Minnesota Twins Finally Snap Streak, But Week Full of Downs

Sep 4, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Twins center fielder Byron Buxton (25) hits a grand slam during the second inning against the Chicago White Sox at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 4, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Twins center fielder Byron Buxton (25) hits a grand slam during the second inning against the Chicago White Sox at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports /

While the Minnesota Twins are Trending Down, Buxton Gives Hope for Future

The biggest news coming into the week for the Minnesota Twins was the double-digit losing streak.

It reached its zenith at 13 games, before the Twins finally broke through Thursday against the Chicago White Sox.

After being swept by the Indians in Cleveland, the Twins recalled Byron Buxton for his third shot at the big leagues in 2016.

Luckily for them, they did.

He helped carry the Twins to a split against the White Sox to finish the week with a 2-5 record – now 51-86 on the year – on pace for over 100 losses.

Minnesota was competitive in five of the seven games this past week, getting out-pitched Monday 1-0 in a 10-inning loss to spoil Hector Santiago‘s best outing as a Twin.

They finished up on Sunday blowing a 9-5 lead after six innings.

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In between saw lots of good (Santiago’s start, Buxton’s power display) and a little more bad (fielding, strikeouts, blown saves). Here’s a look back at the past week.

UP: Hector Santiago. After coming over to the Twins riding a long winning streak, he hadn’t shown any promise to Minnesota – losing four straight starts while giving up 23 runs in four short starts. Monday, he finally showed the front office what he could do.

He threw 6 1/3 innings of scoreless ball, allowing only three hits. While his control was still an issue, as he walked four Cleveland hitters, he shut down the Indians to give Minnesota a chance to win with only a single run needed.

While the Twins couldn’t get it done for Santiago Monday, they gave him plenty of run support Saturday night, putting up 11 runs in the first three innings to allow Santiago to coast to his first win as a Twin.

His numbers were nearly as good as his previous start, save for the long ball. He allowed only four hits (two home runs) in six-plus innings, striking out six while walking three. If he continues to build on these starts, he should be penciled in as the number two or three starter.

DOWN: Kyle Gibson. Fresh off his first complete game of his career against Atlanta, Gibson seemed to have figured it out.

Instead, he’s followed that with three straight short starts, unable to go more than 5 2/3 innings.

The Twins hope to count on Gibson next year, but his inconsistencies are troubling. Pitching with no pain, even Gibson himself is at a loss for what is going wrong.

If not Gibson, who?

Tyler Duffey was sent down recently after a string of poor starts.

Jose Berrios hasn’t been able to translate his AAA success to even MLB mediocrity.

Pat Dean gave up 12 runs over two starts that totaled only 7 1/3 innings.

Andrew Albers hoped to be the feel-good story, but he too he been knocked around heavily in short starts.

Gibson will have less than a handful of starts to show management he can be counted on for next year.

UP, UP, UP: The play of Byron Buxton since his return is the rainbow to the 2016 season. Even though it’s only been for four games, he has seemed to show more in the past four games than he did over the past two years as he shuttled back and forth between Minneapolis and Rochester.

Hitting just .193 at the time of his call-up Thursday, Buxton put on a show for the fans who attended the four-game weekend series against Chicago. He capped off a five-run second inning with a three run homer in his first at-bat since his return.

He collected two more hits and scored two of Minnesota’s four runs in the blowout loss Friday night. On Saturday, he blasted his second homer and picked up two more extra base hits in the Twins’ 11-3 win.

One of his doubles was a hit slightly to the right of left fielder Melky Cabrera. Buxton’s speed turned a single for nearly anyone else into a double. He also made a stellar grab to rob Chicago of an extra-base hit with a sprint into the right-center gap that few could have made.

On Sunday, Buxton once again picked up three more hits – including his first career grand slam – in the 13-11 loss to Chicago. For the series, Buxton was 9-for-16 / 3 2B / 3 HR / 7 R / 9 RBI to raise his batting average up to .221, its highest since June 9th.

UP: Home runs. Brian Dozier proved once again he was the best power-hitting second baseman in baseball with home runs in each of the final three White Sox games, and five home runs in the seven Minnesota games last week.

That gives him 35 on the year, tying him with Josh Willingham and Bob Allison for the most home runs by a Twin not named Harmon Killebrew. He now has 22 home runs since the All-Star break.

The Twins, as a team, hit 11 home runs over the four-game series with the White Sox (and 14 for the week), with even the newly-recalled John Ryan Murphy getting into the action. Miguel Sano broke out of his month-long slump with a homer Saturday, followed by a three-hit game that included another homer on Sunday.

Minnesota now has 166 home runs for 2016, and a chance to reach 200 home runs as a team for the first time since 1964. The highest since was the 196 home runs in back-to-back years in 1986-87. For reference, the Twins hit 156 last year.

NOTES: With four home runs in Saturday and Sunday’s games, the Twins hit at least four in back-to-back for the first time since 2007, and only the third time in the last 50 years.

John Ryan Murphy had a big day yesterday, getting three hits. Or, just as many as he did in 40 at-bats before being sent down in early May. He hit his first home run as a Twin and drove in his first two runs on Sunday.

Today’s Labor Day game was originally not part of the Fox Sports North TV schedule, but was added. Look for the Twins on FSN starting at 1:10 PM this afternoon against the Kansas City Royals at Target Field.

Next: Twins Look to Snap Streak Versus Sox

STRANGE, BUT TRUE, STAT OF THE WEEK: This might qualify as more sad than strange. Max Kepler struck out five times in yesterday’s ballgame. Four times is known as a “golden sombrero”. Five times? “Olympic Rings”. How appropriate given that the Summer Games just ended in Rio.

He becomes the first Twins to strike out five times in a game in 40 years. Twins’ TV analyst Roy Smalley last did it in 1976 when he was a shortstop with the Twins.