Tag Archives: Miguel Sanó

Random Rewind: 2016, Game Twelve

MINNESOTA 3, LOS ANGELES 2 IN MINNESOTA (12 INNINGS)

Date:  Sunday, April 17.

Batting stars:  Trevor Plouffe was 3-for-4 with a double and a walk.  Oswaldo Arcia was 3-for-5 with a walk.  Miguel Sano was 2-for-4 with a double.  Joe Mauer was 2-for-4 with two walks.

Pitching stars:  Kyle Gibson pitched seven innings, giving up two runs on four hits and two walks and striking out four.  Kevin Jepsen pitched a perfect inning, striking out one.  Trevor May pitched a perfect inning, striking out two.  Michael Tonkin struck out four in two perfect innings.

Opposition stars:  Nick Tropeano pitched 5.2 innings, giving up one run on five hits and two walks and striking out three.  Fernando Salas struck out two in two shutout innings, giving up a walk.  Albert Pujols was 1-for-5 with a two-run homer, his second.

The game:  Yunel Escobar led off with a walk and Pujols hit a two-out two-run homer in the first inning, giving the Angels a 2-0 lead.  For a while it looked like that would be enough, as the Twins managed just one single in the first three innings.  In the fourth, however, Sano and Plouffe hit back-to-back doubles to get the Twins on the board at 2-1.  The Twins got a pair of two-out singles in the sixth, but nothing came of it.  In the seventh the Twins got three two-out singles, but Eduardo Nunez was thrown out trying to score from second on the last one, so the score remained 2-1 heading to the eighth.

Sano and Plouffe opened the inning with back-to-back singles, putting men on first and third (Byron Buxton had pinch-run for Sano).  Arcia hit into a double play, but it scored a run to tie it 2-2.  The Twins loaded the bases in the ninth but did not score, sending the game to extra innings.

The pitchers were in control until the bottom of the twelfth.  Mauer led off with a walk.  Buxton bunted into a forceout, but it had the advantage of making Buxton the runner.  He stole second with two out and Arcia delivered a run-scoring single to put the Twins in the win column.

WP:  Tonkin (1-0).  LP:  Cory Rasmus (0-1).  S:  None.

Notes:  John Ryan Murphy was behind the plate in place of Kurt Suzuki.  Eduardo Nunez was at shortstop.  He and Eduardo Escobar shared the position, with Escobar playing more games there (71-51), but Jorge Polanco took over the position in August.

Oswaldo Arcia was in left in place of Eddie Rosario.  Rosario was planned to be the regular left fielder, but he missed time due to injury and also filled in at center, as he did in this game, due to the ineffectiveness at bat of Buxton,   Robbie Grossman actually spent the most time in left field, 75 games to 57 for Rosario.

Sano was in right field.  You probably remember the brilliant plan of the Twins' brain trust to put him out there regularly.  Plouffe was the incumbent third baseman and the Twins refused to either trade him or move him to another position.  I know Twins fans loved Plouffe, and I liked him, too, but he was nothing special as a ballplayer and certainly not worth forcing Sano to the outfield.  Had they traded him prior to the season they might have gotten something worth having for him--not a superstar or anything, but a useful player of some sort.  As it happened, he had a mediocre season for a terrible team, he became a free agent after the season, and the Twins got nothing for him.  Thank you, Terry Ryan.  Max Kepler would eventually take over in right field.

I always love the extreme batting averages you get early in the season.  Nunez was batting .556--he would finish at 2.96.  Mauer was batting .372--he would finish at .261.  Plouffe was batting .302--he would finish at .260.  On the low end, Murphy was batting .056--he would finish at .146.  Rosario was batting .146--he would finish at .269.  Buxton was batting .154--he would finish at .225.  Brian Dozier was batting .167--he would finish at .268.  ByungHo Park was also batting .167--he would finish at .191.  Sano was batting .179--he would finish at .236.  The Twins batted .251 as a team, eleventh in the league.  Boston led at .282, fifteen points higher than second-place Detroit.

Dozier led the team with 42 home runs.  Sano was second with 25.  Remarkably, the Twins had eleven players with double-digit home runs:  Kepler 17, Plouffe 12, Park 12, Nunez 12, Mauer 11, Grossman 11, Buxton 10, Rosario 10, and Kennys Vargas 10.  The Twins hit 200 home runs, which was eighth in the league.  Baltimore led with 253, thirty more than second-place Seattle.

