Tag Archives: Max Kepler

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 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!

2019 Recap: Game Seventy-seven

KANSAS CITY 6, MINNESOTA 1 IN KANSAS CITY

Date:  Sunday, June 23.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2019 Recap: Game Seventy-five

MINNESOTA 8, KANSAS CITY 7 IN KANSAS CITY

Date:  Friday, June 21.

Batting stars:  Eddie Rosario was 3-for-5 with a stolen base (his third) and two RBIs.  Jonathan Schoop was 2-for-4.  Jorge Polanco was 2-for-5 with a double and two runs.  Max Kepler was 2-for-5.  C. J. Cron was 1-for-5 with a home run, his sixteenth.  Miguel Sano was 1-for-5 with a home run, his eighth.

Pitching stars:  Tyler Duffey pitched a perfect inning.  Taylor Rogers pitched two shutout innings.

Opposition stars:  Cheslor Cuthbert was 3-for-4 with a home run (his fourth, a double, two runs, and four RBIs.  Jakob Junis struck out eight in six innings, giving up three runs (two earned) on six hits and two walks.  Jorge Soler was 1-for-3 with a home run (his twenty-first) a walk, and two runs.

The game:  In the bottom of the first, a pair of walks put men on first and second with two out.  Cuthbert then doubled home one run, an error allowed a second run to score, and Martin Maldonado's RBI single made it 3-0 Royals.

The Twins came back.  Cron homered leading off the second to make it 3-1.  In the fifth, Schoop led off with a single.  He was still on first with two out, but then Nelson Cruz walked and Rosario delivered an RBI single to make it 3-2 and put men on first and third.  Rosario then stole second and Cruz was able to score on a throwing error, tying the score 3-3.

It didn't stay tied long.  In the bottom of the fifth Whit Merrifield walked and Nicky Lopez was hit by a pitch.  A pair of strikeouts gave hope that Martin Perez might get out of the inning, but Cheslor Cuthbert, whose name sounds like he ought to be sitting around the smoking room of the Drones Club having a drink with Bertie Wooster rather than playing major league baseball, hit a three-run homer to put Kansas City back up 6-3.

The Twins again battled back.  In the seventh, singles by Max Kepler and Jorge Polanco were followed by a wild pitch, putting men on second and third with none out.  Cruz then delivered a two-run single to cut the margin to 6-5.  In the eighth, Sano led off with a home run to tie the score.  Pinch-hitter Mitch Garver walked and was replaced on the basepaths by pinch-runner Willians Astudillo.  Singles by Schoop and Kepler gave the Twins the lead 7-6.  Men were on second and third with none out.  Twice the Twins put the contact play on only to have their batter hit back to the pitcher, putting men on first and third with two out.  Rosario came through, however, getting a run-scoring single to give the Twins an insurance run at 8-6.

They needed it, as Soler led off the bottom of the eighth with a home run.  Cuthbert then singled, but Rogers came into the game at that point.  There was a scare in the bottom of the ninth, when an error by right-fielder Astudillo put the tying run on base with one out, but a line drive double play ended the game.

WP:  Ryne Harper (3-0).  LP:  Jake Diekman (0-5).  S:  Rogers (9).

Notes:  Polanco is batting .326.  Duffey has an ERA of 1.99.  Harper gave up a run in one inning and has an ERA of 2.35.  Rogers' ERA is 1.91.

Kepler was again in center, with Jake Cave in right.  Garver pinch-hit for Cave in the eighth inning, with Astudillo coming in to play right in the bottom of the eighth.

Martin Perez continues to struggle.  He hasn 't posted a game score above fifty since May 17.  In that span, he has posted an ERA of 5.66.  Whatever magic he had since mid-April to mid-May is gone.  We may be approaching the time to give Devin Smeltzer or someone else a shot at the fifth starter position.

For all the criticism of Sano, it's worth noting that Cave is 0-for-15 with eight strikeouts since coming back.  I understand that the expectations for the two are far different, but their outs count exactly the same.  Sano at least has the ability to hit the long ball, as he did last night to tie the score.

I love Harper, but he's been struggling in June.  Mainly, he's been hurt by the home run ball.  In eight innings he's given up four runs and three of them have been home runs.  At least they've all been solo homers, which as we all know don't hurt you.

In the Twins' recent down stretch, which to me started with last weekend's Kansas City series, they are 4-4.  It seems to me that a down stretch during which you still play .500 ball is a good sign.  Yes, it's helped that they've played the Royals in several of those games.  Still, I see no reason to think they won't start to play better again, and they're weathering the stretch of worse play pretty well so far.

