Tag Archives: Nelson Cruz

2019 Recap: Game Ninety-four

NEW YORK 14, MINNESOTA 4 IN MINNESOTA

Date:  Wednesday, July 17.

Batting stars:  Mitch Garver was 2-for-3 with a home run (his fifteenth) and a walk.  Nelson Cruz was 1-for-4 with a home run, his eighteenth.

Pitching star:  Martin Perez pitched six innings, giving up two runs (one earned) on five hits and a walk and striking out four.

Opposition stars:  Amed Rosario was 4-for-4 with a home run (his tenth), a triple, a walk, four runs, and three RBIs.  Adeiny Hechevarria was 3-for-5 with two doubles and two runs.  Dominic Smith was 2-for-3 with a home run (his ninth), two runs, and four RBIs.  Todd Frazier was 2-for-5.  Pete Alonso was 1-for-6 with a two-run homer (his thirty-first) and two runs.  Jason Vargas pitched six innings, giving up three runs on five hits and a walk and striking out four.  Jeurys Familia pitched a scoreless inning, giving up one hit and striking out one.

The game:  It was a good game until suddenly it wasn't.  The Twins took a 1-0 lead in the second when Max Kepler hit a one-out double and Miguel Sano came through with a two-out single.  The lead did not survive the next half-inning, as Rosario homered with one out in the third to tie it 1-1.  Cruz put the Twins in front 2-1 with a one-out homer of his own in the bottom of the third, but the lead again did not survive the next half-inning.  The Mets loaded the bases with none out on an error, a single, and a hit batsman.  A double play scored the tying run, although it also enabled the Twins to escape without further damage.  The Twins got the lead back in the fifth when Garver hit a one-out home run.

This time the lead lasted an inning and a half.  In the seventh, Rosario singled, Hechevarria doubled, and Smith hit a three-run homer to give New York a 5-3 advantage.  Then, in the eighth, the roof fell in, or it would have it Target Field had a roof.  The Mets had two on with two out and Hechevarria hit a fly ball to Eddie Rosario in left.  Rosario somehow did not catch it, allowing two runs to score.  The error was followed by a double, a single, and a home run, and the score was 11-3.  The Twins got one back in the bottom of the eighth, but as they are currently strapped with only a seven-man bullpen, Rocco had Ehire Adrianza pitch the ninth.  He allowed three more runs, leading to a final of 14-4.

WP:  Vargas (4-5).  LP:  Trevor May (3-3).  S:  None.

Notes:  Max Kepler was in center and Marwin Gonzalez in right in the absence of Byron Buxton.  Luis Arraez was at second base in the absence of Jonathan Schoop.

Jorge Polanco was 1-for-4 to hold his average at .307.  Arraez was 1-for-4 and is batting .380.

Swept.  By the Mets.  By the Mets.  A team that can barely get out of its own way.  And we got swept by them.

Yes, I know all the excuses.  These things happen in baseball, it was only a two-game series, we were using the back end of our rotation, every team goes through slumps, we've had injuries, we didn't get the breaks, blah blah blah blah blah.  The bottom line is that we still got swept by the Mets.  By the Mets.

Meanwhile, Cleveland was on the up end of a sweep.  Yes, they were only playing the Tigers.  And we were only playing the Mets.  The Mets.

Good teams take care of business and win the games they're supposed to win.  Also-rans make excuses.  The Twins have been looking an awful lot like also-rans lately.  I know, it's a long season.  But it's slipping away, and so is the Twins' lead.  I don't know what they need to do to turn things around, but they'd better figure something out, and they'd better do it soon.

Record:  The Twins are 58-36, in first place in the American League Central, four games ahead of Cleveland.

Projected record:  We'll just have to settle for 126-36!

2019 Recap: Game Ninety

MINNESOTA 5, CLEVELAND 3 IN CLEVELAND

Date:  Friday, July 12.

