Twins

Astros Sweep Reeling Twins in Three Straight at Minute Maid Park

Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

If it wasn’t already bad enough with the Minnesota Vikings kicking off their season this weekend, the apathy surrounding the Minnesota Twins is about to hit a fever pitch after a three-game sweep at the hands of the Houston Astros.

Kyle Gibson gave the Twins a solid start on Monday night in the opener, but otherwise, it was an unsightly series from stem to stern for the local nine, who sunk to a season-high 13 games under .500 and 16 games out of first place.

If fans didn’t know who Alex Bregman was before this series — first of all, shame on them, but second of all they sure do now. The Astros infielder seemed to be at the forefront of everything the team did offensively in the sweep, as Houston now gets ready to charge into a big weekend series against the Cleveland Indians.

Here’s what we saw from our vantage point:

Bregman absolutely terrorized Twins pitching

Bregman’s hitting .298/.399/.557 on the season, and even that feels slight based on how he absolutely obliterated the Twins in this series. Bregman went 6-for-10 with three walks, and all four of his hits went for extra bases — two homers and four doubles.

Maybe the most amazing thing from last year’s World Series team was that he hit in the bottom one-third of the order 79 times. He’s still just 24. The future is so bright for him.

Sep 5, 2018; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros shortstop Alex Bregman (2) hits a two-run home run during the third inning against the Minnesota Twins at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Also, he humorously channeled his inner James Harden after this question from reporter Julia Morales following Wednesday night’s game:

This Astros team is a lot of fun.

Kohl Stewart provided reasons for optimism

Stewart came in after Trevor May worked as the opener in Tuesday’s game, and twirled five scoreless innings with three hits, three strikeouts and a walk. It brought his ERA down to 5.06, and also showed that he does have the ability to neutralize great offenses. When his stuff is working right.

It hasn’t all been pretty for Stewart — see the ERA, for instance — but in a month where the Twins are trying to evaluate as much as they can, giving him starts and/or innings to work through some things makes a lot of sense.

He hasn’t exactly struck out many batters (5.9 K/9) and the walks are still too high (4.2 BB/9), but his groundball rate of 56.8 percent is in Kyle Gibson territory — he told me Gibson is a guy he looks to imitate moving forward because they have a lot in common — and he’s shown fairly good velocity — 92-93 mph average, 95 mph peak — so far.

The swinging-strike rate is just 6.4 percent is a bit alarming, but that’s ebbed and flowed at times in appearances. He’s also just at 3.4 percent on his sinker, but 7.0 percent or higher on his other four pitches.

I think the most interesting one to me is the 9.5 percent rate on his four-seam fastball. At times he’s said he’s preferred it to his sinker — which he calls his best/most reliable pitch — but a swing-and-miss fastball can be especially dangerous once a pitcher gets his footing in the big leagues.

At the very least, I think there’s reason to believe he can be a good reliever if nothing else.

That’s enough, Matt Belisle

Belisle hasn’t worked much in the way of high-leverage spots while he’s put up an ERA of 10.45 with the Twins, and having someone who can soak up those innings does haveĀ someĀ value. But at the same time, the TwinsĀ didĀ just re-acquire Chris Gimenez, so…..

OK, but seriously. At this point, the Twins would be better served getting a look at a fringe 40-man talent over the final month — heck, someone like D.J. Baxendale — rather than giving these innings to Belisle. It’s clear Belisle is cooked, and no amount of veteran leadership on a sinking ship is worth not giving someone else a chance to see what they can do in the big leagues.

Jake Reed makes a lot more sense here.

So does Nick Anderson.

When you thought things couldn’t get any worse — Miguel Sano got hurt

Sano was sliding into second base after walking and trying to advance on a wild pitch, and when his first leg went over the base, his second left stopped abruptly. It was his left leg — the one that caused him all his health woes last year — and to add insult to injury, Sano had to be carted off the field.

Word broke later in the game that it was a bone bruise, and while Sano left on crutches, the updates later in the series suggested he may be able to play this weekend against the Royals.

That’s probably about as good of a result as anyone could have hoped for. Still, at the moment it felt like the sky was falling for Twins fans — again.

Oliver Drake contributed to one of the weirdest lines we’ve seen in a while on Wednesday

The well-traveled righty came into the game to start the seventh inning, and fell behind Tyler White 2-0 before getting him to fly to center. Drake then walked Yuli Gurriel on four pitches, and his day was done after one-third of an inning, seven pitches….and justĀ oneĀ strike.

Taylor Rogers came into the game, fell behind Brian McCann 2-0, then induced a groundball double play.

For the inning, the Twins threw 10 pitches — eight balls and just two strikes.

I can’t imagine there have been many innings with three outs recorded on just two strikes.

The Twins tried the opener again — and it went….not great!

This time it was Trevor May, who dutifully threw his inning but not before allowing four earned runs on five hits to push his season ERA to 4.11.

The Twins will keep working on this experiment — two innings isn’t enough to abandonĀ anything, no matter how wild it seems —

Sep 5, 2018; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros designated hitter Evan Gattis (11) stares at the camera after hitting a home run during the fourth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

As bleak as things feel, the Twins weren’t really overpowered until the final game of the series

The Twins lost 9-1 in the finale, but the first two games were just three-run losses, and a big reason for that is that Kyle Gibson worked around allowing a pair of home runs to post an otherwise solid night — seven innings, four hits, five strikeouts, one walk — and the bullpen behind May was also fairly sturdy.

Besides Stewart’s five solid innings, Drake and Tyler Duffey threw two innings of relief with a pair of strikeouts and just one earned run, while the Twins got to Chris Devenski for a run but couldn’t score against old friend Ryan Pressly — who struck out the side — or recently-acquired closer Roberto Osuna.

In all, the Twins managed to stay close over the first two games, but in the end, a sweep’s a sweep — and it ain’t pretty.

Notes

  • The Twins are 13 games under .500 for the first time since July 4 after a three-game sweep in Milwaukee.
  • September has started poorly for Twins hitters, who overall are hitting just .213/.283/.341 (70 wRC+).
  • The Twins are one of just six teams — San Diego, Toronto, Miami, Cincinnati, Texas — without a stolen base this month.
  • Twins pitchers have an MLB-worst 8.55 ERA this month. They’ve allowed 3.4 homers per nine innings in September — also easily the worst mark in MLB.

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Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

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