Archive for the ‘Minnesota Twins’ Category

Zach Plesac entered Saturday night’s game with a 1.32 ERA. Entering the game, he’d given up 4 home runs. That stat line changed when Plesac faced Minnesota’s Bomba Squad. He pitched 7.0 innings, giving up 5 earned runs and 3 home runs.

Cleveland reliever Nick Wittgren picked up where Plesac left off, giving up back-to-back jacks to Eddie Rosario ad Miguel Sano in the 8th inning.

When Jake Cave caught a lazy fly ball to right, the Twins finished off an 8-4 win on the night. That victory gives them a series victory while keeping pace with the Chicago White Sox. The loss dropped Cleveland 3.5 games behind Chicago.

Each time Cleveland put runs on the board, the Twins answered with a home run. The Twins scored first when Marwin Gonzalez hit a 2-run home run into the upper deck in right field. On the next pitch, Willians Astudillo lined a home run 369 feet to left field. After Cleveland scored twice to make it 3-2 in the top half of the 4th, Byron Buxton hit a 2-run shot in the bottom half of the inning, making it a 5-2 game.

When Cleveland closed the score to 5-4 in the top of the 8th, Rosario and Sano went back-to-back in the bottom half.

Lost in all the bombas (that’s Minnesota Twins-speak for home runs) was a strong pitching performance by Rich Hill and a strong finish by closer Taylor Rogers. Since Josh Donaldson and Byron Buxton returned to the lineup, the Twins’ offense has started putting up better numbers consistently. When Max Kepler returns, their lineup will get that much stronger.

Far too often, the game doesn’t live up to the hype when 2 ace-of-the staff pitchers match up against each other. Last night, Twins ace Kenta Maeda matched up aganst Cleveland’s Shane Bieber on a wet September night at Target Field in the opening game of the series. Maeda improved to 5-1 while Bieber lost his first game of the season. Bieber’s record is now 7-1.

Bieber pitched a strong game, giving up only 5 hits and 2 walks over 7 innings. Unfortunately for him, he gave up 2 laser-like homeruns, the first a 2-run liner by Byron Buxton, the other a solo shot by rookie catcher Ryan Jeffers. Buxton’s homer was clocked at 111.5 mph. Jeffers’ second-deck homer had an exit velocity of 113 mph. Jeffers’ homerun was measured at 437 feet.

For 7 innings, Maeda matched Bieber’s performance with nothing but zeros. Bieber finished with 8 strikeouts on the night while Maeda finished with 7 strikeouts. Both pitchers showed why they’re the aces of their staffs. Bieber’s 95-mph fastball and assortment of nasty breaking pitches make him a candidate for a no-hitter virtually anytime he pitches.

Maeda doesn’t have the dominant stuff that Bieber has but he’s the most consistent pitcher the Twins have had in years. He’s a great tactician on the mound, mixing his pitches up well that induces lots of weak contact. Maeda keeps runners off base, too. Last night, when Cleveland’s Franmil Reyes grounded to Twins third baseman Josh Donaldson, Donaldson started a 5-4-3 double play. That’s Maeda’s first double play of the season.

Twins play-by-play broadcaster Dick Bremer noted that it’s difficult to get double plays when a pitcher doesn’t allow many baserunners. Jose Berrios was the Twins’ Opening Day starter. Since then, Maeda has earned the title of ace-of-the-staff. Berrios still has top-of-the-rotation stuff, as does Michael ‘Big Mike’ Pineda and Jake Odorizzi.

The Twins should make the playoffs, though it’s unclear what seed they’ll be. With their lineup and starting pitching, they’d be a formidable challenge for anyone in the AL. It isn’t a stretch to think that they’re capable of winning the World Series if they get hot at the right time. Right now, the Twins are a Jake DeGrom-like pitcher away from World Series favorites.

With Kenta Maeda pitching, though, they’ve definitely got a shot.

This time next week, spring will be officially here. The calendar-makers won’t recognize that but Twins fans certainly notice it. That’s because the Twins are coming off a 101-win season and a productive offseason.

