Tag Archives: Marwin Gonzalez

2019 Recap: Game One Hundred Twenty-two

MINNESOTA 4, TEXAS 3 IN TEXAS

Date:  Friday, August 16.

Batting stars:  Marwin Gonzalez was 3-for-4.  Jonathan Schoop was 1-for-3 with a two-run homer, his seventeenth.  Max Kepler was 1-for-4 with a two-run homer, his thirty-third.

Pitching stars:  Sam Dyson pitched a scoreless inning, giving up a hit and a walk.  Taylor Rogers struck out two in a scoreless inning, giving up two hits.  Sergio Romo pitched a scoreless inning, giving up a hit and a walk.

Opposition stars:  Mike Minor pitched seven innings, giving up four runs (three earned) on eight hits and a walk and striking out five.  Nomar Mazara was 3-for-4 with two doubles and two RBIs.  Willie Calhoun was 2-for-3 with a walk.

The game:  The Twins got two on in the first inning, but couldn't do anything with them.  The Rangers got two in the second, but a double play took them out of it.  The Twins broke through with one out in the fourth.  Miguel Sano reached on an error and Kepler followed with a two-run homer.  Texas immediately got one back in the bottom of the fourth on singles by Elvis Andrus and Calhoun and a wild pitch by Odorizzi.  Still, it was 2-1 Twins through four.

The lead lasted until the sixth.  Shin-Soo Choo led off with a double.  He had only made it to third with two out, but Calhoun then walked an Mazara delivered a two-run double, giving the Rangers a 3-2 advantage.

That lead lasted until the next half-inning.  With one out in the seventh, Gonzalez singled and Schoop followed with a two-run homer, putting the Twins up 4-3.

Texas threatened after that, but could not put the tying run across.  They had men on first and third with one out in the seventh, but a double play ended the inning.  They had men on first and third with two out in the eighth, but a strikeout ended the inning.  They got a one-out double in the ninth, but again could not score him.  The Twins held on for the victory.

WP:  Dyson (5-1).  LP:  Minor (11-7).  S:  Romo (20).

Notes:  Luis Arraez was in left field, with Eddie Rosario given the night off.  Rosario came in for defense late in the game, with Arraez moving to second and Schoop coming out of the game.  Jorge Polanco was at designated hitter in the absence of Nelson Cruz, with Ehire Adrianza playing shortstop.  Kepler remained in center and Gonzalez in right in the absence of Byron Buxton.

Arraez was 1-for-4 and is batting .353.  Rogers has an ERA of 2.63.

The Twins did not make any errors and only threw one pitch to the backstop.  Improvement!

The game featured a matchup between Odor and Odorizzi.  Odor walked once and flied out.

It may have been mentioned during the broadcast, but Kepler's home run gave him the record for most home runs in a season by a European-born player.  He broke the record of thirty-two set by Bobby Thomson in 1951.

When the Twins went down 3-2 in the sixth, I was confident that they were going to get the lead back.  I was not confident that they would keep it, but I was confident that they would get it back.  I can't tell you why, I just was.  And, of course, they did.

I did not hear an explanation for why Rogers pitched the eighth and Romo pitched the ninth, rather than the other way around.  There may have been some matchups that influenced Rocco's thinking.  Rocco has never said that Rogers is the closer, even though he's been using him that way.  As we observed early in the season, if you don't announce that someone is your closer, then you don't have to explain why you didn't use them in that role.

We've talked about the Twins losing winnable games.  One might say that here, the Twins won a loseable game.  The only scored two runs in the first six innings, and only had four total.  They lost the lead in the sixth.  The Rangers had men all over the bases in the last three innings but did not tie the score.  They went just 1-for-11 with men in scoring position, while the Twins went 0-for-2 in that situation.  The Twins had more runs at the end, and that's all that matters.

Record:  The Twins are 74-48, in first place in the American League Central, 1.5 games ahead of Cleveland.

Projected record:  We're still on track for 114-48!

2019 Recap: Game One Hundred Nineteen

MINNESOTA 7, MILWAUKEE 5 IN MILWAUKEE

Date:  Tuesday, August 13.

Batting stars:  Marwin Gonzalez was 2-for-4 with a three-run homer (his fourteenth) and two runs.  Eddie Rosario was 2-for-4 with a double, a walk, and two runs.  Mitch Garver was 1-for-5 with a two-run homer, his twenty-second.

Pitching stars:  Martin Perez pitched six innings, giving up an unearned run on six hits and four walks and striking out three.  Tyler Duffey pitched a scoreless inning, giving up a hit and a walk and striking out one.  Sam Dyson pitched a perfect inning and struck out one.  Sergio Romo pitched a scoreless inning.

Opposition stars:  Yasmani Grandal was 2-for-4 with a three-run homer (his twentieth) and a walk.  Manny Pina was 2-for-4 with a double and a hit-by-pitch.  Keston Hiura was 2-for-4 with a walk.

