The Twins had a legitimate chance to sweep a doubleheader against St. Louis on Tuesday. Up 2-0, starting pitcher Randy Dobnak was looking strong, as he has most of this season.
That was until he got to the third inning. Dobnak lost his control and was pulled from the game, and the Twins were down 5-2. Minnesota lost 6-4 and split the series.
Dobnak Struggles Mightily
Dobnak got the ball in the second game after Jose Berrios looked strong in the opener. It looked like the Twins’ most surprising pitcher this season was about to have another efficient outing through the first few innings. Dobnak got through the first six Cardinals’ batters without incident in the first and second innings.
But he looked like a different pitcher in the third inning.
He started by giving up a single to Matt Carpenter. Then it all came apart for Dobnak: He proceeded to hit Matt Wieters with a pitch, walked Harrison Bader, hit another batter in Tommy Edman and then walked Paul DeJong, scoring St. Louis’s first run.
Across his previous eight starts this season, Dobnak had walked 10 and hadn’t hit any batters with a pitch in 2020. Two of each in one inning is certainly unlike the consistent performance that gave him a 6-2 record and 2.72 ERA before Tuesday’s game. Dobnak’s ERA ballooned to 3.61 after the loss.
Before Dobnak finished this game, though, he gave up two more hits to relinquish the Twins’ lead for good.
Offense Still Coming From Usual Suspects
Sano worked through the doubleheader with two hits in eight at-bats. Those two hits generated three RBIs, one of which was a two-run shot in the first game. Sano, Cruz and Josh Donaldson all homered in the win.
Cruz finished the doubleheader 4-for-6 with a home run in each game, both solo shots. He’s had hits in seven consecutive games and continues to be the Twins’ dominant force on offense. He remains the only Twins’ player above a 1.000 OPS.
The two closest regular players to Cruz? Sano and Donaldson with .888 each, with Sano slugging at a slightly better rate than Donaldson.
Donaldson’s return from injury adds some consistency on the offense late this season. He has six hits in his last eight games with two home runs and two doubles. Over that same time, he has six RBIs in his resurgence back into the lineup.
Although Donaldson, Cruz and Sano are powering the Twins’ bats back through the end of the season, they are going to need more. The likes of Byron Buxton, Eddie Rosario and Max Kepler, when he comes back from injury, will be key to rejuvenating Minnesota’s once dangerous offense.
Minnesota’s next seven games will determine if the Twins have a legitimate chance to win the division. With three against Cleveland and four against Chicago, the closely contested race will likely break open a bit.
Currently, the Twins are tied with Cleveland and one game back of Chicago. While there’s little threat to the Twins missing the playoffs entirely, the division winner gets home-field advantage. Minnesota is 18-5 at Target Field and 9-13 on the road this season.