Doc White (1879)
Hippo Vaughn (1888)
Vic Sorrell (1901)
Fred Frankhouse (1904)
Claude Passeau (1909)
Zip Payne (1909)
Joe Brinkman (1944) Peter Gammons (1945) Nate Colbert (1946)
Kirk McCaskill (1961)
Hal Morris (1965)
Graeme Lloyd (1967) Rudy Hernandez (1968) A. J. Ellis (1981)
David Robertson (1985) Luis Arraez (1997)
Cecil "Zip" Payne was a long-time minor-league player and manager, collecting 2,179 hits.
Joe Brinkman and Derryl Cousins hold the record for most games umpired together, 2,123.
Rudy Hernandez was an infielder in the Mets organization from 1987-1991, reaching AA. With the exception of 2004, he has been a manager or coach in the Twins' organization since 2001. He is currently a batting coach for the major league team.
We would also like to wish a happy birthday to Mama MagUidhir.
Infielder Luis Sangel Arraez made his Twins debut in 2019. He was born in San Felipe, Venezuela and signed with the Twins as a free agent in 2013. He went up about a level a season, playing in the Dominican Summer League in 2014, the Gulf Coast League in 2015, and the MIdwest League in 2016. He missed most of 2017, presumably due to injury, split 2018 between high-A and AA, started 2019 in AA, moved up to AAA, and by mid-May was in the majors, eventually taking over the second base job from Jonathan Schoop. He batted over .300 at every stop in the minors except for 48 games in Chattanooga in 2018, when he batted .298. He has little power, but that's really the only flaw he has as a batter. In 367 minor league games he batted .331/.385/.414. In 92 major league games he batted .334/.399/.439. He turns twenty-three today. It would be unfair to expect him to bat .334 every season, but there's every reason to think he'll be a successful major league batter, if he isn't already. He will begin the 2020 season as the Twins' regular second baseman, assuming there is a 2020 season.
Unlike its preceding digit, Nº 2 has a collection of distinguishing achievements in its history: an MVP award, a Rookie of the Year award, and multiple All-Star and Gold Glove nods. Its incumbant might be the
Zoilo Casanova Versalles Rodriguez left Nº 5 behind him in Washington and broke in Nº 2 for the Twins in 1961. His selection for MVP was (and remains, for some) rather contentious, but if you're of the opinion that the MVP should be awarded to position players, Zoilo is a worthy recipient. His 7.2 rWAR led AL position players, just edging Chicago second baseman Don Buford. Teammate Tony Oliva and Detroit's Norm Cash tied for third with 5.4, followed closely by Jim Fregosi (5.3). Zoilo Versalles was the first Latin American player to be named MVP.
Zoilo signed with the Senators when he was 17 and reached the AL at 19, but his MLB career was over at 31. These factors contributed to a pretty tragic story after baseball. According to Zoilo's New York Times obituary, following his death at age 55:
After playing a season in Japan in 1972, Versalles returned to the Minneapolis area but found it virtually impossible to make a living, partly because he had never learned to read or write English and partly because of the lingering effects of a back injury he suffered while running out a ground ball with the Dodgers in 1968.
He held a series of menial jobs, but lost his house to foreclosure and was eventually forced to sell his m.v.p. trophy, his All-Star rings and his Gold Glove award.
In addition to his back problems he suffered two heart attacks and underwent stomach surgery.
In recent years he had been sustained by disability payments, Social Security and memories of a season that came only once.
Graig Nettles wore three numbers during his brief Twins career; Nº 2 was the last. Billy Martin first became his manager at AAA Denver, where Martin replaced Johnny Goryl at the end of June 1968. Martin pressed Nettles into double duty, giving him reps in the outfield as well as third base. When Nettles was called up to Minnesota in September, he played 16 of his 22 games in the outfield. In 1969 he got into 96 games, 74 on defense. With Harmon Killebrew en route to an MVP season and Rich Reese playing over his head with a career year, Nettles got only 21 games at third base. He found himself in something of a platoon with Bob Allison, who was 34 and, while still productive, nearing the end of his career. Nettles started hot, topping out at .316/.371/.561 (.306 BAbip) in mid-May, but bad luck led to a hard fade and he went .190/.303/.613 (.226 BAbip) the rest of the way.
