The Show Must Go On: 10 Games In, 6 Games Back
Image courtesy of MLB The Show 20, SonyTo get caught up on what we're doing here, you can check out the first post from Monday for an explanation of the premise and setup. But the quick version is this: We're playing a progressive simulated Twins season on MLB The Show 20 on PS4, and y'all are helping guide the ship. In each installment I'll update you on what's happened since the last, and put at least one key decision up for vote.
Date In Game: 4/6/20
Team Record: 4-6
Leading OPS: Max Kepler (1.030 in 40 AB)
Leading ERA: Homer Bailey (1.29 in 14 IP)
Gm 1, @ OAK: L 1-0 (Berrios 8 IP, 1 ER, L)
Gm 2, @ OAK: W 4-2 (Cruz solo HR)
Gm 3: @ OAK: W 6-1 (Odorizzi 7 IP, 1 ER, 12 K, W)
Gm 4: @ OAK L 8-5 (Hill 5.1 IP, 6 ER, L)
Gm 5: @ SEA W 16-2 (Donaldson 2 HR, 6 RBI)
Gm 6: @ SEA L 4-3 (Rogers BS)
Gm 7: @ SEA L 6-1 (Odorizzi 3.2 IP, 6 ER, L)
Gm 8: vs OAK L 4-3 (Duffey 1 IP, 2 ER, L)
Gm 9: vs OAK W 5-4 (Bailey 8 IP, 1 ER)
Gm 10: vs OAK L 10-4 (Hill 3.1 IP, 7 ER, L)
The vote was unanimous on our first group decision of the year. Oddly-available free agent Jordan Balazovic was signed to a one-year contract, replacing Devin Smeltzer as a long reliever in the Twins' bullpen. The 21-year-old rookie joined an Opening Day roster that kicked things off in Oakland on March 26th, against Sean Manaea and the Athletics.
The opener was a hard-fought battle. Manaea struck out Mitch Garver in the season's first at-bat, then exited with an injury. He was replaced by Mike Fiers, and the Twins offense had no answer for him, nor Yusmeiro Petit or Liam Hendriks. In a clash of contrasting strengths, the Oakland arms managed to shut out Minnesota's potent lineup on Opening Day. Max Kepler had Minnesota's only extra-base hit, a double.
For his part, Jose Berrios was outstanding, going toe to toe with the A's staff through seven innings. Unfortunately, a solo homer by Khris Davis in the eighth proved decisive, and Berrios was tagged with a complete-game loss. He basically got the other end of what happened to Corey Kluber on Opening Day 2019.
Our Twins bounced back with victories in the next two contests. Jake Odorizzi was dazzling in his first start of the year, fanning 12 over seven innings of one-run ball in Game 3. But we dropped the fourth to split the series in Oakland.
Then, it was off to Seattle, where the first game was quite reminiscent of last year's trip to T-Mobile Park. Minnesota teed off for 16 runs against an overwhelmed Mariners staff, with the top of the lineup leading the charge. Kepler delivered four hits and five RBIs, while Josh Donaldson followed him with two homers and six RBIs. The Twins piled up 14 hits and nine walks. With a huge lead, Balazovic got his debut in this one, tossing two innings with one run allowed.
Unfortunately, Minnesota seemed to use up all its magic. The next night, Taylor Rogers blew a save in the ninth and Sergio Romo gave up a walk-off in the 10th. The offense again failed to show up in the series finale, a 6-1 loss.
We struggled in our home-opening series at Target Field, dropping two of three against the A's and narrowly avoiding a sweep with an 11th-inning walk-off.
So, through 10 games, we're 4-6. Okay. Not where we wanted to be, but certainly not disastrous. So why am I alarmed? Well, I don't wanna blow this out of proportion, but...
THE CLEVELAND INDIANS ARE OFF TO A 10-0 START. 10-0!
Granted, they opened with an extremely soft schedule (DET, CWS, DET), but the Indians took full advantage by winning every single game. Jose Ramirez is hitting .419 with 13 RBIs. Francisco Lindor has a 1.143 OPS. Mike Clevinger's 3.46 ERA is the rotation's highest. Whew.
That puts the Twins in a six-game hole already. Luckily, we'll have a chance to ding their early momentum and make some fast inroads, as a home series against Cleveland awaits on the docket.
Let's run through who's hot and who's not, then we'll hash out our next group decision ahead of this critical early showdown.
The Bringer of Rain is delivering thus far as a Twin. In nine games Donaldson is sporting an .842 OPS with three homers and nine RBIs. Kepler's batting .375/.405/.625 through 40 ABs. The rotation has mostly been strong: Berrios (1.93 ERA) and Maeda (1.46) are doing their thing, and Bailey (1.29) has been the early talk of the town.
Willians Astudillo's only been able to find 6 at-bats so far, but he's got four hits in them for a .667 average. I'd ask you guys if we should play him more but I assume that's a given.
Miguel Sano has 10 RBIs through nine games, in part because one of his two homers was a grand slam, but he's slashing .184/.238/.368 with only three walks. Byron Buxton is batting .200 with seven hits, though naturally five have been doubles.
The most conspicuous poor performer thus far is Hill, who has been battered for 13 earned runs and four homers through 8 2/3 innings. He's 0-2 with a 13.50 ERA and 2.19 WHIP through two turns. Which brings us to...
DECISION TIME: SHOULD WE DEMOTE RICH HILL FROM THE ROTATION?
Look, it's still very early and I'm not trying to overreact. Then again, why not? The fact is that Hill's doing nothing for us right now. He's been the worst pitcher on the team by a country mile and at his age it's tough to be too lenient. We've got Randy Dobnak and even Balazovic waiting for a shot on the big-league roster. Not to mention Smeltzer, Michael Pineda and Lewis Thorpe in the minors.
Then again, maybe Hill just needs a bit of time to get going. He does have 12 strikeouts in his 8 2/3 innings, for what it's worth. And he's rated higher than Bailey, who's been immaculate.
I'll let you all make the call by voting in the comments section.
4/6: vs. CLE
4/7: vs. CLE
4/8: vs. CLE
4/10: @ CWS
4/11: @ CWS
4/12 @ CWS