Minnesota Twins Ups and Downs and Back, Back, Back!

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Jun 26, 2016; Bronx, NY, USA; Minnesota Twins second baseman Brian Dozier (2) rounds the bases on his two run home run during the sixth inning against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 26, 2016; Bronx, NY, USA; Minnesota Twins second baseman Brian Dozier (2) rounds the bases on his two run home run during the sixth inning against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports /
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Minnesota Twins Trends: Well, That Was Unexpected!

The Twins started off this past week in the midst of a 3-game winning streak, one that came to a screeching halt against the Yankees’ bullpen. Then, Sunday, the Twins decided to avoid New York’s bullpen altogether by hitting 6 home runs, and pin a second loss on Nathan Eovaldi in a week.

Hard to decide what was more surprising. The six home runs, or the masterful start by Tyler Duffey? Duffey had a perfect game going until two out in the 6th inning (getting broken up by former Twin, Aaron Hicks), and his only other hit allowed was a solo shot to Mark Teixeira.

After going seven consecutive starts and allowing at least 4 runs, Duffey was thought to have been pitching to save his spot in the rotation. Mission accomplished. It was by far the best outing by a Twins’ starter all season. After allowing the home run, Duffey’s reaction in the dugout was also nice to see – you could tell he was disappointed in losing the shutout, and the possibility of a complete game.

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UP: Brian Dozier is still swinging a hot bat, and his 2-run home run ignited a four-run outburst that stretched Minnesota’s lead Sunday. After what looked like a botched rally, Joe Mauer coaxed a two-out walk and Dozier followed with his homer. It was the first of three consecutive home runs in that 6th inning.

Barely hitting .200 entering June, Dozier’s splits (.344 AVG / .413 OBP / 1.047 OPS) has pulled Dozier’s season from out of the abyss (now hitting .252, above his career average), and his renewed presence in the middle of the lineup is helping Minnesota to their best month of the season (9-15, with 3 games to go) and holding off series sweeps. So far, June is the only month the Twins have yet to be swept in a series.

DOWN: Fielding. While the addition of Eduardo Escobar has been uplifting to the morale of the team, as much as his bat in the bottom of the lineup, his fielding has hurt the Twins. As a whole, the shortstop position is a defensive negative. Both Escobar and Eduardo Nunez are a -4 in defensive runs saved, ranking near the bottom for any shortstops with at least 200 innings at the position.

In the first two games against New York, the Twins were involved in tight ball games. Escobar’s error in the 3rd inning led to two unearned Tommy Milone runs, and proved the difference in a 5-3 loss Friday. Saturday, his error led to the winning run in the bottom of the 8th inning. His 8 errors at shortstop (in 48 games) almost equal his total at the position the last two years combined (in 169 games).

UP: Offense. The Twins scored 45 runs in 6 games (7.5/game) as the Twins went 3-3 this past week against the Phillies and Yankees. With the offense keeping the Twins in the game, the pitchers have been able to pitch later into the games, which has allowed members of the bullpen to grow into their new roles.

UP: Taylor Rogers, Ryan Pressly, and Brandon Kintzler. Rogers has become manager Paul Molitor‘s go-to guy to get out of a jam. He threw 4.2 innings of work this week, allowing no runs, while picking up his team-leading third win of the season.

Pressly has pitched in 12 games so far in June, allowing a single run in 3 of them, with one scoring on an error by Escobar that was ruled a run-scoring fielder’s choice. He has struck out 11 batters in 11.2 innings, and walked just one. He’s picked up 3 of his 4 holds this month, mostly pitching in the 8th inning.

Kintzler is the new right-handed closer in Molitor’s closer rotation, with Fernando Abad serving as the lefty closer. Kintzler started off June getting roughed up by the Tampa Rays, but has settled down for his first 3 career saves, including a rare 4-out save in that crazy 14-10 win over Philadelphia.

DOWN: Kevin Jepsen. After losing the closer’s job early in the month, Jepsen hasn’t quite righted the ship in less pressure situations. He’s appeared in 9 games this month, throwing only 7.1 innings. Only one appearance has Jepsen had a clean outing. He has allowed 11 hits and 6 walks, versus just 6 strikeouts. In his 7.1 innings, he has thrown 150 pitches (21.1 AVG).

UP: Kurt Suzuki. The only Twins hitter to make contact on Aroldis Chapman‘s 100 mph plus heaters this past week, Suzuki also smashed a home run into the second deck at Target Field last week against Chapman in a failed 9th inning rally. Suzuki is nearly as hot as Dozier this June, hitting .371 (.533 just this week alone) and driving in 14 runs from near the bottom of the batting order.

In his previous 100 at-bats, Suzuki had only 11 RBI, and was hitting only .212 entering this month. Now at .273, Suzuki is being considered as a possible All-Star reserve in a down year for catchers in the American League. His average is third among AL catchers with at least 150 at-bats.

Next: Twins Duo Impacting Offense

STRANGE, BUT TRUE, STAT OF THE WEEK: Including games played as the Washington Senators, the Twins have played 1887 games against the Yankees. Sunday was the first time they ever hit 6 home runs in a game against them. The Twins’ 6 home runs were part of the 52 total homers hit yesterday in the majors, the highest 1-day total since June 11, 2006.

NOTES: Miguel Sano is 0-4 in his first two rehab starts at Rochester. Now that Trevor Plouffe looks to have avoid a stint on the DL, the Twins can take their time with Sano to make sure he doesn’t re-injure his hamstring. Oswaldo Arcia went 3-4 yesterday in his second game with Tampa, falling just a triple short of the cycle. Let the “Next Big Papi” furor begin.

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