The highs weren't as high and the lows weren't as low as Rosario, but Trevor May's Twins tenure lasted a long time. Share a six-word story if you've got one.
(Photo credit to Jesse Johnson, USAToday Sports)
The highs weren't as high and the lows weren't as low as Rosario, but Trevor May's Twins tenure lasted a long time. Share a six-word story if you've got one.
(Photo credit to Jesse Johnson, USAToday Sports)
Heinie Wagner (1880)
Lefty Stewart (1900)
Jim Rooker (1942)
Woody Woodward (1942)
Dennis Lamp (1952)
Jim Morrison (1952)
Tony Fossas (1957)
Jim Winn (1959)
Pete Harnisch (1966)
Jeff Cirillo (1969)
Brent Abernathy (1977)
Mike Gosling (1980)
Matt Kemp (1984)
Joba Chamberlain (1985)
Trevor May (1989)
Left-hander Tony Fossas was drafted by the Twins in the ninth round in 1978, but did not sign.
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 Magill, Blake 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!
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!
Date: Wednesday, August 28.
Batting stars: Mitch Garver was 3-for-4 with a two-run homer (his twenty-fourth), a hit-by-pitch, and two runs. Jonathan Schoop was 2-for-4 with two home runs (his twentieth and twenty-first) and four RBIs. Jorge Polanco was 2-for-5 with a double.
Pitching stars: Jake Odorizzi struck out eight in six innings, giving up two runs on five hits and two walks. Trevor May struck out three in a scoreless inning, giving up one hit. Cody Stashak pitched two shutout innings, giving up three hits and striking out one.
Opposition stars: Jose Abreu was 2-for-4 with a double. Tim Anderson was 2-for-4 with a double. Jimmy Cordero pitched two shutout innings, giving up one hit.
The game: Doubles by Leury Garcia and Abreu put the White Sox on the board in the first inning with a 1-0 lead. The Twins came right back in the second. Eddie Rosario led off with a bloop single, Ehire Adrianza hit a two-out single, and Schoop came through with a three-run homer, putting the Twins up 3-1. They added two in the third on just one hit. Garver was hit by a pitch, Jorge Polanco doubled, and Nelson Cruz was intentionally walked to fill the bases. A force out brought home one run and an error brought home another, making the score 5-1. The Twins again loaded the bases in the fourth, getting two-out singles from Garver and Polanco and another intentional walk to Cruz, but Rosario grounded out to end the threat.
Chicago got a run back in the bottom of the fourth. With one out, Yoan Moncada and Anderson singled and Eloy Jimenez walked, giving the White Sox loaded bases. They were not more successful than the Twins, getting a force out to bring home one run, but no more. Chicago put two on with two out in the fifth, but could do nothing with that, either.
The Twins put the game out of reach in the eighth. With one out, Schoop homered, Jake Cave doubled, and Garver homered, making the score 8-2.
WP: Odorizzi (14-6). LP: Ross Detwiler (2-4). S: None.
Notes: Cave was in center in the absence of Byron Buxton. Adrianza was in right in the absence of both Max Kepler and Marwin Gonzalez. An outfield of Rosario-Cave-Adrianza is obviously less than ideal, but the Twins don't have a lot of options. LaMonte Wade has just started a rehab assignment in Pensacola. Zander Weil is probably the next-best outfielder in Rochester, but I know nothing about his defense. The best option may be to hope Kepler and Gonzalez can bounce back quickly.
I see that Miguel Sano was hit by a pitch and was eventually replaced by Luis Arraez. I don't know whether that's something to be concerned about. Arraez was 1-for-2 and is now batting .336.
The first three batters hit Odorizzi pretty hard, but he certainly settled down after that. He allowed only three more hits and one more run over the next six innings. That's the Odorizzi the Twins need. The bullpen came through as well. Trevor May has quietly been pitching quite well over the last month. In his last eleven games (12.1 innings), he has given up just one earned run on five hits and three walks and has struck out fifteen. Other than one game against Atlanta, Stashak has also done pretty well.
In his last five games, Schoop has gone 6-for-17. That's good, but what's really impressive is that five of the six hits have gone over the fence. That's a slugging average of 1.235, which I'm pretty sure would be a record if you did it for a season. He won't do it for the season, of course, but it's a pretty good run, even in a small sample size.
