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The red-hot Twins saw their fortunes change in a hurry in Baltimore, settling for a split after jumping to a 2-0 series lead. Then they bounced back with three straight one-run victories in a weekend sweep of the Athletics at home.

Much more importantly, they seem to have dodged couple more huge injury bullets with star players, as this season continues to follow a polar-opposite course from the last. And Carlos Correa's (hopefully) minor setback did set the stage for a very exciting MLB debut.

Last Week's Game Results:

Game 23 | MIN 2, BAL 1: Paddack, Bullpen Power Twins in Win
Game 24 | MIN 7, BAL 2: Twins Stay Hot Behind Ryan, Bats
Game 25 | BAL 9, MIN 4: Bad Start, Bad Defense, Bad Luck
Game 26 | BAL 5, MIN 3: Solo Shots Shatter Twins
Game 27 | MIN 2, OAK 1: Game of Firsts Ends in Victory
Game 28 | MIN 1, OAK 0: Polanco and Pitching Power Another Win
Game 29 | MIN 4, OAK 3: Bullpen Completes Sweep of Oakland

Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 5/2 through Sun, 5/8
***
Record Last Week: 5-2 (Overall: 18-11)
Run Differential Last Week: +2 (Overall: +25)
Standing: 1st Place in AL Central (3.0 GA)

NEWS & NOTES

Things looked grim after Carlos Correa took a pitch off the hand on Thursday night in Baltimore, with post-game X-rays suggesting the potential of a non-displaced fracture. Twins fans couldn't be blamed for their incredulity ... another HBP knocking out a superstar player for an extended period??

But unlike last year, when Byron Buxton's broken hand was just another big ol' drop in the endless bucket of bad luck, the Twins again got some unexpected positive news upon further testing, with a Friday CT scan showing only a bruise. Correa avoided the injured list, just like Buxton did last month after his scary slide into second at Fenway.

Even with Correa staying active, the Twins still called up top prospect Royce Lewis to fill in at shortstop over the weekend, adding an extra level of energy to their home series against Oakland. Lewis has gotten his MLB career off to a solid start, with three hits in his first 10 at-bats.

Buxton himself appears to have dodged another scary setback. He left Saturday's game due to tightness in his right hip – the same spot where a significant strain cost him six weeks last year – but the the new issue was described as "very low level" and he too avoided an IL trip. 

The good breaks in the wake of bad news didn't stop there.  

COVID reared its ugly head in the Twins clubhouse once again, with manager Rocco Baldelli as well as Luis Arraez and Dylan Bundy all testing positive on Thursday. But by the end of the weekend, no one else on the team had registered a positive test, which qualifies as a big relief given the level of contagion we've seen with this virus.

It wasn't all happy outcomes, however.

Trevor Larnach suffered a groin strain that forced him to IL, which is especially unfortunate because he was really cooking (as we'll cover shortly). The team is confident that his absence will be a short one – hopefully only around the 10-day minimum – but still the Twins will be without one of their most effective hitters of late. Alex Kirilloff has activated after a rehab stint in St. Paul, but the jury is very much out on his ability to make an impact with his balky wrist.

And, ss it turns out, Miguel Sanó's balky left knee was serious enough to require a surgical remedy. He underwent a procedure to repair torn meniscus, and figures to be out for a couple of months, though no firm timetable has been established. With top prospect José Miranda called up to replace him and likely to see a bulk of time at first base, it's possible that Sanó will return to find his job taken. He may be reaching the end of the road in Minnesota.

Meanwhile, Chris Paddack left Sunday's start with inflammation in his right elbow, which was a big issue last year when he battled a partially torn UCL that required a PRP injection. Very unsettling, but we'll see what comes out from further exams on Sunday. I guess we've learned better than to jump to negative conclusions.

HIGHLIGHTS

This pitching staff is incredible. What else can you say? Even within the context of a drastic decline in offense across the league, Twins pitchers are simply crushing it. The past week featured four games in which opponents were held to two runs or fewer, including a pair of 2-1 squeakers and a 1-0 victory.

A certain amount of good luck is inherently at play when you're scratching out wins like these. But the staff is legitimately winning games, and it's valuable to bank them while the bats continue to lag amidst a league-wide hitting scourge. 

Great performances are coming from all corners of the rotation and bullpen. Sonny Gray returned from the injured list on Saturday with an electric performance against Oakland, striking out seven over four scoreless innings. The previous day saw Josh Winder obliterate the A's in his second MLB start: 6 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 8 K. The combination of he and Joe Ryan, who looked good once again in Tuesday's win over Baltimore and now sports a 1.63 ERA, is almost too much to handle. This franchise has been starved for impact rookie pitchers. Now we've got ALL the impact rookie pitchers.

