Tag Archives: Zack Littell

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 Ninety-three

NEW YORK 3, MINNESOTA 2 IN MINNESOTA

Date:  Tuesday, July 16.

Batting stars:  C. J. Cron was 2-for-4 with two doubles.  Eddie Rosario was 2-for-4.  Jonathan Schoop was 1-for-2 with a home run (his fifteenth) and a walk.

Pitching stars:  Michael Pineda pitched six innings, giving up three runs (one earned) on six hits and no walks.  Zack Littell pitched a perfect inning.  Blake Parker pitched 1.2 scoreless innings, giving up a hit and two walks.

Opposition star:  Michael Conforto was 4-for-4.

The game:  The Twins gift-wrapped a pair of runs for the Mets in the first.  With men on first and second and one out, a passed ball moved them both into scoring position.  A sacrifice fly scored one, a wild pitch moved the other runner to third, and an error scored him.  It was 2-0 New York after a half inning.

The Twins wasted a one-out double by Cron in the second but got on the board in the third thanks to a Schoop home run.  They tied the game in the fifth, but missed a chance for more.  Rosario led off with a single and Cron doubled, putting men on second and third with none out.  A ground out made it 2-2 and a strikeout and an intentional walk to Schoop put men on first and third with two down.  Schoop was then caught stealing on what was assumed to be a misbegotten double steal attempt on which Cron failed to move from third.

The tie lasted all the way until the next time the Mets batted.  Amed Rosario doubled with one out in the fifth and scored on Conforto's two-out single to put New York up 3-2.  And that's where it stayed.  The Twins had men on first and second with none out in the fifth and loaded the bases with two out in the ninth, but could not bring home the tying run.

WP:  Luis Avilan (2-0).  LP:  Pineda (6-5).  S:  Edwin Diaz (21).

Notes:  Max Kepler was in center and Marwin Gonzalez in right with Byron Buxton moving to the IL.  Jonathan Schoop was injured in the ninth, and there has been no word on his condition at this writing.

Rosario and Cron both returned to the lineup from the IL and did well.  Buxton was put on the IL and Mike Morin was DFA's to make room.  Morin had actually pitched quite well for the Twins, although his last outing hurts his numbers significantly.  One assumes someone will pick him up.

Jorge Polanco was 0-for-4 and is batting .307.  Over his last thirty games, he has batted .255/.302/.372.  Over his last fifteen games, it's .229/.280/.343.

Littell has now gone nine appearances (ten innings) without giving up a run.

At this point, it becomes reasonable to ask:  which is the real Twins team?  Is it the team that roared out to a 47-22 record through June 15?  Or is the team that has stumbled and bumbled its way to a sub-.500 record since then?  The defense has become increasingly unreliable--it seems we have an error or two almost every game, plus last night we threw a passed ball and two wild pitches into the mix.  The offense has been inconsistent.  The pitching hasn't been terrible, but it hasn't been good enough to overcome the other problems.  We keep waiting for the Twins to break out and start playing well again, and maybe they will.  But it's been over a month now, and we're still waiting.  We have to consider the possibility that the Twins team we're seeing now is the Twins team we're going to see for the rest of the season.

Record:  The Twins are 58-35, first in the American League Central, five games ahead of Cleveland.

Projected record:  We'll just have to settle for 127-35!

2019 Recap: Game Ninety-two

CLEVELAND 4, MINNESOTA 3 IN CLEVELAND

Date:  Sunday, July 14.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2019 Recap: Game 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 Eighty-five

MINNESOTA 4, OAKLAND 3 IN OAKLAND (12 INNINGS)

Date:  Wednesday, July 3.

Batting stars:  Luis Arraez was 3-for-5.  Mitch Garver was 2-for-6.  Jorge Polanco was 1-for-5 with a home run, his twelfth.