Batting stars:  Nelson Cruz was 1-for-4 with a home run (his seventeenth) and a walk.  Mitch Garver was 1-for-4 with a home run, his fourteenth.

Pitching stars:  Trevor May retired all four men he faced, striking out two.  Zack Littell pitched a scoreless inning, giving up a hit and a walk and striking out one.  Ryne Harper pitched a perfect inning and struck out one.  Taylor Rogers struck out three in two shutout innings, giving up one hit.

Opposition stars:  Mike Clevenger struck out six in five innings, giving up one run on four hits and two walks.  Jose Ramirez was 2-for-4.  Carlos Santana was 1-for-4 with a home run, his twentieth.

The game:  Cruz hit a two-out home run in the first inning to give the Twins a 1-0 lead.  The Indians got a man to second base in each of the first two innings but did not break through until the fourth.  Santana homered to lead off the inning and tie the score.  Jason Kipnis walked and an error put men on first and third.  They were still on second and third with two out, but Roberto Perez singled to drive in two and give Cleveland a 3-1 lead.

It looked for a while like that might hold up.  The Twins put men on second and third with none out in the fifth, but a ground out and two strikeouts ended the inning.  They had men on first and second with one out in the sixth, but a double play ended that inning.

Then came the seventh.  An error and a walk put men on first and third with two out.  Max Kepler came up and hit a ground ball to shortstop.  He was called out at first and it looked like yet another Twins threat had come to nothing.  But the Twins challenged and a replay review determined that Kepler was safe, making the score 3-2.  Jorge Polanco then swatted a two-run double and the Twins had a 4-3 lead.  A Garver home run in the eighth made it 5-3.  The Indians did not get a man past first base after the fourth inning.

WP:  Littell (2-0).  LP:  Oliver Perez (2-2).  S:  Rogers (13).

Notes:  Marwin Gonzalez was in left, replacing Eddie Rosario.  Luis Arraez was at second base in place of Jonathan Schoop.  Ehire Adrianza was at first base, replacing C. J. Cron.

Arraez was 1-for-4 and is batting .386.  Polanco was 1-for-4 and is batting .311.  May has an ERA of 2.94.  Harper has an ERA of 2.84.  Rogers has an ERA of 1.73.

Just looking at the printed play-by-play, it seems like a very quick hook for Kyle Gibson.  They don't appear to have been hitting a lot of balls hard off him, and he certainly wasn't getting much help from his defense.  I'm not second-guessing the decision, because a) there are always things you can't tell from the printed play-by-play and b) it clearly worked.  The Much Maligned Twins Bullpen pitched 5.1 scoreless innings and really never even allowed Cleveland to put together a threat.

The quick hook showed that Rocco was not looking at this as just another game.  He thought it was an important game for the Twins to win, and he was going to give them every chance to win it.  It was a risk, because if the Twins hadn't come back he'd have used four or five relievers in a loss, which of course hurts you for the next game.  He had the advantage of a fully rested bullpen after the all-star break, but it was still a gamble that he won.

I think he was right to not look at it as just another game.  We said going in that by Sunday night the Twins' lead would either be 2.5, 4.5, 6.5, or 8.5 games, and that's obviously a big spread.  We can eliminate the "2.5" now, and that's a very good thing.  We'd all love to have it be one of the bigger numbers, but even if it's 4.5 it's not going to feel like things are falling apart, the way it would have had the Indians gotten a sweep.  With Odorizzi and Berrios pitching the next two games, the Twins should have a good chance to win at least one of them.  Of course, with Bauer and Bieber going, the Indians probably feel the same way.

One thing I like about Rocco is that he doesn't feel a need to make big announcements about what he's doing.  He just does it.  Rogers is clearly the closer now, even if he's not being used in the "traditional" way, but Rocco has never said he's the closer.  Littell is clearly a one-inning guy now (he's pitched one inning in each of his last six appearances), but Rocco has never said he's a one-inning guy.  He just uses him that way.  If you don't make an announcement about it, then you don't feel locked in to doing it that way.  You also don't have to explain to anyone if you do something differently from what you've announced.  Of course, you have to get players to buy in to the fact that they aren't going to know exactly what their role is every day, but Rocco seems to be able to do that, at least so far.