Ervin Santana was the ace of the staff despite a 7-11 record, as he posted an ERA of 3.38 and a WHIP of 1.22.  The rest of the rotation was, well, not good:  Tyler Duffey, 9-12, 6.43, Gibson, 6-11, 5.07, Ricky Nolasco, 4-8, 5.13, Jose Berrios, 3-7, 8.02, Tommy Milone, 3-5, 5.71, Hector Santiago, 3-6, 5.58, and Phil Hughes, 1-7, 5.95.  They weren't all in the rotation at the same time, obviously, but I don't have the time or, frankly, the interest to figure out all the comings and goings of the rotation that year.  Other than Santana it was pretty much garbage in, garbage out.

They did have a few decent pitchers in the bullpen, at least.  Brandon Kintzler had 17 saves and posted an ERA of 3.15.  Ryan Pressly was 6-7, 3.70 with a save.  Taylor Rogers was 3-1, 3.96.  On the other hand, Kevin Jepsen, who was supposed to be the closer, went 2-5, 6.16.  He did get seven saves.

The Twins were dead last in the league in ERA at 5.08, well behind the next worst team (Oakland, 4.51).  They were also dead last in WHIP at 1.45, again well behind the next worst team (Los Angeles, 1.39).

It's amazing how much a team's personnel changes in four years.  Granted, this was a terrible team, so there should have been lots of changes.  But of the seventeen players the Twins used in this game (six pitchers, eleven position players), only four remain with the team:  SanoBuxtonRosario, and May.

There were two future Twins who played for the Angels:  C. J. Cron and Mike Morin.

You may recall that the Twins opened with nine losses, then won their next four.  This was the third of the four wins.  It's rather remarkable that random.org got us a win out of this team.

Record:  The Twins were 3-9, in fifth (last) place in the American League Central, already five games behind Chicago.  They would finish 59-103, in fifth place, 35.5 games behind Cleveland.

The Angels were 5-7, tied for third in the American League West, 1.5 games ahead of Texas.  They would finish 74-88, in fourth place, 21 games behind Texas.

Random record:  The Twins are 54-49 in Random Rewind games.

Random Rewind: 2015, Game Seventy-four

MINNESOTA 8, BALTIMORE 3 IN MINNESOTA

Date:  Tuesday, July 7.

Batting starsKurt Suzuki was 3-for-4.  Miguel Sano was 2-for-3 with a home run, a walk, and three RBIs.  Joe Mauer was 2-for-4 with a walk and three runs.

Pitching stars:  Kyle Gibson struck out seven in six innings, giving up two runs on six hits and a walk.  Brian Duensing pitched a perfect inning, striking out one.  Ryan O'Rourke pitched a perfect inning, striking out one.

Opposition stars:  Adam Jones was 2-for-4 with two doubles.  J. J. Hardy was 1-for-4 with a two-run homer, his fifth.  Brad Brach pitched 2.1 scoreless innings, giving up three hits and two walks and striking out two.

The game:  The Orioles put men on second and third with one out in the first inning but did not score.  It was the last time they were in the game.

In the bottom of the first Mauer hit a one-out single, took second on a wild pitch, and scored on a Trevor Plouffe double.  Sano followed with his first major league home run to put the Twins ahead 3-0.  In the third Mauer again singled, again took second on a wild pitch, went to third on a ground out, and scored on a strikeout/passed ball (Twins baseball!) to make it 4-0.  The Twins put it away in the fourth.  Aaron Hicks led off with a double and Suzuki singled.  A sacrifice fly scored a run; with a man on third Mauer was intentionally walked and Plouffe was hit by a pitch, loading the bases.  Sano drew a walk to force in a run and Eddie Rosario singled home two to make it 8-0 Twins.

Baltimore got two in the sixth on Hardy's homer and added one more in the eighth on a Jones double, but again, they never threatened to get back into the game.

WP:  Gibson (7-6).  LP:  Kevin Gausman (1-1).  S:  None.

Notes:  Danny Santana was at shortstop.  He started the season as the regular shortstop, but did not hit and was eventually replaced by Eduardo Escobar.  For the season Escobar played slightly more games at short, 71 to 67.

In this game, however, Escobar was in left field.  Rosario, normally in left, moved to right, with Torii Hunter given the day off.

Shane Robinson went to left in the eighth in place of Escobar.

