The Minnesota Twins faced off against Kansas City for four games over the weekend and successfully bounced back from their last fight with the Royals.
With the Minnesota Twins wrapping up another four game series (and a series win) against a divisional opponent, it’s time to take a look at a series that was much tougher than it should have been.
The Royals played the Twins very tough through the four games, holding the Minnesota Twins to just 14 runs over four games, but the Minnesota Twins excellent defense and sound pitching helped the Twins take the series three games to one.
As we did with the last four game series with Cleveland, we’ll take a look at the winners and losers from both the Twins and the Royals as we break down a momentum building series for Minnesota. Let’s get into it.
Minnesota Twins Winner No. 1: Nelson Cruz
Minnesota has an MVP contender in designated hitter Nelson Cruz and he proved it by pounding the ball against the Royals. Cruz went 6-12 with a double, four homers, five RBIs, and two walks. That’s a pretty great four games.
He was the driving force behind the team’s wins on Saturday and Monday, and generated nearly half of the team’s runs over the course of the weekend. Cruz is single-handedly propping the offense up while everyone else get’s going, and we should be very grateful for it.
Minnesota Twins Loser No. 1: The Rest of the Minnesota Twins Offense
So, when is the rest of the offense going to show up? The Twins have scored more than four runs just once in the past eight games, and have scored more than five runs in two of the past twelve games. We’re nearly half-way through the season, so this is becoming a bigger concern.
Without counting Cruz’s numbers, the Twins earned only 19 hits and generated just nine runs over FOUR games against a bad team. Only three hitters are batting over .250, and the team is tied for fifth in homers after setting the MLB record last year. It’s starting to look less like beginning of the year issues and more like a real problem.
Kansas City Royals Winner No. 1: Whit Merrifield
Whit Merrifield is the Royals’ best player, and he made sure the Twins’ knew it over the course of the series. Merrifield went 5-15, with a homer and four RBIs. That may not seem like much when you consider what Nelson Cruz did, but when you remember that the Royals only mustered nine runs in the series, Merrifield’s numbers look even better.
The one-time All-Star was also killer in clutch situations, as three of his RBI came with two outs and two runners on against Jose Berrios in the second game of the doubleheader. He would bat in all four of the Royals’ runs from that game, and was one of two reasons the Royals avoid a series sweep (spoiler: you’ll find out the other reason later).
Kansas City Royals Loser No. 1: The Rest of the Kansas City Lineup
Just like the Twins, the rest of the Royals lineup was awful if you exclude Whit Merrifield. The team managed just 20 hits overall and generated just five runs. And here I was thinking the Twins offense was bad.
On top of that, the Royals struck out 34 times and walked just 11 times, really improving the numbers for the Twins pitching staff. This was a really bad showing for an offense that actually has more hits and a better batting average than the Twins do.
Minnesota Twins Winner No. 2: The Best Twins Bullpen ever
As easy as it is to fault the Royals offense, the Twins bullpen was a buzzsaw over the last four games. The Royals managed just one run off of the Twins bullpen over 18.2 innings, and that run didn’t occur until the final inning of the series (Zack Littell gave up a homer to ruin the bullpen game shutout).
On top of that, the Twins bullpen allowed just fourteen hits and three walks while striking out 20 batters. The team also earned themselves six holds over the course of those games, as they continue to prove themselves as one of the top groups in the league.
Rocco Baldelli has had to lean hard on his bullpen this year with injuries to Jake Odorizzi, Rich Hill, and Homer Bailey on top of Michael Pineda‘s suspension, but they have come through time and time again. I’ve done a lot of research on the Twins’ history and their greatest teams, and I can say for sure, that this is the Twins’ best bullpen of all time. This group can carry us deep into the playoffs.
Minnesota Twins Loser No. 2: Jose Berrios
I really feel bad putting Berrios here, as he did rack up 7 strikeouts over just four innings on Saturday, but he also gave up four runs and added a third loss to his total. Berrios has started the most games in the league (5), but his three losses also lead the league. Something’s just not right with the Twins’ most talented pitcher.
His 5.92 ERA is the second worst number of his career, and while his 5.01 FIP suggests he’s been unlucky, that’s still not a good number. On top of that, his 24 K-13 BB ratio suggests he’s walking way more batters than usual and his improved velocity isn’t leading to more strikeouts.
The two-time All-Star has gone through bad stretches before, and I’m sure that Wes Johnson will get him out of this funk, but for now the struggles continue. Berrios has to stop nibbling at the edges of the plate and instead go after hitters like he normally does, or else we may see more of the same.
Kansas City Royals Winner No. 2: Danny Duffy
Danny Duffy has not put together an ace level season since 2016 and has not had an ERA under 4.00 since 2017, but he looked every part the ace in the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader against the Twins.
Duffy went five innings (of a seven inning game), allowed just two hits, one walk, and one earned run while striking out eight. He looked razor sharp against a team he usually struggles against, and he passed the ball of to his relievers with a 4-2 lead that they held down for the win.
Kansas City Royals Loser No. 2: The New and Improved KC Bullpen
The Royals’ new look bullpen has been very, very good this season, but against the Twins, they didn’t seem to have that same magic. While Josh Staumont and Trevor Rosenthal shut down the Twins in game two of the doubleheader, the Royals bullpen gave up seven runs over the other three games.
Scott Barlow also threw two scoreless innings, but outside of that, the bullpen was beaten to a pulp by the Twins offense, as fifteen of the Twins 25 hits came against the KC bullpen. While the unit is improving quickly for the Royals, it’s still not there yet.
Bonus Minnesota Twins Winner No. 3: Eddie Rosario’s Defense
As part of the Minnesota Twins’ new emphasis on defense, the team as a whole has gotten so much better on that side of the ball. One notable improvement has been Eddie Rosario, who flashed both his arm and his glove against the Royals.
Here’s him throwing a laser to get the speedy Merrifield at second:
And here’s him making a web gem grab for a double play:
Rosario’s defense has been notably better this season, as he is grading out as an above average defender in 2020. The team itself has been MUCH improved in 2020, but with how bad Rosario’s defense has been in previous years, he deserved some love.