Saturday, June 29 — If you had told fans of the Minnesota Twins back in March that their team would reach the halfway point in the season (81 games) with a 52-29 record, a 26-14 record on the road, and an 8-game lead in the division standings, you might have been laughed out of the room. But that's where they stand this morning after a 6-4 loss to the White Sox yesterday. Obscured by those facts is that the team is 5-7 in is last 12 games, including a 2-3 record against Kansas City (28-54). The bats have slowed down and so has the pitching, Michael Pineda (today's starter) not having won a game for 39 days. As more proof of the slowdown I offer the fact that ace Jose Berrios (8-4) had five starts in June, pitched 35 innings (average of 7 a game), had a 2.06 ERA but only a 1-2 record. Included in those starts was an 8-inning game against the formidable Red Sox lineup in which he gave up only one run. He hasn't won since June 6. One other thought today as the Twins hope to regroup against the White Sox: Manager Rocco Baldelli has rested players all year, even keeping a player (Max Kepler) out the lineup who had hit three homers the game before. Despite all the rest, the team played this week with Eddie Rosario, Marwin Gonzalez, Byron Buxton, Willians Astudillo and Ehire Adrianza all out and on the injured list. Figure that out.
Sunday, June 30 — The Twins' 10-3 win in Chicago yesterday took us back, at least for a day, to the month of May when the Twins were getting quality pitching from their starters and the bats were booming. Pineda got his first win in more than six weeks, pitching six quality innings, and there were five homers, something we haven't seen for awhile.
Monday, July 1 — Rocco Baldelli is the manager and I'm just a longtime fan. Still, I can't understand yesterday's lineup in the 4-3 loss to Chicago. Miguel Sano, struggling mightily, hit two homers Friday and one Saturday. And he wasn't in Sunday's lineup. Yes, the White Sox had a good righty going but Sano had just hit three homers in two games. And Max Kepler, a left-handed hitter who hit two homers the day before, was held out against the right-hander. Yes, he tweaked his leg on Saturday but the manager said he could have played Sunday. They were both held out because of a preplanned lineup that was set a few days before. That's ridiculous. The boys could have rested today (Monday) and had more than 50 hours off before playing tomorrow in Oakland. They're both in their 20s — I think they could take playing on Sunday, don't you? Sano did drive in a run as a pinch-hitter but he should have been in the lineup for the whole game. The loss gives the Twins a 6-8 record in their last 14 games. My, how the game has changed. When rookie Lewis Thorpe pitched Sunday he was the team's 24th pitcher to see action this year, and the eighth starter. FACT: C.J. Kron and Mitch Garver were huge parts of the team's offense much of the year. In his last 8 games Cron is hitting .143 and has driven in 2 runs, while Garver is hitting .161 in his last eight but has played in only 8 of the last 16 games.
Tuesday, July 2 — With a day off yesterday, I took a look at the stats after last Friday's game, which was exactly at the halfway point of the season.. A third of the way (54 games) the Twins had the best record in baseball at 37-17 and that would translate to 111 wins at that pace. That pace had dropped back to 104 (52-29) by last Friday, still a good one. Some of the individuals have slowed down also. (The new figures will be in bold.) At that 54-game mark Jake Odorizzi, Martin Perez and Jose Berrios were all headed for 21-win seasons, Kyle Gibson for 15. After last Friday the pace had slowed a bit with Odorizzi at 20, Perez at 14, Berrios at 16 and Gibson, at 16, the only one who had improved. At the 54-game mark Rosario was headed for 51 homers and 141 RBIs — last Friday it had gone to 40 homers and 120 RBIs and now he's on the injured list. Max Kepler was at 36 homers and 105 RBIs, on Friday it was 38 homers and 102 RBIs. Jorge Polanco was at 27 homers and 78 RBIs, now it is 22 homers and 78 RBIs. Mitch Garver was at 27 homers and 57 RBIs with a homer every 9 at-bats, now it's 24 homers and 64 RBIs with a homer every 11.4 at-bats. Jonathon Schoop was at 30 homers and 87 RBIs, now he's at 28 homers and 68 RBIs. Nelson Cruz, who had missed 16 games for various reasons, was at 21 homers and 66 RBIs, but has gone up to 28 homers and 78 RBIs. C. J.Cron was at 39 homers and 105 RBIs and is at 34 homers and 104 RBIs now. Buxton was at 5 homers and 24 RBIs, and has gone up to 18 homers and 76 RBIs, although he's also missed a bunch of games recently. Even though many have fallen back, most of those totals would still be good ones. Injuries, however have already changed things.