Last season was a magical season but that’s last season exclusively. Great teams try building off their previous year’s team. That’s definitely the path that the Twins took this offseason. Heading into the offseason, Derek Falvey, the Twins Chief of Baseball Operations, identified top-of-the-rotation starting pitching as their highest priority.

When that didn’t work out, though, Falvey and Twins GM Thad Levine switched priorities, signing superstar third baseman Josh Donaldson to a 4-year, $92,000,000 contract. Earlier in the offseason, the Twins extended Miguel Sano’s contract through 2023. When they signed Donaldson to play third, they announced that Sano would move to first base. That’s a pair of corner infielders who hit 71 HRs last season. That duo might hit 80 HRs this season. Sano hit 34 last year despite missing the first month of the season.

The Twins re-signed relief pitcher Sergio Romo, then signed Tyler Clippard to round out their versatile bullpen. Just when Twins fans thought that’s the roster that the Twins would go to spring training with, Falvine jumped into a blockbuster 3-team trade. In the deal that was just finalized, the Twins got starting pitcher Kenta Maeda from the Dodgers in exchange for Brusdar Graterol. The Twins also received minor league C Jair Camargo and cash considerations from the Dodgers organization. The Dodgers, in addition to Graterol from the Twins, got “minor league OF Luke Raley and the 67th overall pick in the 2020 draft” from the Twins.

Once the Twins get rolling, the Twins rotation will include Maeda, Jose Berrios, Michael Pineda, Jake Odorizzi and Rich Hill. The Twins bullpen will include closer Taylor Rogers, back-of-the-bullpen guys Tyler Duffey, Romo and Trevor May. Filling out the Twins’ bullpen will be Cody Stashak and Zack Littell.

I’ve saved the best for last, which is the Twins batting order. Luis Arraez will likely lead off, followed by Mr. Donaldson, Nelson Cruz, Eddie Rosario, Sano, Mitch Garver, Jorge Polanco, Max Kepler and Byron Buxton. Who knows where super-utility player Marwin Gonzalez fits into the batting order or lineup? It’s a nice headache to have. The backup catcher will be Alex Avila. The backup infielder will be Ehire Adrianza.

Rest assured that I’ll be watching the TV when the Twins play the Toronto Blue Jays at noon CT on Feb. 23. Jose Berrios is scheduled to start that game.

The expectations for this team will be high this season. The Twins payroll might exceed $150,000,000 for the first time ever. It’s time to scrap the ‘Jim Pohlad is cheap’ cliché. It won’t be enough to make the playoffs. This team has one of the deepest, if not the deepest, batting order in the game. The Twins won 101 games last year by beating up teams like Kansas City, Chicago, Seattle, Baltimore, etc.

This year, that isn’t good enough. This year, the expectation is to start beating the best teams regularly. The question isn’t whether the Twins should expect to win an ALDS series. The expectation should be to play in the World Series.

Last year, the Twins surprised some people. After winning 101 games last year, that isn’t possible this year. That’s ok because the Twins have a deep lineup, good-to-excellent position depth in the minors and the ability to add important playoff pieces at the trade deadline. That should excite Twins fans. They haven’t had a team this talented since 1991.

Saying that tonight’s Twins-Red Sox game was dramatic is understatement on steroids. Boston scored the first run of the game on Mookie Betts’ opposite-field home run off the right field foul pole. The Twins tied it up on C.J. Cron’s double play. Miguel Sano scored from third base after drawing a walk. Sano scored the other Twins run by scampering home from third after getting on base after another walk. On the night, Sano went hitless but drawing 3 walks while scoring both Twins runs.

That being said, the game’s last play was the game’s most dramatic play. Check it out:

I had the opportunity to watch Carl Yastrzemski play Boston’s Green Monster. He played it better than any left fielder in the game. Tonight’s play by Rosario was as good as any play that I saw Yaz make. What a play.

It’s worth noting that the Twins won tonight because they took 9 walks. Both of Sano’s runs came after drawing walks from Boston pitchers. The other thing that contributed mightily to the Twins win was their bullpen. Tonight, the bullpen was outstanding, pitching 3 innings while striking out 3 without walking anyone and giving up only 2 hits.

