Last Week's Game Results:
Game 48 | DET 7, MIN 5: Three Homers Not Enough
Game 49 | MIN 8, DET 2: Smeltzer Shows Out Again
Game 50 | DET 4, MIN 0: Listless Twins Limp to Defeat
Game 51 | DET 5, MIN 0: Bats Have No Answers for Skubal
Game 52 | DET 3, MIN 2: Pagan Surrenders Lead in 8th Inning
Game 53 | MIN 9, TOR 3: Garlick, Miranda Power Explosive Night
Game 54 | TOR 12, MIN 3: Berríos Blows Away Former Team
Game 55 | MIN 8, TOR 6: Twins Win Rubber Match in Nail-biter
Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 5/30 through Sun, 6/5
Record Last Week: 3-5 (Overall: 32-24)
Run Differential Last Week: -7 (Overall: +27)
Standing: 1st Place in AL Central (4.5 GA)
NEWS & NOTES
The pandemic continues to make its ongoing presence felt in the major leagues. The Twins were hit hard by a wave of COVID-related absences over the past week, which left them shorthanded for an intense slate of games on the road.
The week began with a crushing blow: Carlos Correa tested positive in the middle of Monday afternoon's game, almost exactly 24 hours after Royce Lewis crashed into the center field wall at Target Field. While the news on Lewis was relatively positive – a bone bruise that figures to cost him weeks rather than months or the entire season – he is still sidelined at exactly the time Minnesota could use him as everyday shortstop. Amazingly rotten timing.
This rough series of events did create an opportunity for Jermaine Palacios, who's now up and starting everyday at shortstop. His glove is good enough to serve as a temporary plug even if there are no signs he'll hit at all.
On Friday, when the Twins traveled to Canada for a weekend series against the Blue Jays, national health policies required that unvaccinated players stay in the United States. As it turns out, this meant Max Kepler, Caleb Thielbar, Emilio Pagán, and Trevor Megill were unable to join the team in Toronto. It was a disappointing development made all the more irksome by Kepler's importance to a struggling lineup, and the bullpen ranks already being thin to begin with.
Meanwhile, Joe Ryan remained unavailable due to his COVID diagnosis. With Ryan remaining sidelined and Sonny Gray landing on IL due to a pectoral injury, Chi Chi Gonzalez came up to make a (poor) spot start on Friday. Gonzalez was replaced on the roster the next day by Gilberto Celestino, who is finally past his own coronavirus ordeal. He was back in the lineup on Sunday.
It's hard to get a firm read on the Twins right now. They are missing so many players and dealing with so many ongoing things that prevent them operating at anything close to full strength. At the same time, they've been banged up to varying degrees all year and there's no reason to think it's gonna stop being an issue at any point.
Many were clamoring for José Miranda to be optioned rather than Lewis when Correa returned from his IL stint in mid-May. It was an understandable sentiment, given how both were playing at the time. But the Twins stuck with Miranda, and he's taken full advantage while reminding us that a little patience is warranted with talented young rookies.
Since Lewis was demoted on May 18th, Miranda has gone 13-for-36 with three home runs and four doubles. He launched a pair of bombs in the series-opening 9-3 victory at Toronto and has lifted his OPS into semi-respectable territory at .641 He's still swinging at absolutely everything, with a 22-to-3 K/BB ratio overall, and as long as that remains true it's going to be hard to sustain his production – or at the very least it'll make him very susceptible to woeful slumps like the one that opened his career. But at least we're seeing real signs of that special ability with the bat.
Gio Urshela, another player who some called for casting aside in order to keep Lewis around, has also experienced an offensive awakening since around the time Royce was sent down. That continued last week as Urshela went 7-for-21 with a homer and three doubles. He suffered a scary-looking foot sprain on the base paths Friday night, but luckily it appears the third baseman dodged anything major, as he started again on Sunday
Elsewhere, Kyle Garlick reaffirmed his immense value as a lefty-mashing weapon, crushing two home runs against Yusei Kikuchi on Friday night. Garlick has been a tremendous asset for the Twins thus far, so hopefully his (reportedly minor) hamstring tightness that surfaced on Friday won't amount to much.
The Detroit series was absolutely brutal on every level. For most of the five games, the shorthanded Twins could barely muster any kind of threat or visible urgency.
