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.
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.
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.
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.
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