Today the Twins go for the sweep. Whether they get will depend to a large extent on whether Jose Berrios can pitch like Jose Berrios. I said a couple of weeks ago that he was not one of the Twins' problems, and since then he's gone out and proven me wrong. In his four August starts, he is 0-2, 8.44, 1.97 WHIP. The Twins say it's an issue with his mechanics. Hopefully a trip to Wes Johnson's repair shop has solved his mechanical problems and he can get back to pitching the way the Twins need him to.
Record: The Twins are 81-51, in first place, 3.5 games ahead of Cleveland.
Projected record: We're still on track for 111-51!
Date: Tuesday, August 20.
Batting stars: Nelson Cruz was 4-for-5 with a home run (his thirty-third), three doubles, three runs, and three RBIs. Max Kepler was 2-for-5 with a home run (his thirty-fourth), three runs, and three RBIs. Eddie Rosario was 2-for-5 with two RBIs. Jorge Polanco was 1-for-4 with a two-run homer (his nineteenth) and two runs.
Pitching stars: Michael Pineda pitched seven innings, giving up four runs on six hits and no walks and striking out four. Trevor May pitched a perfect inning and struck out one.
Opposition stars: Tim Anderson was 2-for-4 with a home run (his thirteenth), a double, two runs, and two RBIs. Jose Abreu was 1-for-3 with a two-run homer, his twenty-eighth.
The game: It didn't look good early. The Twins did nothing for the first two innings, as their first six batters were retired on just twenty-one pitches. In the third, Yolmer Sanchez singled and scored on a two-out double by Anderson. Abreu followed with a two-run homer and the White Sox quickly took a 3-0 lead.
Mitch Garver led off the bottom of the third with a double, but with two out he had only gotten as far as third base. Kepler solved that problem, hitting a two-run homer to get the Twins back into the game at 3-2. In the fourth, Cruz led off with a home run, tying the score 3-3.
The Twins took control in the fifth. The first two batters went out, but Jake Cave singled and Kepler reached on an error. Jorge Polanco was hit by a pitch, putting the Twins in the dreaded bases loaded situation. But Cruz said, "Fear not" and belted a two-run double. Rosario followed with a two-run single and the Twins led 7-3.
Anderson homered leading off the sixth, cutting the margin to 7-4, but that was as close as Chicago would come. The Twins put it away in the eighth. Cruz led off with a double and scored on Miguel Sano's double. Luis Arraez singled, putting men on first and third, and later stole second, moving men to second and third with two out. Marwin Gonzalez was intentionally walked, and again the Twins came through with the bases loaded. This time it was pinch-hitter C. J. Cron delivering a three-run double. He would score on Kepler's double and Polanco then hit a two-run homer. It was 14-4, and that's where it would stay.
WP: Pineda (9-5). LP: Reynaldo Lopez (7-11). S: None.
Kepler returned to the lineup in center field, with Jake Cave in right in the continued absence of Byron Buxton. Gonzalez was at first base in place of Cron. Cron remained in the game after his pinch-hit and played first, with Gonzalez moving to right field.
Arraez was 1-for-4 and is batting .346. Cruz raised his average to .303, the first time he's been over .300 since May 6.
The Twins did not throw any wild pitches, and they were not charged with any errors, although there were at least two that could have been scored. Still, I guess it's progress. I know there's a lot more to defense than not making errors, but most of the errors have been on routine plays, and coupled with wild pitches and baserunning mistakes, it just leads to an overall sloppiness of play that I find annoying. They've been able to hit enough to overcome it most of the time, and they did so again last night, but it still bothers me.
There was some discussion in the game log about Rocco making an unnecessary pitching change in the eighth, bringing in Sergio Romo with two out and none on with the Twins holding a three-run lead. I would tend to agree that the change was unnecessary, but on the plus side: a) Romo got the job done, b) he only threw three pitches, so he should be fine to pitch today, and c) there's an off day tomorrow, so he'll have at least one day where he won't pitch. So, even if it was unnecessary, it looks like there's no harm done.
Cruz has to be having one of the best seasons a thirty-nine-year-old ever had. I'm sure Barry Bonds has him beat, and there are probably a few others, but there can't be very many. He is batting .303/.390/.667, for an OPS of 1.057. He has thirty-three home runs. And he's not wearing down as the season goes on--granted that he missed some time, but August is so far his best month of the season. It's pretty incredible.
Record: The Twins are 77-49, in first place in the American League Central, three games ahead of Cleveland.
Projected record: We're still on track for 113-49!
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 Polanco, Sano, 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!
Date: Sunday, August 11.
Batting stars: Luis Arraez was 2-for-3 with two RBIs. Eddie Rosario was 2-for-4 with two doubles and two runs. Marwin Gonzalez was 2-for-4 with a double. C. J. Cron was 2-for-4.