The offense sleepwalked through inning after inning, tallying two total runs in the final three games while getting shut out twice. The pitchers were mostly sub-par despite facing one of the league's worst lineups. Triple-A starters Gonzalez and Cole Sands both looked very much out of their depth when called up out of necessity.
Speaking of out of depth: The Twins have basically burned through their quality SP depth. It feels like Devin Smeltzer is kinda holding things together at this point, and that's not a great place to be even though he's been sensational. Getting healthy enough to push Dylan Bundy out of the rotation is a high priority, as it's grown very clear he doesn't have what it takes to pitch effectively in the majors anymore.
I wrote here on Monday about how the overperforming bullpen was an alarming point of vulnerability for the Twins, and sure enough the unit sprung big leaks over the course of the week, including Monday's game in which Joe Smith coughed up a late lead. In Thursday's finale at Detroit, Pagán turned a 2-1 lead into a 3-2 deficit and was tagged with a loss. Tyler Duffey turned in yet another absolute dud on Sunday, coughing up three runs while recording two outs.
I do think the ravaged, regressing rotation and undermanned bullpen are big problems for the Twins, but it's hard to hold either entirely culpable when the offense so frequently fails to provide any support.
It was the usual story for the bats: overly dependent on home runs, prone to disappearances. On Saturday the Twins faced their old friend José Berríos, who'd been going through a stunningly bad year, and he suddenly found every bit of peak dominance. He finished with 13 strikeouts and 19 swinging strikes against the listless Twins hitters, blowing away his previous highs in 10 starts this year (seven and 11).
Ryan Jeffers has become easily the biggest liability in the lineup. He went hitless in four starts last week, finishing 0-for-16 with nine strikeouts and one walk. With a consistent lack of contact and results, his slash line has plummeted to .176/.269/.294 and at some point – if this dire drought continues – you wonder if it'll warrant a get-right trip to the minors. José Godoy could hardly be worse and Jeffers needs to regain some confidence, or at least some idea of what he's doing. Thank goodness for the re-emergence of Gary Sánchez.
Jorge Polanco seems unable to find any rhythm at the plate. He was a big culprit in the run-production difficulties at Detroit, going 3-for-20 with one run scored and zero RBIs while starting all five games in the heart of the order. His OPS has plummeted by almost 100 points in the past three weeks, and at this point he's barely outproducing Nick Gordon, whose OPS is only seven points lower.
Polanco was stellar in the first half of May but has since looked more like the guy who struggled to engage his base and drive the ball back in 2020, with a .269 slugging percentage in his past 20 games. This slump has conspicuously coincided with reports of ankle soreness. Something to keep an eye on.
The Twins just need to get key players back. It sounds like Ryan, Correa, Gray, and Jorge Alcalá are all close to varying degrees, and they can all be huge difference-makers for their respective units. The team could really use all of them right away, given what's on deck in the coming week (see below), but most of those guys seem to be looking at late-week reactivations at the earliest.
At least Kepler and the rest of the restricted list players will be back in action as the homestand gets underway on Tuesday. In Kepler's case, the extra rest couldn't have hurt, as he'd been dealing with a leg issue.
The Twins are returning home after their bumpy road trip, but things are hardly about to get easier. Yes, the big bad Yankees are coming to town for a three-game series at Target Field, which is just what the Twins and their fans needed coming off the unpleasant and drama-filled past week.
Ready or not, here they come, and I'm sorry to say this version of the Bronx Bombers is an especially imposing one, with the league's best record and Aaron Judge on an ungodly tear. After that the second-place Rays come into Target Field, which isn't much of a respite.
Still trying to get healthy and reeling from an ugly road trip, the Twins are looking ahead to another challenging week. They'll be more than happy to take that day off on Monday – their first in nearly three weeks.
TUESDAY, 6/7: YANKEES @ TWINS – LHP Nestor Cortes v. RHP Bailey Ober
WEDNESDAY, 6/8: YANKEES @ TWINS – RHP Jameson Taillon v. RHP Chris Archer
THURSDAY, 6/9: YANKEES @ TWINS – RHP Gerrit Cole v. TBD
FRIDAY, 6/10: RAYS @ TWINS – RHP Drew Rasmussen v. RHP Dylan Bundy
SATURDAY, 6/11: RAYS @ TWINS – LHP Ryan Yarbrough v. LHP Devin Smeltzer
SUNDAY, 6/12: RAYS @ TWINS – LHP Jeffrey Springs v. RHP Bailey Ober