Record:  The Twins are 49-26, first in the American League Central, nine games ahead of Cleveland.

Projected record:  We're still on track for 136-26!

2019 Recap: Game Seventy-two

MINNESOTA 4, BOSTON 3 IN MINNESOTA (17 INNINGS)

Date:  Tuesday, June 18.

Batting stars:  Eddie Rosario was 4-for-8 with three doubles.  Max Kepler was 3-for-5 with a home run (his eighteenth) and three RBIs.  C. J. Cron was 2-for-5 with two walks and a hit-by-pitch.  Jonathan Schoop was 2-for-7.

Pitching stars:  Michael Pineda pitched six innings, giving up one run on five hits and one walk and striking out five.  Trevor May pitched a scoreless inning, giving up a hit and striking out one.  Taylor Rogers struck out two in a perfect inning.  Tyler Duffey struck out three in two shutout innings, giving up one hit.  Blake Parker pitched a scoreless inning, giving up two hits and striking out one.  Matt Magill struck out two in two shutout innings, giving up three hits and a walk.  Zack Littell struck out two in two shutout innings, giving up two hits.

Opposition stars:  Brock Holt was 3-for-7 with a double.  Rafael Devers was 3-for-8 with a home run (his twelfth) and two RBIs.  Andrew Benintendi was 3-for-8 with a stolen base, his eighth.  Jackie Bradley was 2-for-5 with a hit-by-pitch.  Christian Vazquez was 2-for-7.  Xander Bogaerts was 2-for-8 with a double.  David Price pitched five innings, giving up one run on four hits and no walks and striking out two.  Josh Taylor struck out four in two shutout innings, giving up one hit.  Hector Velazquez pitched four innings, giving up one run on three hits and no walks and striking out three.

The game:  The Red Sox got on the board in the fourth inning when Mookie Betts walked, stole second, and scored on a two-out single by Devers.  The Twins got the run back in the bottom of the fourth when Rosario hit a two-out double and scored on a Cron single.

The Twins should have taken the lead in the sixth.  Mitch Garver led off with a double and Nelson Cruz singled him to third with none out.  But Garver was picked off third by the catcher and Rosario fouled out.  The Twins still had a chance, as Cron was hit by a pitch and Kepler walked to load the bases, but Miguel Sano fanned to end the inning.  The Red Sox immediately made them pay, as Devers led off the seventh with a home run to give Boston a 2-1 lead.

The Twins tied it up in the eighth.  Walks to Garver and Cron put men on first and second with two out and Kepler delivered an RBI single to make the score 2-2.  It stayed there for a while.  Boston threatened in the tenth and twelfth and the Twins also threatened in the twelfth, but there was no more scoring until the thirteenth, when Betts led off with a home run.  But Kepler led off with a home run in the bottom of the thirteenth to once again tie the score, and the teams played on.

The Red Sox again threatened in the fourteenth, getting leadoff singles from Holt and MIchael Chavis.  A bunt (!) moved them to second and third, but nothing came of it.  In the fifteenth Rosario led off with a double but was doubled off second on Cron's liner.  In the top of the seventeenth, Benintendi singled and got to third on a stolen base-plus-error with none out, but a strikeout and two ground outs ended the inning without a score.

Finally came the bottom of the seventeenth.  Luis Arraez had a one-out single and went to third on Rosario's double.  Cron was intentionally walked, and Kepler again came through with an RBI single to win the game for the Twins.

WP:  Littell (1-0).  LP:  Brian Johnson (1-1).  S:  None.

Notes:  Marwin Gonzalez was again in right field, with Kepler starting the game on the bench.  Jake Cave was in center field.

Arraez entered the game as a pinch-runner in the twelfth and went 1-for-2.  He is batting .385.  Jorge Polanco was 1-for-8 and is batting .326.  Garver was 1-for-7 and is batting .301.

Ryne Harper gave up a run in an inning and has an ERA of 2.17.  Rogers has an ERA of 2.03.  Duffey has an ERA of 2.08.  Mike Morin gave up a run in an inning and has an ERA of 1.65.

Garver was rightly criticized for getting picked off in the sixth.  I also wonder why he did not dive back into the base, rather than going in standing up.  But additionally, I wonder what the third base coach was doing.  With a shift on and the third baseman playing well off the bag, this was obviously a planned play.  It seems like the third base coach should be watching for that and make sure the runner is aware of it.  Instead, it appeared that he became a spectator.