Nettles was heading into his age 25 season when the Twins traded him; Harmon Killebrew turned 34 years old the same year. Nettles put up a 5.2 rWAR campaign in 1970. His manager, Alvin Dark, stuck him a third for the whole campaign. His 101 OPS+ wasn't exciting, but he showed some power with 26 homers, walked more than he struck out, and flashed excellent leather (22 Fielding Runs). The Twins repeated as AL West Champs in 1970, without much help from Luis Tiant, the primary return in the deal that sent Nettles to Cleveland or Rich Reese, who hit .261/.332/.371 (92 OPS+) in 564 PA as the primary first baseman. The Twins released Tiant in March 1971. Reese plummeted to a .219/.270/.353 (74 OPS+) in 359 PA. Harmon Killebrew moved across the diamond to first base, and 23 year old rookie Steve Braun took over at the hot corner. Braun didn't embarrass himself, turning in 1.0 rWAR year, but the Twins fell from first to fifth in the West. Nettles swatted 28 homers and displayed a fine eye (82 walks to 56 strikeouts), ending 1971 with a 114 OPS+ and 30 Fielding Runs. All that was good for a 7.5 rWAR season, just short of double César Tovar's total, which led the position player ledger of the '71 Twins. Braun eventually wore Nettles' Nº 2 in 1976, which was his last year in Minnesota. More on his story another time.
Three seasons after Braun's departure, the Twins finally seemed like they might fill the hole they created by trading Nettles when John Castino split co-Rookie of the Year honors with Toronto's Alfredo Griffin. (Between 1971–1979 Nettles put up 41.8 rWAR, including an MVP-worthy 8.0 rWAR year in 1976. Nettles finished 16th in MVP voting, tied with Baltimore-era Reggie Jackson. This is the only time anyone will ever hear me say a Yankme was robbed of an MVP.) Castino's rookie season was a solid 2-win effort. Castino hadn't played a game above AA Orlando when he made the major league roster out of Spring Training in 1979. His .285 batting average drew favorable notice in the era, surprising even his manager, Gene Mauch; his .331 OBP and .112 ISO speak to the shape of his overall production at the plate. Castino's defense, however, drew more than one comparison to Brooks Robinson, who had retired partway into the 1977 season. Mauch might have seen Robinson play at age 19 or 20, when they briefly overlapped in the American League, but given that Mauch spent Robinson's heyday managing the Phillies and Expos, one wonders exactly how much eyeball time he had to draw the comparison. Brooks, for his part, accepted it, saying that Castino's throwing & actions reminded him of himself, and opining that Castino looked to already be a fine fielder.
In fairness to Castino, that much was true. From 1980–1983, his glove contributed 36 Fielding Runs' worth of value to the Twins' defense, even though he played fewer than 120 games twice in that span. The limited playing time was due not only to the '81 strike, but the discovery of a back problem that ultimately cut his career short. X-rays taken after Castino was injured diving for a ball late in the second half of the season resulted in a spondylolysis diagnosis. Castino tried playing through it at first, but had to back off. Doctors ultimately performed a spinal procedure that fused a couple of his vertebrae together. Atrophied from a winter in a body cast, Castino tried to play out the '82 season at a new position; Gary Gaetti's arrival shifted Castino over to second baseThe results supported Castino's after-the-fact observation that he was not ready to resume playing baseball that year. Who knows whether a year of PT and gradual adjustment back to the game would have changed anything for him, given the therapies available at the time. Castino only got one more year on the diamond, playing second base and matching his career-best with another 4.5 rWAR season. With Castino under contract through the 1987 season, the mid-Eighties Twins might have had some interesting choices to make to find enough playing time between second & third for him, Gaetti, and rookie Tim Teufel. Unfortunately, those good problems never materialized. Castino's back limited him to 9 games in 1984, and that was it. Just as the Twins were starting to turn their fortunes around with the maturation of the core of the cohort of prospects that won the '87 World Series, Castino's career was over. He was 29. He appeared in just 666 games and made only 2578 plate appearances. Thirty-six years later, Castino's 39.3 Fielding Runs still place him 5th among Twins infielders and 10th among all position players. Brooks Robinson & Gene Mauch were right — he turned out to be a pretty good fielder.