The game:  Each team missed chances early.  The Brewers had men on first and third in each of the first two innings and did not score.  The Twins put men on first and second with one out in the second and did not score.  In the third, however, Max Kepler led off with a walk and Garver followed with a two-run homer.  With one out, Rosario walked, went to third on a Miguel Sano single, and scored on a ground out to put the Twins up 3-0.

Milwaukee again put two men on in the third and did not score.  They got on the board in the fourth, though.  Hernan Perez got a one-out single.  Chase Anderson's bunt should have resulted in an inning-ending double play, but an error instead put men on first and third with one out.  A force out brought home a run, cutting the lead to 3-1.  The Brewers again missed a chance in the fifth, as they failed to do anything with a leadoff double.

The Twins got an insurance run in the seventh, as Gonzalez singled, went to second on a wild pitch, and scored on Ehire Adrianza's pinch-hit double.  It was 4-1 and looking good for the visitors.  In the bottom of the seventh, however, Hiura led off with a single and scored on a Christian Yelich double.  Catcher's interference put men on first and second and Grandal delivered a three-run homer, giving Milwaukee its first lead at 5-4.  Suddenly, things weren't looking so good for the visitors after all.

But the Twins would not be denied.  Rosario led off the eighth with a double and Sano walked.  The next two batters went out, but Gonzalez came through with a three-run homer for the Twins, putting them up 7-5.  Dyson and Romo came in to slam the door and make it a Minnesota victory.

WP:  Duffey (2-1).  LP:  Drew Pomeranz (2-10).  S:  Romo (19).

Notes:  It remained Kepler in center and Gonzalez in right, with Byron Buxton remaining out.

Luis Arraez was 1-for-3 with a walk and is batting .350.

Perez got through six innings and gave up just an unearned run.  It wasn't pretty, as the Brewers had a threat in pretty much every inning.  For the game, Milwaukee stranded twelve runners and went 1-for-12 with men in scoring position.  It's hard to tell whether Perez actually pitched better or just got lucky.  Whatever it was, though, we'll take it.

It may well be that this is well-known and I just missed it (I went to bed before the ninth), but I don't know why Romo was used to close the game rather than Taylor Rogers.  I saw a game story that said Rogers was "apparently unavailable", but it didn't say why.  It worked out, but the Twins definitely need a healthy Taylor Rogers coming down the stretch.

This felt like a really big win for the Twins.  Yes, momentum is as good as the next day's starting pitcher, and if the Twins go on to lose five of the next six this game won't mean much of anything.  But when the Twins lost the lead in the seventh, a lot of people (including me) thought, "Here we go again".  Another winnable game lost.  Another game blown by the bullpen.  Couple that with Cleveland appearing to come back on Boston, and it looked like the Twins would lose yet another game in the standings.  Instead, they gained a game and find themselves back in first place.  Time will tell how big this game actually was, but it feels pretty big right now.

Record:  The Twins are 72-47, first in the American League Central, a half game ahead of Cleveland.

Projected record:  We're still on track for 115-47!

2019 Recap: Game One Hundred Eighteen

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!

2019 Recap: Game Ninety-two

CLEVELAND 4, MINNESOTA 3 IN CLEVELAND

Date:  Sunday, July 14.

Batting star:  Marwin Gonzalez was 3-for-4 with a double.

Pitching stars:  Zack Littell pitched a perfect inning.  Tyler Duffey pitched a perfect inning and struck out one.

Opposition stars:  Tyler Naquin was 2-for-3 with a double.  Carlos Santana was 1-for-2 with a home run (his twenty-first), two walks, and two runs.  Shane Bieber struck out nine in 6.1 innings, giving up three runs on five hits and one walk.

The game:  Jose Berrios retired the first two Indians in the bottom of the first, but walks to Santana and Bobby Bradley were followed by a Jose Ramirez double, putting Cleveland ahead 1-0.  In the fourth, Jake Bowers led off with a double and scored on a Greg Allen single.  Allen went to second on a ground out and scored on Naquin's single, putting the Indians up 3-0.

It stayed 3-0 until the seventh.  Luis Arraez led off with a walk and Mitch Garver was hit by a pitch.  Singles by Gonzalez and Miguel Sano made the score 3-1 with the bases loaded.  Jake Cave was hit by a pitch to cut the lead to 3-2.  With one out, Max Kepler singled to tie it 3-3.  The bases were still loaded with one out, but a pair of strikeouts ended the inning.

It didn't stay tied long.  With two out in the bottom of the seventh, Santana homered to put Cleveland back in front at 4-3.  And that's where it stayed.  Arraez had a leadoff double in the eighth and an error started the ninth, but the Twins could not score again.

WP:  Adam Cimber (5-2).  LP:  Trevor May (3-2).  S:  Brad Hand (24).

Notes:  Arraez was at third base and Sano at first with C. J. Cron out.  Gonzalez was in left with Eddie Rosario out.  Kepler was in center and Cave in right with Byron Buxton out.

Arraez was 1-for-3 with a walk and is batting .385.  Jorge Polanco was 0-for-5 and is batting .311.