Watching part of the game last night, it seems to me that several Twins batters (not just Sano) have gotten a little homer-happy.  Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against home runs and I'm not calling for a return of the piranhas.  But I saw several batters trying to jerk every pitch out of the park in situations where a single would've served us quite admirably.  This may be something that the batting coach needs to address.

Lost in the long game is the fact that Pineda had his second good start in a row.  Over those starts, he has pitched 11.2 innings and given up two runs on seven hits and three walks while striking out nine.  He only threw eighty pitches last night, so it seems like he could've gone a seventh inning.  Perhaps the Twins are still trying to be careful with him.  But he hasn't had a really bad game in a month and a half and his ERA has fallen steadily from a peak of 6.21 to 4.76.  I'm not nominating him for the Cy Young Award, but he's kept us in the game for eight starts in a row, and has done more than that in his last two.

The much maligned (and properly so) Twins bullpen pitched eleven innings and gave up just two runs.  Further, both the runs came on solo homers, and we all know those don't hurt you.  I won't be surprised if we bring up a "fresh arm for the bullpen", but only three of the eight relievers used threw more than eighteen pitches, so I assume most of them could pitch again tonight if needed.

Each team completely emptied its bullpen, using eight relief pitchers.  Presumably, once the last guy came in he was in for the duration, unless the game had gone twenty-four innings or something.  At that point, the teams would've had to decide whether to use a starting pitcher in relief or use a position player.  That would've been interesting, but I'm fine with winning in the seventeenth instead.

It should be noted, as I'm sure it was numerous times during the game, that the Twins still have not lost three games in a row this season.

Record:  The Twins are 48-24, first in the American League Central, ten games ahead of Cleveland.

Projected record:  We're still on track for 138-24!

2019 Recap: Game Seventy

KANSAS CITY 8, MINNESOTA 6 IN MINNESOTA

Date:  Sunday, June 16.

Batting stars:  Max Kepler was 4-for-6 with two doubles and two RBIs.  Jonathan Schoop was 3-for-5.  Miguel Sano was 2-for-4 with a home run (his seventh) and a walk.  Nelson Cruz was 2-for-5 with a home run (his thirteenth), a double, and three RBIs.  Eddie Rosario was 2-for-5.  Jorge Polanco was 1-for-4 with two walks.

Pitching star:  Matt Magill pitched a scoreless inning, giving up a walk and striking out one.

Opposition stars:  Martin Maldonado was 3-for-4 with a double, scoring twice and driving in two.  Jorge Bonifacio was 2-for-5 with a double and two RBIs.

The game:  The Twins got a pair of runners on in the bottom of the first but did not score.  This would be a theme.  In the second, the Royals put together a walk and four singles to score three runs and take a 3-0 lead.

Martin Perez settled down after that, and the Twins got back in the game with two in the fourth.  Sano led off with a home run, Marwin Gonzalez was hit by a pitch, and singles by Schoop and Kepler cut the lead to 3-2.  Polanco was intentionally walked to load the bases with two out, but Nelson Cruz struck out to strand the runners.

In the seventh, two singles, a bunt, and an error plated to Kansas City runs to make it 5-2.  Cruz homered in the bottom of the seventh to make it 5-3.  Three singles loaded the bases with one out, but Schoop struck out and Mitch Garver flied out to strand the runners.  The Royals extended their lead in the eighth on an error, RBI doubles by Bonifacio and Maldonado, and a run-scoring single by Billy Hamilton.  It was 8-3 and it looked like the game was gone.

To the Twins' credit, they came back to make a game of it.  In the bottom of the eighth, a walk to Ehire Adrianza and singles by Kepler and Polanco again loaded the bases, this time with none out.  Cruz doubled home two to make it 8-5, but the Twins could do no more.  In the ninth, Schoop singled, Kepler had an RBI double, and Polanco walked to bring the winning run to the plate, but Cruz struck out to end the game.

WP:  Jorge Lopez (1-6).  LP:  Perez (7-3).  S:  Ian Kennedy (7).

NotesGonzalez was in right field, with Kepler in center and Byron Buxton still resting a bruised wrist.  Adrianza was at first base with C. J. Cron on the bench.

Polanco is batting .332.  Garver, who came in as a pinch-hitter in the seventh, was 0-for-2 and is batting .310.  Mike Morin allowed three runs in 1.1 innings, but the runs were all unearned, so his ERA is down to 1.17.

