A’s 3, Twins 2- Mauer, Sano don’t homer, Twins can’t score runs

The Moment: In a battle as closely fought as this one, nearly any play can turn the tide. In the 7th inning, the A’s were up by a run but the Twins were threatening. After throwing away an out with an Eduardo Nunez bunt (-.002 WPA, but probably even dumber since Nunez can hit) Brian Dozier came up with 1 away and runners on 2nd and 3rd. Dozier struck out. Crisis averted for the A’s. Oops.

The Hero: Sean Doolittle wasn’t pitching when Dozier struck out, but he did retire Joe Mauer on a well fielded liner, then came in and worked 1-2-3 through the 8th. High degree of skill.

The Condolences: Joe Mauer tagged a liner after Dozier struck out, but Yonder Alonso made a great play at first, so the condolences are extra condolency tonight. Mauer did walk, but was retired the other 4 times he came to the plate.

The Soundtrack: I’m Back – TI. Do you think Mauer knows that TI came out with other songs? I’m just saying, maybe when he is playing well, Joe should go with “I’m Back” right?

The Story: There were big time roster moves before and after the game that I will definitely touch on tomorrow, with Phil Hughes being moved to the bullpen and Danny Santana moving to the DL and Byron Buxton being recalled, so there wasn’t as much attention on this game, which is just fine, in my book.

There might be wailing and gnashing of teeth at this result were it focused on too closely, but this is one of those games that you can’t really be too broken up over. The Twins had 8 hits, and though they struck out 10 ties, they simply left too much meat on the bone, flailing with runners in scoring position. They weren’t overmatched, so much as unlucky.

Ervin Santana recovered from his stinker of a performance last week. It seemed as though he might have some issues, giving up a lead off home run to America’s favorite breakfast cereal. Coco Crisp, but then settled in, allowing only 6 more hits and 2 more runs. Unfortunately, the A’s only needed those 3 runs.

Danny Santana has been doing just fine as the center fielder, making us all reminisce about 2014, but he tweaked a hamstring, leading to an interesting outfield shuffle, with Eduardo Nunez, Robbie Grossman and Oswaldo Arcia patrolling. Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse out there. But Buxton is coming back. We’ll see how it goes this time.

Twins 5, Mariners 4 – SWEEP… Wait, is that right?

The Moment: There were two plays that had the same WPA, and they came back to back. Joe Mauer hit his third home run in as many games, while Miguel Sano hit his 4th in 4 days. None of that is right, is it?

The Hero: It was seriously only a couple of days ago that people thought the Twins had every right to send Miguel Sano to Rochester, and now here he is, collecting the title of “hero” game after game for his timely hitting and on-basing. Incredible turn around. Let’s hope it continues.

The Condolences: Mariners pitchers were glad to hand out dingers all series and Taijuan Walker was no exception. He gave up three, including the Sano and Mauer back to back shots, but also one to the brilliant Robbie Grossman.

The Soundtrack: Blueberry Yum Yum – Ludacris – The obligatory song about weed, but it’s generally better than most tracks of that ilk. It’s from The Red Light District album, which is a solid, wall to wall offering from Luda. One of the CDs that was worn out in college.

The Story: Well, the Mauer-Sano duo were back at it again. It’s sort of like we wanted all along, ever since we realized that Miguel Sano would be a big time slugger. We wanted him to bat behind Joe Mauer, because Mauer would be better seeing more pitches in the zone, and Sano, well, he would just crush pitches.

It is working out a little different than we thought it would for the time being, however. Joe Mauer wasn’t supposed to be hitting home runs all the time. This is a very strange happenstance, and he might not hit another home run until September. For the time being, it’s fantastic.

Ricky Nolasco has very few supporters in the Twin Cities. When he pitches poorly, everyone wants to cut him and eat salary. When he pitches well, people want to trade him. Today, players are in the “trade him” camp, because he worked 6 hits, striking out 7 and allowing only 2 runs. Kevin Jepsen, as usual, was a problem, with Franklin Gutierrez making the game tighter than it actually was, hitting a 2 run shot of Jepsen in the 9th.

