Minnesota Twins Try for First Winning Month

Jul 20, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Minnesota Twins first baseman Joe Mauer (7) and Byron Buxton (25) celebrate after the game against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Minnesota won 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 20, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Minnesota Twins first baseman Joe Mauer (7) and Byron Buxton (25) celebrate after the game against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Minnesota won 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /

Minnesota Twins Finally Recording More Ups than Downs in July

After recording one of their worst three month stretches ever in franchise history, the Minnesota Twins looked to the July schedule and saw team after team at or near the top of the standings in their respective divisions.

Texas, Cleveland, Detroit, and Boston. All of those teams were over .500, and closer to .600 at the time when the Twins faced them.

Texas, Cleveland, and Boston were the leaders of all three American League Divisions when they started series.

The team with the worst record in the league surely would sink even further into dismay as they featured one of the worst ERA’s in baseball and were going to be facing the top offensive teams (Rangers & Red Sox) for an extended stretch.

It was going to get ugly.

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After winning the Detroit series at Comerica Park, and spitting four games in Fenway, the Minnesota Twins are sitting at 12-8 for the month of July.

In six series, the Twins have gone 4-1-1 with only Boston (13) winning more games in the AL this month.

The Minnesota Twins finished this past week at 4-3

And that ERA? Despite giving up 31 runs to the Red Sox over their past four games, the Minnesota Twins are fifth in the AL in team ERA (3.97), finally allowing them to drop below five (4.93) on the season.

DOWN: We’ll begin with a down. While their ERA is down for July, the Twins have given up eight unearned runs so far this month, moving them into second place (43) behind Boston (45) for the year in the AL.

For the record, the Arizona Diamondbacks have already allowed an astounding 17 unearned runs in July, almost half of the team total 39 for the 2016 season.

Of course, most of those unearned runs came at the hands, or glove, of Miguel Sano. Whether by a dropped pop-up, a booted grounder, or an errant throw, Sano has been on an unfortunate tear defensively at third base in July.

In just 22 games at the hot corner, Sano has committed 10 errors, good for eighth-worst in the league, despite not having enough qualifying games.

Among all players who have started at least 10 games at third, Sano’s .857 fielding percentage is 52 points behind the next worst.

UP: Starting pitching. To begin the week at Detroit, all three starters went at least six innings, with all three collecting quality starts.

Ricky Nolasco was out-dueled despite only allowing a single run in six innings.

Tommy Milone took a one-hit shutout into the ninth inning the next night, and settled for a 6-2 win, his third straight win in as many starts.

Finally, Ervin Santana battled Justin Verlander, and only allowed a lead-off homer to Ian Kinsler.

Santana did not get a decision, though the bullpen kept the Tigers at bay as the Minnesota Twins prevailed, 4-1.

In the Boston series, Kyle Gibson turned in perhaps the best start of the week, a two-hit, 2-1 win over a team that had collected 13 runs and 17 hits the night before.

UP: The trio of Sano, Max Kepler, and Eddie Rosario. Each hit .320 or better this past week, with Sano collecting nine hits (two three-hit games), Kepler recording his first two triples of 2016, and Rosario garnering a four-hit game in Saturday’s comeback win.

It was his third such game this season, and was spectacular in the fact that all four hits were off left-handed pitching. Going into Saturday, the Twins had only three games all season in which left-handed batters collected a combined three hits against lefty pitchers.

Then Rosario proceeded to beat that mark with four by himself.

UP: Brandon Kintzler and late-inning drama. In four appearances this past week, Kintzler picked up three consecutive saves in his final three appearances, giving him a team-leading eight on the year.

While not allowing a run in 3 2/3 innings over his four games, Kintzler was anything but spectacular.

His 1.91 WHIP paints a picture of how lucky he was to squirm his way in and then out of trouble. On Tuesday, in relief of Milone, Kintzler entered the game with one out, a runner on first, and a 6-2 lead.

He proceeded to give up back-to-back singles to load the bases, then struck out the final two batters to nail down the Minnesota Twins’ win.

There was more of the same in Friday’s relief appearance in Gibson’s gem. After manager Paul Molitor inexplicably pulled Gibson despite his dominating performance and only 96 pitches, Kintzler worked his magic once again against the Red Sox.

While Gibson only allowed two hits (both in first inning) to Boston in his eight innings, Kintzler allowed back-to-back hits to begin the bottom of the ninth, with the Twins clinging to a 2-1 lead.

He proceeded to walk Xander Bogaerts (probably a good thing, given he had 21 hits in the series) to bring up David Ortiz with the bases loaded…and still no outs.

A ground ball double play (home-to-first), and a line-out preserved another wild win. Finally on Saturday, Kintzler gave Twins fans a break by retiring the Red Sox in order for his third straight save.

DOWN: Terry Ryan. The Minnesota Twins began the week by firing long-time general manager Ryan on Monday morning.

A shock, not because of his recent track record, but by its timing. The Minnesota Twins loathe to fire management in-season, especially one as long-standing as Ryan.

Also, with the trade deadline looming July 31st, they bequeathed a huge responsibility to interim GM, Rob Antony, especially with Minnesota being expectant sellers – possibly in a big way.

STRANGE, BUT TRUE, FACT OF THE WEEK: First, Ian Kinsler led off Wednesday’s series finale with a home run off Ervin Santana.

Then, Mookie Betts led off Thursday’s tilt versus Tyler Duffey. Finally, Betts did it again, this time off Kyle Gibson on Friday. It was the first time in Minnesota Twins history that the opposing batter led off a game with a home run three consecutive games.

Next: Is Torii Hunter a Managerial Candidate?

More interesting was the fact that the Minnesota Twins went 2-1 in those three games, and two of those home runs provided the only runs for the Twins’ opponents.