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Despite a pair of stellar pitching outings and hits-a-plenty, the Twins managed just three wins on the wild west road trip this past week. The talent is there, yet there seemed to be a piece missing from the puzzle too many times. 

 

Last Week's Game Results:

Game 63 | MIN 3, SEA 2: Buxton's Early Bomb Proves Decisive
Game 64 | SEA 5, MIN 0: Ryan Rocked in Return, Bats Blanked
Game 65 | MIN 5, SEA 0: Offense Surges Late to Clinch Series
Game 66 | AZ 7, MIN 2: Twins Drop Series Opener to Diamondbacks
Game 67 | MIN 11, AZ 1: Dylan Bundy Shines, Offense Explodes as Twins Win
Game 68 | AZ 7, MIN 1: Punished by Long Ball, Drop Rubber Game

Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 6/13 through Sun, 6/19
***
Record Last Week: 3-3 (Overall: 38-30)
Run Differential Last Week: Even (Overall: +25)
Standing: First Place in AL Central (1 GA)

NEWS & NOTES
For the first time this season the Twins headed west for a week in Seattle and Phoenix against two sub-par teams. Sitting in fourth and dead last in their respective divisions, the past week provided an opportunity to create some distance between the Twins and streaking Guardians. At the end of the day, that didn't happen. The Twins squeaked out a series win against the Mariners but fell in a disappointing series to the Diamondbacks that included two blowout losses. 

For the first time in his career, Jorge Polanco was placed on the Injured List for lower back tightness on Thursday. Off to an adequate start, Polanco was slashing .245/.340/.729 with ten doubles and 33 RBI prior to the announcement. Placed on the 10-day IL, Jorge's presence as a core member of the middle part of the lineup was noticed. 

On the flipside, the Polanco move opened the door for Alex Kirilloff to make his way back to Target Field, a move that many in the Twins community were calling for. 

You can't blame the people. After a lackluster first stint with the Twins this year, Kirilloff tore the cover off the ball at Triple-A St. Paul over the past month and made as solid a case as there is that he belongs at Target Field. 

Perhaps the most notable news of the week came from the return of starting pitchers Joe Ryan and Sonny Gray. Arguably the top two pitchers in the rotation, Ryan and Gray's return adds depth to a pitching rotation with a tank that was close to empty. Returning from the extended Covid List, Ryan made his first start since May 21 on Tuesday night against the Mariners while Gray returned on Wednesday night following a stint on the 15-day IL with a pectoral strain. 

Given the return of Ryan and Gray, the Twins DFA'd RHP Chi Chi González this past Sunday. González was scooped up by the Milwaukee Brewers just two days later. Signed to a minor league contract prior to the start of the season, González made two starts for the Twins, giving up six runs on 12 hits in seven combined innings. 

HIGHLIGHTS
Despite the .500 result on the week, there was a flurry of excellent endeavors for the Minnesota Twins this past week. Coming off an extended stint on the IL is never easy, especially for a starting pitcher. Sonny Gray kicked that norm to the curb on Wednesday night with arguably his best start of the year in a shutout win over the Mariners. Through five scoreless innings, Gray allowed just three hits and no runs while striking out three in one hell of a comeback campaign. Anticipated by many to be the club's ace upon his signing, Gray's numbers are trending in the right direction. Gray has given up just three runs in his last four starts and opposing hitters batted a meager .182 against Gray in May (versus .208) in June. 

Obviously, it's a small sample size, but the numbers are looking great and Gray's experience will continue to prove valuable for a rotation this continues to be fluid. Ace or not, Sonny Gray will be a valuable asset for the Twins as the season grows deep. 

Speaking of consistency, Luis Arraez has continued his monstrous hitting campaign and currently sits at a lead-leading .361 batting average. Arraez holds a healthy lead over Paul Goldschmidt (.344 AVG) and has sat atop the leader board for over a week. 

Batting .386 in the month of June, Arraez hit safely in five of six games this week, including three multi-hit games. It's no secret that Arraez deserves to be an MLB All-Star, yet his greatest strength is certainly his versatility at the plate. Well-known as a contact hitter, Arraez has shown his potential for power throughout the season while maintaining his incredible consistency for putting the ball in play. Here's Rocco speaking about his stellar hitting approach. 