Maybe if we yell at Jepsen enough, he will perform better. It seems to have worked for Miguel Sano and Ricky Nolasco

 

Twins 6, Mariners 5 – Twins actually win a nailbiter

The Moment: When I say that this one wasn’t decided until the end, I mean that quite literally. Even with one out and the Mariners trailing in the bottom of the 9th, the Mariners had runners on the corners and a 44.5% chance of winning. Then, well, this happened. You tell me how I’m supposed to explain it.

The Hero: Miguel Sano again hit a home run, and as a bonus, had a single that drove in the game winning run. He needed a little bit of heat under his posterior, I guess.

The Condolences: When you are merely a pinch runner, and you have a -.45 WPA for the game, well, you’ve done something very bad. Condolences to Shawn O’Malley.

The Soundtrack: Yeah- Usher, Lil John, Ludacris. This is my jam. This is the song from when I was on vacation, and while the Twins actually took a series. Appropriate. Yeah! (Just think, in a few years, there will be a collectible series that includes this, and Lil John will be on something called Dad-Jams)

The Story: Phil Hughes, as is his station in life, continued to be excrement as a starter, working only 4 2/3 innings before relinquishing control to a mostly serviceable bullpen (lookin’ at you, Jeppy) but as luck would have it, Wade Miley stunk worse!

Miley gave up three home runs, to Miguel Sano (again), Joe Mauer (again (!)) and Eduardo Nunez (again(!(?!))) who have suddenly become a murderers row of power hitters. I’m not sure I get it either.

I’ve lamented the presence of Kurt Suzuki and his renewed contract two years ago when it was eminently clear that he probably should have been moved for prospects at the deadline. That doesn’t mean he isn’t a god guy, and he suffered an injury early in the game, that Game Tracker listed as “an injured head”. That sounds bad. I hope it wasn’t, and for a quick recovery.

Miguel Sano is back to homering all the time, is this next?

Check out this wicked bat flip. I personally can see Byung-ho Park doing this more than Sano, but the way Sano (or hell, Mauer) have been jacking dingers lately, it might be time to show up a pitcher or two.

Twins 7, Mariners 2 -The Twins bafflingly defeat best pitcher in baseball

The Moment: The Mariners jumped out to an early lead when Frankin Gutierrez hit a solo home run, but it was quickly tied back up when Miguel Sano homered. Brian Dozier put the Twins in front with an RBI double in the third inning. Strangely, it was none of those plays that counted as “the Moment.” No, it was Danny Santana’s single before Dozier’s hit to put Eduardo Escobar at third that swung the WPA. I suppose if Danny Santana can get a hit of Felix Hernandez, things must be going all right for you.

The Hero: Miguel Sano seems to have had something of a Renaissance since his terrible beginning to May. He had two hits against the Mariners, including a home run, to remind us of the fact that if nothing else, the big guy should hit.

The Condolences: 6 innings, 8 hits, 6 runs and the loss. Man, does Felix Hernandez stink.

The Soundtrack: A hotel air conditioner? I’m in Omaha, waiting for everyone else to wake up, and the wifi is subpar, so I can’t stream anything anyway.

The Story: Thing I have heard this trip: “Ryan, we just don’t read the blog anymore, because we don’t want to hear about the Twins anymore”

And then, later, Kyle sent me a message: “The Twins aren’t supposed to be winning in Seattle. Hell, the Twins aren’t supposed to score runs in Seattle. wtf is going on”

So that’s nice. Whenever the Twins win, people are left with utter shock and amazement. The Twins in their default state this year are driving loyal family members away from this blog. I would prefer the utter shock and amazement rather than the Twins making this a depressing place to visit.

The Twins kind of did what we had been waiting for all season, in that they hit two home runs (Sano, Mauer) and scored a bunch of runs, but after failing to do that in nearly 2 months worth of games, it’s a little bit of a surprise. OK, a huge surprise.

Also surprising, is that Pat Dean now seems like one of the most reliable pitchers in the rotation. It’s funny how that works, isn’t it? Santana, Nolasco, and Hughes were high paid free agents, Alex Meyer, Jose Berrios, Trevor May and Kyle Gibson were top prospects, and it’s Tyler Duffey and Pat Dean that you trust most in the rotation.

