The Minnesota Twins had some momentum building after winning series against Milwaukee and Kansas City. But they hit another road block in Cleveland, picking up a win in the first game and losing the next two.
Unlike the 2019 Bomba Squad, Minnesota’s offense has stalled lately, especially against Cleveland’s stellar rotation. The Twins have averaged four runs per game across their last 10, with even fewer coming in the three games against the Indians. Minnesota scored three in a victory on Monday but fell on Tuesday with just two runs and then lost 6-3 on Wednesday.
Sano Continues Offensive Surge
On a team starved for offense lately, Miguel Sano has returned to a dominant offensive form. His sixth home run of the season on Monday was a two-run shot that put the Twins ahead in their 3-2 victory.
With Minnesota approaching the trade deadline, the emphasis on the offense returning to form is paramount. Sano looks to be one of the bright spots right now, along with veteran slugger Nelson Cruz. If Sano turns slumps again like he did at the start of the season, it could push the Twins’ front office to make a move for some hitting at the trade deadline.
Currently Sano’s batting average and on-base percentage are around his career averages, and his slugging is up nearly sixty points above his career mark so far this season because of his play in the last 15 games.
With roster mainstays Josh Donaldson, Mitch Garver and Byron Buxton still on the IL, the remaining fixtures in the lineup need to find their A-Game if the Twins want to stay atop the AL Central as the season progresses past the midway point.
The Bad Outing
Some of Minnesota’s relievers have been off their game, and opponents have been able to create insurmountable leads in the latter innings.
In the 4-2 loss on Tuesday, Rich Hill pitched five innings of four-hit, one-run ball. As he neared 80 pitches, he was relieved by Jorge Alcala. The 25 year old has been a welcome addition to the Twins’ bullpen this season, offering a fastball that tops out in the high 90s.
Tuesday, though, was not Alcala’s night. He made it through an inning of work after facing seven batters, giving up three hits and three runs to relinquish the lead. Two runs came off a Francisco Lindor home run, and later in the inning Tyler Naquin knocked a double to score Carlos Santana.
In Wednesday’s series finale, Jose Berrios gave up three runs on seven hits through 5 2/3 innings pitched, and Tyler Clippard got him out of a jam to get the final out of the sixth. After that, Tyler Duffey got through the seventh with nine strikes on nine pitches. Then came in one of the Twins’ best late-inning relievers: Sergio Romo.
Romo gave up two hits, a walk and allowed three runs, allowing the Indians to blow the game open. He got one out that inning before he was pulled and Danny Coulombe came in to get the final two outs.
Along with Minnesota’s offense needing to improve, the ‘one bad game’ for the Twins’ relievers need to be contained down the stretch this season. The Twins’ team ERA is one of the best in baseball, and as of Thursday, Minnesota ranked fifth among all teams in MLB with a 3.56 team ERA. But the problem is the big innings that a few pitchers are giving up, even from the team’s most reliable arms.
Players Opt to Not Play Thursday
As the sports world has been moved by social justice initiatives since the killing of George Floyd in May, the NBA was the first league to react in the wake of the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis. Some teams, like the Milwaukee Brewers, opted not to play on Wednesday.
After a team meeting on Thursday the Twins decided not to play against Detroit. They will play a doubleheader on Saturday. Team officials said that the decision was made jointly with the Tigers.
“It was a very powerful gathering,” manager Rocco Baldelli told the media Thursday afternoon. “The players were in solidarity in the decision. We ultimately formally raised our hands and unanimously voted not to play out of respect for all. … I’m proud of the way this was handled by our group.”
Baldelli said that the team got together and closer Taylor Rogers was the first to say that he didn’t think they should play Thursday, and that Cruz and Trevor May also spoke to the group before the decision.
Ultimately, the Twins’ and Tigers’ game was one of six postponed on Thursday. Three games were postponed on Wednesday evening as well. The Brewers started this trend in MLB after taking inspiration from the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks.
The Twins will have a doubleheader on Friday, starting at 12:10 CT.