Chris Pittaro wore Nº 2 next. Pittaro is perhaps most notable for the scouting & front office career he began with the Athletics in 1991. That gig reunited Pittaro with his Twins teammate Billy Beane; he became one of the Oakland front office characters named in Moneyball, is still a special assistant to Oakland GM David Forst.
Wally Backman managed to achieve -0.7 rWAR in just 87 games and 337 PA for the '89 Twins. He can thank Luis Rivas for sparing him the honor of worst season while wearing Nº 2.
Pat Meares had the unenviable task of succeeding Greg Gagne as the Twins' primary shortstop. Younger and cheaper, Meares' Twins tenure nevertheless was not as valuable as the five seasons Gags split between Kansas City & Los Angeles to end his career:
Luis Rivas broke in as a full-time player in 2001 & was the second baseman when the Twins began their resurgence in the early 2000s. Unfortunately, he contributed little to that effort. Rivas made over 2000 plate appearances, mustering an 80 OPS+. His hitting was a mirror of his fielding: Rivas' -54 Batting Runs made a potent statement at the plate, while his -51 Fielding Runs made his defense conspicuous. In the five seasons Rivas was (or began the season as) the Twins' primary second baseman, the team went 444-365. Many more things about Luis Rivas, but suffice it to say that he was the starting second baseman on a string of successful Twins teams, often plying his trade in the Nº 2 hole (666 PA). I don't remember who came up with the nickname (Gleeman?), but I'll always remember him as "Luis Oh-for-ThRivas."
For five seasons Denard Span blended excellent outfield defense, solid on-base skills, and good baserunning. Span's glove ranks 6th among Twins outfielders with 39.0 Fielding Runs, and places him 11th among all Twins position players. One of the great DSPAN2 fun facts is that he was — at least by one definition — the most exciting player on the Twins' roster: he hit 36 triples (half his career total) with the Twins, against 23 homers. A concussion and some other injuries intruded on his playing time, so he was only the primary center fielder twice during his Twins tenure, but he was nonetheless a very solid player during the last few years in the Metrodome and the first few at Target Field.
The Twins traded DSPAN2 in November 2012, sending him to the Nationals for pitching prospect Alex Meyer. The next season, Brian Dozier made two significant changes: he moved from shortstop to second base, and he took over Nº 2. Dozier had worn different numbers at AAA Rochester and Southern Mississippi, and neither his birth date or month suggest an attachment to the number. The new position minimized some defensive shortcomings. Dozier's defense at second base was very strong in 2013, but he never matched it again, and by 2018 was a bit of a liability in the field. Nonetheless, Dozier put together a string of seasons that gave a whole different shape to the position, something Twins fans had not seen in over fifty years: the slugging second baseman. In his five full seasons with the Twins, Dozier averaged 29 home runs per season. In 2016, he became the first Twin hit 40+ homers since since Harmon Killebrew in 1971. Dozier carried a .202 ISO into his last season with the Twins, slipping to .199 before the Twins sent him to the Dodgers at the trade deadline. Measured by rWAR, Dozier was the most successful player to wear Nº 2.
For all the Bomba Squad excitement last season, Luis Arraez might have been the Twins' most interesting hitter to watch at the plate. One plate appearance rarely is enough to define a player, but Arraez' pinch hitting appearance after Jonathan Scoop injured himself down 0-2 to fireballer Jeurys Familia on July 16 was really dang cool. It will be interesting to see what he can do with a full-time gig at second this season.
Batting stars: Nelson Cruz was 3-for-5 with two RBIs. Luis Arraez was 2-for-5 with a double and two runs. Jake Cave was 2-for-5 with two RBIs. Jorge Polanco was 2-for-5.
Pitching stars: Michael Pineda struck out nine in six innings, giving up two runs on five hits and a walk. Sergio Romo pitched a perfect inning and struck out one. Brusdar Graterol pitched a scoreless inning, giving up two hits.
Opposition stars: Brandon Dixon was 2-for-3 with a double and a walk. Jordy Mercer was 2-for-4 with a home run, his seventh. Victor Reyes was 2-for-4.
