Week in Review: Mauer Passes Carew
Image courtesy of Jeffrey Becker, USA Today
Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 8/20 through Sun, 8/26
Record Last Week: 2-5 (Overall: 61-69)
Run Differential Last Week: -16 (Overall: -37)
Standing: 2nd Place in AL Central (13.0 GB)
On Friday night, Joe Mauer notched his 2,086th career hit, surpassing Rod Carew for second place in Twins history. On that list, Mauer now trails only Kirby Puckett (2,304). He probably won't catch Puck but Mauer has admirably carved out a place in franchise lore.
All-around, Mauer had an okay week by his current standards, collecting seven hits in 26 at-bats (.269) but it sort of epitomized his greatly reduced offensive impact. All seven hits were singles and he drew two walks, so the end result was a .590 OPS with one run scored and one driven in.
On the same night Mauer made history, Jake Odorizzi ended his own (less favorable) run at the record books. Prior to completing seven innings against Oakland, Odorizzi had gone 30 consecutive starts without recording an out past the sixth, the sixth-longest streak ever.
It was a very strong performance from the righty (7 IP, 1 ER), and a high point in what's been an up-and-down season. The aforementioned streak speaks to Odorizzi's lack of length – he's completed six innings only eight times in 27 starts this year – but altogether he's been about exactly what the Twins should have expected: an average starter and respectable back-end piece in the rotation. His ERA+ of 100 is nearly identical to last year's 101 and his career mark of 103.
Some other good news: Tyler Austin just keeps mashing. The slugger launched three more home runs over the weekend, including two on Sunday (Minnesota's only offense in a 6-2 loss) and is now rocking a jaw-dropping .333/.370/.786 since coming over from New York at the deadline, with six home runs in 12 games.
As I wrote last week, Austin is looking like a hell of a pickup by the front office, with a chance to play a key role in 2019.
The much-anticipated major-league debut of Stephen Gonsalves on Monday didn't exactly go as hoped. Facing the White Sox at Target Field, Gonsalves made it through one inning without much trouble but was ambushed in the second, allowing seven of eight hitters to reach base (triple, double, two singles, two walks, HBP) before getting the hook.
His second turn on Saturday was an improvement, as he made it through five innings against Oakland, but he still wasn't sharp. He threw only 48 of 90 pitches for strikes, and while three of the four runs scored against him came on one swing of the bat, Gonsalves earned the poor results by allowing seven hits and four walks with just two strikeouts.
Through two MLB starts, the left-hander has allowed as many earned runs (8) as in his last seven at Triple-A. It's a different ballgame up here, as Gonsalves is quickly learning. Hopefully the experience will ultimately benefit him.
On Wednesday, Kyle Gibson failed to complete five innings for the first time since April, coughing up seven runs (four earned) in 4 2/3. He issued four walks, his highest total in two months. It wasn't pretty, but there's also not much reason for concern. Gibby did induce 14 swinging strikes (highest total in four August starts) and he had a 3.27 ERA over his previous five turns. Everyone has a hiccup here and there.
The hiccups have been far too routine for Addison Reed, who continues to throw utterly hittable junk with the expected results. In three appearances last week he allowed three runs on six hits over four innings while striking out only one of the 18 batters he faced. On Friday night, the A's launched a pair of homers against him on meatballs left out over the plate.
His once-powerful fastball has lost any semblance of effectiveness. This velocity chart via Brooks Baseball pretty much says it all:
With Jim Thome fittingly in attendance, Miguel Sano had a very loud hit on Saturday – the 13th-longest home run in Target Field history, per Twins communications boss Dustin Morse – but it was one of only two knocks for him in a week that saw his average sink to .212.
It's now been almost a full month since Sano returned from his banishment to Single-A, and during that span he has hit .226/.305/.441 with a 33.3% K-rate. It's encouraging relative to what we saw early in the season, but still not entirely reaffirming.
Sano would do much to bolster the team's 2019 outlook by putting together a convincingly excellent final month.
September call-ups are around the corner. With rosters expanding on Saturday, the Twins will have some important decisions to make regarding their team's makeup. (Though they may wait until minor-league seasons end a few days later to make the majority of decisions.)
