Did the Twins get their 1st Road Sweep of the Season?
Coming into this road series with the Seattle Mariners, the Minnesota Twins were 4-19 away from Target Field. The Seattle Mariners just came off a 7-2 stretch that put them into 1st place in the American League West with a 28-18 record but 5 of those 7 wins came on the road. Their home record was 10-11 and they’ve been swept at home in 2 of their 7 series already this season.
Now, that shows Seattle may have been vulnerable at home but the Twins were hardly a team playing well so, anyone predicting the Twins would get their 1st road sweep of the season should’ve been promptly put in a straight-jacket and placed in a padded room. They did win their most recent game at home against KC for their 12th win of the season but they’ve been a very inconsistent team all season long. They’ve been a team other teams have feasted off of and used to get better for most of the season. Here we go…
Game 1-MN-Pat Dean(0-1) vs SEA-Felix Hernandez(4-3)
Pat Dean, 27 years old, in his 1st season in the major leagues with 3 appearances and 1 start on his major league resume facing “King” Felix Hernandez, 30 years old, in his 12th major league season with 343 starts(& appearances), a 6-time All-Star and a Cy Young Award winner* with a career ERA of 3.11 who almost certainly going to the Hall of Fame. So….who you got?
*How ‘bout this? Felix Hernandez won the American League Cy Young Award in 2010 and he wasn’t even an All-Star that season. I wonder how unusual that is. Arguably, he should’ve won the award in 2014 over Corey Kluber, too.
This 1st game would start with an Eduardo Nunez single to right field but Brian Dozier would ground into a double play and Mauer would strikeout to end that happiness. Then, on the 7th pitch in the bottom of the 1st, Franklin Gutierrez would give the Mariners a lead with a HR to right field and most Twins fans were probably thinking, “Here we go again.”
But…Pat Dean would respond and so would his team’s offense. Miguel Sano, seeing King Felix for the 1st time ever, would take the 4th pitch he saw and hit it where it can’t be caught over the left center field wall to tie the game at 1 in the 2nd inning.
The Twins would add 4 more in the 3rd inning on 5 hits (3 doubles, 2 singles & a walk) to take a 5-1 lead and Pat Dean would settle down into a rhythm getting the next 7 Mariners before allowing a leadoff triple to Robinson Cano in the 4th. He would later score on a single by Dae Ho Lee and then The Dean would respond once again by sitting down the next 11 batters before turning the ballgame over to the bullpen after the 7th inning. He would end up with 8 strikeouts on the day, 7 of them being swinging strikeouts and earn the 1st Win of his Major League career.
Minnesota Twins 7, Seattle Mariners 2
W-Dean (1-1) L-Hernandez (4-4)
2B-Santana (6), Dozier (7), Grossman (3)
HR-Sano (9), Mauer (4)
Game 2-Phil Hughes(1-7) vs Wade Miley(5-2)
Phil Hughes had a 1-7 record going into Saturday’s game. That record would make you think he’s pitched bad most of this season but, of his 9 starts, 6 of them are quality starts (6+ innings pitched, allowing 3 or less earned runs.) The problem lately is he’s been giving up too many hits, especially HRs, early in the game, putting his team down right away. A struggling team will crack at the first sign of trouble or, at least, that’s how this team has been playing for the majority of this season.
Wade Miley struggled out of the gate this season but figured something out after his 3rd start and has wins in 5 of his last 6 starts , including a complete game shutout of the reigning champion Kansas City Royals.
The Twins would get an early lead from a Miguel Sano 2-R HR in the 1st inning, his 3rd consecutive game with a home run. That lead would be cut in half on the 3rd pitch of the bottom of the 1st when Nori Aoki took Phil Hughes deep to put the Mariners within 1 without using up an out. They would tie the game at 2 in the 2nd inning after loading the bases on a single, a walk and another single before scoring a run on a double play.
Hughes loaded the bases once again in the 3rd. This time with no outs but he was able to get out of it with no damage by inducing 3 pop flies. In the 4th, a single started the inning followed by a passed ball then another single, by Clevenger, that scored Gutierrez on an error from Danny Santana, who bobbled the ball in center field. That also allowed Clevenger to go to 2nd base. A sac bunt moved him to 3rd and he was then singled in by Aoki to make the score 4-2.
The Twins would once again respond right away. This time, Eduardo Nunez would homer to left field and he swung hard on that pitch. Brian Dozier would follow with a walk and then Joe Mauer would launch another HR to left center field just like he did the night before and the Twins led again at 5-4.
Hughes started the 5th with a flyball to center, the first inning he’d get the first batter out. Unfortunately, he allowed 2 singles to the next 2 batters and manager Paul Molitor would make a call for reliever Taylor Rogers to get the Twins out of the 5th inning. Rogers would come out to pitch the 6th and immediately give up the tying run on a Luis Sardenas HR. A key play would be made by center fielder Danny Santana with Seth Smith on 3rd and 1 out. Nelson Cruz hit a high fly ball to left center. Danny Santana got under it but then have to adjust to his left to catch the ball and quickly make a throw home but he was still able to gun down Seth Smith at home with a perfect throw and keep the game tied at 5.
This Twins team, whoever they are, would once again respond in the next half inning. Nunez got his 3rd hit of the day to leadoff the top of the 7th. Mauer walked w/1 out, moving Nunez to 2nd and Miguel Sano would get a seeing-eye single between the SS & the 3B to score Nunez. There was no throw as Seth Smith had trouble with the ball in left field and the Twins led once again at 6-5.