Perhaps the finest pitching outing of the week took place on Saturday night when Dylan Bundy mowed down the Diamondbacks through eight full innings. Coming off of a rough start against the Yankees, Bundy allowed just one run on no hits and struck out seven in his clear-cut best start of the year. Unlike Arraez, Bundy has lacked consistency this year but Saturday's masterpiece against the Diamondbacks was a true display of how high Bundy's ceiling can be. Hopefully, it instills confidence in the veteran and leads to more quality starts when it matters most. 

Carlos Correa has continued to trend in the directions that Twins fans hoped he would. Traditionally a slow starter, Correa is now statistically playing the best June baseball of his career and is batting .341 so far this month. Corea's season-long average of .293 ranks second amongst everyday starters (only behind Arraez) and is sure to climb even higher. Correa did go hitless in two of three games against the Diamondbacks but did knock in an RBI in the middle game along with hitting safely in each game in Seattle.

And on top of those, Alex Kirilloff's return to Major League play on Saturday night was excellent. With the game still competitive, Kirilloff crushed a third-inning two-out  RBI two-run double to open up the flood gates for the rest of the crew. 

 

LOWLIGHTS
A club that should win a majority of games (and certainly series) against bottom-feeder teams, this week's 50-50 split came as a result of dry bats, and rocky pitching...sometimes at the same time.

Sunday's loss to Arizona was a prime example. Through four innings, Chris Archer allowed two runs (both homers) on three total hits while striking out three; not a great outing, but certainly not a game-ruiner. While not his finest rodeo, Griffin Jax kept the game within reach, allowing just one run (on another homer) in the fifth inning. The floodgates unfortunately opened in the sixth, with Caleb Thielbar allowing four runs on three hits (one homer) and a walk in just 2/3 of an inning. The blunder was uncharacteristic for Thielbar, who had previously allowed just one run in the month of June. Thielbar touted an impressive 2.08 ERA through 13 innings in May and will hopefully get past this road bump. 

Yet through the misfires on the bump, the Twins' offense wasn't able to get much going minus a Luis Arraez run in the first. The Twins managed just five hits in the series finale against the D-Backs, a large contrast from 14 the night before and 10 on Friday. Just a few days earlier, the team tallied just four hits in their series-opening loss to the Mariners on Tuesday. The highs and lows of this team's hitting will eventually land somewhere on a plateau alongside the mountain. 

Ryan Jeffers looks to be escaping from his hitting slump and young talent Jose Miranda seems to have found a groove. There aren't necessarily sole names at fault for the occasional offensive lapses, the problem seems to just be a team-wide consistency gap in occasional 'should-win games.'

After finally hitting his stride, LHP Devin Smeltzer suffered his first poor outing of the season in the series opener against Arizona. Smeltzer allowed seven runs on nine hits through 4 1/3 against the Diamondbacks, the most runs and hits he's given up through seven starts this year. The crafty lefty gave up two homers in his outing and has given up seven in June after giving up none through three starts in May. That's certainly not a good trend, but Smeltzer has proven he can limit damage and keep opposing hitters' numbers low. While there is surely uncertainty given his fairly young track record, hopefully, Friday's shelling was just a rare bad day at the office.

And finally, Joe Ryan's highly anticipated return to the bump on Tuesday night in Seattle didn't exactly go as planned. After three stellar innings, Ryan left just a few pitches up which led to the Mariners scoring two runs in both the fourth and fifth innings. All in all the outing was horrific, it just wasn't "Joe-Cool-esque." Not shockingly, Ryan's velocity was down quite a bit from prior to landing on the Covid list. 

Ryan's bland start shouldn't provide a huge concern for worry, as the star rookie has proven his consistency throughout the course of the season. This week's start against Cleveland should prove as a true test for the club's ace. 

TRENDING STORYLINE
The Twins did not meet or exceed their own expectations this past week. While there were certainly moments of brilliance the club lacked consistency against two very sweep-able ball clubs. Contending teams find ways to take care of business against clubs that they're clearly better than and the Twins simply played down to the level Mariners and Diamondbacks too many times. 