The game: Neither team did much in the first inning, but that changed quickly in the second. With one out, Miguel Sano walked, Arraez doubled, and Jake Cave delivered a two-run single. Willians Astudillo was then hit by a pitch and Jason Castro had an RBI single to make it 3-0. With two out, RBI singles by Polanco and Cruz built the lead to 5-0.
The Tigers got one back in the bottom of the second on doubles by Dawel Lugo and Dixon. Neither team did much in the third and fourth, but each team scored one in the fifth. The Twins got their run when Arraez singled, went to second on a ground out, and scored on an Astudillo single. In the bottom of the fifth Dixon walked, went to third on a pair of wild pitches, and scored on a Reyes single, leaving the score 6-2. Mercer homered in the seventh to cut the margin to 6-3.
The Twins put it out of reach in the eighth. Astudillo was again hit by a pitch. There was still a man on first with two out, but singles by Polanco, Cruz, and Rosario brought home two runs and put the Twins up 8-3. The Detroit threatened in the ninth, getting one-out singles by Dixon and Mercer, but a double play ended the game.
Notes: Max Kepler was in center field in the absence of Byron Buxton. Buxton did come in to play defense in the ninth. Jake Cave was in right field, but moved to center when Kepler came out of the game in the seventh. LaMonte Wade took over in right field, and Cave came out of the game when Buxton came in. Astudillo started at first base, but was replaced by C. J. Cron in the eighth.
Arraez is batting .333. Cruz is batting .309. Polanco is batting .302.
Graterol made his major league debut and has an ERA of 0.00. Time will tell, but who knows? Maybe this game will be remembered as the game in which Graterol began his major league career. He struck out one batter, gave up one solid hit and one infield hit, and got a man to hit into a double play. He also threw one to the backstop in an obvious effort to show the Twins brass he belongs on this pitching staff. I hope next year he'll be given a chance to start, but I'm fine with him being in the bullpen for the rest of this season.
The Twins scored eight runs without a bomba. Maybe they said and I missed it, but I wouldn't be surprised if that's the most runs they've scored this season without hitting a home run in the game. I have nothing against home runs, but it is nice to be able to put up a big number without them, too. It seems to me that the more ways you have that you can score runs, the more likely you are to score runs. A team that can score by playing big ball and by playing small ball should score more runs than a team that can only do one of those things, no matter how good they are at the one thing they can do.
I know wins and losses are not a good way to judge a starting pitcher. It does, however, say something about your ball club when you have a pitcher in your rotation whose record is 3-14.
Record: The Twins are 84-52, in first place in the American League Central, 5.5 games ahead of Cleveland.
Projected record: We're still on track for 110-52!
Batting stars: Luis Arraez was 3-for-5 with a double. Eddie Rosario was 3-for-5. Jake Cave was 2-for-4. Jorge Polanco was 2-for-5 with a home run (his eighteenth), a double, three runs, and two RBIs. Nelson Cruz was 2-for-5. Miguel Sano was 2-for-5.
Pitching stars: None.
Opposition stars: Ryan Goins was 3-for-4 with two runs. Jose Abreu was 1-for-4 with a three-run homer, his twenty-seventh. Ivan Nova pitched 5.1 innings, giving up two runs on ten hits and one walk and striking out two.
The game: The Twins once again scored early. Arraez and Polanco started the first inning with back-to-back doubles and Cruz followed with a single, putting the Twins up 2-0. They missed a chance to add to the lead in the second, putting two on with two out but failing to score. It cost them, because in the third singles by Matt Skole, Yolmer Sanchez, and Goins and a three-run homer by Abreu put the White Sox ahead 4-2.
The Twins put two on with two out in the fourth and did not score. They had men on second and third with one out in the sixth, but the contact play cost the Twins again, as Sano was thrown out at the plate on a grounder to third.
In the seventh, Tim Anderson doubled, went to third on a ground out, and scored on a squeeze bunt to make the score 5-2. Polanco hit a home run in the bottom of the seventh to cut the margin to 5-3 and give the Twins some hope. The hope was quickly dashed, however, as Chicago got the run back in the eighth. Goins singled, Jon Jay walked, and Eloy Jimenez singled to make the score 6-3.