Of course, this conversation wouldn't be complete without a mention of Jhoan Duran, who's been just as uplifting to the bullpen as Ryan and Winder in the rotation. 

Duran was on his way to an appearance in the Lowlights column this week after allowing two homers and taking the loss on Thursday. Then he went out on Saturday and cemented a 1-0 win with two absurdly dominant innings. He allowed no hits. He struck out five. He got nine whiffs on 32 pitches. 

I'm not sure prime Aroldis Chapman comparisons are out of bounds at this point. Duran is lighting up the radar gun and flat-out blowing people away. His only weakness so far has been an odd proneness to the long ball – with four of the 10 hits he's allowed in 14 ⅔ leaving the yard – but that seems very flukish to me.

The bullpen, in general, has been simply phenomenal. Over the past week Twins relievers allowed just three earned runs in 33 innings, good for a 0.87 ERA with a 38-to-6 K/BB ratio in 31 innings. The shockingly effective relief unit was absolutely pivotal in a weekend sweep of the Athletics.

While the offense has been underwhelming overall, it's nice to see some secondary contributors stepping up, especially with Correa and Buxton hobbled. 

Larnach has been making a very strong impression, and getting plenty of tread. He started five of seven games last week before the groin injury surfaced, going 6-for-15 with a pair of doubles and five runs scored. Jorge Polanco notched nine hits in 25 at-bats, including the decisive solo shot in Saturday's win. José Miranda launched his first career home run and made it count in a 2-1 Friday win. Gilberto Celestino tallied six hits in 15 at-bats to push his average to .324.

LOWLIGHTS

It was a tough week for Bundy. His positive COVID diagnosis came on the heels of a nightmare outing against his former team in Baltimore. Over 3 ⅔ innings, he was touched up for a career-high nine earned runs, with the Orioles piling up 11 hits, two walks and two home runs in a ballpark that had been suppressing offense to the extreme.

Bundy had given up six earned runs over six innings in his previous start, so he's seen his ERA balloon from 0.59 to 5.76 in a span of two outings. No one expected the extraordinarily strong start to sustain, but this is a jarring regression to the mean by any standard.

It's the kind of all-out implosion that can put an inexpensive back-of-rotation flier like Bundy on the ropes very quickly in a suddenly crowded rotation. 

TRENDING STORYLINE

Rotation adjustments lie ahead of the Twins. Even with Paddack going down, their starting mix is full between Gray, Ryan, Winder, Bundy, and Chris Archer. Bailey Ober is expected back in relatively short order. 

An overabundance of starting pitching depth is certainly not a "problem" anyone expected the Twins to deal with, and it's almost funny we're discussing it. Nevertheless, here we are.

Even if they're cool to continue rolling with six, what happens when Ober is ready to come back? How many more bad outings can Bundy afford? Is it possible a move to the bullpen might breathe some life into his upper-80s fastball?

LOOKING AHEAD

Things get a bit more challenging this week with the Astros and Guardians coming to town. The Twins will need to play better ball than they did against Oakland if they want to win these series. How much will Buxton and Correa play? We shall see.

TUESDAY, 5/10: ASTROS @ TWINS – RHP Justin Verlander v. RHP Joe Ryan
WEDNESDAY, 5/11: ASTROS @ TWINS – RHP Jose Urquidy v. RHP Chris Archer
THURSDAY, 5/12: ASTROS @ TWINS – RHP Luis Garcia v. RHP Josh Winder
FRIDAY, 5/13: GUARDIANS @ TWINS – RHP Shane Bieber v. RHP Sonny Gray
SATURDAY, 5/14: GUARDIANS @ TWINS – RHP Triston McKenzie v. TBD
SUNDAY, 5/15: GUARDIANS @ TWINS – RHP Zach Plesac v. RHP Joe Ryan


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1 hour ago, The Mad King said:

Paddocks elbow is certainly cause for concern. The worst part about the Sano injury, from a team perspective, it's that he'll be worth nothing at the trade deadline, and gone in FA with nothing in return. 

I don't think a competitor would be interested in parting with any prospects to acquire Sano at the deadline. And that goes double for any team that's out of the playoff picture. He's a Twin until he's either outrighted/released mid-year or just let go at the end of the season. I suppose the humane thing to do would just to be to keep him on the injured list for the entire year and then let him go.

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Are more batters being hit by pitches in the past five or ten years than previous decades? Need to run some numbers, because getting plunked used to feel like a rare, or deliberate occurrence. HBP seems to be in every box score these days...