Tyler Duffey was most impressive in his inning of work, striking out Brock Holt and Jackie Bradley, Jr. while throwing only 9 pitches in the eighth inning.

Friday night, the Twins open a 3-game series against the Cleveland Indians. Cleveland trails the Twins by 6.5 games going into tonight’s series. If Cleveland doesn’t sweep that series, they’ll face an uphill fight to repeat as AL North Champions. If the Twins win half of their remaining games, they’ll finish with a 98-64 record. In order for Cleveland to tie the Twins, they’d need to win 17 of their last 21 games.

That will be difficult since they have to still play the Twins 6 more times. That’s in addition to Cleveland playing 3 games at home against Philadelphia and 3 games in Washington against the Nationals.

The Twins play 6 games against Cleveland, with 3 games at home and 3 games in Cleveland. They also have a series at home vs. the Washington Nationals. After that, they finish with 7 games against Kansas City, 3 games against the White Sox and 3 games against Detroit.

If I was a betting man, I wouldn’t bet against the Twins winning the division at this stage of the season.

When Fox Sports North’s Audra Martin interviewed Eddie Rosario, Twins fans have enjoyed cheering on the Twins’ “Bomba Squad”. It’s pretty clear the Twins and their fans are enjoying their moment:

When the Twins started the season, I was one of the people that thought that the Twins had a chance to dethrone Cleveland as the AL North Division champions. This team made some important signings that weren’t the high-profile signing like Bryce Harper or Manny Machado but important nonetheless. The most important addition, it turns out, was the man nicknamed Boomstick by his teammates. Nelson Cruz, aka NC23, has led this Twins offense all season. He deserves to be the AL MVP. At age 39, he’s hitting .309 with 34 home runs and 91 RBIs. That’s a plenty productive season for most guys. Boomstick has achieved that with a month left in the season and despite 2 stints on the injured list. If not for that time on the IL, he’d likely have 40 HRs and 100+ RBIs already.

Cruz’s importance goes far beyond his statistics. His insight has transformed Miguel Sano this season. Sano’s at-bats look much more professional this season. Despite missing the first month+ of the season, he’s still hit 26 HRs while driving in 58 runs. None of his RBIs were bigger than these:

The Twins Saturday in the park was record-setting but it ended in a Twins loss. The Twins hit 6 solo home runs, which gave them 268 home runs for the season. That eclipses the MLB record for most home runs in a season by a team. That record was set last year by the NY Yankees with 267 home runs. The Twins also set the record for most players with 20 home runs in a season when Jorge Polanco, this year’s starting shortstop for the American League in the AL All Star Game, hit his 20th home run.

Other charter members of the Twins Bomba Squad (besides Boomstick, Sano and Polanco) are Max Kepler, Eddie Rosario, Mitch Garver, C.J. Cron and Jonathan Schoop. Other Twins hitters worthy of consideration are Marwin Gonzalez, Byron Buxton and Jason Castro.

The thing that makes the Twins such a dangerous team is that they’re totally comfortable beating their opponents with bombas or with singles. Sunday, the Twins ambushed Detroit with 5 runs in the second inning. None of the hits were cheap but none were home runs either. The Twins won 8-3 with 11 singles and 1 double. That isn’t surprising considering this information. According to this, the Twins have a slugging percentage of .504 and an OPS of .843. Their team batting average is .272, which ranks 3rd in the American League.

The Twins now lead Cleveland by 5.5 games with 27 games left in their season. At this point, that makes them the favorite to win the AL North Division championship. This promises to be quite the fun month of baseball. For those Twins fans with FoxSportsNorth, this promises to be a fun week. After today’s game with Detroit, the Twins fly into Boston for 3 games with Boston before starting a homestand against Cleveland.

As the saying goes, this is the time of year that fans wait for. This is when legends and memories are made. Finally, in a just world, Boomstick would win the AL MVP. Either him or Houston’s Alex Bregman. Unfortunately, this isn’t a just world. It’s likely that the BBWAA (the acronym for the Base Ball Writers Association of America), will likely give the award to Mike Trout, the best player in baseball. Trout deserves the Player of the Year award but he doesn’t deserve the AL MVP award. Trout’s team hasn’t been in the pennant race since the All Star break. They’re 24 games out of first place. Being the best player on a 4th place team isn’t what I’d consider MVP credentials.