This was the sixth game of Sano's major league career.  He was batting .450 and, as noted above, hit his first major league home run in this game.  He would finish at .269 with 18 home runs.  The Twins did not have a .300 hitter, or anything close to it, in 2015.  In fact, Sano's .269 led the team.  Rosario was next at .267 and Mauer batted .265.  The Twins were next-to-last in batting average at .247.  Detroit led the league at .270.

Brian Dozier led the team with 28 home runs.  Hunter and Plouffe tied for second with 22.  The Twins had eight players with double digit home runs:  Sano had 18, Rosario 13, Escobar 12, Hicks 11, and Mauer 10.  The Twins were tenth in home runs with 156.  Toronto led the league at 232.

Gibson would probably have to be considered the ace of the staff.  He went 11-11, 3.84, 1.29 WHIP in a team-leading 32 starts.  The only other starter with an ERA under four was Tommy Milone, who was 9-5, 3.92, 1.28.  Ervin Santana, who missed the first half of the season, was 7-5, 4.00, 1.30.  The other starters were Mike Pelfrey (6-11. 4.26, 1.48) and Phil Hughes (11-9, 4.40, 1.29).

Glen Perkins was the closer, going 3-5, 3.32, 1.19 with 32 saves.  Others who were reliable relievers include Blaine Boyer (3-6, 2.40, 1.25) and Casey Fien (4-6, 3.55, 1.09).  Doing well in limited duty were Tyler Duffey (5-1, 3.10,  1.31), Kevin Jepsen (1-1, 1.61, 0.89), Ryan Pressly (3-2, 2.93, 1.41), and Michael Tomkin (0-0, 3.47, 1.29).

The Twins were tenth in ERA at 4.07.  Houston led the league at 3.57.  They were twelfth in WHIP at 1.33.  Cleveland led at 1.19.

Baltimore players with a Twins connection include Hardy, Chris Parmelee, Steve Pearce, and Jonathan Schoop.

It seems like more than five years ago that we had people like RobinsonBoyer and Tomkin.  Also playing in this game was J. R. Graham.

This was the middle game of a three-game winning streak.  The Twins would go on to win seven of eight.

Record:  The Twins were 45-39, in second place in the American League Central, 4.5 games behind Kansas City.  They would finish 83-79, in second place, 12 games behind Kansas City.

The Orioles were 43-41, in second place in the American League East, 1.5 games behind New York.  They would finish 81-81, in third place, 12 games behind Toronto.

Random Record:  The Twins are 44-43 in Random Rewind games.

Happy Birthday–May 11

Charlie Gehringer (1903)
Rip Sewell (1907)
Eddie Chiles (1910)
Jack Lang (1921)
Nestor Chylak (1922)
Milt Pappas (1939)
Frank Quilici (1939)
Jerry Martin (1949)
Dane Iorg (1950)
Mark Huismann (1958)
Walt Terrell (1958)
Trent Hubbard (1964)
Bobby Witt (1964)
Kerry Ligtenberg (1971)
Francisco Cordero (1975)
Miguel Sano (1993)

Eddie Chiles was the owner of the Texas Rangers from 1980-1989.

Jack Lang was a long-time sportswriter in New York and was the secretary-treasurer of the Baseball Writers Association of America from 1966-1988.

Nestor Chylak was an American League umpire from 1954-1978.

Continue reading Happy Birthday–May 11

2019 Recap: Game One Hundred Fifty-six

MINNESOTA 12, KANSAS CITY 8 IN MINNESOTA

Date:  Sunday, September 22.

Batting stars:  Eddie Rosario was 3-for-4 with three doubles, a walk, and three RBIs.  Nelson Cruz was 2-for-3 with a home run (his fortieth), two walks, and four runs.  Miguel Sano was 2-for-4 with two home runs (his thirty-second and thirty-third), a walk, and four RBIs.  Jorge Polanco was 2-for-4 with a double, a walk, and three runs.  Marwin Gonzalez was 2-for-4 with a walk and three RBIs.

Pitching stars:  Tyler Duffey struck out the side in a perfect inning.  Trevor May pitched a scoreless inning, giving up a hit and a walk and striking out one.  Cody Stashak struck out two in a scoreless inning, giving up one hit.  Brusdar Graterol struck out the side in a perfect inning.

Opposition stars:  Whit Merrifield was 3-for-4 with a stolen base, his nineteenth.  Nicky Lopez was 2-for-3 with two doubles, a walk, and two runs.

The game:  The Royals started the game with singles by Merrifield and Adalberto Mondesi, then immediately pulled off a double steal to put men on second and third with none out.  They did not score, however, as the next three batters failed to get the ball out of the infield.