Pitching stars: Jose Berrios pitched six innings, giving up three runs on six hits and a walk and striking out four. Trevor May retired all five batters he faced, striking out two.
Opposition stars: Aaron Civale pitched six innings, giving up one run on four hits and no walks and striking out five. Carlos Santana was 2-for-5 with a grand slam (his twenty-fifth homer), two runs, and five RBIs. Greg Allen was 2-for-5 with a home run (his third) and two runs. Francisco Lindor was 1-for-3 with a double, two walks, and two runs.
The game: The Indians jumped on Berrios for two runs in the first inning. Allen hit a one-out homer, followed by a walk to Santana and a double by Yasiel Puig. The Twins got on the board in the second, as Rosario doubled and scored on a pair of fly outs. Cleveland got the run back in the third when Lindor doubled and scored on a Santana single.
The score was 3-1, and it stayed there for quite some time. The Twins had a chance in the fifth, getting one-out singles from Cron and Gonzalez, but the next two batters could not get the ball out of the infield. Each team had two on with none out in the seventh, but neither could score.
Rosario led off the ninth with a double. With one out, Arraez had an RBI single to cut the lead to 3-2. Cron followed with a single, putting men on first and second, and was pinch-run for with Ehire Adrianza. Gonzalez then delivered an RBI double to tie the score, but Adrianza was thrown out trying to score from first base. Jonathan Schoop grounded out to end the inning, but the Twins had scored two in the bottom of the ninth to tie it 3-3.
It didn't stay tied long. Taylor Rogers came in to pitch the tenth and gave up a single to Kevin Plawecki. A walk to Lindor and a bunt single by Allen filled the bases. Santana emptied them with a grand slam, and the game was gone. The Twins went down on three ground outs in the bottom of the tenth.
WP: Brad Hand (5-3). LP: Rogers (2-3). S: None.
Notes: Max Kepler remains in center field and Gonzalez played right with Byron Buxton out. Arraez was the DH with Nelson Cruz out. I don't know why you wouldn't rather have Arraez at third and Miguel Sano as the DH, but there you have it.
Arraez is now batting .350. Since the last recap, Jorge Polanco fell below .300 and is batting .295. Ryne Harper retired both men he faced and has an ERA of 2.96. Rogers allowed four runs in a third of an inning and has an ERA of 2.68.
There seems to be a perception among Twins fans (not necessarily here) that Berrios has been somewhat of a disappointment. Not that he's been terrible, but that he's not been as good as he should be. It's simply not true. Even with the terrible Atlanta game, his season numbers are 10-6, 3.29, 1.15 WHIP. Those are excellent numbers. He had a 2.06 ERA and 0.97 WHIP in June and a 2.43 ERA with a 1.18 WHIP in July. Even his "bad" games (again, other than the Atlanta game) have been like yesterday--not dominant, but still keeping his team in the game. If he's been a disappointment, it's because the expectations for him were unreasonable. People expect him to be dominant every single time, and nobody can do that. The Twins have some problems, but Berrios is not one of them.
It's never literally true that one play cost you a game. There are all sorts of things that could've gone differently, and if they had the game would've been different. Even after Adrianza was thrown out, Schoop could've gotten a hit and won the game. The Twins could've taken advantage of their chances in the fifth and seventh, or just generally scored more than one run in the first eight innings. Berrios could've not given up two runs in the first, putting the Twins in an immediate hole. Rogers didn't have to give up the grand slam. And it's also not a given that the Twins would've won it in the ninth had Adrianza been held at third--we don't know what would've happened next. What we do know is that Adrianza was thrown out on a play where the only chance he had to score was on a Cleveland error, and that did a lot of damage to the Twins' chances.
After the game Rocco talked a lot of nonsense about how the Indians made a perfect relay. I really can't criticize him for that. His only other option, really, was to throw his third base coach under the bus, and that wouldn't have been a good thing to do. I hope it was addressed privately, but public criticism would not have been helpful in this case.
So, after roughly seventy-three percent of the season has been played, Minnesota and Cleveland have exactly the same records. How they got there may affect our perceptions and feelings, but from here on out it's basically irrelevant. They say that a baseball season is a marathon and not a sprint, but these two teams essentially have a forty-four game sprint for the division title. Whoever has the better record in this forty-four game "season" will win. It's as simple as that.
Record: The Twins are 71-47, tied for first with Cleveland in the American League Central.
Projected record: We'll just have to settle for 115-47!
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!
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!