The Twins did threaten in the ninth. Singles by Arraez, Cruz, and Rosario cut the lead to 6-4 and brought the winning run to the plate with two out. But Sano struck out, and the game was over.
WP: Nova (9-9). LP: Kyle Gibson (11-6). S: Alex Colome (24).
Notes: Max Kepler was held out of the game, presumably due to lingering effects of his heat-related illness Sunday. That means the Twins went with an outfield of Rosario-Cave-Marwin Gonzalez. That's not a good defensive outfield. It's hard to tell whether it made any difference--no defense can stop a three-run homer--but it certainly didn't help.
Cruz returned to the lineup as the DH.
Arraez is now batting .348.
Gibson pitched 6.2 innings, giving up five runs on six hits and one walk and striking out four.
This was not the way the start of the "soft spot in the schedule" was supposed to go. Still, it's not realistic to expect the Twins to win every game, even against bad teams, and if the Twins win the next two to take the series, that would be an acceptable outcome. It also seems like, as much as anything, the Twins simply had some bad luck. They out-hit the White Sox 15-8. They had twelve singles, two doubles, and a home run. They also drew a walk. And they were 3-for-9 with men in scoring position, so it's not like they weren't producing in the clutch. Yet, they managed to score only four runs. That's not very easy to do. It's frustrating, but it's baseball, and it happens. I'll go out on a limb, though, and predict that if the Twins get fifteen hits again tonight they will score more than four runs.
Record: The Twins are 76-49, in first place in the American League Central, two games ahead of Cleveland.
Projected record: We'll just have to settle for 113-49!
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!
Batting stars: Eddie Rosario was 1-for-1 with a three-run homer, his twenty-first. Mitch Garver was 1-for-4 with a home run, his sixteenth. C. J. Cron was 1-for-4 with a home run, his eighteenth. Luis Arraez was 1-for-2 with a double and two walks. Miguel Sano was 1-for-2 with two walks and two runs.
Pitching stars: Kyle Gibson struck out seven in seven innings, giving up three runs on six hits and no walks. Taylor Rogers pitched two shutout innings, giving up two hits and striking out one.
Opposition stars: Ramon Laureano was 3-for-4 with two runs. Jurickson Profar was 1-for-4 with a two-run homer, his fourteenth. Mike Fiers pitched 6.1 innings, giving up three runs on six hits and four walks and striking out four.
The game: The Athletics put men on first and third with two out in the second, but there was no score until the third, when Sano walked, went to second on a Jake Cave single, took third on a bunt, and scored on a wild pitch. Oakland immediately tied it in the fourth, as Laureano singled, went to second on a wild pitch, and scored on a Khris Davis double.
The Twins missed a chance in the fifth, putting men on first and second with none out and running themselves out of the inning. It looked like it would be costly, as the Athletics took the lead in the sixth. Laureano singled with one out and Profar hit a two-out two-run homer, putting Oakland up 3-1. But in the seventh, Arraez hit a one-out double, Sano walked, and Rosario, pinch-hitting for Cave, hit a three-run homer to give the Twins a 4-3 lead.
Oakland got a pair of one-out singles in the eighth, but a strikeout and a fly out ended the inning. The Twins then got some insurance, as Garver and Cron each homered to make it 6-3. The Athletics went down in order in the ninth.
WP: Gibson (9-4). LP: Yusmeiro Petit (2-2). S: Rogers (14).
Notes: Max Kepler was in center field and Cave in right, with Byron Buxton still out. Marwin Gonzalez was in left, replacing Rosario. When Rosario entered the game, he went to left, with Gonzalez in right. Arraez was at second base with Jonathan Schoop still out. Ehire Adrianza was at shortstop, replacing Jorge Polanco.
Arraez raised his average to .382. Rogers has an ERA of 1.61.
The Twins made two more errors, although this time none of them led to runs. Everyone keeps saying, "Well, Buxton's out", but Buxton isn't going to stop infielders from booting grounders or throwing the ball away. Anyone who says, "Defense doesn't go into a slump" hasn't been watching the Twins lately.
But, all's well that ends well. Gibson pitched a good game--not dominating, but seven innings, three runs, six hits, no walks is something you'd take from him every time. Rogers remains outstanding. Arraez had another good game. And Rosario, well, what more can you say?