Are the Twins still contenders? Absolutely. It would be foolish to foster deep concern following a .500 week at this point in the season, especially with key players returning to health. Yet the Twins do need to find consistency both at the plate and from the bump...and they need it to coincide. 

Losing Jorge Polanco is certainly a blow, but unlikely heroes like Jose Miranda are beginning to get hot, and veterans Gio Urshela and Gary Sanchez have shown the ability to be major contributors. The 'A-B-C' crew of Arraez, Buxton, and Correa continue to anchor this offense and all signs are pointing toward them all trending in the right direction. 

Despite a trio of over-par starts, the Twins bullpen is in a decent place with Gray and Ryan back on the mound. Given Dylan Bundy's electric start in Arizona along with 'not-normal' outings from Smeltzer and Archer, the Twins truly control their destiny for the near future. 

The reality of that begins on Tuesday. With red-hot Cleveland (8-2 in last ten games) coming to town, Minnesota will have the chance to beat a solid team that they're still probably better than. Following Sunday's loss, the Guardians are just one game behind the Twins for first place in the AL Central and are one of the most surprising stories of the year (along with the Twins). Joe Ryan will have a chance to redeem himself on the bump and all signs are pointing towards an electric series at Target Field. 

LOOKING AHEAD
With some toasty weather and first place in the division on the line, Target Field will be the place to be this week as Cleveland comes to town. Following that the Twins will have a chance to sweep the struggling Rockies over the weekend. 


TUESDAY, 6/21: GUARDIANS @ TWINS - RHP Joe Ryan v. TBD
WEDNESDAY, 6/22: GUARDIANS @ TWINS- RHP Sonny Gray vs. RHP Triston McKenzie
THURSDAY, 6/23: GUARDIANS @ TWINS- LHP Devin Smeltzer vs. RHP Zac Plesac
FRIDAY, 6/24: ROCKIES @ TWINS- TBD v. TBD
SATURDAY, 6/25: ROCKIES @ TWINS TBD v. TBD
SUNDAY, 6/26: ROCKIES @ TWINS TBD v. TBD

 


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BP is a roller coaster.  Bundy did a good job of taking care of business the way I expect a SP to do.  

I am worried about Cleveland and wonder how they are doing it.  

Our record against KC/Det/Sea/Ariz/Balt is 19 - 16.  Those are the bottom feeders.  True we beat up Oakland, but they belong in AAA and everyone beats them up.  We are 16 - 14 against the good teams.  This is not good enough and the reason the articles emphasis on inconsistency is so correct. 

Cleveland now has a run differential of +35 and we are +25.  Watch out.  By the way the other two first place teams in the AL are the Yankees with a +143  (second place Toronto +24) and Houston +53.

In our division we are first in Runs scored and third in runs allowed.  My unofficial tally (could be off a game or two as I lose track moving down the list) has the Twins scoring 0-1 runs 14 times, 2 - 4 26 times (and I was surprised how many of those were 2 runs) 5 - 9 26 times and 10+ 5 times. That is my barometer for an inconsistent offense.

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When you have a manager who apparently doesn’t believe in the consistency or momentum theories? When a player is hot let him play instead of sitting him for a day of rest. Hitters and players like to know where they are in the batting order every day before they get to the ballpark. It’s called pregame preparation.

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13 hours ago, David Youngs said:
Carlos Correa has continued to trend in the directions that Twins fans hoped he would. Traditionally a slow starter, ...

Slow starter?  For his career, August and September both have been his worst months.

https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/split.fcgi?id=correca01&year=Career&t=b#all_month

It's true that June overall comes out best, but his Aprils taken together have been all-star level for a SS.

If we're challenging for a playoff spot, let's hope this trend doesn't play out.  (His actual post-season numbers for his career look just fine.)

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8 hours ago, Old fox said:

When you have a manager who apparently doesn’t believe in the consistency or momentum theories? When a player is hot let him play instead of sitting him for a day of rest. Hitters and players like to know where they are in the batting order every day before they get to the ballpark. It’s called pregame preparation.

