Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 9/26 through Sun, 10/2
Record Last Week: 3-3 (Overall: 77-82)
Run Differential Last Week: +9 (Overall: +10)
Standing: 3rd Place in AL Central (13.0 GB)
Last Week's Game Results:
Game 154 | MIN 4, CWS 0: Ober Dominates Sox with 10 Ks
Game 155 | MIN 8, CWS 4: Heart of the Order Comes Through
Game 156 | CWS 4, MIN 3: Late Defensive Lapse Costly in Loss
Game 157 | MIN 7, DET 0: Ryan Masterful in Another Shutout
Game 158 | DET 3, MIN 2: Missed Opportunities Mount In Motown
Game 159 | DET 5, MIN 2: Bats Quiet Again in SWR's Debut
NEWS & NOTES
Not many of the Twins' injured players are going to make it back this year. But to his credit, Ryan Jeffers did. His rehab and recovery from a fractured thumb to longer than expected, and the catcher position was an offensive black hole in his absence, but ultimately Jeffers did make it back for the end of the season and that means something.
Jeffers got plenty of action in his first week back, starting three times and appearing twice as a substitute. He went 3-for-15 with a triple and a couple of RBIs.
On Sunday, Jeffers was behind the plate for the major-league debut of pitching prospect Simeon Woods Richardson, who had just completed a stellar season in the minors between Double-A and Triple-A (107.1 IP, 2.77 ERA). Five days removed from his 22nd birthday, the right-hander got the nod for Minnesota's series finale in Detroit, with his hilariously long last name wrapping fully around the No. 78 on his newly minted Twins jersey.
It was an altogether strong outing for Woods Richardson, who allowed three runs (two earned) over five innings of work. He settled in pretty nicely after a shaky 29-pitch first inning and showed impressive poise – especially considering he became the youngest pitcher to appear in the majors this year (narrowly edging Ronny Henriquez who was optioned to make room for SWR).
Joe Ryan ended a strong rookie campaign on a high note, with six innings of shutout ball against the Tigers on Friday night. In a season that brought his weaknesses to light – namely, a proneness to homers and vulnerability against high-caliber offenses – Ryan also cemented himself as a quality mid-rotation MLB starter.
The flip side to his struggles against postseason teams is that Ryan was sublime when facing lesser lineups. Against sub-.500 competition he went 10-2 with a 2.42 ERA and 10.3 K/9 rate. Let's not act like this doesn't have value. Succeeding to that extent against any major-league lineups is impressive, and in particular Ryan was hyper-effective versus divisional opponents, against whom he finished 10-0 with a 1.23 ERA.
He might not be the kind of starter you want toeing the rubber in a postseason game – not in his current state, which isn't to say he can't change that – but at the very least Ryan is proving to be a big regular-season asset. And currently, he is the club's sturdiest long-term asset in the rotation, coming off a mostly healthy and complete season.
The same unfortunately cannot be said for Bailey Ober, otherwise he'd be right there in the conversation with Ryan as the stablest building block. Ober's start against Chicago on Tuesday night was just his 10th here in a season that was torpedoed by a major groin injury. But at least the big righty is finishing strong and setting the foundation for a fuller campaign in 2023.
Kicking off the final home series at Target Field, Ober delivered the best performance of his young career, striking out 10 over 7 ⅓ shutout innings. The Sox legit had no chance against him as his late release point seemed to be stymying hitters more than ever.
When he's been able to take the mound this year, the 27-year-old has been arguably the team's most effective starter, posting a 3.18 ERA, 2.74 FIP and 47-to-10 K/BB ratio with just three home runs allowed in 51 innings. Something to carry forward into next season, even if he won't have much of a workload base to build off in 2023.
With Ryan and Ober finishing on high notes, Woods Richardson and Louie Varland getting late-season tastes of the majors, and Josh Winder making it back onto the field for a handful of starts, there are at least some positive youthful signs in a rotation closing out the year with its three top veterans on the injured list.
The Twins lineup, meanwhile, is also severely diminished as they play out these final games. But it was nice to see some of the remaining bats step up and carry the load over the past week. Standout performers included Jake Cave (7-for-19, three RBIs) and Matt Wallner (double, homer, and five RBIs).
Gio Urshela, who's capping off a solid season with a spectacular September, kept it rolling as the driving force in the offense, finishing the week 10-for-23 with some timely hits in big spots. Urshela has the fifth-best Win Probability Added on the team this year, and since the All-Star break he is second only to Carlos Correa.
While the decision of whether or not to tender Urshela a contract in his coming final season of arbitration was once up in the air, his stellar finish probably seals it, although it remains possible the Twins could trade him if there's interest.
Nick Gordon's breakthrough season at the plate has been a big positive for the Twins in a year full of negatives. The past week saw him batting third in the lineup several times, albeit failing to live up that billing with a 3-for-20 sample.
Regardless, Gordon's ability to hit is no longer really in question. His defensive versatility, on the other hand?
The 26-year-old has been pressed into more into more intensive action at second base with Jorge Polanco sidelined, and it hasn't gone very smoothly. Gordon's been very susceptible to misplays at the position, including a costly dropped pop-up on Thursday that led to the decisive run scoring in a 4-3 loss.
Looking ahead to next year, some have speculated that Gordon could be considered as a short-term plug at shortstop until Royce Lewis is ready to rejoin the fold. I don't think so. In fact, I genuinely wonder if what they Twins have seen from Gordon as an infielder late in this season will convince them that his future should exclusively be in the outfield.
At this point, the only remaining Twins storyline of intrigue is Luis Arraez's pursuit of his first batting title – or, as the rest of the baseball world might view it, his quest to deprive Aaron Judge of a triple crown.
The Twins helped Arraez's chances over the weekend by sitting him against both of Detroit's left-handed starters. This favorable usage helped the infielder bat .389 (7-for-18) on the week, concluding play on Sunday with a 4-point edge over Judge (.315 to .311) after the latter went 0-for-3 on Sunday.
The Twins have three games remaining, all against right-handed starters, so presumably Arraez will be in there for the entire series against the White Sox, looking to make a closing statement of his own and wrap up the 2022 AL batting title. Judge and the Yankees wrap their season in Texas with three games against the Rangers.
MONDAY, 10/3: TWINS @ WHITE SOX – RHP Bailey Ober v. RHP Johnny Cueto
TUESDAY, 10/4: TWINS @ WHITE SOX – RHP Josh Winder v. RHP Lucas Giolito
WEDNESDAY, 10/5: TWINS @ WHITE SOX – RHP Louie Varland v. RHP Davis Martin