The Twins responded with a big bottom of the first.  With one out, Polanco and Cruz singled and Rosario followed with an RBI double.  With two out, Gonzalez singled home a run and Sano came through with a three-run homer.  It did not kill the rally, as Jake Cave walked and LaMonte Wade and Luis Arraez singled.  It was a 6-0 Twins lead, and they then cruised to an easy victory.

Well, not quite.  Nick Dini hit a two-run homer in the second to cut the lead to 6-2.  In the third, Lopez and Jorge Soler hit back-to-back doubles, Hunter Dozier singled, a ground out scored a run, and Cheslor Cuthbert had an RBI single, cutting the margin to 6-5.  Sano homered in the bottom of the third to make it 7-5, but Lopez had an RBI double in the fourth to again cut the lead to one at 7-6.  Cruz hit a home run in the bottom of the fourth to put the difference back up to two at 8-6.

Things settled down a bit for a little while.  There was no more scoring until the sixth.  Polanco doubled, Cruz was intentionally walked, Rosario had an RBI double, and Gonzalez drove in a run with a single to make it 10-6.  They added two more in the seventh.  With two out, Polanco and Cruz walked, Rosario had another RBI double, and Jason Castro and Gonzalez walked, giving the Twins a 12-6 advantage.  The Twins remained in control of the game the rest of the way.

No, not really.  They should have.  Fernando Romero came in to pitch the ninth with a six run lead.  No one needed their bats against him, as he went strikeout, walk, walk, strikeout, walk.  With the bases loaded and two down, Rocco had seen enough and brought in Sergio Romo.  He immediately walked two men, making the score 12-8 and bringing the tying run to the plate.  Finally, however, he struck out Alex Gordon and the victory went to the Twins.

WP:  Zack Littell (6-0).  LP:  Jorge Lopez (4-9).  S:  None.

Notes:  LaMonte Wade was in center in the continuing absence of Byron Buxton.  Jake Cave was in right in the absence of Max Kepler.  Marwin Gonzalez was at first base in the continuing absence of C. J. Cron.  Mitch Garver started the game at catcher, but was removed in the fifth due to "right hip tightness".  I have no information on how serious it is.

Luis Arraez was 1-for-6 and is batting .343.  Cruz is batting .303.  His home run, as I'm sure you know, was the four hundredth of his career.

Zack Littell has an ERA of 2.83.  Tyler Duffey is at 2.26.

Remember when Miguel Sano was a total bust, and the Twins should either send him to Rochester or just DFA him?

I seem to hear from a lot of Twins fans who aren't really enjoying this run for the division title.  They keep saying, "But with our pitching, we won't do anything in the playoffs."  I actually agree with that assessment, although with the caveat that it's baseball and you never know.  But even so, that doesn't mean we can't enjoy the success we're having in the regular season.

I think part of the problem is that a lot of fans have no confidence in the Twins' ability to take the next step next year.  They don't see this as a division title this year, maybe a deep playoff run the next year, then a world championship.  Their fear is that this is a one-off, and next year we'll be back to mediocrity.  I understand that.  We've never really seen a Twins team that was able to take that next step.  The division championships in the first decade of the 2000s were accompanied by post-season futility.  The two world championships were not the culmination of a steady building phase--they came from bad teams becoming good in a single bound, and then dropping back to mediocrity or worse within a couple of years.  We have no experience with a Twins team going from good to better to best.

I think there are reasons to think this Twins team could, though.  The biggest one is the number of young players who are having success this season.  Front and center, of course, is Arraez, who is batting .343 with an OPS of .851.  But look at the pitchers:

Littell, 2.83 ERA, 1.23 WHIP.
Cody Stashak, 3.13 ERA, 1.22 WHIP.
Randy Dobnak, 2.01 ERA, 1.39 WHIP.
Brusdar Graterol, 4.32 ERA, 1.20 WHIP.

Granted, we're dealing with some small sample sizes, but these guys have all been put into games in important situations and have, for the most part, come through.  There's every reason to think they are legitimate big leaguers, and that there are more coming.