And Miguel Sano has quietly been batting very well lately. He was 1-for-2 last night and he drew two walks, both of which led to runs. He's only batting .236 on the season, which isn't great, but his OBP is .324. Since June 27, when he went 0-for-7 in the eighteen inning game, he's batting .340/.436/.702. A productive Sano would be really helpful over the last two and a half months of the season.
Record: The Twins are 59-36, in first place in the American League Central, four games ahead of Cleveland.
Projected record: We're still on track for 126-36!
Batting stars: Marwin Gonzalez was 3-for-4 with a double, a hit-by-pitch, two runs and two RBIs. Jonathan Schoop was 3-for-5 with a home run (his fourteenth), two doubles, two runs, and four RBIs. Mitch Garver was 2-for-4 with a home run (his thirteenth), a double, a walk, and three runs. Max Kepler was 2-for-4 with two RBIs. Jorge Polanco was 2-for-5 with a two-run homer, his thirteenth. Luis Arraez was 2-for-5 with a home run, his second. C. J. Cron was 2-for-5 with two doubles, two runs, and two RBIs. Byron Buxton was 2-for-5 with two doubles and two runs.
Pitching stars: Martin Perez pitched six innings, giving up four runs on seven hits and two walks and striking out three. Kohl Stewart retired all four men he faced.
Opposition stars: Logan Forsythe was 2-for-4 with a home run (his fourth) and two runs. Rougned Odor was 2-for-4 with a double. Delino DeShields was 2-for-4 with a double. Shin-Soo Choo was 1-for-5 with a two-run homer, his thirteenth.
The game: The Twins started the scoring in the second and did so in a big way. Garver led off with a double and scored on Gonzalez' single. A double play made it look like the scoring might end right there, but Arraez followed with a home run, Schoop and Buxton hit back-to-back doubles, Kepler singled, and Polanco hit a two-run homer. It was 6-0 and the Twins lead would never be threatened.
The Twins kept the scoring going. Buxton doubled with one out in the fourth and scored on a Kepler single. In the fifth Gonzalez was hit by a pitch and scored on Schoop's two-out two-run homer. It was 9-0 through six.
The Rangers tried to get back into the game in the seventh. Martin Perez, who had cruised through six innings, walked Nomar Mazara to open the seventh. Singles by Forsythe and Asdrubal Cabrera plated one run and Odor's RBI double made it 9-2. Ryne Harper came in and allowed a run-scoring ground out, then with two down gave up a homer to Choo, making the score 9-5.
No problem. Garver led off the bottom of the seventh with a home run. Gonzalez singled, Cron doubled, and Schoop delivered a two-out two-run double to make it 12-5. Forsythe homered in the eighth to cut the margin to 12-6, but the Twins added a few more in the bottom of the eighth. Miguel Sano singled, Garver walked, Gonzalez doubled home one and Cron doubled home two. Texas went down in order in the ninth.
WP: Perez (8-3). LP: Adrian Sampson (6-6). S: None.
Notes: Arraez was at third base in this game, with Gonzalez in left and Sano on the bench. Sano entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the fourth, as Nelson Cruz left the game. According to news reports, Cruz had discomfort in his foot because his shoe was too tight. I don't know why he couldn't simply put on a bigger shoe, but it obviously didn't matter for the outcome of the game.
Arraez actually lowered his average by going 2-for-5--he's now batting .413. Polanco went up to .314. Tyler Duffey gave up a run in two-thirds of an inning and has an ERA of 2.60.
As noted above, Perez pitched very well for six innings. In retrospect you can say he was left in the game too long, but his pitch count wasn't high and there were no obvious signs that he was tiring. Sometimes a guy just loses it quickly.
Stewart pitched the last 1.1 innings. It had been widely assumed that he was going to be Sunday's starter, but that seems very unlikely now. Maybe that never was the plan, or maybe Rocco thought it was better to save the rest of the bullpen now and figure something else out for Sunday. The pitcher who started in Rochester Tuesday, and so would be going on regular rest Sunday, was Devin Smeltzer. He did pretty well in his two earlier major league starts, so it would not be surprising to see him back for the Sunday start.