The Twins stranded fifteen men and went 4-for-18 with men in scoring position.  The good news is that they had fifteen hits, five walks, and a hit batsman, giving them twenty-one baserunners.  It was a frustrating game, no question, but it happens once in a while.  If they keep getting twenty-one baserunners a game, I think they'll be okay.

All the runs against Morin were unearned, but you can't argue that he pitched well.  After the error, which put a man on first with one out, there was an RBI double, a fly out, another RBI double, a run-scoring single, and a walk before the third out was recorded.  It seemed odd that Morin remained in the game that long.  I wonder if Rocco thought the game was gone at that point and didn't want to burn another reliever.  That's mere speculation on my part, but it's hard to think Morin would've pitched that long if the manager thought the game was on the line.

In regard to the game-ending checked swing, I really thought that was a call that could've gone either way, and it didn't go the Twins' way.  But Cruz had stood there and watched two good strikes, then started to swing at a pitch well out of the strike zone.  I don't think he or the Twins have much complaint coming on that.

On the one hand, it was a frustrating game to lose.  On the other hand, I didn't think the Twins played all that well in the whole series.  Maybe it was the hubbub over Joe Mauer weekend, maybe they're getting a little bit tired, maybe they just find it hard to get up for a series against Kansas City.  It just seemed to me that the team was a little bit off all weekend, and they were fortunate to win two out of three.  But maybe that's the mark of a good team, too--to be able to win even when you're a little bit off.

Record:  The Twins are 47-23, first in the American League Central, ten games ahead of Cleveland.

Projected record:  We'll just have to settle for 139-23!

2019 Recap: Game Sixty-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-two

MINNESOTA 7, CHICAGO 0 IN MINNESOTA

Date:  Sunday, May 26.

Batting stars:  Max Kepler was 2-for-4 with a home run (his twelfth), a double, two runs, and four RBIs.  Eddie Rosario was 1-for-4 with a three-run homer, his sixteenth.

Pitching stars:  Jake Odorizzi struck out nine in 5.1 scoreless innings, giving up one hit and one walk.  Tyler Duffey struck out six in two shutout innings, giving up three hits and a walk.

Opposition star:  Charlie Tilson was 2-for-4.

The game:  The White Sox put men on first and second with two out in the third, but Yoan Moncada struck out to end the threat.  With one out in the bottom of the third, Byron Buxton singled, went to third on a stolen base-plus-error, and scored on Kepler's double.  Jorge Polanco walked, and with two out Rosario hit a three-run homer to give the Twins a 4-0 lead.  While you can never put a game in the bank in the third inning, it really did feel like the game was over at that point.

They kept playing, of course.  There were no threats, however, until the seventh, when Jose Abreu walked and Yonder Alonso doubled, putting men on second and third with none out.  But Eloy Jimenez lined to right, Jose Rondon fanned, and Yolmer Sanchez flied out, leaving Chicago off the board.  In the bottom of the seventh, one-out singles by Willians Astudillo and Juan Castro and a two-out home run by Kepler gave Minnesota a 7-0 lead.  The White Sox put two men on in the ninth but did not score.

WP:  Odorizzi (7-2).  LP:  Dylan Covey (0-4).  S:  None.

Notes:  Marwin Gonzalez was in left field, with Rosario at DH.  Luis Arraez was at second and Astudillo at third, with Jonathan Schoop and Miguel Sano on the bench.

Arraez was 0-for-3 and is batting .389.  Polanco was 0-for-3 with a walk and is batting .335.  Odorizzi has an ERA of 2.16.  Matt Magill retired both men he faced and has an ERA of 1.54.  Taylor Rogers retired the only man he faced and has an ERA of 1.31.  Duffey has an ERA of 2.63.

With Nelson Cruz out, Rocco seems to be using the DH spot to give various starting players a rest.  That makes sense.  They don't have anyone on the bench who's really a DH-type, and they've got a couple of guys who, as Gordo used to say, "can play around", so you might as well take advantage of that.

The Twins used four relief pitchers yesterday, three of them for less than an inning.  Rocco seems to have done that sort of thing a lot lately, using multiple relief pitchers for one or two batters.  As a general rule I'm not a huge fan of that, but it certainly appears to be working.  The Twins have five relief pitchers with ERAs under two (six if you count Zack Littell).  I know ERA isn't necessarily the best way to evaluate a relief pitcher, but that still is pretty darn good.

It's been nice to see the Twins bring in some mopup relievers who can actually get the job done in the last few games.

