There’s simply no getting around the fact that July was a rough month for the Minnesota Twins. They limped into the month losing and limped out of the month the same way. The only saving grace was an 8-3 stretch that started just before the All-Star break. Outside of that they were 1-14 giving them a 9-17 record for the month in 26 games played.
The Twins rotation was obviously a big part of the problem last month though you could have a fun circular debate on whether the offense was more to blame. Minnesota’s bats plated more than four runs just five times and were shutout thrice. That debate aside, we’re here today to rank the 26 starts from best to worst in a three part series.
As you can probably already gather the middle of the pack is going to be bunched together and very debatable so I’m going to lean on game score (GSc) to help organize and rank things. While the results varied greatly from start to start – with a peak Gsc of 74 and a low of 15 – the Twins rotation was at least stable in terms of who was talking the mound. Their starting five accounted for all but one of the 26 matchups.
74: Sam Deduno – July 27th @ Seattle
In the closing days of the month the Twins received a gift from the right arm of defacto ace Samuel Deduno. He went 7.0 shutout innings and struck out six batters (which tied for the most Ks in a start) while allowing three hits and three walks. His effort was backed by home runs off the bats of Justin Morneau and Brian Dozier as Minnesota shutout the Mariners 4-0.
65: Mike Pelfrey – July 6th @ Toronto
Deduno was the Twins best starter during the month of July but Pelfrey was right behind him. His first start of the month was his best as he threw 6.0 shutout innings with three hits and three walks just like his rotation mate above. The main separator between the two outings, aside from the fact that Deduno completed seven as opposed to six innings pitched, came in the strikeout department. Pelfrey managed just a pair of Ks but more importantly, his effort was the primary reason Minnesota was able to snap the six-game losing streak they were on. Dozier’s bat was again heavily involved in the victory with a 3-run home run and a 2-4, 4 RBI game overall. Chris Parmelee deserves a mention as well based on his 2-3, two double game that also included a walk.
62: Pelfrey – July 24th @ Los Angeles
Minnesota was poised to sweep the Angels when Pelfrey took the mound on the 24th. The Twins had crushed LA 10-3 the day before after Deduno helped them win the series opener (see below). Big Pelf allowed just one run on five hits and a walk in 6.0 innings while striking out five doing more than enough to pick up a “W” but wound up saddled with a 1-0 loss. Pelfrey certainly did his job but he was outclassed by Angels ace Jered Weaver who pitched 8.0 innings of two-hit ball with nine strikeouts.
61: Deduno – July 22nd @ Los Angeles
Pelfrey may have been unable to lead the team to a sweep of LA (through little fault of his own) but it was Deduno that got Minnesota off on the right foot in the series opener. His control wobbled a bit as he issued five walks and gave up four hits but he was able to limit the damage to just two earned runs in 7.0 innings while striking out five. The offense racked up a dozen hits. Nine of which came off starter Joe Blanton who was chased from the game in the 4th inning. Joe Mauer, Aaron Hicks and Clete Thomas had multi-hit games and everyone in the lineup had at least one hit with the exception of Morneau who went 0-4 with a walk.
61: Deduno – July 13th @ New York
On July 6th Mike Pelfrey helped snap a six game losing streak but Minnesota again lost six in a row immediately following that game. The second losing streak was broken up by Deduno’s 7.0 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 3 SO game against the Yankees. Phil Hughes kept pace with the Twins righty and the game was tied 1-1 heading into the 7th inning. There Hughes faltered giving up one run in that frame and another two runs in the 8th before he was lifted with 10 strikeouts in 7.1 IP. Ryan Doumit, Trevor Plouffe and Pedro Florimon all went deep while Mauer added a double in the team’s 4-1 victory. This particular win is notable because it was the start of their 8-3 stretch.
60: Scott Diamond – July 26th @ Seattle
Finally we get to a start from someone other than Pelfrey or Deduno as Diamond went 6.2 innings with 5 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 SO in a 3-2 victory over the Mariners. The start was solid but the Twins needed a whole lot of help from their bullpen as the game stretched beyond nine innings. Chris Colabello‘s 2-run blast in the top of the 13th was the difference in the game and was just enough as Glen Perkins gave a run back in the bottom of the inning before notching the save.
60: Kevin Correia – July 20th vs. Cleveland
Correia’s best start of the month (6.0 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 SO, 1 HR) let to a 3-2 victory and pushed the teams winning streak to four games. It was your typical workaday start from the 32-year old righty but he kept the Indians lineup at bay. The lone exception was Jason Kipnis who hit a 2-run home run in the 6th inning. On the Twins side of the boxscore, Mauer and Morneau each went 2-3 with a walk and run in the game.
57: Kyle Gibson – July 23rd @ Los Angeles
Gibson’s 6.0 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 SO effort against the Angels resulted in a unconventional 10-3 Twins win. While his big league debut is also in the conversation, this one is the best of his seven MLB starts by my estimation. Gibson was tagged for a pair of solo home runs and didn’t factor in the decision since the Twins were down 2-1 when he was lifted. They would go on to score runs in the 7th and 8th to grab the lead but Perkins uncharacteristically blew the save in the 9th. All of that just set the stage for the bats to erupt for seven runs in the top of the 10th. Chris Herrmann‘s grand slam and Florimon’s two run shot were responsible for most of the scoring in that frame and the two combined to go 5-10 while hitting in the bottom third of the lineup.
56: Diamond – July 12th @ New York
He only lasted 3.1 innings and threw 64 pitches to get there but threw 3.1 shutout innings while allowing just one hit. Diamond issues three walks to more than offset his lone strikeout and the early departure taxed the Twins bullpen. The Yankees went on to win the game 2-0 as the Twins offense couldn’t push across any runs. They finished with eight hits but six of those were from the bats of three players as Dozier, Mauer and Plouffe had two each.
If you’re really astute you may have noticed that the team’s top six during July, and eight of the top nine, took place on the road. The only exception was Correia’s home win against the Indians on Friday, July 19th. This is likely one of those random developments that crop up in baseball from time to time, but it really stood out for me.
For evidence that it’s likely an aberration we need look no further than Minnesota’s top starter. Sam Deduno, who had three of the five best starts during July, has pitched much better at Target Field this season (2.45 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 33.0 IP) compared to his road performance (3.93 ERA, 1.51 WHIP, 55.0 IP).
On the other end of the spectrum it doesn’t take a pile of keen insight to realize that Deduno and Pelfrey are the best two pitchers in the Twins rotation. This was certainly true during the month of July and I think it holds very true in a big picture sense as well. Kyle Gibson is capable of pitching at that level and still has the upside of a #2 starter (don’t let people calling him a #3 distract you from reality) but he is very much a work in progress with adjustments to make and a heaping helping of lessons to learn.