Week in Review: Offense Takes Flight
Image courtesy of Brad Rempel, USA Today
Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 5/28 through Sun, 6/3
Record Last Week: 4-3 (Overall: 25-30)
Run Differential Last Week: +9 (Overall: -11)
Standing: 3rd Place in AL Central (3.5 GB)
The offense finally woke up. Minnesota had scored more than six runs in a game only seven times all season, and only twice in the last calendar month, before doing so six times in seven games this past week.
Unfortunately, in the one contest where the bats came up empty, they wasted a brilliant effort from Kyle Gibson and the bullpen. And on two occasions the Twins scored eight runs and lost, due to previously reliable starters unraveling and creating early deficits that couldn't be surmounted.
It's been that kind of year.
Still, this was a winning week that ended on a dazzling high note. On Friday morning the Twins were reeling, 6.5 games out of first place in the wake of three straight gut-wrenching losses. By Sunday evening, they were back within 3.5 games, looking reinvigorated as they celebrated a huge walk-off win.
Eddie Rosario was rightfully at the center of that celebrating, as his third home run of the day (and fourth of the weekend) clinched the series victory. Rosario is in beast mode again, jumping on whatever you've got, inside or outside the zone, and driving it. His confidence level right now is off the charts.
But there was something notably different and deeply encouraging about his week, beyond the four homers and 10 RBIs. During Rosario's last red-hot stretch, back in early May, I offered the following caution:
"Eventually he'll cool off and stop obliterating every pitch he fancies. At that point we'll find out if Rosario can re-incorporate some of the disciplinary improvements we saw in the latter portion of 2017. Swinging at more than 40% of pitches outside the zone just won't cut it long-term."
The ultra-aggressive approach continued for the next two weeks, and he went without a home run. But over this past week, while going 13-for-30, he also drew six walks (four unintentional). He had drawn only five unintentional walks in 48 games heading in.
When he adds a modicum of selectiveness to his aggressive and explosive approach at the plate, Rosario is an unstoppable force with staying power. Hopefully this week was only a sign of things to come for Minnesota's probable All Star rep.
Rosie wasn't the only source of power. Miguel Sano shook off his rust and turned back into a run-producing difference-maker at the heart of the order, driving in 10 runs in six games with two home runs and two doubles.
It makes a big difference when he's a legit threat, and right now he's showing off his strength by mashing mistakes.
There's still no sign that Sano has shaken his problematic discipline issues at the plate. We saw him strike out 12 times with one walk in 29 plate appearances last week, frequently swinging at breaking balls way outside the zone. Until that changes, he'll continue to be a feast-or-famine type yielding far too much of the latter.
It's a strange state of affairs when I trust Rosario's strike zone judgement more than Sano's but here we are. At least Miggy is back and hitting baseballs incredibly hard.
Speaking of hard hits, Eduardo Escobar also had plenty in a week that saw his bat reheat following a lengthy slump. Heading into play on Monday, Escobar had batted just .200 with three extra-base hits (all doubles) and three RBIs in his previous 15 games. His skid worsened in Kansas City as he went 0-for-9 on Monday and Tuesday, but Esco finished that series with a two-hit game and then opened a power tear at Target Field, belting three homers and driving in six runs against Cleveland.
This is the Twins offense we were hoping to see from the start: highly dangerous, and capable of ruining a good opposing starter's day even when he's on his game (as they did to Trevor Bauer on Saturday).
We've seen a lot of strong performances from the rotation this year, but the trend has been that when things go awry, they really run off the rails.
We saw it when Jose Berrios' early-season stretch of dominance gave way to a string of total duds. We've seen plenty of volatility from Lance Lynn.
I guess it shouldn't be surprising that the exemplary runs of Fernando Romero and Jake Odorizzi met their ends in flagrant fashion.
On Wednesday, Romero gave up almost twice as many earned runs (8) in 1 2/3 innings as he had over 28 2/3 innings in his first five starts (5). It was utterly baffling to see a pitcher with a .194 BAA allow nine hits to 15 batters against one of the league's weakest offenses. His ERA shot from 1.88 to 4.15.
The next day, Odorizzi surrendered seven earned runs, one fewer than he'd allowed total in his first five starts of May. The right-hander had become one of Minnesota's steadiest starters, completing 5+ IP with three or fewer earned runs in six straight turns. However, his clunker was a little less surprising than Romero's, given his ongoing struggles keeping the ball in the yard; he has now coughed up 14 homers in 12 starts.
If the Twins are giving any consideration to reinforcements for the rotation, those might not be as close as they'd hoped.
Ervin Santana is revisiting his finger surgeon after experiencing continued discomfort while battling command and velocity issues in rehab. There's no timetable for his return but it's reasonable to expect he'll be out until July at least.
Meanwhile, Trevor May's rehab stint has taken a discouraging turn. He had a rocky start last Sunday, allowing six earned runs in 2 2/3 innings, and made his next appearance in relief on Saturday. May allowed only one hit while cleanly handling the seventh through ninth, picking up a three-inning save, but he induced just two swinging strikes on 37 pitches.
The most troubling setbacks, however, were on the position-player side. Joe Mauer appeared to be on the verge of coming off the disabled list late in the week before concussion symptoms started creeping in again as he revved up – a grim development. Luckily, Mauer reported feeling better in the ensuing days, but this is going to be a touch-and-go situation for a while.