We've reached Memorial Day, one of the traditional markers of how the season is going.  The Twins are 36-16, twenty games over  .500, and are in the lead by ten games.  I said early on that the Twins had a chance this year, but I most definitely did not expect this.

Record:  The Twins are 36-16, first in the American League Central, leading Cleveland by ten games.  They have won six in a row and eleven of their last twelve.

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

2019 Recap: Game Forty-nine

MINNESOTA 16, LOS ANGELES 7 IN LOS ANGELES

Date:  Thursday, May 23.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2019 Recap: Game Forty-eight

MINNESOTA 8, LOS ANGELES 3 IN LOS ANGELES

Date:  Tuesday, May 21.

Batting stars:  Luis Arraez was 2-for-4 with a home run.  Jorge Polanco was 2-for-4 with a double and a walk, scoring twice and driving in two.  Max Kepler was 2-for-4 with a double and a walk, scoring twice.  Marwin Gonzalez was 2-for-5 with a home run (his fifth) and a double, scoring twice and driving in three.  Eddie Rosario was 2-for-5 with two RBIs,

Pitching stars:  Michael Pineda pitched six innings, giving up three runs on four hits and two walks and striking out three.  Matt Magill struck out two in a scoreless inning, giving up one hit.  Mike Morin pitched a scoreless inning, giving up two hits.

Opposition stars:  David Fletcher was 3-for-3 with a walk.  Mike Trout was 1-for-3 with a home run (his eleventh) and a walk.  Trevor Cahill struck out five in five innings, giving up one run on two hits and two walks.

The game:  Trout homered with one out in the first inning to get the Angels up 1-0.  In the second, with two out and none on, Brian Goodwin walked, Luis Rengifo singled, Fletcher had an RBI single, and a wild pitch scored another run putting Los Angeles up 3-0.  Meanwhile, the Twins did not get a hit until the fifth inning and did not get a man past first base in that time.  It was not looking good.

No worries.  Kepler led off the sixth with a double, leading the Angels to remove starter Cahill.  Polanco followed with an RBI double and Gonzalez hit a two-run homer, tying the score at 3-3.  The Twins took control in the seventh.  Jason Castro was hit by a pitch and was on first base with two out.  Kepler then singled, Polanco had an RBI single, Gonzalez hit a run-scoring double, and Rosario delivered a two-run single, leaving the Twins ahead 7-3.  Arraez added a home run leading off the eighth.

Meanwhile, Twins starter Pineda had really settled down, allowing only one hit after the second inning.  Four relievers held Los Angeles at bay over the last three innings--their only threat was in the ninth, when they put men on first and second with two out, and nothing came of it.

WP:  Pineda (4-3).  LP:  Luke Bard (1-2).  S:  None.

Notes:  Gonzalez was the DH in this game, with Arraez manning third base and Miguel Sano on the bench.  Jason Castro caught back-to-back games, which I believe is only the fourth time all season he has done that.

Arraez is batting .583.  Polanco is batting .339.  Magill has an ERA of 1.80.  Taylor Rogers retired the only man he faced and has an ERA of 1.33.  Morin has an ERA of 1.13.

Pineda really pulled himself together after the second inning.  In the second, he looked like he was all over the place and had very little command.  I went to bed soon after that and assumed he would not be in the game much longer.  Instead, he pitched very well from innings four through six.  That makes four starts in a row in which he has pitched competently.  None of them has been outstanding--he's given up three runs in each and his highest game score is sixty-one--but he's pitching about as well as you expect a fifth starter to pitch.  There's a chance he may still improve, but if he can just stay where he is he's helping.

I said that if Arraez is going to be here he should play, and he has been, so good job Rocco Baldelli.  Of course, the fact that he's gone 7-for-12 with a home run, a double, and two walks makes it a lot easier to play him.  He won't keep that up, of course--that would be a record--but he's certainly off to a good start.

I assume it was mentioned during the broadcast, or maybe some of you even remember, but Bard is a former Twin.  He was in their system from 2012-2018, reaching Rochester in 2017.  He was chosen by the Angels in the rule 5 draft before the 2018 season but was returned to the Twins in late April.  He became a minor league free agent after the season and signed with the Angels.  He had been pitching well for them, but obviously did not do so last night.

Who'd have thought that with about thirty percent of the season gone, the Twins would be winning two-thirds of their games?

Record:  The Twins are 32-16, first in the American League Central, 6.5 games ahead of Cleveland.

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