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Now the real test of our SP - Astros - not the hitless A's and Orioles.  Dan Gladden kept telling us the horrible A's hitting stats throughout the game and it was a wonder that even Pagan could have a long inning with them.  They have a team OPS of 578 ranking number 30! Their team BA is 200 only Arizona is worse.  They not only do not hit, they rank 27 in walks. And they are 29 is slugging.  Everyone on the staff probably wanted a chance to pitch in this series. 

And Baltimore is #24 in power, #21 in OPS, 

The Twins are 10 or 11 in the slash line stats. 

Last question - why Godoy and not Contreras to replace Larnach?  Is their a rule against the Twins adjusting their 40 man?

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Great summary, Nick.  I suspect there is not an analytic for this, but it seems that for some teams in some years things just go bad, or things just go right in terms of close games, injuries, individual performances, rookie surprises, free agent signings, etc.  Last year it seemed that everything went bad in many of those categories.  It was almost like you knew a few weeks in that there was bad karma around the team.  This year it seems like it is the polar opposite, with things going right even when there are setbacks--like Lewis coming in after Correa's injury, Celestino playing great with Buxton out, and Larnach stepping up at a time when Kirilloff is struggling with an injury.  This team has good karma around it.  Maybe it has something to do with the "chemistry" issue Seth raised in an earlier article.  Whatever the source, I hope nothing changes!

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This week shapes up to be quite a test for the Twins youth. Jeffers, Kirilloff, Miranda, Lewis, Gordon, and Celestino get to face some really good pitchers and Ryan, Winder, and the younger bullpen pitchers will face some excellent bats. The season is still young but the Twins should be excited to face the challenge of the Astros and Cleveland clubs.

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1 hour ago, VivaBomboRivera! said:

Are more batters being hit by pitches in the past five or ten years than previous decades? Need to run some numbers, because getting plunked used to feel like a rare, or deliberate occurrence. HBP seems to be in every box score these days...

Rosenthal's recent article in the Athletic said it's the lowest in 2022 as it has been since 2018. It's right around 1.1 percent. Last year it was slightly higher, 1.3 percent.  It's up since the 1980's though. 

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Not only has Duran been pretty amazing, but so has Jax. And then Duffey and Thielbar have suddenly turned it around. Even with Pagan getting us on the edge of our seats lately, he's gotten the job done. I still feel the pen is probably one good, proven arm away from continued success.

Other than that, my only concern is a Ying/Yang karma regarding injuries. We've had a bunch so far, but only Alacala and Sano appear long term at this point. C4 and Larnach back soon, Ober back soon,  Arraez and Bundy off the covid list and Paddack OK, I'll breath a huge sigh of relief. But I'll breath even a little easier if AK's wrist feels good and he starts to hit again like he's capable of.

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4 hours ago, RJA said:

Great summary, Nick.  I suspect there is not an analytic for this, but it seems that for some teams in some years things just go bad, or things just go right in terms of close games, injuries, individual performances, rookie surprises, free agent signings, etc.  Last year it seemed that everything went bad in many of those categories.  It was almost like you knew a few weeks in that there was bad karma around the team.  This year it seems like it is the polar opposite, with things going right even when there are setbacks--like Lewis coming in after Correa's injury, Celestino playing great with Buxton out, and Larnach stepping up at a time when Kirilloff is struggling with an injury.  This team has good karma around it.  Maybe it has something to do with the "chemistry" issue Seth raised in an earlier article.  Whatever the source, I hope nothing changes!

I have been preaching "Chemistry", especially when the Twins signed Donaldson. Just as optimism is contagious, so is "me first" negativism. Correra, Buxton, Lewis are refreshing examples of healthy, encouraging optimism.  

 

50 minutes ago, Bigfork Twins Guy said:

Good week, although the Pagan appearances remind me of Blake Parker’s.  Each pitch is a struggle and painful to watch.

Pagan reminds me of Fernando Rodney. 

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1 hour ago, Bigfork Twins Guy said:

Good week, although the Pagan appearances remind me of Blake Parker’s.  Each pitch is a struggle and painful to watch.

If pagan would have blown a couple of those saves and lost it would have reminded me of RD ( RON DAVIS ) ,,,

Man was I on the edge of seat 

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Glad we are winning but this series with Houston will be a test , good pitching and hitting 

Next series could be  alittle easier Cleveland has good pitching  , have heard there hitters are warming up .

Go twins 

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7 hours ago, Blyleven2011 said:

Glad we are winning but this series with Houston will be a test , good pitching and hitting 

Next series could be  alittle easier Cleveland has good pitching  , have heard there hitters are warming up .

Go twins 

Cleveland’s strength so far, surprisingly, has been their offense. Their pitching staff has been awful.

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