After tonight’s game, it’s difficult to say that the Minnesota Twins aren’t the best team in the AL Central. This isn’t meant as disrespecting the Cleveland Indians. It’s simply meant as a compliment to the Twins for the season they’re having.

It’s fair to say that Jake Odorizzi, tonight’s starting pitcher for the Twins, didn’t have his best stuff tonight starting out. Meanwhile, Mike Soroka, the Braves’ 22-year-old starter, kept putting up perfect innings the first 3 innings. Unfortunately for Soroka, the Twins tend to figure pitchers out by the 4th inning. That’s what they did tonight.

Bookending the Twins 4th inning rally were Nelson Cruz, who beat out a 2-out infield chopper to start the rally, and Luis Arraez. How appropriate that the Twins’ elder statesman (Cruz) and the youngest Twins rookie (Arraez) would put the Twins ahead 2-0. Yes, the Twins lead the MLB in homeruns but the Twins are very good hitters, too.

Odorizzi settled down and gave the Twins another quality start (6 innings pitched, 1 earned run) but failed to earn the victory. After the Twins’ bullpen let the Braves tie the score 3-3, the Twins got 2 sterling innings from Trevor May, who earned the victory.

Once again, the Braves recorded 2 outs in the bottom of the ninth. Unfortunately for them again, they had to face Luis Arraez again. Arraez broke his bat but the ball landed softly in left field. That prompted Rocco Baldelli to pinch hit for Ehire Adrianza. He picked Miguel Sano be was playing for an extra base hit. Had Arraez gotten an extra base hit, Baldelli said he’d likely have picked a different pinch-hitter. Here’s why I’m thankful Arraez got a single:

I’ve been watching Twins baseball since 1966. Back then, the Twins’ slugger was Harmon Killebrew. The announcers then said that “When Harmon hit them, they stayed hit.” Today’s announcers could say the same thing about Sano’s longest blasts. To steal a phrase from announcing legend Joe Garagiola, Sano “is strong enough to hit it out of any park in America — including Yellowstone.”

This is a special Twins team. Whether they’re good enough to win the Twins’ third World Series championship is another matter. Make no mistake, though, about this. This Twins team is as good as the 1991 World Series championship team, at least thus far.

This year, the Minnesota Twins are playing phenomenal baseball. In fact, after Saturday night’s game, the Twins have the best record in baseball with a 47-22 record. Saturday night, though, things were different because the Twins retired Twins jersey # 7 forever. In an emotional speech, Joe Mauer thanked his fans, his family and especially his parents, his wife and their 3 kids for making his career possible.

After his speech, Joe Mauer threw out the first pitch. This was different because he didn’t throw it to a Twins catcher, which is customary. The ‘catcher’ this time was Mauer’s dad. After Jake Sr. caught the ball, he and his son came together for another emotional moment.

Once the game began, the Twins’ started a little bumpy, with Jake Odorizzi serving up a 2-run homer in the top of the first. By the time he left the game after completing 6 innings, Odorizzi had given up 4 runs, the most runs he’s given up in a game this season. After the game, Odorizzi praised Mauer’s professionalism before adding this:

This Twins team is as good as it is in part because of Joe Mauer. During his last 2 years with the team, Mauer would award game balls for important plays that’d normally go unnoticed in the box score. He’d hand out a game ball for a baserunner who ran hard to second base and broke up a potential double play. He’d highlight teammates for hustling out of the batters box and stretching a single into a double.

This year’s team are making lots of those types of plays, seemingly on a nightly basis. The players that were taught by Mauer’s attention to detail and Mauer’s professionalism are this year’s leaders. That being said, Thad Levine and Derek Falvey have put together a pretty talented team.

This past offseason, the Twins brought in talented veterans like Johnathan Schoop, Nelson Cruz, Martin Perez, C.J. Cron and Marwin Gonzalez. Their leadership, combined with young veterans having career years have caused the Twins to jump out to an 11-game lead over the 3-time Cleveland Indians.

