Minnesota Twins Ups and Downs After Week 2
Minnesota Twins Trends: A big shift in momentum
After going 0-9 to start 2016, mirroring a start by the Atlanta Braves, 1991 seemed like more than 25 years ago as the Twins flailed their way to their worst start since coming to Minnesota. If you remember, both the Twins and the Braves finished last in their respective leagues in 1990, before going worst to first in meeting in the 1991 World Series.
Distant memories indeed. But just as we were writing the obituary on the 2016 version of the Minnesota Twins just 10 days into the new season, the boys remembered how to hit, highlighted by the monstrous home run by Byung-ho Park in the 8th inning in Saturday’s win over the LA Angels. Oswaldo Arcia had just homered to the opposite field to give the Twins the lead, when Park followed that with a 462 foot home run over the batting eye in center field to give the relievers some breathing room, while leaving the Twins bench breathless after watching his towering blast.
Friday night’s win was painful. Saturday’s win was joyful. Friday watched Tommy Milone pitch effectively for 6 innings, only to watch as the Angels went deep twice in a span of 3 batters, scoring 3 runs, and looking to dash the hopes of the Twins faithful in search of win #1. Yet the Twins ground out a win, led by the lead-off hitting of Eduardo Nunez, and a clutch RBI double by Park, as they took the lead into the ninth inning.
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With Glen Perkins on the DL, Kevin Jepsen has re-assumed the closer’s role. In his first chance as closer this year, he promptly walked the lead-off man. Jepsen’s fastball had life, but he bounced two breaking pitches into the dirt. After two groundouts moved the runner to 3rd with two outs, Jepsen abandoned his breaking ball by throwing fastballs past Daniel Nava to finally nail down the Twins’ first win of the year.
The three wins this weekend have salvaged the opening home stand. After three straight losses to open Target Field to the Chicago White Sox, the Twins have finally started hitting against the Angels.
UP: Eduardo Nunez. After last Sunday’s 4-4 day against the KC Royals, Nunez found himself once again on the bench throughout the White Sox series. Finally, manager Paul Molitor inserted Nunez at lead-off against the Angels in Friday’s game. Nunez promptly went 3-3 with an RBI and two runs scored to kick-start the Twins offense.
Playing the hot hand, Molitor left Nunez at lead-off Saturday, and Nunez once again ignited the Twins offense with 2 more hits , including a triple, and another run scored. Nunez had a hit at the top of the lineup Sunday as well
DOWN: Strikeouts. That is, by Twins pitchers. They have just 92 Ks on the year. And 14 of those are by reliever Trevor May in only 8 innings. The organization has placed an emphasis on acquiring pitchers that can miss bats, we’ll track their development throughout the year, but as of now it hasn’t happened outside of May.
UP: Extra base hits…FINALLY. Twins came into the Angels series with only 4 home runs, and less than 6 different individual hitters. After 3 doubles on Friday, the Twins broke out the big bats with a double, triple, and three home runs in Saturday’s win. They had more extra base hits (5) than strikeouts (4). The Twins struck out just 4 times on Saturday and 6 on Sunday.
DOWN: Productive outs. It’s disheartening to see a lead-off man get on, and still standing on first base at inning’s end. Watching the Royals, and even the White Sox consistently move runners over, even when getting an out, was something the “Twins Way” was big on. The younger batters will need to learn to cut down on their swing, look to take a pitch to right field side, etc., to get runners into scoring position. By the way, the Twins were 3-9, 2-8, and 3-11 with RISP in the three wins over the Angels. The Twins are still near the bottom of the league in that category, but the past three games are a start.
UP, UP, & AWAY: Byung-ho Park. There were doubts that Park’s power in the KBO was over-rated due to smaller ballparks. Many of those doubts were dispersed after he blasted the 5th-longest home run in Target Field history yesterday (2nd longest Twins, behind Jim Thome), a 462-foot blast that easily cleared the black wall (batting eye) in center field. Arcia thought Park got jobbed on the distance. Longest, hardest home run he’s ever seen.
CAUSE FOR CONCERN: Glen Perkins and Trevor Plouffe. Last week, it was Danny Santana. This week, Perkins went on the DL with a left shoulder strain (pitching arm) and Plouffe is day to day with an intercostal strain.
Next: 2016 Puckett's Staff Predictions
Indications are that is will be longer than the 15 days for Perkins, and it helps explains his loss of velocity. Last year when Perkins was lighting up a perfect first half, he consistently threw 95-97 mph. He currently struggles to hit 91 on the gun. If Jepsen continues to struggle with his breaking ball, don’t be surprised to see Trevor May as the Twins closer.