Minnesota Twins Fall in Finale, But Power Way to Series Win

Aug 2, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Minnesota Twins right fielder Max Kepler (26) and first baseman Joe Mauer (7) celebrate after scoring during the fourth inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 2, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Minnesota Twins right fielder Max Kepler (26) and first baseman Joe Mauer (7) celebrate after scoring during the fourth inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /

Minnesota Twins Continue Winning Ways; Take Three From Cleveland

Who are these guys? The team that had the second best record in Spring Training?

The team that started off 0-9, and at one point were 28 games under .500 in the middle of June?

Or the team that had a winning record in July, and have won 18 of their last 30?

Probably closer to the team that has gone 32-31 in their last 63 games, a team that might even claw their way out of the cellar of the AL Central and make a play for .500.

After seeing them out-score the division-leading Indians 35-16 in the first three games of this series, it’s obvious they have the offense to compete night in, night out.

While they have the offense, the Minnesota Twins continue to fail in the details that can cost a team numerous games over the course of a season.

Base-running and defense are two huge bugaboos, and Thursday’s finale showcased the Twins’ flaws, and the inability of their relievers (outside of Trevor May) to miss bats.

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But enough of the criticism, and let’s start by doling out the huzzahs from the historic first three games.

By scoring in double digits in all three games, it became the fourth time the Minnesota Twins have scored 10+ runs three consecutive games. And the first time all three happened in the same series.

Twins batters fell behind 0-2 28 times in the first three games, and ended up 14-for-28 at the end of those at-bats – a truly amazing stat.

In the third game against Trevor Bauer, they had three hits in the third inning on an 0-2 count, something Bauer had only allowed twice all year.

The Minnesota Twins really dominated early on, usually delivering the knock-out punch by the third inning.

Minnesota out-scored Cleveland 14-0 in the third inning of the first three games alone. No surprise that the Indians turned the tables in game four by winning the third inning, 3-0.

The Twins had their top two highest total of extra base hits in games one and two (10 and nine, respectively), and their total of 26 extra base hits after three games was a record against Cleveland in a four game series.

They ended with 28 extra base hits after collecting two more Thursday.

OFFENSE . A. 55 hits, 20 walks, 26 strikeouts, 10 home runs and 17-for-48 with runners in scoring position. In addition to <a href=. . Joe Mauer

Mauer had a season-defining series. He was an amazing (12-for-18, three BB, seven XBH, six RBI’s, eight runs) at the plate.

He was also involved in four rundowns on the bases, including three increasingly worse gaffes on Thursday afternoon.

He ran to second on Kepler’s liner, and retreated without seeing the left fielder not catch it. With one out and runners on the corners in the third, he was thrown out at first on what should have been a sacrifice fly.

Then, in the fifth, after a Dozier home run pulled the Twins to within 4-2, Mauer singled and then slowly jogged to second as Kepler’s line single was misplayed in the right field corner.

Kepler ended up on second base, with Mauer still there.

Again, we here at Puckett’s Pond will try to focus on the positive from the first three Mauer games…but, still.

Kepler was no slouch himself, becoming the fifth Twin in history to clout three home runs in a game on Monday night, and then homering again in his second at-bat Tuesday.

Kepler’s line for the series (8-for-16, four walks, four homers, 10 RBI, eight runs) helped vault him up into the conversation for the American League’s Rookie of the Year.

STARTERS . B-. Team totals: 28 hits allowed, 3 walks, 6 home runs and 17 strikeouts. <a href=. . Jose Berrios

The starters were merely an afterthought to the incredible offensive display each of the first three nights. While Berrios was able to make corrections after his first inning, Kyle Gibson and Tyler Duffey struggled with big leads.

Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /

Duffey was picked away at for five runs over six innings, while Gibson cruised until allowing six runs in the fifth inning of his game.

Duffey survived long enough to pick up the win, while Gibson was chased before he could qualify.

After scoring all those runs in the first three games, newly acquired Hector Santiago must have felt slighted after the Minnesota Twins could only muster two runs against rookie pitcher Mike Clevinger.

Though the Twins did have plenty of base-runners in Clevinger’s 4 1/3 innings, with seven hits and four walks.

The knock against Santiago was control issues and his penchant for giving up the long ball. Both were on display Thursday.

He needed 99 pitches to get through five innings, and surrendered all four runs on two home runs, including a three run blast by Carlos Santana that left the park.

B. Team totals: 11 hits allowed, 7 walks, 3 home runs and 14 strikeouts. <a href=. . Trevor May. RELIEVERS

B+. The Minnesota Twins made no errors the first three games with Polanco supplanting <a href=. . . DEFENSE

Next: It's Decision Time With Duffey

MVT: Max Kepler – As hot as Mauer was, he cost Kepler a hit and an RBI with his base-running.

The Minnesota Twins (43-65) will continue their road trip with three games against Tampa Bay 44-63). Ervin Santana (4-9) will be on the mound for Minnesota, opposite Blake Snell (3-4).

Tampa split four games against the Royals, and sit 1.5 games ahead of the Minnesota Twins in the AL standings. First pitch is 6:10 CDT and the game will be televised on Fox Sports North.