I don't remember the last time the Twins brought up this many young players and had them perform well.  Part of the reason for that is that, before this year, they would not have been given the chance.  Arraez would never have been brought up with so little AAA experience--they'd have found a veteran middle infielder to fill in.  And if injuries had forced them to bring Arraez up for a week or two, he'd have been sent back as soon as the veterans got healthy.  It would've been "Nice job, kid.  Now go back to AAA and prove you belong here."  On the pitching staff, we'd still be bumbling along with people like Matt MagillBlake Parker, and Mike Morin, because "They've been around.  They know how to pitch."  Current management should be given credit not just for their role in developing these players, but for actually giving them the chance to play.  There are never guarantees, but it gives me a lot of hope that this year is not just a one-off, but is instead building toward something even better in years to come.

Record:  The Twins are 96-60, in first place in the American League Central, four games ahead of Cleveland.  Their magic number is three.

Projected record:  We're still on track for 102-60!

2019 Recap: Game One Hundred Forty

MINNESOTA 2, BOSTON 1 IN BOSTON

Date:  Thursday, September 5.

Batting stars:  Willians Astudillo was 1-for-1.  Miguel Sano was 0-for-1 with three walks.  Mitch Garver was 0-for-1 with three walks.

Pitching stars:  Martin Perez pitched six innings, giving up one run on two hits and two walks and striking out one.  Trevor May pitched a perfect inning and struck out one.  Tyler Duffey struck out two in a perfect inning.

Opposition stars:  Mookie Betts was 2-for-4 with a home run (his twenty-sixth) and a double.  Nathan Eovaldi pitched five innings, giving up one run on one hit and four walks and striking out three.

The game:  Neither team even threatened until the fourth, when Betts led off the inning with a home run to give the Red Sox a 1-0 lead.  The Twins got the run back in the fifth, although it wasn't easy.  They opened the inning with three walks, loading the bases with one out.  Then they did what the Twins usually do with the bases loaded.  A double play scored a run and a line out ended the inning.  Still, at least it was tied 1-1.

Boston threatened in the sixth when Betts got a two-out double and Xander Bogaerts walked, and a pickoff error moved them to second and third, but a ground out ended the inning.  In the seventh, a pair of one-out walks and a two-out walk again loaded the bases for the Twins. Astudillo pinch-hit a single to bring home the go-ahead run.  They missed a chance for more when Max Kepler struck out, but it was a 2-1 lead for the good guys.

It stayed there, but it wasn't easy.  The Twins missed another chance in the ninth, when a two-out walk and and an error put men on first and second.  In the bottom of the ninth, Bogaerts got a one-out single.  A force out made the runner Rafael Devers with two out.  J. D. Martinez then doubled off the Green Monster.  Devers tried to score from first, but was cut down on a perfect throw by Eddie Rosario to end the game.

WP:  Perez (10-6).  LP:  Andrew Cashner (11-8).  S:  Taylor Rogers (24).

Notes:  Byron Buxton remained out of the lineup, although he pinch-ran and stayed in the game for defense.  Jake Cave was in center and Kepler in right, a reversal of the way the Twins have been playing.  I don't know if Kepler's health had anything to do with that.  Luis Arraez was at shortstop in place of Jorge Polanco.

Arraez was 1-for-3 with a walk and is batting .343.  Nelson Cruz was 0-for-4 and is batting .305.  Duffey has an ERA of 2.59.  Sergio Romo gave up one hit and no runs in a third of an inning and has an ERA of 3.00.  Rogers gave up one hit and no runs in two-thirds of an inning and has an ERA of 2.49.

Perez is probably the last Twins starter one would expect to be in an old-fashioned pitchers' duel.  And he did it in an old-fashioned way, getting only one strikeout, but giving up only two hits.  I don't know if he got a lot of soft contact or if his defense made some good plays or some of both.  It's not the recommended way to go about it these days, but it worked.

Was Polanco unavailable for some reason?  I mean, it's one thing to give him a night off--Rocco has actually been very good about keeping everyone rested, and I don't have a problem with that.  But I don't know why, when the Twins had a late lead, you wouldn't play Polanco at short and Arraez at second, rather than leaving Arraez at short and playing Astudillo at second.  They could've gone with Ehire Adrianza at second as well, but the game log indicated that perhaps he was unavailable.  Much as I have faith in A-Stud to be able to do everything that it's humanly possible to do on a baseball field, and perhaps something that are not humanly possible as well, the defensive arrangement they went to late in the game is not the defensive arrangement I'd have preferred.  Still, they won the game.

I was unable to watch any of the game and just turned on the radio to hear the last two batters.  Given that the play at the plate ended the game, I kept expecting to hear that Boston was asking for a review, just because there'd be nothing to lose.  When I saw the play, though, I understood why they didn't.  There was simply nothing to review.  Rosario made a beautiful throw and Devers was as out as it's possible for a baserunner to be.  It was a tremendous way to end a tremendous game.