Pitching stars:  Kyle Gibson pitched six innings, giving up three runs (two earned) on five hits and four walks and striking out five.  Zack Littell pitched a scoreless inning, giving up a hit and a walk and striking out one.  Ryne Harper struck out two in a scoreless inning, giving up one hit.  Tyler Duffey pitched a perfect inning.  Blake Parker struck out three in two shutout innings, giving up a hit and two walks.  Taylor Rogers struck out two in a scoreless inning, giving up one hit.

Opposition stars:  Mike Fiers pitched six innings, giving up two runs (one earned) on five hits and no walks and striking out four.  Ramon Laureano was 2-for-4 with a three-run homer (his fourteenth) and a walk.  Robbie Grossman was 2-for-4 with a walk.  Liam Hendriks struck out two in two shutout innings, giving up one hit.

The game:  Khris Davis reached on an error to start the bottom of the second.  Mark Canha walked and Laureano hit a three-run homer, and that quickly the Athletics led 3-0.  Oakland had chances to add to their lead, but could not take advantage of them.  Marcus Semien opened the third with a double but did not score.  Laureano and Grossman led off the fourth with singles but a force out and a double play ended the inning.  Still, the Athletics led 3-0 through five.

The Twins then pecked away, as Dazzle likes to say.  Singles by Jonathan SchoopMax Kepler, and Garver produced a run in the sixth.  Singles by Arraez and Ehire Adrianza were followed by an error to make the score 3-2.  Polanco hit a two-out homer in the eighth to tie it 3-3.

Each team missed chances in the extra frames.  Oakland started the tenth with two walks but did not score.  The Twins had men on first and third with one out in the eleventh and did not score.  The Twins broke through in the twelfth, though.  Byron Buxton and Kepler drew one-out walks and Garver followed with an RBI single to give the Twins their first lead at 4-3.  A double play took them out of the inning.  Would the lead hold up?

Obviously it did, but the Athletics made it interesting.  Matt Chapman reached on an error to start the inning.  With one out, Jurickson Profar singled, sending Chapman to third, but Profar was thrown out trying to make second, so there were two down with the tying run ninety feet away.  He stayed there, as Canha struck out to end the game.

WP:  Parker (1-2).  LP:  Blake Treinen (2-3).  S:  Rogers (11).

Notes:  Arraez is now batting .431 in sixty-five at-bats.  I wonder what the record is for highest batting average in your first sixty-five at-bats.  Polanco is down to .318.  Harper has an ERA of 2.88.  Duffey is at 2.33.  Rogers' ERA is 1.93.

Arraez was in left field, and while I still don't like playing infielders in the outfield I gather he's done okay there.  Of course, you'll put up with less defense from a guy who bats .431.  Adrianza was at shortstop, with Polanco the DH and Nelson Cruz out of the lineup.

In the second inning, I don't think many people would've predicted that Gibson would get through six without giving up any more runs.  He didn't exactly dominate, but he got by.  The Much Maligned Bullpen came through with six shutout innings, although they didn't exactly dominate, either.  The Oaklands went 1-for-15 with men in scoring position.

I am pleased to see Liam Hendriks pitching well.  I still feel like the Twins didn't give him much of a chance, although I have to admit that he didn't do much with the chances they did give him.  When the Twins waived him after the 2013 season, I doubt that anyone in the front office thought he'd still be pitching in 2019, but here he is.  Good for him.

The Twins made two more errors last night.  I don't have time to go back and count, but they've made an awful lot of errors in recent weeks.  I don't know what happened to that excellent defensive team we had the first couple of months of the season, but I sure wish they'd come back.  Injuries have played a part, of course, but that's not a complete excuse.

The Twins still managed to avoid losing three games in a row.  Of course, it's been about three weeks since they won three in a row.  It would sure be nice to see them put together a little winning streak here before the all-star break.

Record:  The Twins are 54-31, first in the American League Central, seven games ahead of Cleveland.

Projected record:  We're still on track for 131-31!