Record:  The Twins are 57-33, in first place in the American League Central, 6.5 games ahead of Cleveland.

Projected record:  We're still on track for 129-33!

2019 Rewind: Game Eighty-six

OAKLAND 7, MINNESOTA 2 IN OAKLAND

Date:  Thursday, July 4.

Batting stars:  Nelson Cruz was 3-for-5 with a double.  Ehire Adrianza was 2-for-3.  Jonathan Schoop was 2-for-4.

Pitching stars:  Zack Littell pitched a scoreless inning, giving up two hits and striking out one.  Trevor May struck out three in a scoreless inning, giving up one hit.

Opposition stars:  Chris Herrmann was 4-for-4.  Robbie Grossman was 3-for-4.  Marcus Semien was 2-for-4 with two home runs (his twelfth and thirteenth) and five RBIs.  Tanner Anderson pitched 4.2 innings, giving up two runs (one earned) on nine hits and two walks and striking out three.  Wei-Chung Wang pitched 2.1 scoreless innings, giving up no hits and a walk and striking out one.

The game:  A two-out rally in the first produced one run for the Twins.  Cruz and Luis Arraez singled and Miguel Sano walked to fill the bases and Adrianza reached on catcher's interference.  They missed a chance for more, though, when Schoop flied out.  They missed another chance in the third, when Cruz led off the inning with a single but was caught stealing.  The Twins got two more singles in the inning, but they went for naught.

The Athletics similarly missed a chance in the third, when they had men on first and third with one out, but they tied it in the fourth on singles by Khris Davis, Grossman, and Herrmann.  The Twins took the lead back in the fifth when Cruz doubled and Adrianza singled him home, but Oakland went in front to stay in the bottom of the fifth.  Semien homered to start the inning.  Matt Chapman walked, Matt Olson singled, and Davis walked.  A double play brought home the go-ahead (or go-behind, depending on your point of view) run.

It remained 3-2 until the eighth, when Oakland broke it open.  Grossman and Herrmann singled and Jurickson Profar was hit by a pitch, loading the bases.  Semien unloaded them with a grand slam, and the game was gone.  The Twins, who had not mounted a threat since the fifth, got a leadoff double in the ninth from Max Kepler, but he did not move past second.

WP:  Wang (1-0).  LP:  Jose Berrios (8-5).  S:  None.

Notes:  Arraez remained in left field.  Adrianza was at first base in place of C. J. Cron.

Arraez was 1-for-5 and is batting .414.  Polanco was 0-for-5 and is batting .313.

I don't know why Rocco has suddenly decided Littell is a one-inning guy.  The whole point of putting him on the roster was to have a guy who could pitch multiple innings.  His last four games, though, he's gone one inning in each, and the game before that he went two.  To his credit, he's done well in that role.  In fact, if you throw out the awful game in Tampa Bay, he has an ERA of zero and has given up six hits and three walks in eight innings.  That's pretty good.  But he's supposed to be The Bullpen Guy Who Can Fill Up Some Innings, and Rocco's not giving him the chance to do that.

This was kind of an embarrassing loss for the Twins.  Tanner Anderson is a career nothing whose major league ERA was 6.83 going in and who wasn't any good in AAA this year either.  Yet, the Twins could manage only two runs off him in 4.2 innings, and if not for catcher's interference it would've been one.  Yes, they had nine hits, but only one of them was for an extra base.  The Twins could also do nothing with Lou Trivino (ERA 4.62) and Joakim Soria (4.76).  Plus, the Twins had their best pitcher going.  This is a game they should've won easily, and instead they lost by five runs.  Yes, this is baseball and it happens, but it's been happening a lot to the Twins lately, and it's not good.

