Minnesota Twins Ups and Downs After Week 7

May 17, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Phil Hughes (45) walks off the field after being relieved in the seventh inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
May 17, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Phil Hughes (45) walks off the field after being relieved in the seventh inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /

Minnesota Twins Trends: Well, That Escalated Quickly

Last week, the Twins were showing signs of life on the mound and at the plate. They were going to be facing two teams that were struggling to not only win games, but even keep them close in Detroit and Toronto.

So, of course, the Twins went 1-6 this past week (May 16-22), getting out-scored 41-24 in the process. After promising starts preceding last Monday’s against Jordan Zimmermann, Jose Berrios could only muster 2/3 of an inning, giving up 7 earned runs ~ and his place in the starting rotation.

Fellow rookie Pat Dean is now in the rotation as the Rochester Express shuttled Berrios and Eddie Rosario to AAA, and brought up reliever Taylor Rogers and free agent Robbie Grossman (more on that later).

After a visit from the defending champion Royals, the Twins will head out to the West Coast for the first time this year. Maybe a change of scenery will do them well. Some of the injured Twins on the disabled list are getting close to returning, setting up some interesting decisions for manager Paul Molitor and the front office.

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UP: The fight within. As poorly as this team has played, it hasn’t been from lack of effort or emotion. It’s their execution in key situations that is killing them. The failure to move runners over, the poor batting average with RISP, pitchers allowing runs right after an inning in which the Twins scored…those are gut-punchers, demoralizing habits that the Twins cannot seem to shake.

But they keep fighting back. After the 8-spot the Detroit Tigers put up on Monday, with the hottest pitcher in the AL (Zimmermann) going against them, the Twins fashioned a comeback, tying the score in the 7th inning. All eight runs were scored against Zimmermann, whose ERA rose from 1.50 to 2.42 from this game alone…

DOWN: …only to see Molitor leave Pat Dean in too long and finally falter. After coming in for Berrios in the first inning, Dean did yeoman’s work for a long reliever (5.1 IP, 1 R, 4 K’s, 0 BB) at nearly 90 pitches. And he had allowed his team to fight back from an 8-0 deficit to tie the game, get the starter off the hook for the loss, give himself a chance for the win, and turn it over to the bullpen to hold the game at all even.

Instead, Molitor inexplicably left an obviously gassed Dean in the game, who quickly surrendered a soul-crushing home run to J.D. Martinez leading off the bottom of the 7th. The end result is an “L” in Dean’s stat line on a night he should have been receiving high-fives after the manager told him his night was over in the middle of the inning.

DOWN: Phil Hughes. After a series of short starts, Hughes was in the middle of a gem Tuesday night. Starting the 7th inning, leading 2-0, Hughes had only allowed two hits at about 70 pitches. After triple by Miguel Cabrera, and a sacrifice fly to score Cabrera and get the first out, Molitor made a trip to the mound for what everyone thought was just a conversation.

Instead, after 75 pitches, and a 2-1 lead, Hughes was pulled for precautionary reasons for a tired shoulder. The lead quickly evaporated as the Tigers hung a 7-spot in the 7th inning on the Twins on their way to a 7-2 win.

Hughes went on to throw 96 pitches in Sunday’s loss to Toronto, this time giving up all 3 runs in the first, before settling down keep the Twins in the game for 6 innings on his way to his league-leading 7th loss.

UP: Robbie Grossman. Who? Former Houston Astro corner outfielder, Robbie Grossman, that’s who. Grossman opted out of a minor league deal with the Cleveland Indians to sign with Minnesota. A couple days later, he replaced Rosario in the starting lineup and hit an RBI double in his first at-bat as a Twin. He was one of the few bright spots for the Twins versus the Jays (9 AB, 4 H, 1 2B, 1 HR, 3 R, 3 RBI).

DOWN: Pitching to Jose Bautista in Target Field. 14 home runs in 21 career games in their home ballpark hasn’t earned Joey Bats the Barry Bonds treatment yet? Bautista is now the all-time leading visiting home run leader at Target Field after hitting home runs in each of the final three games. His line during the 4-game series (5/17, 4 R, 6 RBI, 3 HR) warranted a different approach than the one that Twins coaches drew up beforehand.

UP: Ervin Santana. After the heart-breaking series to Detroit, Santana kicked off the 4 game set with a gem Thursday night, allowing just 2 ER in 8 innings. A walk to Donaldson preceded a home run to Edwin Encarnacion that tied the game in the 6th inning. A game that Toronto ended up winning in the 11th inning. In 7 starts this year, Santana has yet to allow more than 3 earned runs in any of them. Yet the Twins are 1-6 in those 7 games, and Santana is hung with a 1-2 record despite a very respectable 3.13 ERA.

DOWN: Joe Mauer and Brian Dozier. The two veterans who should be leading this team away from the abyss, are instead dragging them down into it. In Mauer’s last 10 games played (many at lead-off), he’s batting .175 (7/40) with one XBH, 2 RBI, and 10 K’s/4 BB. His average has dropped from .301 to a season-low .260.

Dozier has been worse. Over his last 10 games, he’s batting .105 (4/38) with 2 runs scored, zero XBH or RBI with 8 K’s/2 BB). Dozier’s .222 average has actually fallen now below the Mendoza line to .199 for the year.

Next: Minnesota Twins POTW Nunez, is He the Twins All-Star?

STRANGE, BUT TRUE, STAT OF THE WEEK: In a week full of weird happenings, what happened to the Blue Jays J.A. Happ at the hands of the Twins was especially rare. And in this season where comebacks have been so few, totally unexpected. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only one other Blue Jays pitcher had ever thrown a one-hitter (or no-hitter) into the eighth inning with at least a two run lead and were charged with a loss. Reggie Jackson (then with the Angels) slugged a pinch-hit, 3-run homer to help the Angels beat Luis Leal and the Jays on June 10, 1983.