2019 Recap: Game Seventy-seven

KANSAS CITY 6, MINNESOTA 1 IN KANSAS CITY

Date:  Sunday, June 23.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2019 Recap: Game Seventy-two

MINNESOTA 4, BOSTON 3 IN MINNESOTA (17 INNINGS)

Date:  Tuesday, June 18.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2019 Recap: Game Fifty-five

TAMPA BAY 14, MINNESOTA 3 IN TAMPA BAY

Date:  Thursday, May 30.

Batting stars:  Ehire Adrianza was 2-for-3.  Jason Castro was 2-for-3.

Pitching star:  Mike Morin pitched a perfect inning.

Opposition stars:  Avisail Garcia was 3-for-4 with a double, a walk, and three runs.  Tommy Pham was 2-for-2 with a double, a walk, and two runs.  Brandon Lowe was 2-for-4 with a double and three RBIs.  Austin Meadows was 2-for-5 with a double, two runs, and four RBIs.  Christian Arroyo was 2-for-5 with two doubles, two runs, and two RBIs.  Charlie Morton pitched seven innings, giving up two runs on four hits and no walks and striking out six.

The game:  Well, it was good for two innings.  In the bottom of the third, a single and two walks loaded the bases and Meadows delivered a three-run double.  A single, a double, and a single made it a six-run inning, leaving the Twins down 6-0.  The fourth was no better:  a single, a double, two singles, a walk, and two doubles added up to five runs and a score of 11-0.

The Twins scored single runs in the fifth and sixth, but the Rays came back with three in the seventh.  The Twins added one more in the eighth.  Yes, this is a much less thorough recap of the game than we typically do, but there seems no point in going into detail on this one.

WP:  Morton (6-0).  LP:  Martin Perez (7-2).  S:  None.

Notes:  Adrianza was at shortstop in place of Jorge Polanco, who was not feeling well.  Marwin Gonzalez was at third base in place of Miguel Sano.  Luis Arraez was at second base in place of Jonathan Schoop, who was used as the DH.

Arraez was 1-for-4 and is batting .375.  Morin has an ERA of 0.87.

A baseball season is long.  One hundred sixty-two games.  Out of that many games, you're bound to have a clunker in there once in a while.  The trick is, of course, to not have very many of them.  If you do, that's a problem.  For now, though, the thing to do is simply to turn the page and move on.

It seems, though, that we should acknowledge the service done by Zack Littell last night.  Yes, his line looks terrible:  eight runs on ten hits and one walk in 4.1 innings.  But the point is that he pitched 4.1 innings.  Even when he was getting hit hard, he was not afraid to throw the ball over the plate.  That kept his pitch count low enough that he was able to fill 4.1 innings, saving the rest of the bullpen.  He actually settled down to pitch fairly well after the fourth.  I'm not saying he deserves to be player of the game or anything--in fact, as suggested in the game log, his reward may well be a ticket back to Rochester.  Still, the job he did may be important in the next couple of games, and it should be appreciated.

Also, kudos to Rocco Baldelli for leaving Littell in the game to pitch those 4.1 innings and save the bullpen.  It's one of those things that seems obvious, but it's amazing how many major league managers don't see it.  Many managers, including some recent Twins managers, would've thought they had to take Littell out in the fourth, and then would've burned through three or four relievers in a game the Twins weren't going to win anyway.  Good job by Rocco for not doing that.

After a horrible April, Adrianza is batting .313/.393/.521 in May.  If you throw out the 0-for-16 that he started May with, those numbers go to .469/.526/.694.  Obviously he's not going to sustain either of those sets of numbers.  But his season numbers are now .256/.351/.415 which, while they'd be career highs, do not seem so unsustainable.  At any rate, he's sure making those of us, including me, who were calling for the Twins to release him look pretty stupid at the moment.

It should be noted that the Twins still have the best record in baseball, and we have Jose Berrios going tonight.  Plus, Cleveland lost, so we still lead the division by 9.5 games.  That makes it a little easier to turn the page and move on.

Record:  The Twins are 37-18, first in the American League Central, 9.5 games ahead of Cleveland.

Projected record:  We'll just have to settle for 144-18!