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!
Here's hoping for one of those patented bounceback wins from the Twins today. Berríos is on the mound today, so hopefully the keys are in the hands of the right driver. Not that starting pitching has really been the issue lately...
SEATTLE 9, MINNESOTA 6 IN MINNESOTA (10 INNINGS)
Date: Wednesday, June 12.
Batting stars: MIguel Sano was 2-for-4. Marwin Gonzalez was 2-for-5 with a home run, his eighth. Mitch Garver was 2-for-5. Byron Buxton was 1-for-4 with a two-run homer, his ninth. Max Kepler was 1-for-5 with a home run, his sixteenth.
Pitching stars: Jose Berrios pitched 6.2 innings, giving up one run on seven hits and two walks and striking out six. Ryan Eades struck out two in 1.2 scoreless innings, giving up two hits.
Opposition stars: Daniel Vogelbach was 4-for-5 with a home run, his seventeenth. Mallex Smith was 3-for-6 with two doubles. Omar Narvaez was 2-for-4 with a double. Dee Gordon was 2-for-5 with two doubles and two runs. Shed Long was 1-for-4 with a three-run homer and a walk, scoring twice. Tommy Milone struck out six in six innings, giving up three runs on four hits and no walks.
The game: It was a pitchers' duel for seven innings. The Mariners had runners all over the place for seven innings, but only scored when Vogelbach hit a leadoff home run in the sixth. The Twins tied it 1-1 when Gonzalez homered with one out in the eighth.
The Mariners appeared to take control of the game with a five-run eighth. A walk, a single, and a sacrifice fly scored the first run. A single, an error, and a three-run homer by Long scored four more. It was 6-1, and it looked like the Twins were done.
Twins batters had other ideas. Kepler homered with one out, and the Twins then put together four singles, with RBIs going to Garver and Gonzalez, to cut the lead to 6-4. They struck again in the ninth, as Sano led off with a single and Buxton hit a two-run homer to tie it 6-6.
But as quickly as the Twins got back into the game, they got back out of it in the tenth. A ground-rule double, a walk, and a bunt put men on second and third with one down. The Twins then made three errors, leading to three runs, and the game was gone.
WP: Anthony Bass (1-1). LP: Tyler Duffey (1-1). S: Roenis Elias (6).
Notes: Jorge Polanco was 1-for-5 and is batting .339. Garver is batting .321. Mike Morin retired the only man he faced and has an ERA of 1.32. Ryan Eades has an ERA of zero. The three runs against Duffey were all unearned, so his ERA is now 2.29.
It would seem that there is plenty of blame to go around for this one. The batters made a nice comeback, but for seven innings they did nothing against a couple of undistinguished pitchers. The bullpen melted down in the eighth, but Eades came in to right the ship and the tenth inning can't be entirely blamed on Duffey. The defense, normally reliable, let the team down in both the eighth and the tenth. They say that you win as a team and you lose as a team, and the Twins lost as a team last night.
The exceptions are Eades, as mentioned above, and Berrios. Berrios allowed nine baserunners, but only one scored. It was mentioned that on the radio that he is stranding runners at a 78% rate, and that went up last night. I wonder if he's trying to pace himself, only going max effort when there are men on base. I'm not sure that allowing this many baserunners is sustainable for a season, but it's working for him so far.
I suspect one reason the Twins struggled against Milone is simply that you don't see pitchers like that much any more. With all the emphasis on power arms, a soft tosser who can hit his spots and mix his pitches can be pretty effective, just because you rarely face pitchers like that. Ryne Harper probably benefits from that, too. I understand the preference for hard throwers, and as a general rule I agree with it. Sometimes, though, we need to remember that the point is to get batters out, and any way you can do that is a good way.
Anyway, turn the page, put it in the rearview mirror, etc. Cleveland lost yesterday, too, and we're still tied for the best record in the league. As I heard someplace, you can't win them all.
Record: The Twins are 44-22, first in the American League Central, 10.5 games ahead of Cleveland.
Projected record: We'll just have to settle for 140-22!
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.
WP: Rogers (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!
I think my aunt and grandma might be at this game.
Berríos on the mound. Most of the site destined for bed by about the third inning
Not me, though. Let's do this.
Happy Berríos Day!
After splitting the series with Detroit (which admittedly was a disappointment), an even more capable team in the Angels are coming to town. The Twins have .650 winning percentage at Target Field this year, but have split the games when the Angels have stopped by.
Hopefully Cron and Parker will look to extract some revenge against their old team. Cruz has whipped out his Boomstick 50 times against the Angels (good for 2nd most against them as a team), but he's day to day with his wrist is being evaluated. Hopefully we can find another dong masher or two on the team in the meantime.
On the mound for the Angels is Skaggs, whose numbers don't look all that great this year (3-3, 4.70 ERA, 1.37 WHIP). Maybe we can find some of that missing offense tonight.
Finally, don't forget, we're still on 1840 start times. Some of the senior citizens around here can get to bed a little earlier.
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.