My primary takeaway from the Puerto Rico series was simply to be stunned at the people of the island. Not only about their fandom, but their resiliency as they’ve been through hell and back over the past year.
Oh, and the baseball was really good, too. But seriously, you’d have had no idea that Puerto Rico was without power the way people showed out for that Thursday game. It was a wonderful environment that baseball should strive to emulate as much as possible moving forward.
Here’s what we saw from our vantage point:
The games highlighted the island’s top talents quite nicely
Francisco Lindor may have gone 1-for-11 over the two-game series, but the hit was a home run that showed what baseball should be — jubilation because hitting a round ball squarely with a round bat is difficult. He floated around the bases just like we all would if we hit a big-league home run in front of our friends and family, and showed the true, pure essence of everything we should want the game to be.
Jose Berrios was absolutely scintillating in the second game, and Eddie Rosario scored the game-winning run in a 16-inning marathon. The only thing that could have been better is if the Twins could have found a way to get Kennys Vargas down there, too.
The photography was breathtaking
It’s not exactly a well-guarded secret, but Brace Hemmelgarn — the club photographer for the Twins — is an absolute treasure, and his work was showcased prominently over the team’s time in Puerto Rico. In a word: incredible.
— Twins Photography (@TwinsPics) April 19, 2018
— Twins Photography (@TwinsPics) April 19, 2018
— Twins Photography (@TwinsPics) April 18, 2018
— Twins Photography (@TwinsPics) April 15, 2018
Joe Mauer and Zach Duke unexpectedly played on their birthdays
They both turned 35 on Friday, and with the game going late, late, late into the night on Thursday in the Eastern time zone, both celebrated their birthdays in the late innings with a win.
In fact, Dan Hayes of The Athletic wrote a wonderful story on it. He has been a terrific addition to the local media corps.
By the 15th inning of last night's marathon game, #MNTwins relievers were going crazy. Just after midnight, Addison Reed led his crew to an impromptu singing of Happy Birthday for Zach Duke, who along w/ Joe Mauer turned 35 during the game. #WeirdBaseballhttps://t.co/WWmHUAkUuZ
— Dan Hayes (@DanHayesMLB) April 19, 2018
Ryan LaMarre’s game on Thursday was one for the ages
LaMarre went 3-for-4, which is amazing in so many ways. First of all, it matches the number of career hits LaMarre had in the big leagues prior to this season. Secondly, no other player in the game had more than two, and both sides emptied their benches.
How about this, though? LaMarre’s three hits all came in extra innings. Oh, did we not mention he came in as an injury replacement for Max Kepler late in the game?
The Twins had three hits as a team through the first nine innings — LaMarre had three while he was in the game. Not bad for the last guy to make the club out of spring training, huh?
The Berrios- Carrasco duel was amazing
It’s hard to imagine a better, more even pitcher’s duel than this one was. Berrios had a game score of 76; Carlos Carrasco’s was 77. Berrios went seven innings of shutout ball with three hits, five strikeouts and no walks. Carraco matched his innings total, but traded in two more strikeouts for a walk.
Carrasco threw 98 pitches, and an obscene 70 of them were strikes. SEVENTY. Both bullpens did their part to keep it up as well, as the Indians had 15 strikeouts against just two walks on the night, while the Twins had a 12-2 ratio of their own.
This game should be No. 1 with a bullet on the memo on Rob Manfred’s desk on why extra innings should not be artificially manipulated. If you can’t respect/appreciate the beauty of those final seven innings, baseball might not be for you. Just my opinion.
Corey Kluber, even not at his best, is unbelievable
Kluber only went 6.2 innings of one-run ball with five hits, six strikeouts and a pair of walks, but when you can hand the ball over to Andrew Miller for four outs and Cody Allen for the final three, that’s pretty academic.
Kluber’s game score was a solid but unspectacular 64, which is equal to the percentage of first-pitch strikes he threw, but even still he had the Twins eating out of his hands all night. The same is true of his batted-ball mix, as the Twins were unable to take advantage of hitting 10 balls in the air and only four on the ground. For the Twins to have had to face Kluber-Carrasco instead of the original plan — I beleve it was Josh Tomlin-Trevor Bauer — was quite a big difference.
All told, the Twins did OK. Not great, but OK.
This Twins-Indians battle should be a spirited one all summer
Cleveland will hang around no matter how cold its offense is because of the pitching staff, but there are some holes in the lineup at the back end and behind the plate. The outfield isn’t as deep as one might like, and — home run off Trevor Hildenberger aside — Edwin Encarnacion is off to an ice-cold start.
Even still, both of the teams look like they’ll be very good, if not great. It’ll be an uphill battle for either to challenge Houston, Boston and maybe even the Yankees among the AL’s truly elite, but it should be a really, really strong five or six-team dogfight for the postseason this year, and the AL Central should be no exception.
It won’t be close to the 17-game deficit the Indians skated to last year, I don’t think.