Last week, he gave us a grand show.
Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 9/10 through Sun, 9/16
Record Last Week: 3-4 (Overall: 68-81)
Run Differential Last Week: -8 (Overall: -78)
Standing: 2nd Place in AL Central (15 GB)HIGHLIGHTS
Home runs from Mauer are rare. Grand slams, even more so. And for such a rarity to arrive against the dreaded Yankees, well, that's all the sweeter.
The first baseman's big blast – a beautifully struck drive to straightaway center – came in the fifth inning of Tuesday's game with the Twins already leading 6-1, effectively burying the Bombers.
It came as part of a two-hit night for Mauer, amidst a 7-for-21 week that also included a pair of doubles. It was undoubtedly a productive stretch for the 35-year-old, but only served to push his OPS back up into the .720 range that's been customary for him throughout the summer.
Just two days after Mauer's grand evening against the Yankees, an article appeared in the Star Tribune indicating that he plans to seriously contemplate retirement during the offseason. While Mauer insists he hasn't made his mind up, there are several quotes in La Velle E. Neal III's piece that suggest he's leaning toward hanging 'em up. For example...
Regarding the factors at play for him: “There’s a lot that goes into it than just, ‘Do you want to play?’ ”
Regarding an apparent reversal from his more committed springtime stance: "Yeah, a lot can change in six months. Personally, professionally, physically.”
Regarding his health and family circumstances: "The concussion, third baby on the way. So we have a lot of things to go over. I want to do that and take a deep breath and try to think with a clear mind.”
Mauer didn't reference the sagging production (his current .724 OPS and 0.9 WAR would both rank as the second-worst of a 15-year career) but that's also in play here. When accounting for all these aspects, and the general tone of his latest interview, I gotta think Mauer elects to retire this offseason, which would spare the Twins an awkward conversation.
If so, fans have one more homestand remaining to come see him at Target Field. I highly recommend making a trip out to the park next week; I know I'll be doing so. While part of me looks forward to a new era of locker room leadership, and an unencumbered payroll, this team just won't be the same without him around.
Mauer's potential farewell tour isn't the only worthwhile attraction as this season winds down. Willians Astudillo continues to be an absolute treat to watch. With Mitch Garver sidelined by a concussion, Astudillo has stepped into a larger role and he is THRIVING:
Seriously though: Even beyond the all-out heart and hustle this scrappy 26-year-old rookie shows, there's some real offensive ability flashing. Not only does Astudillo put the bat on everything (two strikeouts in 57 plate appearances with MN), he most often hits it pretty hard. Last week he tallied seven knocks in 18 at-bats (.389) and drove in three runs. And he drew his first walk as a big-leaguer!
Jorge Polanco, who found himself batting either first or second in every start (a change from his previous entrenchment in the three-hole), went 11-for-27 (.407) and launched his fifth homer.
It was a fruitful offensive week for several members of the outfield unit: Robbie Grossman (9-for-25 with three doubles and four walks), Jake Cave (8-for-26 with a homer and five RBIs), Max Kepler (6-for-22 with two doubles and a homer). Even Johnny Field, who entered the week with a .192 average, joined the fun with four hits and his first Twins home run on Sunday.
On the pitching end, Jake Odorizzi turned in his finest start in a Minny uniform on Wednesday, carrying a no-hitter into the eighth against New York's potent lineup. He finished with one run allowed on one hit over 7 1/3 innings.
Considering his historical lack of proven endurance – he's only topped 170 innings once, and has never reached 200 – it's a good sign that Odorizzi is finishing strong. His 27th and 30th starts have been his longest of the season. Since the beginning of August he has a 3.98 ERA, and has quietly corrected his biggest weakness, allowing only three homers in eight turns. The unspectacular yet steady right-hander has made a solid case for returning next year.
Jose Berrios delivered an impressive performance of his own, hurling six innings of two-run ball against Kansas City on Thursday. It was refreshing to see him in dominant form for the first time in a while – nine strikeouts were his highest total since July 24th, and 14 swinging strikes were his most since July 9th.
Meanwhile, in the bullpen, Taylor Rogers continued his run of second-half excellence with four more scoreless appearances, allowing only one hit. He's now gone 24 straight appearances without allowing a run.
Berrios exited Thursday's game with a well earned 4-2 lead, but unfortunately failed to procure the win due to Trevor Hildenberger melting down in the ninth.
