Minnesota Twins: One Night Full of Ups and Downs
Minnesota Twins see Dozier slam 40th HR while Sano goes down with back injury
This week’s version of Minnesota Twins Trends can be consolidated into two events that happened in Monday’s 4-2 to the Detroit Tigers. One, Brian Dozier hit his 40th home run of the season, the first Twin to hit 40 since Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew.
Second, Miguel Sano was pulled from the game with a lower back injury, despite the fact he was due to bat third in the inning in a winnable, one-run game.
Twins informed the media that Sano had informed them he first started feeling discomfort in the lower right area of his back “a few days ago.” Despite the sore back, Sano made a stellar, bare-handed play on a slow roller to third base in the fourth inning off the bat of J.D. Martinez.
And therein lies the rub with Sano. A talented, versatile player, with a cannon for an arm.
But one who has already had one surgery on his throwing elbow, and has been sitting out as a precaution now and then because of it.
He lost valuable practice time in the ill-fated attempt to turn him into an outfielder this past Spring Training, and tenderness now keeps him from the Twins running him out there every day to run out the string on the 2016 season.
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His bat is needed in the lineup, but where will that be in 2017?
Splitting time with a just as injured Trevor Plouffe at third base and rotating his off days from the hot corner at DH and first base?
With Sano, there’s always just as many questions (defensive lapses, high strikeout totals, where to play him), as there are superlatives.
But, regardless, he’s a bonafide talent the Twins must build around – even if they aren’t sure where to start with him.
But back injuries, or any injuries to a baseball player’s core, must be treated with the utmost caution.
Especially one with a history of throwing arm injuries. You don’t want him over-compensating for a stiff back by overthrowing with the upper part of his body.
Best to shut him down for the final couple weeks, and send him to an Instructional League in the off-season, either here in the States, or in the Caribbean League, and let him play third base.
Monday’s other newsworthy item was a Twin finally breaking through the 40-homer threshold, and it took a history-making second baseman to do it.
Dozier hit a shot just over the left field wall in the third inning off of Detroit starter, Daniel Norris. It was his 25th since the All-Star Break, and his 33rd in his last 76 games.
Mind-boggling numbers, to be sure.
His streak of five straight games with at least one home run ended last week. It tied the record for consecutive games with a home run for second basemen.
Five others have hit in five straight games – Chase Utley (2008) was the last to do it – and he did it twice that year.
Killebrew last hit 40 or more home runs in 1970.
Since then, the Twins have had notable sluggers such as Kent Hrbek, Kirby Puckett, Gary Gaetti, Chili Davis, Justin Morneau, Jim Thome, and Josh Willingham.
No one would have figured Dozier to be the first to join the Killer in the 40-homer club.
In fact, he’s just the fourth player whose primary defensive position is second base to hit 40 or more home runs in an MLB season. He joins Rogers Hornsby, Davey Johnson, and Ryne Sandberg.
Sandberg was the last to accomplish the feat in 1990 with the Chicago Cubs in homer-friendly Wrigley Field.
Impressive as his home runs stats are becoming, it’s just as encouraging to see Dozier extend his hitting streak to 16 games, raising his batting average from June 1st’s .202 to its current .277 and his OBP to .348 – critical for a lead-off hitter.
Barring injury, he’s a lock for 100+ runs, 100+ RBI, 80+ extra base hits (with a shot at 90).
The Twins’ record for extra base hits in a season is 84, by Tony Oliva in 1964.
Dozier recently passed Zoilo Versalles for second place when he hit his 77th. His home run tonight gives him 78 (40 HR, 33 2B, 5 3B) with 18 games remaining.
NOTES: The Twins look to lose at least 100 games this season, but they are on pace to hit 201 home runs as a team. The last Twins squad with at least 200 homers was in 1964. 1963 was the only other year, and that year still stands as the high-water mark (225). Their 179 dingers already this year would rank sixth all-time in Minnesota team history.
STRANGE, BUT TRUE, STAT OF THE WEEK: When Joe Mauer hit his walk-off winner Saturday night, it marked the eighth such hit this year. It’s the most walk-off wins since 2007 when they won 79 games, 10 via a walk-off hit. Four of the eight hits this season have come against the division-leading Cleveland Indians.
Next: Twins Kick Away Chance to Win Series vs Tribe
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that matches the franchise record for most walk-off wins against one team in a single season, done several times, the last coning against the Oakland Athletics back in 1976.