Wednesday, July 3 — I have one opinion and a bunch of facts (you can decide your own take on them) after the 8-6 loss in Oakland last night. OPINION: It's even more clear now that Sano should have been in the lineup in Sunday's loss to Chicago. He hit two homers Friday and one on Saturday, then had a pinch-hit RBI single Sunday. Then he homered in his first at-bat last night and singled later. Why wasn't he in the lineup Sunday? He might have made the difference in a one-run loss. FACT: The Twin are 6-9 in their last 15 games, 1-4 in the last 5. FACT: Three Twins castoffs were important in the Oakland win. Chris Herrmann hit a grand-slam homer that drove Odorizzi from the game, Robbie Grossman had two hits, scored a run, drove in a run and walked twice, and Liam Hendriks got the save with two strikeouts, throwing a fastball near 100 mph. FACT: Odorizzi, 10-2 with an ERA of 2.24 until his last four starts, is 0-2 in those four games with an ERA of 7.86 and is now on the injured list. FACT. Adalberto Mejia, coming off the injured list and pitching well in relief, was the team's 25th pitcher to see action this season. FACT: After last Saturday's 10-3 five-homer blowout of the White Sox, the Twins were 53-29 with a 9-game lead. IF the Twins were to go 40-40 the rest of the way, Cleveland — 9 games back then — would have to go 49-31 (.613) to tie for the division lead. Now it's a 7-game lead today with 78 games remaining.
Thursday, July 4 — Another great performance by Twins' relievers (six shutout innings) led to a 4-3 win In Oakland last night, this one in 12 innings. That performance by the relief corps came on the heels of 1 run in the last 10 innings of the 17-inning win over the Red Sox, and 0 runs for 10 innings in the 18-inning 5-2 loss to the Rays last week. For much of the game on Wednesday the team looked suspiciously like the 2018 Twins: Buxton missing the ball on a squeeze bunt attempt, stabbing at the ball like an inexperienced bunter; Kepler failing to tag at third on a liner to the outfield; Polanco failing to get a runner home from third with one out; and many strikeouts by the Twins on pitches well out of the strike zone. But, all's well that ends well. Garver drove in the winning run and also had an RBI single earlier as the Twins rallied from a 3-0 deficit. It was a nice win that kept Minnesota with bragging rights for being the only MLB team without a three-game losing streak this season.
Friday, July 5 — Manager Baldelli and the players are saying all the right things during the team's recent slump (7-10 in the last 17 games after a 7-2 loss in Oakland yesterday), telling us that one bad inning, one bad game or a bad stretch (second half of June) won't keep the team from approaching the next game with a positive outlook. One wonders if it's that easy. On June 15 the record was 47-22 and the Twins led Cleveland by 11 games. That lead is down to 6 and there are still 76 games remaining. Cleveland is 14-5 in its last 19 games. Ace pitcher Berios got the loss yesterday and has still won only one game since June 6, and the team had its first losing road trip of the season. It seems in Berrios' last few starts that he gets ahead of hitters but can't put them away. He's had only 8 strikeouts in his last 19 innings after averaging a strikeout an inning in the previous 98 innings. Then again, baseball is an up and down game, both for the best teams and the best players. The Twins hit only .160 in the Oakland series with runners in scoring position, while ex-Twins Grossman (7 for 10, 3 walks) and Herrmann, with a lifetime batting average of .205 (a career best 4-hit game Sunday and a grand slam Friday) killed the Twins. That's part of the up and down that is baseball. The Twins have a tough July schedule, beginning next Friday at Cleveland for three games and including the Yankees later on. They need to right the ship and a good start would be taking three from Texas this weekend before the All-Star break.