Minnesota Twins Week Two Ups and Downs

Mandatory Credit: Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports /

Minnesota Twins starters continue to trend in the right direction. The offense still has yet to find its way.

Week two is in the books, and the bubble has yet to burst in Minnesota. Some promising signs from both the starting rotation and the bullpen, and a few warning signs at the plate. The Minnesota Twins dropped two series last week, winning just a single game against the Detroit Tigers on the road, and winning one of three to kick off a 10-game homestand to finish the week 2-4.

Even so, there was plenty to be excited about. They lost two nail-biters against the Tigers before boat racing them in the getaway game 11-5.

Ervin Santana pitched a gem in the middle game of the White Sox series, and Hector Santiago followed that up with another – only to see Minnesota drop the finale in extra innings.

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In the standing, the Twins sit at 7-5, far ahead of last year’s pace, with promising signs that they could have won even more with just a little more offense.

They aren’t stealing games right now, they are earning every win they get. Good pitching and solid defense will keep a team from giving away cheap losses.

They now need to win more 50/50 games – Twins are only 2-5 in games decided by two runs or less. They lead the league in run differential, thanks to a league-leading team ERA and being the beneficiary of three blowout wins.

UP: Ervin Santana. Hopefully, I can bookmark this place in Twins Trends for much of the season, for it doesn’t look like Santana is getting by on smoke and mirrors – he’s downright dominating.

In three games, Santana has allowed just five hits total in his three wins. His latest outing proved to be his best, a one-hit, complete game shutout. The last Twin to accomplish that feat was Scott Baker in the Metrodome against Kansas City on 8/31/2007, the day he almost threw a perfect game.

Santana was nearly as perfect. He allowed a hit to Omar Narvaez in the third, and a lead-off walk to start the fourth. After falling behind Jose Abreu 0-2, and wild-pitching the runner to second base, Santana walked behind the mound in disgust, trying to shake off his wildness.

It worked, and then some. He came back to get Abreu, and then set down the next 17 batters as well. His one-walk, one-hit complete game was efficient (107 pitches – 72 strikes) and he also struck out eight White Sox batters. His ERA is now a minuscule 0.41, good for third in the league.

Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports /

DOWN: Another repeat, while this time I hope it doesn’t become a fixture in this space. Byron Buxton continues to look lost at the plate, striking out in an astounding 51 percent of his at-bats. He has only collected four hits – one a bunt hit – and sits at .091.

He hasn’t let it affect him in center field. He continues to produce highlight-worthy plays nearly every night. The runs he isn’t producing at the plate, he does save in the field, and that has kept him in the lineup every day, though he has fallen to the bottom of the order after starting the season batting third.

He was scheduled to sit out Monday’s series opener against the Cleveland Indians, and he has been at the ballpark early every day working with hitting coach James Rowson on his approach. It has so far not yielded any positive results.

DOWN: Again, this one falls on new hitting coach Rowson. A year after showing promise at the plate, the Twins cannot put consecutive at-bats together to generate any consistent offense. They are definitely more patient under Rowson, with hitters like Jason Castro, Miguel Sano, and Robbie Grossman among the A.L. leaders.

But situational hitting continues to doom the Twins in crunch time. After Sunday’s loss in extra innings, the team is hitting only .186 with runners in scoring position – again with only Sano, Grossman, and Castro producing at average or above.

UP: Miguel Sano. Consistently a more patient approach, and showing off the ability to hit the other way, while also punishing pitchers if they dare to challenge him inside. While he has piled up some strikeouts (17), he has muted those with a better K/BB ratio, collecting an impressive 12 walks.

DOWN: Joe Mauer. Yet to collect his first extra base hit two weeks into the season, Mauer is consistently facing a shifted outfield. No, not like David Ortiz did. This one favors him not to pull the ball, but to hit it to the opposite field.

Teams have the right fielder 100 feet off the right field line, bunching the outfielders so much toward left that it resembles a slow pitch softball game where there are four outfielders. Yet Mauer has proven incapable of beating the shift, even on off-speed pitches inside.

Manager Paul Molitor keeps Mauer in the middle of the lineup, but he is no longer producing like a middle-of-the-lineup hitter. No longer even collecting walks (3), Mauer’s OBP is mired at .260, third worst among regulars.

Next: Indians vs. Twins Series Preview

STRANGE, BUT TRUE, STAT OF THE WEEK: Justin Haley picked up his first save in relief of Phil Hughes in the Twins’ 11-5 win over the Tigers. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was only the 21st time a player collected six strikeouts in their first save. Danny Duffy (2015) was the last reliever to do so – his only career save.