Meanwhile, Byron Buxton and the Twins finally came to terms with the fact that having him play through a broken toe was doing nobody any good. The center fielder was placed on the disabled list and will now presumably be given several weeks to let it heal.
Even though they've finally started scoring some runs, the Twins will take whatever offensive help they can get as they try to string together wins and battle back into the division race. To that end, there are two situations in particular worth keeping an eye on.
At the start of last week, the Twins claimed Taylor Motter off waivers from Seattle. He's a versatile defender who can play shortstop, and he has occasionally shown some hitting ability. That ought to make Ehire Adrianza nervous. Sure enough, Adrianza had his best week at the plate all season, with a pair of multi-hit games and his first home run. (Although he AGAIN got thrown out on the bases Sunday after mysteriously pinch-running for Robbie Grossman, who is actually faster than him.)
While Motter looms in Rochester, another potential plug returned to action last week in Chattanooga. LaMonte Wade had gone on the disabled list in mid-May after colliding with an outfield wall, but was activated by the Lookouts on Tuesday. He has become the on-base king in the Twins system, with a .403 career OBP in the minors and an amazingly good eye at the plate.
Wade made a very good impression at spring training and is now slashing .300/.392/.460 in Double-A. With Buxton looking to be sidelined for a while, and Ryan LaMarre's chops as a capable MLB regular in question, Wade could be very useful to the club.
His patience is all the more appealing if Mauer will be facing an extended absence. This lineup has really been missing the first baseman's proclivity for getting aboard.
DOWN ON THE FARM
If there was one quibble to be had with the extremely impressive work being done by an 18-year-old Royce Lewis in Cedar Rapids here in the first half, it was a lack of power. He batted .299 with 13 steals in his first 35 games, but 34 of his 41 hits were singles, resulting in a .365 slugging percentage.
Well, Lewis busted out with a two-homer game last Sunday, and followed up with five doubles in five games over the past week. He now has as many extra-base hits in his past seven games (7) as he did in his first 35.
It always seemed like a matter of when, not if, Lewis would add strength and start driving the ball more. Now, with his 19th birthday just days away, we're already seeing it to some extent.
One scout offered some eye-poppingly high praise for the top prospect, as relayed by Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports:
On another note, you've gotta feel a little bit for Alan Busenitz. The reliever performed very well during his time with the Twins last season, but was an odd man out with the team signing three free agent relievers in the offseason. He received a brief chance with Minnesota in April, but has since been stuck in Rochester, where he's been unbelievably good.
In five weeks since returning to the minors, Busenitz hasn't allowed a run, or even an extra-base hit. He has a 23-to-4 K/BB ratio in 16 1/3 innings. In seven of his 10 appearances during that span he has recorded more than three outs.
Based on merit, Busenitz should absolutely be in the majors, but right now he's a victim of circumstance. Soon enough his chance will come, and Twins fans should feel good about having such a weapon waiting on deck.
These are the kinds of opportunities that Minnesota needs to capitalize on. The cellar-dwelling White Sox are coming to town for a four-game series, which kicks off with a double-header on Tuesday. You'd love to see the Twins take all four of those games and build some momentum heading into a tougher weekend series against the Angels.
TUESDAY, 6/5 (1): WHITE SOX @ TWINS – RHP Reynaldo Lopez v. RHP Fernando Romero
TUESDAY, 6/5 (2): WHITE SOX @ TWINS – RHP Lucas Giloito v. RHP Zack Littell
WEDNESDAY, 6/6: WHITE SOX @ TWINS – LHP Hector Santiago v. RHP Jake Odorizzi
THURSDAY, 6/7: WHITE SOX @ TWINS – LHP James Shields v. RHP Jose Berrios
FRIDAY, 6/8: ANGELS @ TWINS – RHP Jaime Barria v. RHP Lance Lynn
SATURDAY, 6/9: ANGELS @ TWINS – RHP Garrett Richards v. RHP Kyle Gibson
SUNDAY, 6/10: ANGELS @ TWINS – LHP Tyler Skaggs v. RHP Fernando Romero
Catch Up On Twins Daily Game Recaps
- Game 49 | MIN 8, KC 5: Bats Break Out
- Game 50 | KC 2, MIN 1: Every Game is the Same Game
- Game 51 | KC 11, MIN 8: We Can’t Have Nice Things
- Game 52 | CLE 9, MIN 8: Twins Fight Back, Fall Short
- Game 53 | MIN 7, CLE 4: Escobar é o Fogo
- Game 54 | MIN 7, CLE 1: Twins Battle Their Way to Another Victory
- Game 55 | MIN 7, CLE 5: EDDIE! EDDIE! EDDIE!
- The MLB Draft gets underway on Monday. Last week Andrew Thares profiled his top 10 draft prospects. You can find links to the rest of his top 50 within. I recommend catching up with his lists; it's highly likely the Twins first-rounder is in there somewhere.
- On that note, Seth Stohs listed draft candidates with Minnesota connections.
- Which Twins prospects are outclassing their current levels in the minors? Jonathon Zenk called out five who should be promoted.
- SD Buhr chatted hitting with former Twin (and current Cedar Rapids coach) Brian Dinkelman.
- Oldgoat_MN, h2oface, nclahammer and 1 other like this