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  • Week in Review: September Slide


    Nick Nelson

    The Minnesota Twins are dragging toward the finish line. Last week they lost a makeup game in New York, then lost a series at home against Cleveland, and closed out by losing a series in Toronto. Twins pitchers are struggling to keep opposing lineups in check.

    Image courtesy of John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

    Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 9/13 thru Sun, 9/19
    ***
    Record Last Week: 2-5 (Overall: 65-85)
    Run Differential Last Week: -11 (Overall: -113)
    Standing: 5th Place in AL Central (20.5 GB)

    Last Week's Game Recaps:

    Game 144 | NYY 6, MIN 5: Twins Blow Early Lead in Classic Bronx Dud
    Game 145 | CLE 3, MIN 1: Bats Can't Back Another Strong Ryan Outing
    Game 146 | MIN 6, CLE 3: Jeffers Drives in Four in Comeback Win
    Game 147 | CLE 12, MIN 3: Jax, Bullpen Roughed Up by Cleveland
    Game 148 | MIN 7, TOR 3: Jays Ambushed by Barrage of Long Balls
    Game 149 | TOR 6, MIN 2: Ober Can't Suppress Potent Lineup
    Game 150 | TOR 5, MIN 3: Berrios Bests Twins in Toronto

    NEWS & NOTES

    Yet another starting pitcher has gone down, further whittling Minnesota's ravaged rotation depth. In the first inning of his start against the Yankees on Monday, John Gant was pulled with a left abdominal strain that would land him on the Injured List. Yet another player who was showing promising signs only to be halted by injury.

    Incredibly, it looked like the exact same thing was going to happen to the starter in the following game. Joe Ryan took the ball for Game 1 of Tuesday's doubleheader at Target Field, and tossed five innings of stellar one-run ball before a comeback line drive nailed him in the wrist. His immediate reaction sent shockwaves of panic through Twins territory, as a frustrated Ryan walked straight off the mound and into the clubhouse without even waiting for trainers.

    Fortunately, in a rare non-worst case scenario, Ryan's X-rays came out negative and he was diagnosed with a contusion. He showed great perspective in a postgame interview, expressing regret for his reaction and going so far as to apologize. Personally I think he came off pretty well. You probably don't want to see a veteran pitcher doing the same thing but Ryan is a fresh rookie with charged emotions and -- evidently -- a fiery demeanor on the mound. 

    Beyond Ryan's favorable news, it was a nice week for feel-good stories on the Twins. Brent Rooker took a few days off for paternity leave, welcoming a baby girl into the world. Then, in his first came back on Friday, he he launched a homer and a double in Minnesota's 7-3 win against Toronto. "Dad strength," as fellow new father Rocco Baldelli put it.

    The following day, Rob Refsnyder went on the Injured List with a right elbow impingement. Taking his place is minor-league veteran Drew Maggi, who has toiled for more than a decade in the minors and is now getting a chance to play in the big leagues. The utility infielder, who primarily played shortstop for St. Paul this year, doesn't figure into the team's bigger plans but it's really cool to see him get a look in the waning days of this lost season. Assuming he does get a look. (He hasn't yet.)

    Learn a little more about Maggi here

    HIGHLIGHTS

    Ryan was a major bright spot for a third consecutive week, notching five strikeouts with only one walk and three hits allowed while once again working with extreme efficiency. He was at 67 pitches in the sixth inning before that comebacker forced him from the game. It sounds like Ryan will be able to make his next start on Wednesday, which is great news. 

    In the second half of Tuesday's doubleheader, Ryan Jeffers got the start at catcher and enjoyed a MUCH-needed big offensive game. The catcher went 3-for-3 with four RBIs, keying a 6-3 win for the Twins. We've been needing to see some sparks from Jeffers' bat, which went mostly dormant this year following a promising rookie campaign. The 24-year-old entered the three-hit contest with a .649 OPS on the season, including a .148/.198/.284 slash line and 36-to-1 (!) K/BB ratio since his last multi-hit game on August 4th.

    Like Rooker, Jeffers' power is not in doubt (albeit to a lesser extreme). And like Rooker, Jeffers needs to overcome his daunting strike zone control issues in order to make that power a real asset. In his case the matter is not quite as existential, because Jeffers offers strong defensive value as a good young catcher, but if he can't iron things out offensively he risks assuming the profile of a no-hit backstop and questionable starting option.

    He's still young, and games like Tuesday's offer some encouragement. On Friday in Toronto, Jeffers drew a walk, which might not seem like a big deal but it was only his second in 30 games. Then on Saturday he went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. At this point he's battling to finish with a batting average above .200. 