But, there's nothing to be done about now, so we head home to take on the Texas Rangers.  Maybe Martin Perez will have a good game and the Twins can put together a few wins heading into the all-star break.

Record:  The Twins are 54-32, in first place in the American League Central, six games ahead of Cleveland.

Projected record:  We'll just have to settle for 130-32!

2019 Recap: Game Seventy-nine

MINNESOTA 6, TAMPA BAY 4 IN MINNESOTA

Date:  Wednesday, June 26.

Batting stars:  Nelson Cruz was 3-for-4 with a double and three RBIs.  Eddie Rosario was 2-for-2.  Luis Arraez was 2-for-3 with a walk and two runs.

Pitching star:  Taylor Rogers retired all four men he faced.

Opposition stars:  Austin Meadows was 2-for-3 with a walk.  Kevin Kiermaier was 1-for-4 with a two-run homer, his ninth.  Tommy Pham was 1-for-4 with a home run, his twelfth.  Willy Adames was 1-for-4 with a home run, his ninth.

The game:  The Twins opened the scoring in the first inning.  Arraez led off with a walk.  With one out, the Twins got singles from CruzRosario, and C. J. Cron, plus a wild pitch, to take a 3-0 lead.  It didn't stay 3-0 long, as Meadows walked to start the second and Kiermaier hit a one-out two-run homer to cut the lead to 3-2.

It stayed 3-2, with neither team doing a lot on offense, until the sixth, when Pham homered with one out to tie the score 3-3.  Adames hit a one-out homer in the seventh to give the Rays their first lead at 4-3.

Then came the bottom of the seventh.  Jason Castro got an infield single and Jake Cave reached on an error, putting men on first and second with none out.  Jonathan Schoop failed to get a bunt down and struck out, but Arraez singled to load the bases.  Jorge Polanco popped up for the second out, but there's no need to fear, Nelson Cruz is here.  Cruz hit a bases-clearing double to give the Twins the lead at 6-4.  Tampa Bay could get only a one-out single in the eighth after that.

WP:  Trevor May (3-1).  LP:  Charlie Morton (8-2).  S:  Taylor Rogers (10).

Notes:  Arraez started the game at third base in place of Miguel Sano.  The starting outfield, from left to right, was Willians Astudillo-Rosario-Cave.  Then, of course, Rosario was injured running the bases in the third inning.  Sano came into the game at third base, with Arraez going to left field, Cave moving to center, and Astudillo moving to right.  In the eighth, Max Kepler came into the game in center field, with Cave going to right, Astudillo moving back to left, and Arraez going to third base, with Sano coming out of the game.

Arraez was put into the leadoff spot, and apparently the pressure did not bother him.  He is now batting .452.  Polanco was 0-for-4 and is batting .321.  Jake Odorizzi allowed three runs in 5.1 innings and has an ERA of 2.73.  Ryne Harper retired both men he faced and has an ERA of 2.23.  Rogers now has an ERA of 2.04.

Every member of the Twins starting outfield is now dealing with an injury.  Kepler came in for defense--maybe he'll be well enough to play today.  Maybe Byron Buxton can come off the disabled list.  Maybe, against all odds, Rosario's injury isn't that bad and he can play.  If not, though, they'd better have made a call to Rochester last night.  An Astudillo-Rosario-Cave outfield was shaky enough.  An Arraez-Cave-Astudillo outfield is simply untenable.  The Twins were lucky that it didn't particularly hurt them last night, but that kind of luck is not going to hold.

Schoop tried to bunt in the seventh inning with men on first and second with the Twins down a run.  I don't think a bunt is an obviously bad play there, but it is if you don't have a batter at the plate who can get the bunt down.  Bunting, for a big league ballplayer, should not be that hard of a thing to do, but you need to learn how to do it properly.  So, if you're going to ask players to bunt, you need to take the time to teach them to do it correctly and take the time to have them practice it regularly.  Is bunting worth the time it takes to learn to do it right?  That's a good question.  But either have players who can bunt well or don't do it.  Giving up an out to gain a base may be a questionable strategy, but giving up an out and not gaining anything is a strategy that has nothing going for it.