I wonder sometimes if the Twins might have a better chance to score with two out and nobody on than they do with the bases loaded.  I'm sure that's not literally true, but it sure seems like it is.

So the Twins go into a weekend series with a 6.5 game lead on second-place Cleveland.  Even if the Twins lose all three, they're still up by 3.5 games with three weeks to play, which isn't a bad place to be at all.  If they just win one, they're up 5.5, which is an even better place to be.  If they'd win the series, or even sweep, the Indians would start focusing on winning the wild card.  ubelmann used to tell us that it's not really a "must win" game unless a loss eliminates you, and there's truth in that.  In baseball, as in life, nothing is certain until it actually happens.  Still, I'd much rather be in Minnesota's position than in Cleveland's position right now.

Record:  The Twins are 87-53, in first place in the American League Central, 6.5 games ahead of Cleveland.

Projected record:  We're still on track for 109-53!

2019 Recap: Game One Hundred Thirty-nine

BOSTON 6, MINNESOTA 2 IN BOSTON

Date:  Wednesday, September 4.

Batting stars:  C. J. Cron was 2-for-3 with a walk.  Miguel Sano was 2-for-3 with a walk.  Eddie Rosario was 2-for-4 with a two-run homer, his twenty-eighth.

Pitching stars:  Cody Stashak pitched 1.2 scoreless innings, giving up one hit and striking out one.  Brusdar Graterol pitched a scoreless inning, giving up a walk.

Opposition stars:  Eduardo Rodriguez struck out eight in seven shutout innings, giving up five hits and four walks.  Mookie Betts was 4-for-5 with two home runs (his twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth) and five RBIs.  Christian Vasquez was 2-for-4 with a double.  Brock Holt was 2-for-4.

The game:  Betts led off the bottom of the first with a home run, giving the Red Sox a 1-0 lead.  The Twins put men on first and third with two out in the second but could not score.  With one out in the bottom of the second, Vazquez singled, Jackie Bradley walked, and Betts homered again, putting Boston up 4-0.

The game was basically over at that point, because the Twins could not score against Rodriguez.  They threatened in the fourth, opening the inning with two singles, but a double play ended the threat.  The Red Sox added two more in the sixth, as Holt led off with a single, Mitch Moreland walked, Vasquez doubled, and Betts delivered a one-out single.

The Twins got on the board in the eighth, as Nelson Cruz singled and Rosario hit a two-run homer.  All that did was avoid a shutout, though.  They got a pair of one-out walks in the ninth, but a double play ended the game.

WP:  Rodriguez (17-5).  LP:  Jose Berrios (11-8).  S:  Brandon Workman (11).

Notes:  Max Kepler remains in center with Byron Buxton on the bench.  Jake Cave was in right field.  Kepler left the game with an injured chest, according to the play-by-play.  I don't know anything about what happened or how serious it is.  Willians Astudillo was behind the plate.

Luis Arraez entered the game as a defensive replacement and walked in his only time to the plate, so his batting average remains .343.  Cruz was 1-for-5 and is batting .308.  Jorge Polanco was 0-for-4 and is batting .302.  Graterol has an ERA of zero in two games.

You never like to lose, of course, but the loss in itself is not a big deal.  The Twins have won nine of eleven--you're not going to win them all.  Rodriguez is a good pitcher--the Twins aren't the first team he's shut down and they won't be the last.  It happens.

The concern, though, is the continuing question of "What's Wrong With Jose Berrios?"  Rocco tried to pass it off as just getting beat by one great player, Betts, which I might be able to buy if this was just a random bad game.  It's clearly not.  His average game score for the six starts prior to this one was thirty-six, and while I don't have access to last night's game score I don't think it helped that average much.  He hasn't had a good game since July 31, when he dominated a bad Miami team.

My guess--and I emphasize that's all it is--is that he's hiding an injury, and that it's working about as well as it usually does.  Again, I have no solid evidence to support that.  It just seems like the majority of the time, when a good player suddenly isn't, there's a physical reason why.  If so, then ten out of ten for being a tough guy and a gamer, but minus several hundred for good sense.  The way he's pitching now the Twins have to score about ten runs to win, and not even the Twins can do that consistently.

