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.)
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.
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.
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.
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
MORE FROM TWINS DAILY