Strange team. At least they actually won.

When a team loses its voice

vin

I think for many people, one of the things that calls them to baseball is the lazy constancy of the game. It’s there every day during the dog days of summer for you. So many of a previous generation came to the game because of AM radio. There is a preponderance of Cardinals fans from Oklahoma to the Dakotas because of the power of the radio frequencies from St. Louis, dating all the way to the 50s, when they were the closest team for hundreds of miles.

In more regional markets, the local voice was still like a surrogate father or grandfather to many fans, from Ernie Harwell in Detroit to Herb Carneal in the Twin Cities. Listening to the game wasn’t as contingent on the success of the franchise, but more akin to checking in with a favored loved one.

That is perhaps the reason why Vin Scully’s pending retirement is so difficult: There are so few voices remaining that aren’t the product of sanitization and grooming, but seem more accurately described as embedded within the DNA of a team. The Dodgers aren’t the Dodgers without Scully’s presence, and it will be unnatural to experience them without him, when it comes to that.

It’s perhaps the reason why the Dodgers remain eminently likable, despite having one of the highest payrolls in the game, a history of combative ownership,, a roster full of guys aging sportswriters get their undies in a bunch over, (First it was Matt Kemp, then Russell Martin, then Andre Ethier, now Yasiel Puig), and a remarkable lack of true success for about 30 years. Vin Scully is captivating, and we wouldn’t have him without the Dodgers. The Dodgers are OK.

Next year, Scully may not be back, slowly veering towards retirement for the last several years. In 2017, will we see the Dodgers in a new light, as a deplorable big  money team with overpaid attitudinal players? Teams change personality wwhen they lose their voice. The Cubs and Tigers suddenly had to start winning when Harry Caray and Ernie Harwell passed, because they weren’t as lovable as losers if their old friends weren’t broadcasting the game.

Fortunately for Los Angeles, the Dodgers shouldn’t have to worry about turning the franchise around post-Scully. It’s just too bad that there even has to be a period after Vin.

Twins 7, Royals 5 – Miguel Sano doesn’t wanna be sent down

The Moment: The Twins took an early 3 nothing lead, but fell behind in typically Twinsian fashion. When the 5th inning rolled around, they were down 5-4, and beleaguered Twins slugger Miguel Sano came up and demolished a Dillon Gee offering for a 2 run homer. The Twins were up, and they stayed up.

The Hero: The game winner was Sano’s only hit of the game, but Eduardo Nunez drove in the first run of the game with a dinger to lead things off, as well as putting together three hits. Nunez has been really good.

The Condolences: Dillon Gee managed to give up 3 home runs, including the big bomb to Miguel Sano, and a pair to Nunez and Brian Dozier to start things off. Losing to the Twins is pretty much bottom of he barrel for pitchers this year. Gee must be feeling pretty low.

The Soundtrack: Let’s Go – Trick Daddy ft Lil John and Twista. Lil John. Oh wow, I can think of a song that screams “2004” more than this, and this trio of rappers. Are any of them still around? Probably not!

The Story: I think this was the kind of game most fans expected from the Twins this year. The offense was driven by the long ball, in this case a trio from Nunez, Dozier and Sano, and it was enough to overcome a lackluster pitching performance.I’m not sure Eduardo Nunez was the player many pegged as a home run hitter for the Twins, but alas, here he is, contributing again.

Dozier and Sano are perhaps the most symbolic players, representative of the doldrums the team is in. Dozier was expected to anchor the Twins lineup as a 20-25HR hitter, an unexpectedly terrific output from a second basemen. Alas, he is hitting around the Mendoza line, and seems reluctant to try anything but pull the ball, and he is being outgamed by his opponents.

Sano seems completely disinterested in playing the field, and his approach at the plate has been suffering of late as well. Many people are calling for his demotion to Rochester, but I suspect  a perfectly timed swing today will give him a brief reprieve. He does have 8 bombs on the year, which isn’t bad.

All right Twins, more like that, less like the other garbage you’ve been ejecting this season.

How much would a solid pen have helped?