This year’s Twins team is a true team effort. Thad Levine put together a deep and talented roster. Jim Pohlad approved the budget to go out and get these talented players. Rookie Twins manager Rocco Baldelli has made one great decision after another. Nelson Cruz has helped hitting coach James Rowson teach these young hitters how to work the count into their favor, which has led to lots of extra base hits. (The Twins are on pace to shatter the MLB record for slugging percentage and homeruns in a season.)

While the Twins lead the majors in home runs hit and slugging percentage, their hitters have struck out just 629 times. Compare that with the fact that they’ve collected 651 hits. No other team in the AL can say that they have more hits than strikeouts. (That kinda sounds like a traditional Mauer year, doesn’t it?)

After his ceremony, Joe Mauer joined Twins great Bert Blyleven and long-time Twins announcer Dick Bremer in the booth for half an inning:

It’s worth your while to watch the entire ceremony, too:

Yesterday, I wrote that the Twins’ winning ways were getting routine. Right now, the Twins are playing extremely solid baseball in all facets of the game. Yes, the MLB Network’s DJ can’t stop talking about the Twins hitting homeruns but that’s just part of the Twins story.

To be fair, the Twins have hit 104 homeruns in their first 52 games. They’ve tended to game-changers or back-breakers. Last week, the Twins hit 8 homeruns against the Angels in their 16-7 victory. That tends to get noticed. Fair enough.

Today, however, was a more typical Twins victory. They hit a pair of 3-run homeruns (1 would’ve been sufficient) in defeating the Chicago South Siders. Jake Odorizzi supposedly wasn’t feeling well so he took his misery out on the White Sox, yielding 1 hit and 1 walk over 5.1 innings while not surrendering a run. That dropped Odo’s ERA to 2.16 while pushing his won-lost record to 7-2. Thus far, he’s been the Twins’ most consistent pitcher this year. BTW, he struck out 9 hitters in those 5.1 innings.

The Twins bullpen wasn’t perfect but they were certainly solid, with Taylor Rogers and Tyler Duffey leading the way today. Duffey pitched 2 innings, giving up 3 hits and a walk while getting all 6 of his outs with strikeouts.

Today was the Twins’ second straight sellout. They’re definitely enjoying themselves, just like the Twins players are having fun. Leading the AL in RBIs and homeruns is fan favorite Eddie Rosario. Here’s his interview with FSN’s Audra Martin:

This Twins team reminds me an awful lot of the 1991 Twins team. That year’s team featured key free agent signings Jack Morris, Chili Davis and Mike Pagliarulo. This year, the Twins added C.J. Cron through waivers, then signed free agents Nelson Cruz, Johnathan Schoop and Marwin Gonzalez. None of these players were headline-grabbers like Manny Machado or Bryce Harper. They’re just great fits with this Twins team.

Finally, the number of unsung heroes continues to grow. When Cruz and Mitch Garver went on the IL (injured list), people wondered if the Twins offense would suffer. It’s understatement to that the Twins offense hasn’t skipped a beat since their injuries. Today’s unsung hero was catcher Jason Castro. Castro called a fantastic game & was steady behind the plate in terms of framing pitches. It isn’t surprising to me that he’s such a valuable piece to the Twins’ winning puzzle.

Go Twins!

Let’s just be clear about something. This year’s Twins team wasn’t expected to have a .686 winning percentage after 51 games. Having a winning percentage that high in 25 games would’ve been considered extraordinary with most Twins fans. Today, the Twins hit their 102nd home run of the season. They’re on pace to hit 324 for the season. That would shatter the MLB record of 267 homers hit by the 1927 Yankees. Actually, it wasn’t set by the 1927 Yankees. It was set by last year’s Yankees. But I digress.

The Twins have won 10 of their last 11 games, with the only loss coming last Sunday in Seattle. That loss has separated a pair of 5-game winning streaks. Last night, the Twins got 7 relatively decent innings from Jose Berrios, with the only blip coming in the 2nd inning, when the White Sox scored 4 runs. That put the Twins down 4-1 at the time. Instead of panicking, the Twins just scored the final 10 runs of the game. The Twins slugging percentage for last night’s game was .750. The Twins’ OPS last night was 1.165.

