the back of a deep, dark closet". That's where I'd put the contact play, too.
But the good news is that we still have the best record in baseball, we still have a ten game lead on the Clevelands, and today is a new day. Michael Pineda pitched quite well last time and hasn't had a really bad game in quite some time. The Twins haven't lost three in a row all year. They probably will at some point, but let's not let it be tonight.
Record: The Twins are 47-24, first in the American League Central, ten games ahead of Cleveland.
Projected record: We'll just have to settle for 138-24!