Minnesota Twins 3 Up, 3 Down: Nelson Cruz continues to stay hot at the plate
By Chris Schad
The Minnesota Twins own an 8-2 record since dropping two of three games to the New York Yankees with a lot of the credit going to their designated hitter.
As the season has rolled along for the Minnesota Twins, their fan base has gotten a little bit edgy. Part of that was due to their 11 1/2 game lead in the American League Central shrinking down to two games entering Monday’s action. Another factor was the Twins’ unwillingness to make a major move as the trade deadline came and went.
Even as Twins Territory griped about what the Twins could have or should have done, they’re beginning to find their groove as they enter the dog days of summer. The Twins are starting to put up runs again and even though they have their issues in the starting rotation and bullpen, they’re still on pace to win over 100 games for the second time in franchise history and the first time since 1965.
Just as Twins fans want to burn down Target Field the next time Martin Perez throws a hanger that gets belted into the third deck, this is still a very good baseball team. Yes, the Twins did have an opportunity to separate themselves as the Cleveland Indians and Houston Astros made moves to make themselves better, but the Twins have enough firepower to make a run regardless, which should make for an exciting final two months of the season.
Cruz came into the week as the reigning American League player of the week, but his odds of repeating for that award were slim after having to sit on the bench during an interleague series with the Miami Marlins. It appears that having to sit out made the slugger angry and he took it out on the Royals by having his second career three-homer game just nine days after his first one. In his last 10 games, Cruz has hit an absurd .485 with 9 HR and 20 RBI, which brings his season totals to .292, 30 HR and 72 RBI.
We all knew Cruz was a tremendous hitter when the Twins signed him last winter, but the 39-year old’s level of production (and a club option for 2020) is looking pretty nice in the middle of Minnesota’s potent lineup.
For most of the year, Jose Berrios’ stat lines have looked pretty solid and you can’t say that a 10-5 record with a 2.80 ERA aren’t ace-like numbers. But few of his starts this season have seemed to be dominant from start to finish like his last start against the Miami Marlins on July 31.
In that game, Berrios allowed just two hits over seven innings while striking out 11 batters, which is the type of performance the Twins will need if they want to capture the AL Central and make a deep October run. With no major pitching move, the pressure will be on the 25-year old to lead this staff.
While some Twins fans were leery of signing Cruz last winter, there was another part of the contingent that was wondering what the Twins were doing by signing Kepler to an extension. In 2019, he has answered those questions by arguably becoming the Twins’ biggest breakout player.
Last week, Kepler hit the 30 home run mark for the first time and if he keeps hitting like this, 40 bombs are not out of the question. With Byron Buxton sidelined for the foreseeable future, the Twins are going to need Kepler to keep producing to make their postseason push.
At this point, you have to feel bad for Buxton. In the midst of his breakout season, Buxton made his third trip to the injury list after suffering a left shoulder subluxation and it sounds like this isn’t going to be a quick fix as the Twins won’t even evaluate him for a couple of weeks.
This raises the question about Buxton’s playing style, but the biggest concern is when he’ll be back in the lineup. This team needs a healthy Buxton come October and hopefully, this won’t be an injury that costs him the rest of the season.
Twins fans were getting ready to riot when the MLB trade deadline came and went with no word of a move, but they were greeted with the news that Dyson was heading to Minnesota for three minor league prospects. After a couple of appearances, however, Twins are wondering if Derek Falvey and Thad Levine kept their receipt on this investment.
Dyson was brutal in his first two appearances for the Twins, which was part Rocco Baldelli throwing him in right off the plane and right biceps tendinitis that landed him on the disabled list on Sunday. Twins fans have to hope that was the reason for allowing six runs in 2/3 of an inning last week and if he’s able to return to the form he had in San Francisco, he can still be a valuable piece for the bullpen.
Derek Falvey & Thad Levine
This was a tough week for the front office. No matter what they did at the trade deadline, it wasn’t going to be good enough for some Twins fans. Alas, they didn’t make the big splash and although Sergio Romo has been good so far for the Twins bullpen, many are still left wondering why they didn’t make an extra call or two to get a deal done.
With the added news of Dyson’s injury, there are a lot of questions on how the duo approached their first deadline as buyers. We’ll find out in the next couple of months (and with Royce Lewis and Alex Kirilloff, the next couple years) whether Falvey and Levine made the right choices to not go all-in at the trade deadline.