Today’s game was somewhat of a flat-liner. The Twins jumped out to a 2-1 lead early. Then they put it in autopilot, winning 8-1. Today’s hitting stars were Ehire Adrianza, who got 3 hits and 3 RBIs, C.J. Cron, who got 2 hits and 4 RBIs and Jorge Polanco, who got 2 hits to raise his league-leading batting average to .340. Kyle Gibson, today’s starter, gave up a 4th-inning home run that gave the South Siders a brief glimmer of hope, bringing them to within a run at 2-1.

That glimmer died in the bottom of the 4th, when C.J. Cron singled to left, Jonathan Schoop and Eddie Rosario scored. Later, Ehire Adrianza singled to shallow center, driving in C.J. Cron for the third run of the inning and extending the lead to 5-1.

Adrianza drove in the final 3 runs with the Twins’ only homer of the day to make the final score 8-1. At no point did it feel like the Twins weren’t in total control. What’s eerie in a fun way is the similarities I’m seeing between this Twins team and their 1991 team that won the World Series. That team wasn’t expected to do much. At the end of the year, though, they hoisted the World Series Trophy after Jack Morris’s 10-inning 1-0 shutout of the Atlanta Braves.

Speaking of Mr. Morris, aka ‘Black Jack’, he did the analysis of today’s Twins game. He was part of another team that came from nowhere to win the World Series. That would be the 1984 Detroit Tigers team. That team started 35-5. They became one of only a handful (and I’m talking about a tiny handful) of teams that went wire-to-wire without spending a day out of first place. I’m talking about those Tigers being in first place from Opening Day of the regular season to never trailing in the playoffs.

There’s still 111 games left in the regular season so optimism must be tempered somewhat. Still, it’s indisputable that the Twins are one of, if not baseball’s, elite teams. This team has a ton of talent, albeit unknown talent. If they continue playing like this, where the starting pitching is solid, the bullpen is very good, the defense is consistently excellent and the hitting is elite, why shouldn’t the Twins have confidence in their abilities?

Finally, the Twins are doing this while Nelson Cruz and Mitch Garver are still on the injured list. Further, they got off to this start without Miguel Sano for the first 40+ games. Call me crazy but I think this team is loaded. Here’s Twins manager Rocco Baldelli’s post-game press conference:

The last time the Twins had a rookie manager get off to this good of a start was 1987. Some guy who got along with his players nicknamed TK led that team to the Twins’ first World Series championship.

It isn’t overstatement to call Joe Mauer a Twins legend. He’s the first Minnesotan taken with the first pick in the baseball draft. The only other Minnesotans picked in the upper part of the first round of the MLB draft are in Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame; Paul Molitor was picked third overall by the Milwaukee Brewers while Dave Winfield was picked 4th overall by the San Diego Padres. It’s worth noting that Molitor and Winfield were drafted after playing for the Minnesota Golden Gophers while Joe Mauer was drafted first overall right after high school.

Joe Mauer is the only catcher in MLB history to lead the Major Leagues in hitting. He’s also the only catcher to win 3 batting titles in his career. Add to that Joe’s defensive skills and you’ve put together the ingredients for a once-in-a-generation type player and a future first ballot Hall of Famer. Here’s video of one of Mauer’s legendary defensive plays:

I remember that play. I remember thinking to myself “Are you kidding me? No other catcher in MLB history was capable of making that play.” I’m still convinced of that. This play was pretty good, too:

As good as those plays were, this is the best, in my humble opinion:

This article wouldn’t be complete without talking about Joe Mauer’s hitting ability. In his Twins career, Joe reached base more often than any other Twin. That’s quite a statement considering the fact that Rod Carew, Tony Oliva, Kirby Puckett and Harmon Killebrew each had lengthy careers with the Twins. Joe retires as the Twins’ leader in doubles, too.

Finally, the 2019 Twins will miss Joe’s leadership, talent and professionalism. Good luck, Joe.