    Miguel Sano was fighting for much of the season to get his own average up over the Mendoza Line, but it's now up to .222 following another explosive week that saw him go 9-for-26 with three homers, two doubles, and six RBIs in seven games. 

    He also set an MLB record as the fastest player to reach 1,000 strikeouts, but if you're focusing narrowly on that as a negative, you're missing the forest for the trees. The Ks are part of his game and as we've mentioned here recently, he has actually cut down the strikeout rate considerably in the latter half of this season. 

    Sano's been one the Twins' most productive hitters down the stretch and may actually be stoking some offseason trade value, if the front office is so inclined.

    LOWLIGHTS

    The Twins bullpen, which had been on a rather amazing run since the trade deadline, had a major "hurdling back to Earth" experience last week, and it all began with an all-too-familiar outcome at Yankee Stadium on Monday.

    Minnesota managed to jump out to an early 5-0 lead with three homers off former Twins prospect Luis Gil in the first three innings, but stopped scoring after that while the New York offense went to work. Gant's early exit meant this would basically be a bullpen day, and the relief corps wasn't up to the task. After Luke Farrell and Caleb Thielbar got through 3 ⅓ scoreless frames, Kyle Barraclough, Tyler Duffey, and Alex Colome combined to allow five runs in the next four innings, burning through the team's sizable margin before Ralph Garza Jr. allowed the winning run to score in the 10th. There was some questionable umpiring at play in this classic Bronx collapse, but that hardly made it any less painful.

    Jovani Moran had a brutally tough first full week in the majors, following up his mostly-clean debut with a couple of absolute clunkers. Appearing twice, on Wednesday and Saturday, Moran was charged with six earned runs over three innings, allowing four hits and four walks with only two strikeouts. His ERA ballooned with 12.46. 

    Welcome to the big leagues, kid. On the bright side, this experience will give him clear cues as to where he must focus on improving during the offseason.

    TRENDING STORYLINE

    Can Mitch Garver get back in time to finish his season on a positive note? The catcher has seen a big rebound in 2021 but also his fair amount of frustrations, with injuries costing him significant stretches on multiple occasions. 

    His most recent ailment, a lower back strain, has had him on the sidelines since late August, but Garver embarked on a rehab assignment last week and should be ready to return within the coming days. 

    Having raised his OPS by more than 350 points from a dismal 2020, Garver is firmly re-established as a valuable core piece going forward regardless of what happens in the final couple weeks, but it'll be good if he can return to the field and hit another homer or two before all is said and done.

    LOOKING AHEAD

    Following a day off on Monday, the Twins will head to Wrigleyville for a quick two-gamer against the Cubs, then they return home to face the Blue Jays four times at Target Field. 

    TUESDAY, 9/21: TWINS @ CUBS – RHP Griffin Jax v. RHP Alec Mills
    WEDNESDAY, 9/22: TWINS @ CUBS – RHP Joe Ryan v. RHP Kyle Hendricks
    THURSDAY, 9/23: BLUE JAYS @ TWINS – LHP Steven Matz v. RHP Michael Pineda
    FRIDAY, 9/24: BLUE JAYS @ TWINS – RHP Alek Manoah v. RHP Bailey Ober
    SATURDAY, 9/25: BLUE JAYS @ TWINS – RHP Jose Berrios v. TBD
    SUNDAY, 9/26: BLUE JAYS @ TWINS – LHP Robbie Ray v. RHP Griffin Jax

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    Avoiding 90 losses is getting to be a pretty big challenge at this point with only 12 games to play they have to win eight of them to avoid 90 losses. I would like to see Maggi play. Why not would be my question what's the value of playing Simmons anymore this year he's a free agent and I doubt if we're going to sign them again.

     

    The biggest question I have is how a team like the Yankees can hold such a strong curse over a team like the twins. We keep saying the old Street doesn't count because those were different players but it does not seem to matter who our players are if we put a New York team on the field we blow up.

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    Is there a dissonance between managers and FO people on call ups? In a season like this there is no reason not to let Maggi play. I don’t say that because I think he is an improvement on anyone else on the roster. He is a minor league lifer. This is his shot. Whether the Twins lose 90, or 91 won’t make any difference to me. Molitor used to do this also. 

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    The best news for Maggi is that he is collecting around $3,000 per game, compared with probably close to that a month while playing for the Saints.  Expect he will see his first action in Chicago where they are playing under NL rules.  Will he pinch hit for a pitcher?  Will he pinch run for someone, then stay in a game?  May be the biggest news we are waiting to hear this coming week...well, that and whether or not Ryan will actually make his start come Wednesday?

