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Week in Review: West Slide Story


A road trip to the West Coast only brought more despair for a team that is in a very bad way.

After holding first place for much of the season, the Minnesota Twins now find themselves looking up in the standings and unable to stop the bleeding.

Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 8/8 through Sun, 8/14
***
Record Last Week: 1-4 (Overall: 58-55)
Run Differential Last Week: -10 (Overall: +17)
Standing: 2nd Place in AL Central (2.5 GA)

Last Week's Game Results:

Game 109 | LAD 10, MIN 3: Ryan Roughed Up, Dodgers Dominate
Game 110 | LAD 8, MIN 5: Twins Once Again Can't Keep Up with LA
Game 111 | MIN 4, LAA 0: Mahle Plays Stopper in Shutout Victory
Game 112 | LAA 5, MIN 3: Bullpen Blows Late Lead, Twins Fall in 11
Game 113 | LAA 4, MIN 2: Twins Go Out with a Whimper, Drop Series

NEWS & NOTES

A bitter finish to the previous week carried over into Los Angeles, where the Twins were trounced twice straight by a team Dodgers team that completely outclassed Minnesota in all four match-ups on the season. 

Now 1-9 against the Dodgers, Astros and Yankees, the Twins have done nothing to counter their rep for shrinking on the big stage, which is troubling because road trips to Houston and New York still lie ahead in this final 50-game stretch.

It'll be a suspenseful seven weeks as the Twins run neck-and-neck with Cleveland and Chicago toward the finish line. Lapses and missteps now become extra costly, which made the missed opportunities in Anaheim so very frustrating. 

The Twins are short-handed and could use some help. They won't be getting it from pitching prospect Matt Canterino, who's getting Tommy John surgery to address his persistent elbow issues, but they are hoping to get a handful of important players back in September, including Kenta Maeda, Bailey Ober, Josh Winder, and Trevor Larnach. All are at various stages of the comeback trail. Meanwhile, Randy Dobnak is ramping up to in hopes of making it back to the mound in what's been a lost year. 

HIGHLIGHTS

With their rotation looking wobbly in July, the Twins knew they needed some help at the top. They went and got it by acquiring Tyler Mahle from the Reds. After an underwhelming debut against Toronto, Mahle took the hill in Anaheim on Friday night and looked the part of a stopper and #1 starter, firing six scoreless innings to lead a shutout for the pitching staff in the week's only victory.

The right-hander unleashed a barrage of fastballs, splitters and cutters against the Angels, inducing 12 swings and misses on 86 pitches. Notably, manager Rocco Baldelli came out for a chat with two outs and two on in the bottom of the sixth, but let Mahle stay in to finish the inning.

Offensively, Luis Arraez keyed the lineup, with seven hits in 16 at-bats, lifting his league-leading batting average to .333. After starting the month of August in a bit of a slump (just 2-for-19 in his first four games), Arraez notched three hits apiece in four of his next give games, mixing in a solid dose of power with five doubles. What a freakin' hitter. 

LOWLIGHTS

No matter what happens from here, the Joe Ryan trade was a success. His initial run in the majors alone was well worth the price: two months of Nelson Cruz at the very tail end of his effectiveness. I do think Ryan will settle in as a quality mid-rotation option. 

But the dream of him emerging as a frontline pitcher is fading fast. We're starting to see the flaws and limitations that made Tampa feel okay with letting him go, despite spectacular minor-league numbers. Ryan's latest outing in SoCal wasn't as brutal as the last, when he was hammered by San Diego for 10 runs on five homers, but it sure wasn't good.

The Dodgers teed off against Ryan for six runs (five earned) on nine hits over five innings. Granted, it's one of the best lineups you're going to see, but they made the rookie right-hander look flat-out overmatched, just as he did against the Padres, and the Mariners, and the Astros.

The fact is Ryan hasn't been very effective for a while now – his ERA is at 4.83 since the end of April – and the biggest hiccups seem to come against playoff-caliber lineups. That's bad news for a guy who would likely be slotted to start in a theoretical postseason series ... if the Twins get there.

It'll be a moot point if he and the rest of the pitchers don't step it up. Mahle aside, the Twins are repeatedly getting let down by the arms they brought in to bolster this staff. On Wednesday Sonny Gray fell apart in the fifth inning, surrendering a two-run lead in an eventual loss. On Saturday against the Angels, Jorge López blew his second save in three tries since coming aboard – a staggeringly ugly outing that saw him cough up a two-run lead against the bottom of a bad Angels lineup. Emilio Pagán came on to pitch in extras and, true to form, gave up a walk-off home run.

Gray, López, Pagán ... these are all pitchers the front office brought in with big trades, and now the team's fate has been tethered to them in significant ways. If things continue to trend the way they have, we know where the accountability will lie (beyond the players themselves). 

Of course, the bats need to do their part too, and haven't been. The lineup went 0-for-14 with RISP in Saturday night's loss, striking out 15 times. They followed by going 0-for-4 with RISP on Sunday, managing two runs in six innings against Angels starter Tucker Davidson, who entered the game with a 7.91 ERA. The Twins have scored more than five runs just twice in 12 August games, with the explosiveness they showed so frequently in the first half going amiss.

