Week in Review: Breaking Good
Image courtesy of Brad Rempel, USA Today
Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 7/9 through Sun, 7/15
Record Last Week: 5-2 (Overall: 44-50)
Run Differential Last Week: -2 (Overall: -23)
Standing: 2nd Place in AL Central (7.5 GB)
The offense was cooking this week, producing 48 runs in seven games. The unit's fine work included strong showings against two of the American League's hottest starters; Minnesota chased All-Star Blake Snell (4-0 with a 0.63 ERA in his previous four starts) after three innings on Thursday, and jumped all over Nathan Eovaldi (2-0 with a 0.95 ERA in his previous three starts) for eight runs on Friday.
Contributions came from all corners.
Jake Cave continued to entrench himself with his best week as a big-leaguer, starting five of the Twins' seven games and going 8-for-17 (.471) with two doubles, two triples and a pair of runs batted in. It'd be nice to see a little more discipline – he drew one walk last week and has only four in 81 plate appearances, to go along with 23 strikeouts – but at least he's connecting and driving the ball. Cave is looking like a hell of a find by the front office.
It's that time of year: Brian Dozier is finding his zone. The now-customary slow start for Dozier was lengthier and uglier than usual this time around, but as usual, he's finding his stroke here around the All-Star break. Last week he went 9-for-28 with three home runs and 10 RBIs, punctuating his first half with a walk-off grand slam. He also showed a better eye at the plate, drawing five walks (one intentional) after posting a 9-to-0 K/BB ratio the previous week.
Speaking of reviving patience, Joe Mauer drew twice as many walks from Friday through Sunday (4) as he had in 24 previous games since coming off the disabled list. Coupled with his generally exceptional output during the week (11-for-30 with a homer and seven RBIs), it's a further sign Mauer is starting to see the ball better – a much-needed development.
Also chipping in on offense: Eddie Rosario, who had at least one hit in all seven games and now ranks 8th in the AL with a .311 average. Robbie Grossman who hasn't seen his name pop up in the "Highlights" section often but earned it this week by going 8-for-18 (.444) with three doubles and three walks. Heck, even Bobby Wilson joined the fun, following up his first multi-hit game of the season last Saturday with two more in his four starts. His average is all the way up to .177!
On the pitching side, Kyle Gibson stayed hot with another brilliant performance on Thursday against Tampa. The righty struck out nine and walked none over eight innings of one-run ball, inducing 16 swinging strikes after setting a career-high with 20 in his previous turn against Baltimore. Gibson has completed seven or more innings six times in his past nine starts; he did so nine times in 2016 and 2017 combined.
Right now, Gibby is throwing as well as he has at any point in his career. The timing is interesting as the trade deadline approaches, with Minnesota in sell mode (?) and plenty of contenders seeking impact arms. We'll see what happens.
Mitch Garver continued to come up on the short end of the catching timeshare, making three starts to Wilson's four, and for once he was actually out-hit by his counterpart. Garver actually failed to pick up a single knock in 17 plate appearances.
That sort of thing is going to happen – his .375 average in the previous 20 games, buoyed by a .432 BABIP, wasn't going to stay propped up forever – but what's nice to see is Garver taking solid ABs and still managing to get himself on base during a hitting slump, as he drew four walks against four strikeouts. He also laid down a key two-strike bunt on Sunday to set up Dozier's walk-off.
Even during a down stretch, it's nice to see Garver get playing time, and it's easy to see the value in it. That's not true of Matt Belisle, who has now become a primary source of frustration with this club.
When the Twins added the veteran right-hander back in early June, seeking an infusion of leadership to right their wayward ship, it appeared to be a harmless enough move. He hadn't been good with Cleveland but he was to be the last option in the Minnesota bullpen, a mop-up man whose arm they didn't need to worry about. How much damage could he do?
Well, he's done his share. After a hideous outing on Saturday in which he coughed up five runs in one frame, pushing the game out of reach and opening the door for an ill-equipped Willians Astudillo to take the mound in the ninth, Belisle has now surrendered 13 earned runs on 23 hits in 12 1/3 innings for Minnesota. He hasn't recorded six outs in an appearance. If he's still on the roster coming out of the break, the Twins are doing it wrong.
