Minnesota Twins Suffer Down Week,Looking up at Rest of AL

Aug 13, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Twins third baseman Jorge Polanco (11) fields a ground ball in the seventh inning against the Kansas City Royals at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 13, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Twins third baseman Jorge Polanco (11) fields a ground ball in the seventh inning against the Kansas City Royals at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports /

Minnesota Twins Trending Down as Defense, Pitching Falter

The Minnesota Twins came into this past week on a high, climbing out of the American League cellar, and setting their sights on possibly moving up in the division.

But a 2-5 week, including losses to rival Kansas City, have the Twins looking to regroup once again.

After splitting the first two games against the Astros, the Twins sent Ervin Santana to the mound Wednesday.

As their hottest pitcher, Minnesota felt they could earn at the very least a split of their four-game series.

As the skies darkened, the Minnesota Twins went up 5-0 on reigning AL Cy Young-winner, Dallas Keuchel. Brian Dozier led off the game with a home run, and the Twins scored four more runs in the second inning,

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As Santana took the mound in the top of the third inning, white umbrellas made to resemble baseballs started popping up all over Target Field.

Ironically enough, the Twins gave away 10,000 promotional umbrellas – and soon they could be seen in use.

As the umpires scurried the two teams to their respective dugouts, the radar displayed a storm big enough to last all night.

Major League Baseball waited it out for two and a half hours before calling the game, thereby washing out Dozier’s homer, and the four-run second inning.

Faced with a double-header on Thursday, the Minnesota Twins pressed Tommy Milone into an emergency start in Game 2.

Game 1 was given to Jose Berrios, which turned into a laugher early on.

The Twins offense, led by Kennys Vargas slugging home runs from each side of the plate, scored seven runs, yet the Twins still fell by eight.

Two different pitchers allowed six runs (Berrios, Buddy Boshers) and two separate Astros’ hitters had four hits apiece (Jose Altuve and Marwin Gonzalez).

All said, the Minnesota Twins had to burn five relievers (in seven innings) in the first of two games Thursday.

The rainout set up a horrendous five games in four days stretch for the Twins.

May we never see another “Twins Umbrella Night” ever.

DOWN: Starting pitching.  After Berrios’ throwaway start, Milone lasted only three innings a few hours later.

Andrew Albers was recalled from AAA Rochester to help out with the double-header, and ended up throwing six innings in relief.

George Springer finished off the two games 5-for-9 with the doubles, one home run and six RBI’s. The Minnesota Twins allowed four unearned runs in the two games, courtesy of four errors by four different players.

Gonzalez ended the double-header 6-for-11, and Altuve 5-for-9 with three runs scored and three more RBI.

Kyle Gibson picked up Friday where the others left off:  five innings, six runs, two walks and 96 pitches.

After the relievers were given a brief respite with Tyler Duffey throwing seven innings in Saturday’s win, Hector Santiago went out Sunday and laid his third egg in as many starts for the Twins.

What seemed like a “win” at the trading deadline, swapping Santiago for Ricky Nolasco, has proven anything but.

After allowing four and five runs in his first two starts as a Twin, he dropped a seven spot in four innings Sunday.

DOWN: Fielding. While the Minnesota Twins were winning, their defense was the lone weakness that shone through every game.

Between Miguel Sano‘s misadventures at third base, to Kurt Suzuki‘s inability to throw out base-runners, and Eduardo Escobar‘s struggles at shortstop; the Minnesota Twins were winning with a high-scoring offense and so-so pitching.

With the team in a slight hitting slump, every extra out becomes magnified. Sano has been sidelined with a sore right elbow (the same one he had Tommy John surgery on in 2014), so Jorge Polanco was looked at to provide some solid defense at the hot corner.

Four more errors at third base over the Royals series (three by Polanco, one by Trevor Plouffe), led to long innings for starters and relievers alike.

In Sunday’s finale, Eddie Rosario‘s misplay on a fly ball with two outs led to a six-run fourth inning.

In the seven games played last week, the Twins committed 12 errors – their only error-free game was Monday’s win. Minnesota ranks 29th in fielding percentage (.979) and number of errors committed (91 in 118 games). Only the Brewers are worse in each category.

UP: Brian Dozier. Even with his lead-off homer erased on Wednesday, Dozier continued to light it up this past week, hitting four long balls – including one each in every game against the Royals.

It was the third time this season that Dozier has hit home runs in at least three consecutive games. He  accomplished that feat only once before in his career. Saturday’s homer was his 100th.

Mired in a two month slump coming into June (.202 AVG / .329 OPS / 5 HR / 17 RBI), Dozier has been arguably the hottest hitter since.

His slash (.308 AVG / .662 OPS / 21 HR / 53 RBI) recalls why he was an All-Star last year, and how he can lead the Twins to wins – even from the lead-off spot.

He’s now tied with Robinson Cano in home runs (26), despite Cano hitting 15 in April/May. He’s fourth in RBI, and eighth in runs scored.

Jose Altuve is the AL’s best overall second baseman (his .362 average is nearly 50 points higher than Mookie Betts). Brian Dozier is at least in the conversation concerning the league’s Top five second basemen.

Since the All-Star break, Dozier leads MLB in home runs (12), slugging (.732), and second in RBI (27) – despite inheriting the lead-off spot from Eduardo Nunez after his trade to San Francisco.

UP?: Tyler Duffey. Hard to know what to make of his season, or how much the Minnesota Twins can count on him for a future rotation spot. After a promising second half to the 2015 season, Duffey didn’t make the final 25 out of Spring Training.

Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports /

He’s pitched well (two three-start winning streaks), and horribly (two streaks where Twins lost three straight starts).

Duffey also endured a stretch in June where he was fighting to stay with the big club.

After a 14-10 Twins win over the Phillies in which Duffey only lasted three innings, there were rumblings that he was pitching for his job the next time out.

He responded by allowing just one run over eight innings in a win over the Yankees.

Since that Philadelphia game, Duffey has gone 6-2, with the Minnesota Twins winning seven of his nine starts.

But he’s only lowered his ERA from 6.18 to its current 5.71. In five of his nine starts, Duffey has allowed at least four earned runs, yet he leads the team in wins.

NOTES: Ryan Pressly is second in the majors with four wins (4-0) since the All-Star break. He is tied with his teammate, Hector Santiago (4-3) in that regard.

Pressly is tied with the Yankees’ Dellin Betances for most appearances in the American League (57).

Since the break, his ERA is only 1.88, and Pressly collected his first career save at the end of July against the White Sox.

He and Michael Tonkin are the only two relievers who have been with the team on the active list since they broke camp at Fort Myers.

After a 0.64 K/IP ratio his first three seasons, Pressly has dialed up the velocity and strikeouts this year, averaging 0.90 K/IP.

Next: Twins Revert to Form, Drop Series to Royals

STRANGE, BUT TRUE, STAT OF THE WEEK: Robbie Grossman, Eddie Rosario, and Brian Dozier all homered off K.C.’s Dillon Gee.

Gee allowed three home runs to the Minnesota Twins also on May 25th, as Nunez, Dozier, and Sano went deep off him that day. What’s strange about that? The last time any pitcher gave up three home runs to the Twins twice in the same season was in 1969 when Catfish Hunter did it.