The Twins basically have about three and a half weeks to figure this out.  They can win the division without a healthy and effective Berrios, but they can't win in the playoffs without him.  As it stands right now, the Twins basically have two reliable starters--Jake Odorizzi and Michael Pineda.  I know they won in 1987 with two reliable starters, but it wasn't easy then, and with the extra levels of playoffs it's pretty much impossible now.  The only way you can do it is if you have such an awesome and resilient bullpen that you can consistently go to it in the third or fourth inning and win, and while the Twins bullpen has been better it's not in that category.  The only way the Twins have a chance in the post-season is if Jose Berrios pitches like he did in the first four months of the season.  The Twins have the rest of this month to figure out how to make that happen.

Record:  The Twins are 86-53, in first place in the American League Central, 5.5 games ahead of Cleveland.

Projected record:  We'll just have to settle for 109-53!

2019 Recap: One Hundred Twenty-five

CHICAGO 6, MINNESOTA 4 IN MINNESOTA

Date:  Monday, August 19.

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 ArraezCruz, 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!

2019 Recap: Game One Hundred Twenty-four

MINNESOTA 6, TEXAS 3 IN TEXAS

Date:  Sunday, August 18.

Batting stars:  Jorge Polanco was 2-for-4 with a triple, a walk, and three RBIs.  Ehire Adrianza was 2-for-5 with a double.  MIguel Sano was 1-for-3 with a double, two walks, and two runs.

Pitching stars:  Martin Perez pitched five innings, giving up two runs on five hits and four walks and striking out two.  Zack Littell pitched a perfect inning and struck out one.  Sergio Romo pitched a scoreless inning and struck out one.  Taylor Rogers struck out two in a scoreless inning, giving up two hits.

Opposition stars:  Hunter Pence was 3-for-4 with a walk.  Shin-Soo Choo was 2-for-5 with a home run (his twentieth) and a stolen base (his ninth).  Willie Calhoun was 2-for-5.  Taylor Guerrieri struck out four in two perfect innings.

The game:  The Twins again took an early lead, as Max Kepler walked, Polanco singled, and Marwin Gonzalez delivered a two-out two-run double.  The Twins loaded the bases with two out in the second, but that worked out the way it usually does for the Twins.  The Rangers put two on with two out in the bottom of the second and the Twins did the same in the top of the third, but neither team did anything with that.

The Twins stretched their lead to 3-0 in the fourth when Sano doubled, went to third on a wild pitch, and scored on a sacrifice fly.  Texas got back into the game in the bottom of the fourth.  Pence led off with a single, Delino DeShields hit a two-out single, a wild pitch advanced the runners, and Jeff Mathis hit a two-run single.  It was 3-2, and it stayed 3-2 until the seventh, when Choo led off the inning with a home run to tie it 3-3.

In the eighth, Adrianza led off with a single and Jason Castro doubled.  The first out came on a strikeout, and Adrianza was thrown out at home on a grounder to short, as the Twins once again put on the contact play.  A walk to Sano loaded the bases, and this time it did not work out the way it usually does for the Twins.  Instead, Polanco hit a bases-clearing triple to right-center, giving the Twins a 6-3 lead.  The Rangers threatened in the ninth, bringing the tying run to the plate on a pair of two-out singles, but Rogers struck out Rougned Odor to end the game.

WP:  Sam Dyson (5-1).  LP:  Emmanuel Clase (0-2).  S:  Rogers (19).

Notes:  Kepler started the game in center and Jake Cave was in right in the continued absence of Byron Buxton.  Marwin Gonzalez started at third base, with Sano at designated hitter in the continued absence of Nelson Cruz.  Adrianza was at first base, with C. J. Cron on the bench.  In the seventh inning, the heat apparently got to Kepler, so Cave moved to center, Gonzalez went to right, Adrianza moved to third, and Cron came into the game at first base.

Luis Arraez was 0-for-4 with a walk and is now batting .342.  Rogers has an ERA of 2.59.

There was some discussion of the strike zone in the game log.  I wasn't able to see enough of the game to comment on that.  I did, however, see the last strike of the game, and I don't think Texas has any complaint coming on it.  Yes, it may have been an inch off the plate.  I don't think it's reasonable to complain if the umpire misses a ninety-five mph fastball by an inch.  If you want to say that's why we need robo-umps, that's fine.  But as long as we have human umps, I think we have to cut them a little bit of slack.  When they're missing pitches by three or four inches, it bothers me.  But not when they miss one by an inch or less.