The loss of Alex Kirilloff is felt, and magnified by other key players mired in deep funks. Max Kepler is 0-for-27 since coming off the injured list. Carlos Correa has been a non-factor for the better part of two months, although he started to show some life over the weekend in Anaheim.

Byron Buxton is frequently unavailable (we learned last week that his knee injury flared up during a leap at the wall in the Padres series) and failing to deliver sufficient impact when he plays. Pitchers have begun to take full advantage of Buxton's uber-aggressive approach – reflected in a .206 average and 36% K-rate since the beginning of July. By his own admission, Buck's approach has been off in recent weeks: "Taking a lot of strikes, swinging at a lot of balls." Incidentally, Buxton and Correa have both been among the biggest culprits for the team's lack of timely hitting

The AL Central remains a very winnable division but to be frank, these guys aren't playing like they want or deserve it.  

TRENDING STORYLINE

Can the lifeless Twins regroup and re-energize in front of their fans at Target Field? That's the banner question entering a stretch with 13 of the next 16 games at Target Field. Once the calendar flips to September, Minnesota will face perhaps its most daunting and consequential portion of the remaining schedule: three games at White Sox, four at Yankees, and then back home for three against Cleveland. 

What kind of position will they be in once that stretch comes around? That'll be decided in the remainder of August, starting with a pair of series against lesser opponents in the week ahead.

LOOKING AHEAD

The Twins faced left-handed starters in all five games last week and they'll get them in three of the first four next week. They are really missing Kyle Garlick right now. Alas, there's no room for making excuses.

Facing two lackluster teams at home with their season hanging in the balance, the Twins absolutely need to go win both of these series at a minimum. 

MONDAY, 8/15: ROYALS @ TWINS – LHP Kris Bubic v. RHP Joe Ryan
TUESDAY, 8/16: ROYALS @ TWINS – RHP Zack Greinke v. RHP Sonny Gray
WEDNESDAY, 8/17: ROYALS @ TWINS – LHP Daniel Lynch v. RHP Tyler Mahle
FRIDAY, 8/19: RANGERS @ TWINS – LHP Martin Perez v. RHP Dylan Bundy
SATURDAY, 8/20: RANGERS @ TWINS – RHP Glenn Otto v. RHP Chris Archer
SUNDAY, 8/21: RANGERS @ TWINS – TBD v. RHP Joe Ryan


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"Can the lifeless Twins regroup and re-energize?"

Who is responsible for creatively and charismatically providing expert leadership to guide a team out of its collective funk...ummm.... let me check my spreadsheet and I'll get back to you!   

*repeated from previous post*

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Baltimore is ahead of the Twins in the wild card standings. Let that sink in for a few minutes.  Yes, those hapless Orioles who play in the toughest division in the AL and who traded their all-star closer to our Twins.   They also traded one of their better players, Trey Mancini, to the Astros. 

https://calltothepen.com/2022/08/04/baltimore-orioles-sell-season/amp/

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You covered it - there really isn't anything to add.  Right now it is up to the team to step up and show us that it means business - and that includes our massive coaching staff.  Time to make something happen.  Just get us to a good ending of the season - we had a good start and have been mediocre for most of the season in a terrible division - its time to sandwich the bad with another good streak. 

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7 hours ago, Blyleven2011 said:

I betcha kepler still likes the manager 

He always manages to stay out of the dog house and rarely mentioned in negative posts.  Seems to me he is another player that should be paid out and let go.  There must be prospects that could hit as well or better and meanwhile get MLB experience.  Even though all is not lost yet, Kepler isn't adding to the "race".

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The team overall has been playing uninspiring baseball over the past 65 games.  We are always saying this next stretch of games is important yet they usually fail at it.  I'm thinking tonight they will right the shop at least for one night.  Ryan will pitch well as he usually does against sub 500 teams.  Not so great against teams with winning records.  Yes twins have had plenty of injuries but let's be honest here.  Many of those injured are not front line players.  Some are but many are just hopefuls.  This team still has so many flaws.  A lot of these that should have been addressed during this past season weren't.  If they aren't addressed this off season then we will see more of the same or worse in 2023.  Baldellis plan and his unwillingness to waiver from each game plan has cost the team a lot of games.  His nearly non- existent in game managing and decision making, and lack thereof, will cost the Twins any chance of winning the division.  

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Our extreme lack of depth is really showing. Jake Cave and Tim Beckham do not belong on a major league roster yet they re really the only available replacements for Kepler. Kepler is at best the 4th OF on a contending team. Great glove, poor hitter with occasional power, should be playing 2-3 days a week hitting 8th. He's 29 people; he' snot going to get significantly better. This is who he is. Pagan should be in the bullpen of a non-contending team or in AAA. Great arm, can't handle pressure.  Leon is a 3rd catcher/AAA depth, not a 50% timeshare guy. Megill should be honing his craft at AAA looking for next year's bullpen. Bundy and Archer - maybe one in a rotation, but definitely not both. Add to that, the team is lifeless outside of Arraez and Miranda. Yes, injuries are a big culprit but they don't completely explain this malaise. 