The hitters don't care so much about where they are in the batting order when it comes to their pregame preparation. If Arraez is hitting 5th instead of 1st he doesn't warmup any different. Garlick knows if there's a lefty on the mound tomorrow he's starting. Arraez knows if there's a righty on the mound he's starting. Buxton and Correa know if tomorrow isn't a scheduled off day for them they're starting. Sanchez and Jeffers know their catcher rotation, and Sanchez knows if it's a lefty he's DHing. Kepler knows he's playing unless it's a scheduled off day. Same with Polanco. Celestino knows if it's a lefty he's starting. Larnach knows if it's a righty he's starting. Kirilloff knows if it's a righty he's starting. Urshela knows he's starting at 3B unless it's a scheduled off day. Miranda knows if it's a lefty he's starting. Where they are in the order doesn't change anything. They know the situations they play in and what their roles on the team are.

The only time their pregame preparation is different than usual is if it's an off day for Buxton or Correa. Especially Buxton. He knows those are treatment days for him and doesn't go through his normal pregame routine. Other than that these guys do the same thing everyday in preparation for the game, even if they aren't starting.

Sitting hot players for a rest day is a different conversation, though.

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21 hours ago, Old fox said:

When you have a manager who apparently doesn’t believe in the consistency or momentum theories? When a player is hot let him play instead of sitting him for a day of rest. Hitters and players like to know where they are in the batting order every day before they get to the ballpark. It’s called pregame preparation.

The former players who broadcast with Dick Bremer have said this as well. Consistency helps them get into a rhythm.

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Just now, rwilfong86 said:

The former players who broadcast with Dick Bremer have said this as well. Consistency helps them get into a rhythm.

Then that very same rhythm is also important for every player on the roster. 

Allowing 9 players to walk past the lineup card because they know where they are hitting and where they are playing only works if:  All 9 players don't fail AND all 9 players stay healthy all year... WHICH NEVER HAPPENS.

Over the 162 game schedule... Things change in a New York Minute. Someone is going to emergency... someone is going to jail. Someone is going to get hurt... someone is going to suck... Every year has taught us this over and over again but we can't seem to see it as we listen to Dazzle say consistency helps them get into a rhythm.

We bless 9 with the consistency rhythm. Screw the other 4 players on the roster. They were pre-determined to be not as good as Max Kepler. When injuries occur and they will... we will simply put those 4 unchosen ones in ice cold and then complain about them if they don't immediately get the job done. For them... consistency smishtency. We don't need to prep them for anything. 

Lots of people like to refer to Celestino as pretty good for a 4th OF.

If the consistency rhythm is good for Kepler. Then the lack of consistency rhythm must be bad for Celestino. Who is out performing who? How will we ever know if Celestino is playing better than Kepler. If Celestino has to watch from the bench so Kepler can keep that vital consistency rhythm? 

Opening Day Lineup:

DH - Sanchez

C- Jeffers

1B- Sano

2B- Polanco

3B - Urshela

SS- Correa

LF - Kirilloff

CF - Buxton

RF - Kepler

Did the team get it right while selecting who gets blessed with the consistency rhythm. Arraez didn't start opening day. Yeah we opened against a left hander but not starting against the random left hander has to mess with that consistency rhythm. 

What about Garlick on the short side... Garlick... the masher of left handers. How do you get the consistency rhythm when you only get to face the left handers who hit the stage randomly. Could you imagine how good the masher of left handers could be if he was allowed to get into that important consistency rhythm. In theory... wouldn't the consistency rhythm just completely blow any notion of platooning out of the water? 

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2 hours ago, Craig Arko said:

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds…” - Emerson

What is referred as hobgoblin of little minds?
 
 
Definition of A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. A great person does not have to think consistently from one day to the next. This remark comes from the essay “Self-Reliance” by Ralph Waldo Emerson. Emerson does not explain the difference between foolish and wise consistency.
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11 hours ago, Riverbrian said:

Then that very same rhythm is also important for every player on the roster. 

Allowing 9 players to walk past the lineup card because they know where they are hitting and where they are playing only works if:  All 9 players don't fail AND all 9 players stay healthy all year... WHICH NEVER HAPPENS.

Over the 162 game schedule... Things change in a New York Minute. Someone is going to emergency... someone is going to jail. Someone is going to get hurt... someone is going to suck... Every year has taught us this over and over again but we can't seem to see it as we listen to Dazzle say consistency helps them get into a rhythm.