On Sunday, Ervin Santana made his first rehab start at Triple-A, stretching out to 5 2/3 innings and 86 pitches. The results weren't great – he gave up a pair of homers and has allowed five total in six starts in the minors. However, his arm strength should be sufficiently built up to rejoin the big-league club and I don't suspect the Twins will waste any time.
He'll likely be reinserted into the rotation immediately after the break for two main reasons: 1) they're having a hard time finding answers for that fifth rotation spot, as Aaron Slegers was shelled on Tuesday and Fernando Romero couldn't get through five innings on Sunday, and 2) they have precious little time to showcase Santana as a deadline chip.
Santana may quietly be one of Minnesota's best assets to dangle. He was among the AL's top pitchers last year and started a playoff game. He's an experienced vet with an excellent recent track record. His contract, containing a $14 million team option for 2019, offers convenient flexibility. And if other teams are convinced he's beyond his finger issues, they might actually value the fact that he has hardly pitched all year, as it could improve his odds of staying strong through September and October.
Of course, convincing others that Erv is back to 100% will be tough as time runs short. Reports on Santana during his rehab stint have been as mixed as his results. He is lined up to start the first game of the second half on regular rest, and if the Twins plug him in at Kansas City on Friday he'd be able to get in three turns before the July 31st deadline.
Would a trio of 2017-caliber efforts be enough to restore Santana's status and generate some competition for his services? That should certainly be the hope as we look ahead to the rest of July.
DOWN ON THE FARM
At long last, Royce Lewis received his much-deserved promotion to Fort Myers. In moving up from Low-A to High-A, Lewis becomes one of the youngest players in the Florida State League, but that didn't stop him from making a fast impression with four hits in his second game on Sunday. Lewis was, of course, the consensus No. 1 prospect in our recently wrapped midseason top 40 rankings.
While the shortstop was bursting onto the FSL scene Sunday, Alex Kirilloff wasn't in the same lineup, because he was starting for Team USA in the Futures Game. He started in right and batted sixth, notching singles in both his at-bats before coming out.
Also participating in the showcase was Lewis Thorpe, who didn't fare so well – he came in to pitch the fourth but couldn't complete it as he yielded four runs three hits, including a single to Kirilloff and two home runs, while recording two outs (both on K's).
On Tuesday, Jose Berrios will represent the Twins at the 2018 All-Star Game. Then, following a couple days off, the second half will kick off with a series in Kansas City. Minnesota needs to make hay against the last-place Royals because after that the path steepens, with their road trip bringing them through Toronto and Boston before returning home to face Cleveland.
The probable starters below are very much subject to change as both the Twins and Royals may reshuffle their rotations over the break.
TUESDAY, 7/17: MLB ALL-STAR GAME – Go Berrios!
FRIDAY, 7/20: TWINS @ ROYALS – RHP Kyle Gibson v. LHP Danny Duffy
SATURDAY, 7/21: TWINS @ ROYALS – RHP Lance Lynn v. RHP Jake Junis
SUNDAY, 7/22: TWINS @ ROYALS – RHP Jake Odorizzi v. RHP Brad Keller
Catch Up On Twins Daily Game Recaps
- Game 88 | MIN 3, KC 1: Minnesota’s All-Star Shines
- Game 89 | KC 9, MIN 4: Slegers Slayed by Royals
- Game 90 | MIN 8, KC 5: Twins Recover from Rough Start
- Game 91 | MIN 5, TB 1: Who’s the Snub?
- Game 92 | MIN 11, TB 8: Twins Get a Scare on Friday the 13th, Prevail Over Pesky Rays
- Game 93 | TB 19, MIN 6: This Never Happened
- Game 94 | MIN 11, TB 7: Dozier Grand Slam Ends Wild Game, First Half
More on Twins Daily
- In the latest roundtable, a panel of Twins Daily writers weighed in with their choices for Minnesota's biggest second-half performer
- Andrew Thares took a look at potential suitors for Brian Dozier as the deadline approaches
- I theorized about how a trade for Miami's All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto might take shape
- Reporting from Cedar Rapids, SD Buhr wrote of the leadership shown by infielder Jordan Gore and pitcher Randy Dobnak for the Kernels
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