As the schedule turns in the Twins favor, it's now possible to use the cliche that the Twins' fate is in their hands.  They lead Cleveland by 2.5 games with thirty-eight to play.  They have six games left with the Indians, plus three with Boston and three with Washington.  The other twenty-six games are against the White Sox, Detroit, and Kansas City.  Scoreboard watching is fun, and I'll still be rooting for Cleveland to lose.  But if the Twins simply win the games they should win, they'll win the division.  And if they don't, they won't deserve to win the division.

Record:  The Twins are 76-48, first in the American League Central, 2.5 games ahead of Cleveland.

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

2019 Recap: Game One Hundred Twenty

MILWAUKEE 6, MINNESOTA 5 IN MILWAUKEE

Date:  Wednesday, August 14.

Batting stars:  Mitch Garver was 1-for-5 with a home run, his twenty-third.  Eddie Rosario was 1-for-4 with a home run (his twenty-sixth) and a walk.  Miguel Sano was 1-for-4 with a home run (his twenty-first) and a walk.

Pitching stars:  Sam Dyson struck out two in a scoreless inning, giving up one hit.  Trevor May struck out two in a scoreless inning, giving up a walk.

Opposition stars:  Eric Thames was 3-for-4 with a double and two RBIs.  Trent Grisham was 2-for-4 with a three-run homer (his second), a walk, and two runs.  Keston Hiura was 2-for-4 with a walk.

The game:  It looked good for quite a while.  Garver led off the game with a home run and Rosario hit a two-out homer to give the Twins a 2-0 lead in the first inning.  The Brewers got one back in the bottom of the first when Grisham singled, Yasmani Grandal walked, and Hiura delivered an RBI single.

Each team scored once in the third.  Sano hit a one-out homer in the top of the inning.  In the bottom, a one-out single by Hiura and two-out singles by Lorenzo Cain and Thames made the score 3-2.

With one out in the top of the fourth, Max Kepler walked, Jonathan Schoop doubled, and Kyle Gibson walked to load the bases.  Garver struck out, but Jorge Polanco came through with a two-run single to put the Twins up 5-2.  Milwaukee again got one back in the fifth when Mike Moustakas doubled and scored on a Thames single.

The score stayed 5-3 until the eighth.  Ryan Braun led off by reaching on a Polanco error.  Hernan Perez singled and Grisham followed with a three-run homer, giving the Brewers their first lead of the day at 6-5.  The Twins tried to rally in the ninth.  With two out, walks to PolancoSano, and Rosario loaded the bases.  Unfortunately, Matt Albers then found the strike zone again and retired C. J. Cron on a deep fly to center to end the game.

WP:  Junior Guerra (6-3).  LP:  Sergio Romo (2-1).  S:  Albers (4).

Notes:  Kepler remained in center and Marwin Gonzalez in right with Byron Buxton out.  Schoop was at second base rather than Luis Arraez, who was used as a pinch-hitter in the ninth.  Arraez went 0-for-1 and is batting .348.

It's probably past time to admit that Gibson is never going to take that step forward and become a top pitcher.  He is what he is--an average major league starting pitcher--and as he approaches his thirty-second birthday it's unlikely that he'll ever be more than that.  That's not a criticism, exactly.  There's value in being an average major league starting pitcher.  Teams have missed the playoffs because they didn't have one.  But I think a lot of the frustration with him comes from people thinking that he could be better than that and that he ought to be better than that.  It's just not likely to happen.  It's time to simply accept what he is.

We've discussed the number of winnable games the Twins have lost this season.  The term "winnable game" is not easy to define.  The only way to really know how many the Twins have lost would be to go back through all their games, and even then the definition would be somewhat subjective.  And yes, one of the reasons that they've lost more winnable games this year is that they've played more winnable games--there haven't been that many times when they've been blown out.  Still, if you want to be a top team, you have to win a pretty high percentage of your winnable games.  That's the only way you get a good won-lost record, and that's the way we determine what teams are the top teams.  Every time you lose one of those winnable games, it costs you.

The good news, though, is that the Twins are still a half game up on Cleveland.  They don't have to win a specific number of games or achieve a certain winning percentage to win the division.  They just need to win one more game than Cleveland does in the last forty-two games of the season.  We'll see if they can.

Record:  The Twins are 72-48, in first place in the American League Central, a half game ahead of Cleveland.

Projected record:  We'll just have to settle for 114-48!

2019 Recap: Game Ninety-five

MINNESOTA 6, OAKLAND 3 IN MINNESOTA

Date:  Thursday, July 18.

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!