We bless 9 with the consistency rhythm. Screw the other 4 players on the roster. They were pre-determined to be not as good as Max Kepler. When injuries occur and they will... we will simply put those 4 unchosen ones in ice cold and then complain about them if they don't immediately get the job done. For them... consistency smishtency. We don't need to prep them for anything. 

Lots of people like to refer to Celestino as pretty good for a 4th OF.

If the consistency rhythm is good for Kepler. Then the lack of consistency rhythm must be bad for Celestino. Who is out performing who? How will we ever know if Celestino is playing better than Kepler. If Celestino has to watch from the bench so Kepler can keep that vital consistency rhythm? 

Opening Day Lineup:

DH - Sanchez

C- Jeffers

1B- Sano

2B- Polanco

3B - Urshela

SS- Correa

LF - Kirilloff

CF - Buxton

RF - Kepler

Did the team get it right while selecting who gets blessed with the consistency rhythm. Arraez didn't start opening day. Yeah we opened against a left hander but not starting against the random left hander has to mess with that consistency rhythm. 

What about Garlick on the short side... Garlick... the masher of left handers. How do you get the consistency rhythm when you only get to face the left handers who hit the stage randomly. Could you imagine how good the masher of left handers could be if he was allowed to get into that important consistency rhythm. In theory... wouldn't the consistency rhythm just completely blow any notion of platooning out of the water? 

Take it up with Dick Bremer and Jim Kaat.

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12 hours ago, rwilfong86 said:

Take it up with Dick Bremer and Jim Kaat.

I Did...  Here's how the conversation went:

Riverbrian: Dick? Jim? Can you both hear me? 

Dick: Loud and Clear

Jim: Yep

Riverbrian: I'm always amazed when I'm able to merge calls on my cell phone. 

Jim: Back in my day, the phones were on the wall and you had to answer the phone to find out who was calling. 

Riverbrian: The reason I called... I was hoping to talk about the importance of establishing a rhythm. Color analysts talk about this rhythm and the importance of it. I was hoping to dive into it a little bit with both of you. 

Dick: I suppose it's like any job when you do it day after day. You establish a rhythm with the repetition, it doesn't matter the job you do, it isn't just baseball players, it's the same for doctors, lawyers, even announcers like Jim and myself. I've been doing this a long time. You learn things as you go. 

Riverbrian: Such as?

Jim: Like the sound a ball makes when it comes off the bat. 

Dick: Yes Exactly

Jim: There were times when I wouldn't even turn around on the mound because I knew from the sound.  In the booth, you can close your eyes and recognize that sound. You know what happened and this comes with doing a job day in and day out. 

Dick: Yes Exactly... That sound,.. As an announcer you pick up on it with experience. You know it when you hear it,... it... becomes a cue that it's time to put some excitement in your delivery... it's time to inflect.  That sound... that pure sound of a routine flyball.

Riverbrian: Let's talk about the baseball player specifically and the importance of establishing that rhythm.

Jim: Baseball is all about timing. You need to be able refine that timing. Establishing a rhythm is important. 

Riverbrian: What about platoon hitters? Can they establish this rhythm? Pinch hitters? Can they establish this rhythm? 

Jim: Obviously it is much harder for the platoon hitter but they have breaking pitches breaking into them instead of away. So it's easier. 

Riverbrian: What about slumps. Why do slumps still happen once that rhythm is established. 

Dick: They are not robots Riverbrian! Sometimes... doing the same thing every day can lead to a certain... 

Jim: Complacency

Dick: Yeah... Complacency. 

Riverbrian: So the rhythm is both good and bad. 

Jim: Well yeah. Like everything in life. 

Riverbrian: I really appreciate you both taking the time to talk about this. I hear it mentioned so often... this importance of establishing a rhythm. 

Dick: Baseball games are three hour broadcasts. Have you ever tried to fill three hours? 

Jim: You pull a lot of things out of your... you know what...  about the old days. 

Riverbrian: Congrats on the Hall of Fame Jim... I'll be watching the induction of Tony and yourself with Twins Pride.  

 

 

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