Arraez now has ninety-six major league at-bats.  I wonder what the record is for highest batting average in your first one hundred at-bats.

Littell has not allowed a run since the debacle in Tampa Bay on May 30, in which he gave up eight runs in 4.1 innings.  Those eight runs are the only runs he's given up in the major leagues this season.  His season ERA doesn't look very good because of that, but in fact he has gone eight consecutive appearances (nine innings) with out giving up a run and is unscored upon in nine of his ten appearances this season.

This felt like a winnable game that the Twins let slip away.  In fact, it seems like a lot of the Twins losses have been winnable games that the let slip away.  You never like to lose a game you could've won, but there's an upside to it.  There have not been that many games where the Twins got blown out this year.  Most of their losses have been games that they could've won with a few breaks or with a key hit at the right time.  It seems to me that this, too, is the sign of a good team--that the games you lost are games you could have won.

We'd love to have had the sweep, but as many pointed out, taking two out of three from the Indians in Cleveland is still pretty good.  Some of us were worried that the margin might be down to 2.5 after this series--instead it's 6.5.  We'll take it.

Record:  The Twins are 58-34, first in the American League Central, 6.5 games ahead of Cleveland.

Projected record:  We'll just have to settle for 128-34!

2019 Recap: Game Eighty-seven

MINNESOTA 15, TEXAS 6 IN MINNESOTA

Date:  Friday, July 5.

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!

Game 82: twins @ white sox

Happy Buxton day!

That's right, our long nightmare is over. Byron Buxton has returned. It's hard to overstate how much better having our favorite fleetfooted fielder back helps matters, but let me try...

With Buxton, we are basically assured of winning the World Series. Without him, we'd be hard pressed to stay out of the cellar.

Marwin is back, too, and I've got to say, he was missed quite a bit, too. Having a guy who can play six positions while providing a bit of power and fair contact skills adds a lot of value. GGettingboth of these guys back on the same day makes this team a LOT better, instantly.

As Philo noted, Berrios did his job of giving the bullpen a break yesterday, now it's time to capitalize with a nice winning streak heading into the all star game.

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-six

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!

2019 Recap: Game Fifty-nine

CLEVELAND 5, MINNESOTA 2 IN CLEVELAND

Date:  Tuesday, June 4.

Batting stars:  Marwin Gonzalez was 2-for-4 with a home run (his seventh) and a double.  Eddie Rosario was 1-for-4 with a home run, his eighteenth.

Pitching star:  Tyler Duffey pitched a perfect inning and struck out one.

Opposition stars:  Francisco Lindor was 3-for-3 with two home runs (his ninth and tenth) and a double.  Roberto Perez was 1-for-3 with a home run, his eighth.  Jake Bauers was 1-for-3 with a home run, his sixth.  Shane Bieber struck out seven in seven innings, giving up two runs on five hits and a walk.

The game:  A walk and a single put Indians on first and second with one out in the first inning, but a popup and a line out ended the inning.  The Twins got on the board in the second when Gonzalez homered with two out.  They had a chance for more, putting men on second and third, but a popup ended the inning.

Cleveland got on the board in the third when Lindor homered.  The took the lead in the fifth when, with two out, Leonys Martin walked and Lindor hit his second homer, giving the Indians a 3-1 lead.

The Twins cut it to 3-2 when Rosario homered in the sixth.  In the seventh, however, Cleveland got back-to-back homers from Perez and Bauers to go up 5-2.  The Twins did not get a man past first after that.

WP:  Bieber (5-2).  LP:  Devin Smeltzer (0-1).  S:  Brad Hand (17).

Notes:  Nelson Cruz was back in the lineup but was rusty, at best, going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.  Gonzalez was at first base, with C. J. Cron on the bench.

Jorge Polanco was 1-for-4 and is batting .336.  Mitch Garver was 0-for-3 and is batting .314.  Ryne Harper pitched two-thirds of an inning with no runs, making his ERA 1.85.  Duffey has an ERA of 2.45.

Giving up five runs in 6.1 innings, you can't really say that Smeltzer pitched well.  But he really didn't pitch badly, either.  He gave up five hits--it's just that four of the five hits went over the fence.  It happens.  He walked three, which isn't as good, but it isn't terrible.  Both the game log and the few innings of the radio broadcast I was able to hear indicated that he was getting squeezed.  Unfortunately, there are umpires who seem to think it's part of their job to "make the rook pay his dues", which is yet another reason we need to use technology to call balls and strikes.  So we'll see how Smeltzer does next time.

As we said, these games are much more important to Cleveland than they are to the Twins.  If the Twins get swept, they'll still have a solid lead--they just will have missed a chance to put the Indians away.  If Cleveland loses the next two, they're in deep trouble, and even if they split the final two games they'll have missed a chance to gain significant ground.  You want to win every game, of course, but it's nice to have that cushion where you don't have to.

Record:  The Twins are 40-19, first in the American League Central, 10.5 games ahead of Cleveland.

Projected record:  We'll just have to settle for 143-19!

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!