Kevin Jepsen

Minnesota Twins pitcher Kevin Jepsen throws against the Chicago White Sox during the eighth inning of a baseball game, Tuesday against the Chicago White Sox, Sept. 1, 2015, in Minneapolis. The Twins won 8-6 with Jepsen picking up the win. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

After a couple of rough outings from the starting rotation, 1500’s Derel Wetmore turned his attention to the bullpen. It’s not the problem of the moment that everyone is up in arms about, but I wonder if it’s the sneaky rot that ruined the foundation of the Twins’ season before it even started.

It seems that, in recent weeks, the team has gone from unfortunate to uninspired to most recently, uninterested. If the team hadn’t been so downtrodden, so early in the season, I wonder: would they be in this spot right now?

Consider this: The Twins lost their first two series openers in late innings, with Kevin Jepsen taking both losses. Trevor May lost another in game 6. If they had instead won those games instead of choking them away, they would have started 3-3 on the road in their first 6 games. What would a dose of confidence done for the team?

Since those 6 games, the Twins have seen their losses becoming increasingly lopsided. The outfield is increasingly careless. Perhaps a more respectable start, including a 10-11 record through April 26th would have allowed the Twins to overlook Byron Buxton’s hitting and appreciate his effort in the field. Maybe Miguel Sano would still be trying? Maybe depression wouldn’t be buckling the knees of a state’s fans.

I’ve often said that teams don’t need good closers until they are very good, but apparently their bullpen needs to at least be competent. This team had too much early talent to be this useless already, with June right around the corner.

Royals 7, Twins 4 – The Twins lost

The Moment: A night after going 5-5, Sal Perez hit a 2 run homer to give the Royals an early lead in the 2nd inning. PRO TIP: The first time the opponent scores against the Twins is USUALLY going to be The Moment.

The Hero: Lorenzo Cain continued where Salvador Perez left off the night before and collected 4 hits for the Royals. He lso drove in 2 runs but somehow didn’t cross the plate himself a single time.

The Condolences: Ervin Santana was the latest pitcher to endure a Twins defense behind him. He couldn’t get out of the 4th inning. Of course, Santana wasn’t entirely blameless, as he DID give up that home run to Perez. But then again, how the heck did Perez get to that pitch?

The Soundtrack: Ridin’ solo – Jason DeRulo. Did you hear that Jason DeRulo actually did just break up with his girlfriend? You might not be getting great news on the baseball front, but you DO get some Grade A gossip.

The Story: As has been the case this season, the Twins were victimized by early power, bad defense and crippling ineptitude through the middle of their lineup. Robbie Grossman wasn’t going to be a superstar forever, but Miguel Sano and Trevor Plouffe truck out a combined 5 times without reaching base once.

The bottom of the lineup was pretty good, however. Danny Santana reached base twice, while Eduardo Ecobar and Oswaldo Arcia combined for 5 hits. It’s the forgotten players that seem to be the only ones contributing at all, doesn’t it? It sure isn’t Miguel Sano.

The Twins did find a fun new way to torment their fan base tonight. With nobody out in the bottom of the 9th, the Twins loaded the bases, thanks to a pair of walks and a single to pinch hitter Brian Dozier, Danny Santana and Eduardo Escobar respectively. It was 7-4, the team was one swing away from tying it.

Naturally, Eduardo Nunez and Joe Mauer struck out. At least Miguel Sano made contact, but it was a fly out to center. That was the game. I would say “expect changes tomorrow” but when has that ever worked out?

Off season mode is very supportive

Collegiate athletics are becoming increasingly commoditized, with every action, tweet or press release part of a greater brand awareness campaign. Fortunately, not all sports are beholden to the same standard, and there are some programs that either take the offseason off, or celebrate their athletes as members of the community.

In a time where I’m just sitting around lamenting the lost Twins season, it’s important to remind oneself that sports aren’t really that important. If you want a dose of reality and perspective, go check out the Iowa Hawkeyes women’s basketball Twitter feed. It’s not depressing or anything like that, but they sure aren’t spending much time about basketball.

There is a lesson here for one sullen blogger: There is way more to life than a crappy baseball team.