This was the kind of game we saw a lot the first couple of months of the season and haven't seen much lately. Will this be the start of a hot streak? The Twins had a game like this Saturday and we hoped it might be the start of a hot streak, but instead it was just a one-off. So I guess we'll see.
The win guarantees that the Twins will go into the all-star break not having more than a two-game losing streak. That's pretty remarkable.
Record: The Twins are 55-32, first in the American League Central, 6.5 games ahead of Cleveland.
Projected record: We're still on track for 130-32!
Batting stars: Luis Arraez was 3-for-5. Mitch Garver was 2-for-6. Jorge Polanco was 1-for-5 with a home run, his twelfth.
Pitching stars: Kyle Gibson pitched six innings, giving up three runs (two earned) on five hits and four walks and striking out five. Zack Littell pitched a scoreless inning, giving up a hit and a walk and striking out one. Ryne Harper struck out two in a scoreless inning, giving up one hit. Tyler Duffey pitched a perfect inning. Blake Parker struck out three in two shutout innings, giving up a hit and two walks. Taylor Rogers struck out two in a scoreless inning, giving up one hit.
Opposition stars: Mike Fiers pitched six innings, giving up two runs (one earned) on five hits and no walks and striking out four. Ramon Laureano was 2-for-4 with a three-run homer (his fourteenth) and a walk. Robbie Grossman was 2-for-4 with a walk. Liam Hendriks struck out two in two shutout innings, giving up one hit.
The game: Khris Davis reached on an error to start the bottom of the second. Mark Canha walked and Laureano hit a three-run homer, and that quickly the Athletics led 3-0. Oakland had chances to add to their lead, but could not take advantage of them. Marcus Semien opened the third with a double but did not score. Laureano and Grossman led off the fourth with singles but a force out and a double play ended the inning. Still, the Athletics led 3-0 through five.
The Twins then pecked away, as Dazzle likes to say. Singles by Jonathan Schoop, Max Kepler, and Garver produced a run in the sixth. Singles by Arraez and Ehire Adrianza were followed by an error to make the score 3-2. Polanco hit a two-out homer in the eighth to tie it 3-3.
Each team missed chances in the extra frames. Oakland started the tenth with two walks but did not score. The Twins had men on first and third with one out in the eleventh and did not score. The Twins broke through in the twelfth, though. Byron Buxton and Kepler drew one-out walks and Garver followed with an RBI single to give the Twins their first lead at 4-3. A double play took them out of the inning. Would the lead hold up?
Obviously it did, but the Athletics made it interesting. Matt Chapman reached on an error to start the inning. With one out, Jurickson Profar singled, sending Chapman to third, but Profar was thrown out trying to make second, so there were two down with the tying run ninety feet away. He stayed there, as Canha struck out to end the game.
Notes: Arraez is now batting .431 in sixty-five at-bats. I wonder what the record is for highest batting average in your first sixty-five at-bats. Polanco is down to .318. Harper has an ERA of 2.88. Duffey is at 2.33. Rogers' ERA is 1.93.
Arraez was in left field, and while I still don't like playing infielders in the outfield I gather he's done okay there. Of course, you'll put up with less defense from a guy who bats .431. Adrianza was at shortstop, with Polanco the DH and Nelson Cruz out of the lineup.
In the second inning, I don't think many people would've predicted that Gibson would get through six without giving up any more runs. He didn't exactly dominate, but he got by. The Much Maligned Bullpen came through with six shutout innings, although they didn't exactly dominate, either. The Oaklands went 1-for-15 with men in scoring position.
I am pleased to see Liam Hendriks pitching well. I still feel like the Twins didn't give him much of a chance, although I have to admit that he didn't do much with the chances they did give him. When the Twins waived him after the 2013 season, I doubt that anyone in the front office thought he'd still be pitching in 2019, but here he is. Good for him.
The Twins made two more errors last night. I don't have time to go back and count, but they've made an awful lot of errors in recent weeks. I don't know what happened to that excellent defensive team we had the first couple of months of the season, but I sure wish they'd come back. Injuries have played a part, of course, but that's not a complete excuse.
The Twins still managed to avoid losing three games in a row. Of course, it's been about three weeks since they won three in a row. It would sure be nice to see them put together a little winning streak here before the all-star break.
