Your mileage may vary, but an Oreo creme enthusiast would have enjoyed the most recent series for the Minnesota Twins, as they split a four-game set in California with the Los Angeles Angels by winning the middle two games.
The Twins dropped the first one, then roared back to win games two and three before dropping the finale in walk-off fashion. The loss dropped to the Twins to 1.5 games behind Cleveland atop the division, while Los Angeles is just a game behind defending World Series champion Houston.
The first half of the series was a struggle for the starting half of the Twins, but the bullpen was mostly sturdy. The second half featured strong work from the starters, with the bullpen clinging for life in game three and taking the L in game four.
Here’s what we saw from our vantage point:
Shohei Ohtani is the real deal
For now, Ohtani is on a rotation where he can be in the batting lineup unless he’s the starting pitcher that day or the day after the game. In other words, with Ohtani starting on Sunday, he did not hit on Saturday or that day.
But Ohtani got the start at DH in the opener, and absolutely throttled a pitch from Trevor Hildenberger for his fifth homer of the season. For the series, Ohtani was 3-for-8 and finished with a season slash line of .348/.392/.652.
For the uninitiated, that’s really (redacted) good.
For the season, Ohtani has five homers in just 69 plate appearances. That’s the same number of homers as Miguel Sano (80 PA) and more than Robinson Cano, Paul Goldschmidt, Logan Morrison, Chris Davis, Miguel Cabrera and Marcell Ozuna.
Oh by the way, Ohtani pitched on Sunday, and threw an absolute gem. He threw 100 pitches for the first time in his MLB career — 69 strikes on 103 pitches — with 11 strikeouts, two walks, three hits and just one earned run allowed over 6.1 innings. Ohtani had a staggering 21 swinging strikes — 10 percent is considered roughly average, and he more than doubled it — as the Twins were swinging left and right through his slider and split, mostly.
His fastball also touched triple digits and sat at 97.2 mph.
Fernando Romero is human after all
Romero proved up to the task in a pitcher’s duel on Sunday against Ohtani, matching him zero for zero until he allowed a run — his first of the season — in the fifth inning on a fielder’s choice.
It shouldn’t have come to that, however, as Angels catcher Martin Maldonado — one of the slowest runners in the game — deftly picked up a base when Twins shortstop Gregorio Petit tried to make a Derek Jeter-style jump throw on a ball that had no business being thrown. Zack Cozart easily beat the throw at first, and Maldonado — who was at second — moved up to third almost as soon as Petit released the ball.
It nearly didn’t come to that, too, as Justin Upton grounded to Eduardo Escobar at third base. Escobar tried to start an around-the-horn 5-4-3 double play to end the inning and stymie the threat, but the relay throw from Brian Dozier was just late in getting to Morrison’s glove at first.
That’s the only run Romero has allowed all season long — for an ERA of 0.54.
Romero couldn’t quite match Ohtani’s heat — he sat at a very solid 95.4 mph with his fastball and 95.7 with his sinker — but he did get as high as 98.5 mph with the sinker. Pitch economy was again an issue for Romero, as he lasted just five innings before running his count to 92 pitches on the day. Still, he had six strikeouts and got a more than solid 13 swinging strikes — seven on the slider (23.3 percent), four on the four-seamer (16 percent) and two on the sinker (5.9 percent).
He didn’t get any on the changeup, but only threw it three times.
If a playoff series was anything like this, we’d be in for a real treat
The final tally for the weekend series was 16-15 in favor of the Angels. And while fans lament walk-off losses as soul-crushing and that sort of thing, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Sure, it stinks to lose a game on the road like that, but it’s by definition also a close game.
So while the Twins have lost six games by walk-off fashion this year, it also means they’re playing teams close. For a team two games under .500 and still firmly in the mix behind Cleveland, it means there’s at least some reason to remain optimistic about their chances of hanging around.
Then again, with the division possibly being close all season, it might make lamenting those losses even more intense if the Twins come a game or two short of the division crown this fall. We’ll have to see how it plays out.
The Twins really had no business winning Saturday’s game
It really just seemed like the Twins were ready to hand it over multiple times late, including in extras.
It started in the ninth inning. Addison Reed got a pair of quick outs by striking out former Twin Rene Rivera and getting Cozart to foul out, but then walked Mike Trout and gave up a ringing single to Justin Upton.
How hard was the ball by Upton stung? It registered as a “barrel” by MLB.com’s exit velocity standards, which is based on speed and angle at which the ball is struck. In other words, the ball was absolutely obliterated.