Called upon to protect a one-run lead, Hildenberger gave up a one-out RBI double to No. 9 hitter Rosell Herrera that tied the game. Following a single and an intentional walk, the bases were loaded for Salvador Perez, who launched a walk-off grand slam.
The brutal outing raised Hildenberger's ERA, which had been steadily dropping, back up to 4.70. It bears noting that this was the first of seven save opportunities Hildy's been unable to convert since taking over the closer role. He previously had a 0.77 ERA since the Fernando Rodney trade.
The righty has had many long stretches of effectiveness this year, with his struggles concentrated in short painful bursts. To an extent, that's reassuring, but there's no ignoring some alarming bigger trends for him – namely, home run and walk rates that have doubled from his standout rookie season.
Despite his stumbles, Hildenberger will remain an integral part of the bullpen picture going forward. However, Alan Busenitz might be pitching his way out of the Twins' plans. In two appearances last week he was charged with seven earned runs, without recording an out. That's about a bad as it gets. His ERA now sits at 7.71. Despite his sterling work at Triple A, Busenitz is shaping up as a 40-man casualty this fall.
As mentioned earlier, Garver has received a concussion diagnosis after taking a foul ball off the mask on Wednesday. He experienced persisting "lightheadedness and headaches" into the weekend, which will understandably set off alarm bells in the minds of Twins fans all too familiar with where this can lead. Adding to the concern is that Garver has had multiple concussions in the past, and was dazed by a blow to the head from Manny Machado's bat earlier this year.
Garver has been one of the team's biggest bright spots this season, showing plenty of offensive aptitude with gradually improving defense at a crucial position, so the gravity of this development cannot be downplayed. Right now, there's no reason to panic, but it's something to monitor.
DOWN ON THE FARM
On Monday night, the last of Minnesota's minor-league affiliates held its own grand finale, as the Fort Myers Miracle capped off an excellent season by winning the Florida State League Championship.
Fort Myers was a major source of intrigue all summer long, with Royce Lewis, Alex Kirilloff and Brusdar Graterol firmly solidifying themselves as the organization's top three prospects there. Each was instrumental in the Miracle becoming champs. It'll be interesting to see where they fall on national prospect lists this offseason, and then, which level they start at next spring.
For some additional minor-league reading, check out the season-ending awards Twins Daily has dished out to prospects recently (more to come this week):
- Twins 2018 Short Season Pitcher Of The Year: Andrew Cabezas
- Twins 2018 Short Season Hitter Of The Year: Chris Williams
- Twins 2018 Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Year: Andrew Vazquez
- Twins 2018 Minor League Starting Pitcher Of The Year: Tyler Wells
The Twins travel to Detroit and Oakland to wrap up their final road trip of the 2018 season. They need to go 13-0 in their remaining games to finish .500 (ha!). More plausibly, they need to go 5-8 or better to avoid 90 losses, for whatever that's worth.
MONDAY, 9/17: TWINS @ TIGERS – RHP Kohl Stewart v. RHP Jordan Zimmermann
TUESDAY, 9/18: TWINS @ TIGERS – RHP Jake Odorizzi v. LHP Daniel Norris
WEDNESDAY, 9/19: TWINS @ TIGERS – LHP Stephen Gonsalves v. LHP Matthew Boyd
FRIDAY, 9/21: TWINS @ ATHLETICS – RHP Jose Berrios v. RHP Trevor Cahill
SATURDAY, 9/22: TWINS @ ATHLETICS – RHP Kyle Gibson v. RHP Mike Fiers
SUNDAY, 9/23: TWINS @ ATHLETICS – RHP Kohl Stewart v. TBD
Catch Up On Twins Daily Game Recaps
- Game 143 | NYY 7, MIN 2: It Was Close, Until It Wasn’t
- Game 144 | MIN 10, NYY 5: Joe Mauer Grand Slam Highlights Big Night for Bats
- Game 145 | MIN 3, NYY 1: Odorizzi Carries No-No Into 8th Inning
- Game 146 | KC 6, MIN 4: Coming Down is the Hardest Thing
- Game 147 | KC 8, MIN 4: OH THE HUMANITY!!!
- Game 148 | KC 10, MIN 3: It’s a Hard Road
- Game 149 | MIN 9, KC 6: Twins Swat Four Homers, Avoid Sweep
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