Record: The Twins are 54-31, first in the American League Central, seven games ahead of Cleveland.
Projected record: We're still on track for 131-31!
Batting stars: Nelson Cruz was 3-for-4 with a double and three RBIs. Eddie Rosario was 2-for-2. Luis Arraez was 2-for-3 with a walk and two runs.
Pitching star: Taylor Rogers retired all four men he faced.
Opposition stars: Austin Meadows was 2-for-3 with a walk. Kevin Kiermaier was 1-for-4 with a two-run homer, his ninth. Tommy Pham was 1-for-4 with a home run, his twelfth. Willy Adames was 1-for-4 with a home run, his ninth.
The game: The Twins opened the scoring in the first inning. Arraez led off with a walk. With one out, the Twins got singles from Cruz, Rosario, and C. J. Cron, plus a wild pitch, to take a 3-0 lead. It didn't stay 3-0 long, as Meadows walked to start the second and Kiermaier hit a one-out two-run homer to cut the lead to 3-2.
It stayed 3-2, with neither team doing a lot on offense, until the sixth, when Pham homered with one out to tie the score 3-3. Adames hit a one-out homer in the seventh to give the Rays their first lead at 4-3.
Then came the bottom of the seventh. Jason Castro got an infield single and Jake Cave reached on an error, putting men on first and second with none out. Jonathan Schoop failed to get a bunt down and struck out, but Arraez singled to load the bases. Jorge Polanco popped up for the second out, but there's no need to fear, Nelson Cruz is here. Cruz hit a bases-clearing double to give the Twins the lead at 6-4. Tampa Bay could get only a one-out single in the eighth after that.
WP: Trevor May (3-1). LP: Charlie Morton (8-2). S: Taylor Rogers (10).
Notes: Arraez started the game at third base in place of Miguel Sano. The starting outfield, from left to right, was Willians Astudillo-Rosario-Cave. Then, of course, Rosario was injured running the bases in the third inning. Sano came into the game at third base, with Arraez going to left field, Cave moving to center, and Astudillo moving to right. In the eighth, Max Kepler came into the game in center field, with Cave going to right, Astudillo moving back to left, and Arraez going to third base, with Sano coming out of the game.
Arraez was put into the leadoff spot, and apparently the pressure did not bother him. He is now batting .452. Polanco was 0-for-4 and is batting .321. Jake Odorizzi allowed three runs in 5.1 innings and has an ERA of 2.73. Ryne Harper retired both men he faced and has an ERA of 2.23. Rogers now has an ERA of 2.04.
Every member of the Twins starting outfield is now dealing with an injury. Kepler came in for defense--maybe he'll be well enough to play today. Maybe Byron Buxton can come off the disabled list. Maybe, against all odds, Rosario's injury isn't that bad and he can play. If not, though, they'd better have made a call to Rochester last night. An Astudillo-Rosario-Cave outfield was shaky enough. An Arraez-Cave-Astudillo outfield is simply untenable. The Twins were lucky that it didn't particularly hurt them last night, but that kind of luck is not going to hold.
Schoop tried to bunt in the seventh inning with men on first and second with the Twins down a run. I don't think a bunt is an obviously bad play there, but it is if you don't have a batter at the plate who can get the bunt down. Bunting, for a big league ballplayer, should not be that hard of a thing to do, but you need to learn how to do it properly. So, if you're going to ask players to bunt, you need to take the time to teach them to do it correctly and take the time to have them practice it regularly. Is bunting worth the time it takes to learn to do it right? That's a good question. But either have players who can bunt well or don't do it. Giving up an out to gain a base may be a questionable strategy, but giving up an out and not gaining anything is a strategy that has nothing going for it.
The Twins did not hit any home runs last night, a rare thing for this season but especially rare in a game that they won. In a way, though, it's a good thing. I have nothing against home runs, but it's good for a team to have more than one way it can win. My theory for some time has been that the more ways you have that you can win, the more likely it is that you will win. A team that can win in several ways has an advantage over a team that can only win one way. It's good to know the Twins can beat a good team without hitting home runs.
Record: The Twins are 52-27, first in the American League Central, 8.5 games ahead of Cleveland.
Projected record: We're still on track for 135-27!
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!