After their worst losing streak since 2018, the Minnesota Twins used the return of several key players to bounce back in a big way.
After a dreadful Week 6 saw the Minnesota Twins go just 2-4, the team followed that up with losses on Sunday against the Tigers (to complete the sweep) and Monday against the White Sox. It looked like like this was going to be another bad week.
But something happened on Tuesday night: Byron Buxton and Michael Pineda returned. Pineda was dominant in his first start back, while Byron Buxton had a homer-saving grab and knocked in the go-ahead run with a clutch hit in the seventh inning.
Then, Josh Donaldson came back the next day, and the Twins won 8-1, scoring the most runs they’ve scored since August 12th. That these returns jump-started the team into a five-game win streak is not a coincidence. We get to that, the debut of Brent Rooker, and more, in this week’s Sunday Wrap-Up.
Episode 7-Return of the Twins: Big Returns, New Injuries, Debuts, and More
- The Twins wrapped up the seventh week of the season with a 5-2 week, taking a series win over the division-leading White Sox and securing a series win over the in-the-hunt Tigers. Everything that went wrong in Week 6 went right in Week 7:
- Randy Dobnak, who had his first bad start of the season last week, responded with five shutout innings against the same Detroit team that got to him in that bad start. Outside of Rich Hill‘s bad start Monday, the Rotation was really good this week.
- The offense only managed a paltry 3.86 runs per game this week, but that number is still over a run better than last week’s 2.83 runs. Plus, at least they were clutch, finding ways to get hits when it mattered.
- The bullpen also had a really good week. It really helps when the starting rotation gets past the fifth inning in almost every start. The bullpen pitched 26.2 innings (less than four innings per game) and gave up only 5 runs. That’s good for a 1.69 ERA, MUCH better than last week.
- Even though the offense still doesn’t look great, it’s clear how much better they are, as well as why they are that much better. The returns of Donaldson and Buxton, coupled with the call-up of Brent Rooker have been huge for the offense. Here’s how each has faired this week:
- Byron Buxton is 4-12 since his return, hitting .333 with a pair of RBI that both were game-winning runs. In addition, he’s only struck out twice and raised his batting average 17 points. That’s really good, and that doesn’t even get into his game-changing defense
- Josh Donaldson is 3-9 (.333) with a homer and three RBI in his return. He’s also drawn three walks, and has brought his batting average up 44 points. That’s a real good start, and to add onto that, his defense has been almost as good as Buxton’s.
- Brent Rooker, the rookie of this group, has gone 2-6 (.333) with a HBP and an RBI. Offensively, he’s looked great. Defense has been an issue, as he already owns a -0.2 dWAR, but the team really needed an offensive spark, and he’s definitely provided that.
- On top of the contributions from those three, Miguel Sano has continued to be one of the best parts about this offense, getting key swings and providing a good chunk of the team’s offense in last night’s win. Over the last month, he has raised his batting average 113 points, and has been essential to the Twins remaining competitive.
- Now for the bad news (because the Twins can never just have a good week). The Injury Bug is still hurting the Twins, with Max Kepler and Alex Avila hitting the IL and Luis Arraez missing time, they just can’t get healthy.
- The loss of Avila hurts most, even though both Kepler and Avila had been struggling, because it leaves Ryan Jeffers and Willians Astudillo as the catching tandem. Jeffers has been good, but that’s a lot of inexperience behind the plate. The Twins are hoping that doesn’t last too long.
- The Twins also lost Ildemaro Vargas, as he was claimed off of waivers by the Chicago Cubs. Vargas was acquired for cash considerations in early August, but he hit just .227 with the Twins. He was designated for assignment for the Twins to activate Donaldson, so the move wasn’t unexpected.
- Lastly, Bert Blyleven called his final game for the Twins on Wednesday, and we put together a three-part tribute to one of the most important faces in Twins history. It’s pretty hard to say enough just how valuable Bert has been to the Twins.
Around the AL Central: Taking a Look at the Minnesota Twins Rivals
- Chicago White Sox (25-15): Despite dropping a series to the Twins this week, the two games they lost to the Twins were the only ones they dropped this week. The White Sox have a tough schedule the rest of the way. Their offense is seventh in runs per game this year, so they’ll need that strong production to keep up if they want to win the division.
- Cleveland Indians (24-15): A 3-3 week saw Cleveland drop into second place in the division, and it’s easy to find the culprit. The offense, led by dark horse MVP candidate Franmil Reyes, is really streaky, putting up either a lot of runs or almost none at all. Their pitching has to keep winning them games or they could find themselves out of the division race.
- Detroit Tigers (17-20): A rough 2-4 week has put the Tigers three games back of the Blue Jays for that eighth playoff spot. I still can’t figure out how they’re still sticking around, but Victor Reyes, Jeimer Candelario, and former Twin Jonathan Schoop are keeping this offense together.
- Kansas City Royals (14-26): Now with the fourth worst record in the league, the Royals are in full dumpster fire mode. Outside of Salvador Perez, Brad Keller, and a couple relievers, this team looks well positioned to finish out 2020 in last place.
Around the MLB: Important Minnesota Twins-related news around the league
- The Trade Deadline has come and gone, and much like the Minnesota Twins, most of the top contenders in baseball elected to stay out of the festivities. Most of the top players available headed to the National League, so the Twins’ path to the playoffs doesn’t appear any tougher.
- Playoff Picture: A new addition to the Wrap-Up with two-thirds of the season gone, we’re going to take a look at the playoff picture every week and check out the movement. Here’s what we’re looking at:
- American League: For the American League, the Tampa Bay Rays, Oakland Athletics, and Chicago White Sox lead their divisions, so they would be seeds 1, 2, and 3 respectively. Both the Rays and A’s seem likely to hold their spots atop their divisions, while the White Sox are just a half-game up.
- The second place teams get the next spots, so Cleveland would be 4, the Houston Astros would be 5, and the Yankees 6. This leaves the top two remaining teams, the Minnesota Twins and Toronto Blue Jays at 7 and 8. Though all of these teams are likely to make the playoffs, this seeding will very likely look completely different.
- There are only three teams still in the hunt at this point: the Baltimore Orioles (3 GB), the Detroit Tigers (3 GB), and the Seattle Mariners (4 GB). By next week, all three could be out of contention.
- National League: The Dodgers, Braves, and Cubs are the top three seeds (in that order), and though there are some good teams on their heels, I would be surprised if they didn’t hold on to these exact spots.
- For 4-6, it’s the Padres, Phillies and Cardinals. I think all three teams hold these spots as well, as no other team is above .500 after them. The Marlins or Brewers may make this one close in their respective divisions, but it would take a big push.
- The 7 and 8 spots currently belong to the Marlins and Rockies, but I wouldn’t pencil in either team just yet. The Brewers, Giants, Reds, and Mets are all within two games of that eighth spot, and I wouldn’t count anyone out yet. Maybe even the Nats put together a winning streak. This one will clear up a little more in the coming weeks.