The Twins did not hit any home runs last night, a rare thing for this season but especially rare in a game that they won.  In a way, though, it's a good thing.  I have nothing against home runs, but it's good for a team to have more than one way it can win.  My theory for some time has been that the more ways you have that you can win, the more likely it is that you will win.  A team that can win in several ways has an advantage over a team that can only win one way.  It's good to know the Twins can beat a good team without hitting home runs.

Record:  The Twins are 52-27, first in the American League Central, 8.5 games ahead of Cleveland.

Projected record:  We're still on track for 135-27!

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-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 Recaps: Game Sixty-four

MINNESOTA 12, DETROIT 2 IN DETROIT

Date:  Sunday, June 9.

Batting stars:  Nelson Cruz was 3-for-6 with a home run (his eleventh) and three RBIs.  Eddie Rosario was 3-for-6 with a home run (his nineteenth), two runs, and two RBIs.  Ehire Adrianza was 2-for-3 with a double, a walk, and three runs.  Byron Buxton was 2-for-5 with a two-run homer (his eighth) and two runs.  C. J. Cron was 2-for-5 with a double and two RBIs.  Miguel Sano was 2-for-5 with a home run, his sixth.

Pitching stars:  Jake Odorizzi struck out eight in six innings, giving up one run on five hits and a walk.  Tyler Duffey struck out two in a scoreless inning, giving up one hit.

Opposition stars:  John Hicks was 2-for-4 with a double.  Christin Stewart was 2-for-4.

The game:  The Twins scored three in the first inning, as Jorge Polanco led off with a single, Mitch Garver had an RBI double, and Cruz hit a two-run homer.  It looked like the Tigers might get the runs right back in the bottom of the first, as Niko Goodrum walked and Stewart singled him to third, but Nicholas Castellanos hit into a double play and the damage was limited to one run, leaving the Twins up 3-1.

The Twins put the game out of reach in the fourth.  Sano led off with a home run.  Adrianza and Buxton singled and Polanco hit a sacrifice fly, making it 5-1.  Garver walked, and with two out Rosario had an RBI single and Cron hit a two-run double, putting the Twins up 8-1.

The Twins tacked on a few more.  Cruz singled home a run in the fifth, Buxton hit a two-run homer in the sixth, and Rosario homered in the seventh.  Odorizzi remained in control for six innings.  Detroit got a run off Mike Morin in the seventh but did not threaten to get back into the game.

WP:  Odorizzi (9-2).  LP:  Ryan Carpenter (1-3).  S:  None.

Notes:  Adrianza was at second base, replacing Jonathan Schoop.

Polanco was 1-for-5 and is batting .333.  Garver was 1-for-4 with two walks and is batting .317.  Odorizzi has an ERA of 1.92.  Morin gave up a run in two innings and has an ERA of 1.35.  Duffey has an ERA of 2.55.

It was nice to see the boys break out like this after a rather lackluster performance Saturday.  It's been a long road trip, and it's a long season, and games like Saturday have to be expected once in a while.  But it was nice to see that it didn't continue into the next day.

Odorizzi remains on a roll.  At this time last year, he was 3-3, 4.24.  His lowest ERA in a season is 3.35, which was with Tampa Bay in 2015.  His career ERA going into this season was 3.95.  None of those numbers are terrible, but he'd been pretty much an average pitcher coming into this season, and now he's pitching like a Hall of Famer.  The odds are against him doing it all season, of course.  We can hope, however, that he has discovered something which will permanently make him a better pitcher than he was prior to this season.  Not necessarily a Hall of Fame-level pitcher, but a very good pitcher.  So far, he and Jose Berrios have been a very effective one-two punch, and are a big reason why the Twins have yet to lose more than two consecutive games.