— MLBBarrelAlert (@MLBBarrelAlert) May 13, 2018
The short answer here is it’s the first time I’ve ever seen the “no doubles” defense work, as Byron Buxton was playing very, very deep in order to avoid allowing a double, and thus seeing Trout scamper home with the game-winning run.
Albert Pujols lined out to end the inning, and the Twins wriggled out of that jam.
In the 10th against Zach Duke, the Angels had runners on first and second with one out before Kole Calhoun and Rivera both hit fly outs to right field.
The 11th inning might have been the craziest one yet, as Hildenberger hit Cozart with a pitch to start the frame. Trout grounded into a 5-4 fielder’s choice but was safe at first. Upton flew to right, moving Trout — the winning run — to third with two outs.
The Twins then intentionally walked Upton and Andrelton Simmons before Jefry Marte grounded back to Hildenberger, who flipped the ball to Joe Mauer at first base. Mauer made the play look very easy, but he actually had to cross over the bag to complete the play.
Even the 12th — after the Twins scored two runs — wasn’t exactly easy, as the Fernando Rodney Experience was in full effect.
Ian Kinsler opened the inning with a walk. When Calhoun hit a grounder to Mauer, Kinsler froze between the bases and headed back toward first. Mauer, undeterred, completed the 3-6-3 play, which was ruled out at second but safe at first. Upon further review, it was ruled a double play.
Then, for good measure, Rodney issued a walk to Rivera before inducing Cozart to fly to left.
The final damage? Over 12 innings, the Twins allowed three earned runs, seven hits and 12 (!) walks with 10 strikeouts. We’ve heard cats have nine lives, but it looks like the Twins went one better in Saturday’s win.
Trout, on the whole, was held in check all weekend
Trout was 2-for-9 before taking a seat on Sunday, and struck out looking on some high heat from Ryan Pressly when he pinch-hit for Calhoun late in the game.
He did, however, walk four times in Saturday’s game — but somehow didn’t score. For the weekend, he accounted for just one run — a run scored in the Friday game.
Not bad handling of a guy who is hitting .315/.450/.650 on the season.
Brian Dozier looks like he has his mojo back
Dozier went a blazing 4-for-4 in the series opener, and finished the four-game set 8-for-15 with a pair of walks to push his season line to .255/.315/.444.
That’s not terribly far from his career line of .251/.327/.452, though his last two full seasons have resulted in a line of .269/.349/.522 — so he has some work to do.
Jose Berrios is still misfiring
His ERA is 4.50, and he’s been absolutely pasted since coming back from Puerto Rico. In front of his home fans, Berrios diced the Indians for seven shutout innings.
In the four starts since? He’s looked like rookie Jose, posting an 8.84 ERA with an opponents’ slash line of .308/.386/.641 and just 11-8 K/BB ratio in 18.1 innings.
One big change from that time frame is that Berrios has thrown his curveball far less frequently. To that point in the season, Berrios was throwing it 30 percent of the time. That’s down to just 22.8 percent over the last four starts, with pretty much all of the overages funneled to his fastball.
The whiff rate on his curve has absolutely flatlined, though. It was 21.2 percent through the Puerto Rico start, and it’s down to 12 percent since.
The line against has gotten much worse, too. Berrios was allowing just a .095 batting average on his curve through Puerto Rico; that’s up to .333 over the last four starts. Slugging percentage against the curve in the former was just .095 — in other words, all hits allowed were singles — while it’s up to 1.000 in the last four outings.
That’s pretty much it, though.
Buxton is back, and while the bat isn’t quite right, it’s still fun to watch
No seriously, how….
Byron Buxton is silly fast, drops a soft liner into left field and gets a standup double pic.twitter.com/cBixIDygtp
— Born Salty (@cjzero) May 13, 2018
- Angels reliever Keynan Middleton, who left Sunday’s game with an injury, has a torn UCL in his throwing elbow, according to Maria Guardado of MLB.com. He will get a second opinion, but this often means Tommy John surgery is the recommendation.
- The Twins fell to 2-6 in games that end in walk-offs with Sunday’s result.
- The Twins already have a five-game winning streak and an eight-game losing streak this season.
- Minnesota still has not scored 10 runs in any game this season.
- Mauer comes into Monday’s action third in the AL in walks. Only Mike Trout and Aaron Judge (34) have more than Mauer’s 28. Bryce Harper (41) leads MLB.
- The Twins are tied for fourth in MLB with 81 doubles.
- The Twins have been hit by the fewest pitches in baseball (seven). The Cubs have been hit an MLB-high 27 times.
- After hitting just .145/.253/.250 in April, Morrison has hit a solid .275/.370/.500 in May.