On the position player side, it's a fairly straightforward situation. The only big question is whether or not to recall Byron Buxton, though his improved play since returning to Rochester's lineup might be answering it – after collecting three hits on Sunday, Buxton's batting .333 with a .583 slugging percentage in eight games since his latest DL stint.
If he does come back, it'll be interesting to see how much playing time Buxton can siphon away from Jake Cave, who's absolutely earned the right to keep seeing regular reps.
The pitching side is more complicated. There are a lot of starters on the 40-man deserving of looks as potential 2019 contributors: Gonsalves (who should stay up), Fernando Romero, Zack Littell, Lewis Thorpe, maybe even Chase de Jong. It's a matter of finding innings for all of them, as there's not much point in calling anyone up to sit on the bench.
As a possible solution, Paul Molitor has discussed a "piggybacking" approach, wherein multiple starting pitchers work in the same game (say, three or four innings apiece). This would make a lot of sense.
But then there's the issue of a crowded bullpen picture. Desperately needing to evaluate options amidst an uncertain relief outlook, the Twins need to prioritize who they want to see. Sadly, there just won't be room for all of John Curtiss, Nick Anderson, Luke Bard and Jake Reed (the latter three would require 40-man roster moves). It's already been tough enough to find regular work for the bullpen's current occupants.
We'll see how things play out next week.
DOWN ON THE FARM
On Sunday, Tyler Wells celebrated his 24th birthday. One day earlier, he'd turned in his fifth strong outing since being promoted to Class-AA Chattanooga, logging six scoreless innings with seven strikeouts. So far for the Lookouts, Wells has a 1.67 ERA and .196 BAA, with just one home run allowed in 27 frames.
The former 15th-round draft pick is firmly in the second tier of Twins pitching prospects, but Wells is not one to overlook. It's hard enough to do so given his towering 6'8" stature, but the results are also plenty eye-catching. In 114 innings between High-A and Double-A this season he has a 113-to-27 K/BB ratio and opponents are slashing just .192/.245/.286.
Elsewhere: Jhoan Duran, acquired in the Eduardo Escobar trade, put together another dazzling performance at Cedar Rapids, where he's got a 2.25 ERA and 41-to-7 K/BB rate through 32 innings after fanning 10 over six scoreless frames on Friday. Another standout in the farm's second tier of pitching prospects.
Also in Cedar Rapids, first-round draft pick Trevor Larnach had a monster week, flashing his big offensive potential by going 9-for-26 (.375) with two doubles and a homer.
It's the Derek Falvey/Thad Levine reunion tour, as Minnesota travels to take on both of the top execs' former organizations. This road trip extends into the following week, when they'll visit Houston. The Twins will need to reverse their immense struggles away from home (22-40) to avoid pushing the modest goal of a .500 finish out of reach.
TUESDAY, 8/28: TWINS @ INDIANS – RHP Kyle Gibson v. RHP Carlos Carrasco
WEDNESDAY, 8/29: TWINS @ INDIANS – RHP Kohl Stewart v. RHP Adam Plutko
THURSDAY, 8/30: TWINS @ INDIANS – RHP Jake Odorizzi v. RHP Mike Clevinger
FRIDAY, 8/31: TWINS @ RANGERS – LHP Stephen Gonsalves v. LHP Mike Minor
SATURDAY, 9/1: TWINS @ RANGERS – RHP Jose Berrios vs. RHP Drew Hutchison
SUNDAY, 9/2: TWINS @ RANGERS – RHP Kyle Gibson v. LHP Martin Perez
Catch Up On Twins Daily Game Recaps
- Game 123 | CHW 8, MIN 5: At Least That’s Out of the Way
- Game 124 | MIN 5, CHW 2: Wild Final Inning Puts Twins Over
- Game 125 | CHW 7, MIN 3: Sox Get to Gibby
- Game 126 | MIN 6, OAK 4: Twins Top Red-Hot A’s
- Game 127 | OAK 7, MIN 1: Puckett 2,304, Mauer 2,086, Carew 2,085
- Game 128 | OAK 6, MIN 2: Gonsalves Gets Burned on Mistake Pitch
- Game 129 | OAK 6, MIN 2: Austin Goes Deep Twice in Loss
- nclahammer and wsnydes like this