Record:  The Twins are 43-21, first in the American League Central, 10.5 games ahead of Cleveland.

Projected record:  We're still on track for 141-21!

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 Thirty

NEW YORK 6, MINNESOTA 3 IN NEW YORK

Date:  Friday, May 3.

Batting stars:  Marwin Gonzalez was 2-for-4.  Nelson Cruz was 1-for-3 with a two-run homer, his sixth, and a walk.

Pitching star:  Fernando Romero pitched a perfect inning and struck out one.

Opposition stars:  Gary Sanchez was 3-for-4 with two home runs, his ninth and tenth.  James Paxton pitched three innings, giving up an unearned run on two hits and three walks and striking out one.  Jonathan Holder struck out two in two perfect innings.

The game:  An error and a walk put men on first and third with none out in the first for the Yankees, and Gleyber Torres hit a one-out single to put New York up 1-0.  The Twins got two singles and a walk in the second to load the bases with one out, but Ehire Adrianza hit into a double play to end the inning.  In the bottom of the inning a walk, a hit batsman, and a Luke Voit RBI single made it 2-0.  Two walks and an error loaded the bases for the Twins again with one out again in the third and C. J. Cron's sacrifice fly brought home one, but that was all the Twins could do, leaving the score 2-1 Yankees.

That was as good as it got for them.  In the fourth New York played small ball--an error and a Cameron Maybin single put men on first and second with none out, a bunt advanced them to second and third, a wild pitch scored one, and a ground out scored another, making the score 4-1.  Sanchez homered leading off the fifth to make it 5-1 and he homered again with two out in the seventh to make it 6-1.

To the Twins credit, they didn't give up.  With two out in the eighth Jorge Polanco walked and Cruz hit a two-run homer to make it 6-3.  Gonzalez got as far as third base with one out in the ninth, but he was still there when the game ended.

WP:  Holder (2-0).  LP:  Kyle Gibson (2-1).  S:  Aroldis Chapman (6).

Notes:  Eddie Rosario was out of the lineup, with Gonzalez playing left field and Adrianza at third base.

Polanco was 0-for-3 with a walk and is batting .327.  Mitch Garver was 0-for-4 and is batting .308.  Cruz is batting .303.

I question the decision to sit Rosario down in this game.  I understand the reasoning--you're facing a tough lefty and he's been slumping.  But he hit a couple of balls hard in the last game, even though they went for outs.  I think sitting him down just gives him reasons to question himself and to think Rocco is losing confidence in him.  I'm not saying it was an obviously stupid move or anything.  I just wouldn't have done it.

The game log seems to be divided between criticism of Gibson, criticism of the defense, and criticism of the plate umpire.  I was not around for the game, so it's hard for me to say.  Gibson gave up five runs on seven hits and two walks and threw 100 pitches in just five innings, which doesn't sound good.  On the other had, three of the runs were unearned, and when you make your pitcher get four outs per inning he's going to have to throw more pitches and is probably going to allow more runs.  And Gibson is not a pitcher who can throw the ball over the center of the plate and get away with it, so if he's not getting the corners he's going to be in trouble.  Perhaps there was plenty of blame to go around, I don't know.

I think there were some positives that came out of this game, though.  The Twins never gave up any big innings, despite the errors.  In other words, they didn't collapse just because things went against them.  They had chances to score early on.  They got a couple of late runs to kind of get back into the game.  They were able to get three innings out of the tail end of the bullpen (and in fact both Mike Morin and Romero pitched pretty well), leaving the front end rested and ready for today.  This just has the feel of an ordinary baseball loss, and nothing more.

I realize that's not going to be the popular take.  The popular take is going to be "Here we go again.  Same old Twins.  The Yankees are in their heads.  They're intimidated.  The Yankees own them."  Blah, blah, blah.  And of course, people are going to keep saying that, and writing it, until the Twins do something about it.  Maybe today is the day they start doing something about it.  If they're going to win a game in this series, today looks like their best chance.

