Minnesota Twins: Every Which Way But Loose

Jun 19, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Twins first baseman Trevor Plouffe (24) falls off the base in an attempt to catch a throw as New York Yankees outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury (22) is safe at first base in the eighth inning at Target Field. The Minnesota Twins beat the New York Yankees 7-4. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 19, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Twins first baseman Trevor Plouffe (24) falls off the base in an attempt to catch a throw as New York Yankees outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury (22) is safe at first base in the eighth inning at Target Field. The Minnesota Twins beat the New York Yankees 7-4. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports /

Minnesota Twins lose 5-of-7, but didn’t get swept during week 11

Baby steps. Silver linings. Hey, buts. That was the week that was for the Minnesota Twins last week.

They won the first and last games of the week, and lost everything in between.

“At least they didn’t get swept,” was what I kept hearing at the sports bar Sunday. That, and a nail, is all it takes for the Twins to hang their hat on nowadays.

The Twins lost every way possible. By blowouts (Angels 10-2 & Yankees 8-2), by the bullpen ruining a great start by the pitcher (Yanks 7-6 win on Saturday), by a pitcher who starts off hot, then fails the third time through the batting order (Kyle Gibson‘s loss on Thursday), and by just not keeping the opposing team off the scoreboard after the offense scores a run (Ervin Santana‘s frustrating 5-4 loss on Tuesday).

Again the Twins faced two struggling teams with one seemingly having worse rotation problems than the Twins (Angels).

Yet again, the Twins failed to capitalize and let the Angels take 2-of-3, and the Yankees take 3-of-4.

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Amid the losing, the Twins made puzzling roster changes, “What was he thinking?” lineup changes, and the demotion of a starting pitcher that the Twins had won four of his six starts.

Another week in the lost season of 2016, and another week closer to the trade deadline.

UP: Health. The position players are getting their hamstrings healed up. Danny Santana was well enough to get activated this week and inserted into the starting lineup right away. Miguel Sano is ahead of schedule and is now scheduled for rehab games this weekend.

During his own bobblehead day Saturday, Sano took batting practice as General Manager Terry Ryan discussed Sano’s future in the outfield.

He wouldn’t commit to Sano returning to the outfield over concerns of re-injuring his hamstring. What happens with certain veterans and the trade deadline probably has more to do with where Sano will play going forward.

DOWN: Oswaldo Arcia. With Santana being activated, the Twins had several options available to them. Send down Byron Buxton or Max Kepler (both with options remaining) or go with a larger bench and send down a pitcher with options. Instead, the Twins front office designated for assignment Arcia.

While there was some instant whining among Twins faithful that another team will be having a farewell party 15 years from now (a la Big Papi) for Arcia’s final visit to Target Field, his 42% strikeout rate and defensive deficiencies has kept another team from signing him, as of yet.

UP: Max Kepler. Luckily, the Twins didn’t send Kepler down. While he did have a defensive blooper in the Angels series, his bat has certainly heated up with the weather. Hitting just over .200 after winning last Sunday’s game in walk-off style, Kepler continued raking all week, raising his batting average to .243 with a slash (.308 AVG / .357 OBP / .934 OPS) over his last seven games.

Yesterday, he felled just a triple shy of a cycle, and was involved in three of the four innings in which the Twins scored a run to first comeback, and then extend the lead, in that 7-4 win.

With 2016 being what it is, it would behoove the Twins’ brass to give Kepler as many at-bats as possible, and as much time as he needs to learn the intricacies of the right field corner at Target Field.

DOWN: Pat Dean. Yes, he had a bad game Friday night against the Yankees. He allowed seven runs in just 2.1 innings. But, who among Twins starters hasn’t struggled this year?

Ricky Nolasco‘s first five games started in May resulted in five Twins’ losses. He only pitched well in one of those, and had to leave after five innings after throwing over 100 pitches already.

Last year, Kyle Gibson was either on or off. He had some great games, and he had some games where the Twins were out of it by the 4th inning.

Pat Dean is this year’s Kyle Gibson. When he’s on, he gives the Twins a great chance to win. They are 4-2 in his last six starts, giving up two runs or less in three of those games. While he only won one game, much of that had to do with the bullpen, not Dean.

UP: Tommy Milone. He’s baaaack! Milone went unclaimed after being DFA’d, and accepted his demotion to AAA Rochester to work on his control. He said he needed to stop picking, and just throw strikes, letting his stuff do the work. Lower pitch counts, improve K/BB ratio.


In 48.2 IP, Milone struck out 41 batters and allowed only four walks, registering a 1.66 ERA during his demotion. Milone will get the start Thursday afternoon against the Philadelphia Phillies. Meanwhile, Dean will return to Rochester, and be the starter-in-waiting if an injury occurs.

DOWN: Lineup decisions. While it was nice to see Danny Santana get back into the lineup right away, and Robbie Grossman get a rest, Paul Molitor slotted Santana into Grossman’s #2 spot in the batting order after Eduardo Nunez.

His career .305 OBP didn’t warrant batting that high. It would have been better to move Joe Mauer and everyone else up a spot, and have Santana in the #7 slot in front of Juan Centeno.

Another head-scratcher was seeing Trevor Plouffe at first base during Sunday’s series finale. Molitor feels that both Mauer and Byung-ho Park have been tiring, and Park’s struggles with hitting 100 mph fastballs earned him the bench with Nathan Eovaldi on the mound.

UP: Ervin Santana won his second game of the year! Four of his last five starts were duds, and Santana’s mound demeanor was being questioned by fans.

Sunday, he pitched into the eighth inning, giving up only two earned runs, with no walks and four strikeouts.

He kept his pitch count down. After getting the first out of the eighth inning, he left a breaking pitch up that Ike Davis lined into right field for a single.

At 104 pitches, it would have been nice if Santana argued with the manager to stay in the game. After a brief conversation, Molitor made the call to the bullpen, and during the TV broadcast, Bert Blyleven commented that he wished Santana didn’t look so happy being pulled.

Next: Twins Snap 5 Game Losing Streak in Win Over Yankees

Strange, But True, Stat of the Week: During Monday’s 9-4 Twins win, the Angels’ Jered Weaver gave up two home runs, one each to Trevor Plouffe and Byron Buxton.

It was Weaver’s third straight start in which he gave up exactly two home runs. He had never gone more than two consecutive games in his career.

The last Angels pitcher with such a streak was our own Ervin Santana, who allowed two homers in four straight games in 2012.