So what do you do? You can nibble around the edges - bring up Aaron Sanchez, DFA Pagan, put Archer in the bullpen; bring up Helman and Contreras, DFA Cave and Beckham. Maybe that helps a little. You can fire Rocco, but replace him with who? Tingler failed in San Diego and I'm not aware of anyone out there who would be an upgrade. Losing Wes Johnson was a huge loss. 

Bottom line, this team was barely good enough to contend this year when fully healthy. I keep saying we have about 80-85% of a good team, and I still think that's right, but only when healthy. Right now we have about 65% of a good team.  I still have hope because I am the eternal optimist but my rational side says that this team will continue to slide and finish with around 82-84 wins; just over .500. Better than the 78 wins I predicted back in March but still just not good enough. Really interesting off season coming up with Correa situation. Also, I've been a big apologist for Rocco but I am beginning to think he just isn't the guy for a team like this. Looks like time for a new voice. 

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I didn't lay the middle game loss on Lopez. Sure he made a terrible pitch to Rubenless Sierra (the guy's a slap hitter, so his entire at bat is just stick the bat out... I'm curious who wanted the pitch on the outside corner...). Nevertheless, why we have our worst outfielder in the game in the 9th inning is the troubling part. Cave or Celestino should be in the game to protect the lead. There was no reason for Gordon to dive there. Only one run scores if you keep the ball in front of you. Tunnel vision earlier in the game by micromanaging the percentages of who should hit against who (we had the lead) contributed to one the worst losses of the season because our best defensive team was not on the field in the 9th.

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4 hours ago, LA VIkes Fan said:

Our extreme lack of depth is really showing. Jake Cave and Tim Beckham do not belong on a major league roster yet they re really the only available replacements for Kepler. Kepler is at best the 4th OF on a contending team. Great glove, poor hitter with occasional power, should be playing 2-3 days a week hitting 8th. He's 29 people; he' snot going to get significantly better. This is who he is. Pagan should be in the bullpen of a non-contending team or in AAA. Great arm, can't handle pressure.  Leon is a 3rd catcher/AAA depth, not a 50% timeshare guy. Megill should be honing his craft at AAA looking for next year's bullpen. Bundy and Archer - maybe one in a rotation, but definitely not both. Add to that, the team is lifeless outside of Arraez and Miranda. Yes, injuries are a big culprit but they don't completely explain this malaise. 

So what do you do? You can nibble around the edges - bring up Aaron Sanchez, DFA Pagan, put Archer in the bullpen; bring up Helman and Contreras, DFA Cave and Beckham. Maybe that helps a little. You can fire Rocco, but replace him with who? Tingler failed in San Diego and I'm not aware of anyone out there who would be an upgrade. Losing Wes Johnson was a huge loss. 

Bottom line, this team was barely good enough to contend this year when fully healthy. I keep saying we have about 80-85% of a good team, and I still think that's right, but only when healthy. Right now we have about 65% of a good team.  I still have hope because I am the eternal optimist but my rational side says that this team will continue to slide and finish with around 82-84 wins; just over .500. Better than the 78 wins I predicted back in March but still just not good enough. Really interesting off season coming up with Correa situation. Also, I've been a big apologist for Rocco but I am beginning to think he just isn't the guy for a team like this. Looks like time for a new voice. 

Gordon is an inept outfielder far too often, Arraez is inept at first, Beckham has been the only left fielder to throw  a runner out at home, but the umps cancelled it, Miranda is like Gordon , you hold your breath on fielding plays, if Celestino's was a good as his speed in the outfield, he would be 100 percent better, simple fact Twins field beyond 3rd and Short Stop, is a crap-shoot.

Cave is not the problem, Beckham is not the problem, pitching is not the problem so many want to make it, simply performing basic baseball tasks, especially hitting is the problem.

 

 

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I wouldn't get down on Joe Ryan. He is a decent pitcher. When the Twins acquired him from Tampa Bay he did not arrive with high credentials and the Twins hoped he could step right in and be an effective starting pitcher toward the back of the rotation. Joe has done that and more. The expectations that he could fill one of the top three spots in a good rotation were nor reasonable or fair. Hopefully next year Ryan sits as the #4 starter and he can fling without any pressure or outlandish thoughts of being a top of the rotation guy.

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1 hour ago, tony&rodney said:

I wouldn't get down on Joe Ryan. He is a decent pitcher. When the Twins acquired him from Tampa Bay he did not arrive with high credentials and the Twins hoped he could step right in and be an effective starting pitcher toward the back of the rotation. Joe has done that and more. The expectations that he could fill one of the top three spots in a good rotation were nor reasonable or fair. Hopefully next year Ryan sits as the #4 starter and he can fling without any pressure or outlandish thoughts of being a top of the rotation guy.

Agreed. One hopes he can be the #4 starter next year behind Mahle, Maeda and Gray. Then next year Ryan can be the #4, Ober the #5. 

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