Record:  The Twins are 19-11, first in the American League Central, two games ahead of Clevelnd.

Projected record:  We'll just have to settle for 151-11!

2019 Recap: Game Twenty-eight

MINNESOTA 6, HOUSTON 2 IN MINNESOTA

Date:  Wednesday, May 1.

Batting stars:  Nelson Cruz was 2-for-4 with a double and two RBIs.  Jorge Polanco was 2-for-4 with a double.  Jonathan Schoop was 1-for-3 with a two-run homer, his fifth.

Pitching star:  Martin Perez pitched eight shutout innings, giving up four hits and two walks and striking out seven.

Opposition star:  Jose Altuve was 2-for-4 with a double.

The game:  The Astros opened the game with a walk and a single, but a fly out and a double play ended the threat.  The Twins broke through in the third.  Mitch Garver was hit by a pitch and Schoop followed with a two-run homer.  It did not kill the rally, as Byron Buxton singled, stole second, went to third on a ground out, and scored on an infield hit by Polanco.  The Twins led 3-0 through three.

It went to 4-0 in the fifth.  Max Kepler hit a one-out double and scored when Cruz delivered a two-out single.  Meanwhile, Houston never got more than one man on base in innings two through eight.  Jake Marisnick singled and got as far as second base in the third.  Altuve doubled and got as far as third base in the sixth.

The Twins added two more in the eighth.  Doubles by Polanco and Cruz made it 5-0.  A fly ball moved Cruz to third and a sacrifice fly made it 6-0.  The Astros spoiled the shutout in the ninth, as Carlos Correa hit a one-out double and scored on a two-out single by Aledmys Diaz.  Diaz took second on defensive indifference and scored on a Tyler White single.  It was 6-2, and that was where it ended.

WP:  Perez (4-0).  LP:  Collin McHugh (3-3).  S:  None.

Notes:  Garver was 0-for-2 with a hit-by-pitch and is batting .333.  Polanco is batting .327.  Cruz is batting. 305.

Perez obviously pitched an excellent game.  I'll be honest, I was not particularly thrilled when the Twins acquired him.  I saw a guy who had been mediocre to below since 2014, plus had injury problems, and I didn't see how he could help.  The Twins said they saw flaws they could fix.  I was very skeptical, because we've all heard that line or something similar many times.

It's only May, of course, and he's only made four starts.  But in those four starts, Perez has been everything you could hope for, if not more.  He's 3-0, 2.08, 1.08 WHIP.  He has 18 strikeouts and just 5 walks in 26 innings.  I don't expect him to do that all season, of course--he'd win the Cy Young Award easily if he did.  But if he can be a solid rotation starter all season, that's a big plus, and it looks like he can be.

With the Twins having the best record in the league, with a 2.5 game lead over Cleveland, with Corey Kluber fracturing his arm, with no one else in the division looking very good, I really think the Twins could be considered the favorite to win the division.  So the question becomes--is this a year the Twins should go for it?  Not make stupid moves that cripple the franchise for years, obviously.  But should they be aggressive?  Should they go out and try to acquire some players, even at the expense of giving up some possible minor league stars, in an attempt to win this year?

My answer is a qualified yes.  It's qualified by the fact that I have no idea what moves may be available to them and what the cost might actually be.  Yes, Keuchel and Kimbrel are still out there, but I have no idea what it would take to actually sign them.  I also have no idea who's available in trades and what the cost would be.  It's easy to say "Go trade for this guy and that guy", but as fans we really don't know whether this guy and that guy are even available, and if they are we don't know how much teams are demanding in order to get them.  I'm not advocating that we do a Ramos-for-Capps trade.  But I do think the Twins have a real chance, and you never know how many of them you're going to get.  I'd like to see them go for it.

Record:  The Twins are 18-10, first in the American League Central, 2.5 games ahead of Cleveland.

Projected record:  We're still on track for 152-10!