    Had to be interesting for the Twins to be facing Berrios yesterday.  Especially so for those guys he came up with through the minors, Sano, Buxton, Polanco and others.

    The other exciting news these last couple weeks will be to see if Miranda gets the call.  We don't have a clue what the Twins plan on doing, hopefully, he will get called up the last week to get a feel for what his future holds.

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    Baldelli is back.  You can tell by the W-L record.

    I have not looked at the box scores, but I know from experience I will see something nonsensical either in the lineup or the pitching management for every game if I do.  At this point, that's a boring exercise.

    In light of that, MOAR DINGERS.  It's the only way to win with this manager.

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    The Twins win when they go on a HR rampage. They lose when they don’t. Obviously you will win more games when you hit more dingers. But, that won’t ever be the route to the WS or a WS ring. 

    In baseball it’s virtually impossible to win consistently in the playoffs with offense. Pitching rules late in the year. 

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    Since Arreaz was injured over a month ago I would let him sit on the bench the last 10 games and let Maggi rotate around the infield. Or maybe better bring Miranda in to play some.

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    In mid August, some folks here thought the Twins were going to likely avoid 90 losses this year after playing good baseball for 2 weeks, but that was always unlikely looking ahead at the schedule and winning percentage at the time. Honestly, I think the Twins have played quite a bit better over the past 2 months and the fact they're not on pace to lose 100 right now is reflective of that. The Twins' second half schedule has been very rough. Do folks realize they'll have 10 games against teams who are right now guaranteed to not finish at or above .500 in the second half? Cubs and Royals. That's it.

    Detroit (72-78), Cleveland (73-74) and the Angels (72-77) are still all fighting for .500 at the end of the year. In fact, most of the series' the Twins played in the second half are against teams who are already in the playoffs or are fighting for a spot right now.

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    49 minutes ago, gman said:

    Since Arreaz was injured over a month ago I would let him sit on the bench the last 10 games and let Maggi rotate around the infield. Or maybe better bring Miranda in to play some.

    There might be something to this because Arraez has definitely been struggling. Batting .177 over the past calendar month and his average has dropped from .314 to .284. If he's not physically right it'd be wise to shut him down and give Maggi and Gordon more looks in these last couple weeks.

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    I think the horrid fielding needs to be a talking point in the Lowlights… how did this team go from being one of the better defensive units last year to being a complete train wreck? I know 2020 was a SSS, but they added Simmons and moved Polanco to his natural position, yet the gaffs have been far more frequent. 

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    Luis Arraez may be less than 100% but I haven't heard or read this news from the Twins. If he is less than 100% it sure seems odd to put him out on the field when others could play. Count me among those who believe that Maggi should get a few at bats and innings at the major league level. It would be difficult to explain sending him back to St. Paul because Simmons can play in Chicago. I'm hopeful that the Twins end the season with some upbeat play and decisions.

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    yeah--the won-lost record is irrelevant now.  Twins are playing uninspired, uninteresting ball this month and are likely to finish on the bottom of the division....a place I'm certain nobody ever saw coming back in April, before the season started.

    Why are they still playing Simmons? What is there to gain by going with a guy who absolutely needs to go somewhere else? Give the kids a shot...play Gordon at SS and find out once and for all if he can handle the position, or not. Trying to find a place for him to play is messing with him IMO. Arraez must be not 100% because he is a pure hitter and thats not happening for him anymore. Buxton's bat has been mostly quiet but in his case, he needs to play everyday...just to prove he actually CAN. (is his hand still hurting? I'll bet it is and I'm also sure he won't say anything until this season is over)

    Playing Kepler and Cave is like putting two automatic outs in the lineup. Do they still have a future in Minnesota? the former might; the latter....no way.

    I hate to see the baseball season end, but for the Twins, it really can't end soon enough.

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    21 hours ago, Dodecahedron said:

    Baldelli is back.  You can tell by the W-L record.

    I have not looked at the box scores, but I know from experience I will see something nonsensical either in the lineup or the pitching management for every game if I do.  At this point, that's a boring exercise.

    In light of that, MOAR DINGERS.  It's the only way to win with this manager.

    He's got to go.  Baldelli's got to go.  He's no leader.  Even in the game he got tossed in was pathetic.  Did you see his body language. After every protestation our manager made he took a step backwards and the umpire stepped forward to fill the void.    It's embarrassing.

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