The game came down to the bottom of the 9th and it would end on one of the craziest double plays you will ever see, the old 2-4-5-6 double play! The pitch from Kevin Jepsen was in the dirt. Juan Centeno blocked it well but it bounced in front of him a little so Kyle Seager broke for 2nd base. Centeno quickly picked up the ball and threw to 2B Brian Dozier. The throw beat Seager so he turned back and, knowing pinch runner Shawn O’Malley was on 3rd, Dozier chased Seager but kept an eye on O’Malley and once he got far enough away from 3rd, Dozier threw to 3B Eduardo Nunez, who tagged out O’Malley. Seager tried to get to 2nd once the throw went to 3rd. Nunez alertly threw over to SS Eduardo Escobar who tagged out Seager to end the game! WOW!
Here, see the play for yourself:
Minnesota Twins 6, Seattle Mariners 5
W-Pressly (2-3) L-Vincent (2-2) H-Boshers (1), May (4), Abad (3), S-Jepsen (5)
HR-Sano (10), Nunez (5), Mauer (5)
Game 3-Ricky Nolasco (1-3) vs Taijuan Walker (2-4)
Both starters for Game 3 have had up and down seasons. Both started pretty well, pitching alright in their first 3-4 starts but have not pitched well of late. Ricky Nolasco has been getting hit very hard for the last month or so. He has a 1.89 WHIP (Walks+Hits per Innings Pitched) in his last 24.1 innings and he just hasn’t looked sharp at all. He keeps missing with his breaking ball and his fastball and he’s missing to the batter’s advantage so it was really up in the air how he’d pitch in this game. Will the somewhat good pitching bug of the last 3 games find it’s way to Mr. Nolasco?
Taijuan Walker was 2-0 in April with an ERA of 1.44 and a WHIP of 0.960 in 25 innings. In 25 innings in May, he has an ERA of 3.96 and a WHIP of 1.16. Now that’s not that bad but in April, every one of his 4 starts were quality starts while in May, only 1 of his 5 starts were quality starts. His strike to ball ratio is right where you want it to be at 2-to-1 He’s just needed too many pitches to get through innings so he’s not able to last past the 5th.
Amazingly, the Twins would give up a run in the 1st inning again and this time it was a rocket that left the yard off the bat of Robinson Cano to make it 1-0 in the 1st pitch of his at bat. The good news is Robbie Grossman would tie the game with a HR of his own to leadoff the 2nd inning. It’s great to see the Twins respond to these early deficits but allowing early leads is not a recipe for success.
Ricky Nolasco gave up a leadoff double in the bottom of the 2nd to Kyle Seager. He’d get moved to 3rd on a groundout and then score on a wild pitch to give Seattle another lead at 2-1. Ricky would get in a groove after that wild pitch and end up pitching 6 innings and allow only 3 hits, 1 walk and those 2 runs while striking out 7.
The Twins flashed more power in the 4th inning when Joe Mauer and Miguel Sano hit back-to-back HRs to left field to leadoff the inning and give the Twins a 3-2 lead. Byung Ho Park would also score that inning off a Juan Centeno double to the left center field wall to make it 4-2. The Twin loaded the bases in the 5th inning off a Nunez single. Dozier was hit in the head by a pitch, Nunez and Dozier would then pull off a double steal moving them to 2nd and 3rd and Miguel Sano would wind up being intentionally walked. The Twins would score only 1 run off a groundout for a 5-2 lead.
So it was up to the Twins bullpen to hold the lead. Trevor May got through the 7th with no damage after hitting a batter but inducing a double play ball to end the inning. Fernando Abad allowed a hit but got through the 8th and Kevin Jepsen came in to close out the game with a 3-run lead. He allowed a hit to Nelson Cruz to begin the inning. Strangely, on a wild pitch, Nelson Cruz did not try to advance to 2nd base and that would turn out to be a big play because Kyle Seager hit into double play to give the Mariners one last out to stay alive.
The Mariners got within one run after Adam Lind singled and advanced to 2nd on a wild pitch and Franklin Gutierrez homered to center field to make Twins fans a little nervous. Dae Ho Lee would pinch hit but Jepsen got him to strike out on a breaking ball to end the game and the Twins did get their 1st road sweep of the season.
Minnesota Twins 5, Seattle Mariners 4
W-Nolasco (2-3) L-Walker (2-5) H-May (5), Abad (4), S-Jepsen (6)
HR-Grossman (2), Mauer (6), Sano (11)
The Twins get their 1st Road Sweep of the season and it’s against a 1st place team. Who would’ve thought that? Let those people out of the padded room and take off the straight-jackets! Now they head to Oakland for a 3-game series against the Athletics on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before coming home for a 10-game homestand against Tampa Bay, Miami and the Boston Red Sox.
Lots of good things happened for the Minnesota Twins this weekend, a power surge from Sano and Mauer, Eduardo Nunez keeps on hitting, a lot of good pitching from the starters and the bullpen but the best part of the sweep was the Twins looked like a different team this weekend.
They competed, battled back, responded from early deficits, made big plays at critical times and just looked like they finally believed they can win and who they were playing against didn’t matter. They had confidence in their abilities as baseball players. That’s the biggest part of winning, having that confidence that you can get it done in any situation. The key will be continuing to play that way.
There’s always something a team can learn from in any game or series. The Twins still struggle in bases loaded situations. It feels like we can count on one hand how many big hits this team has had with the bases loaded. The defense wasn’t always sharp so that can be improved. The pitching needs to be better right from the start of the game. Giving up the lead in the 1st inning is going to hurt you more often than not.
Byung Ho Park is 3-for-36(40 PA) in his last 10 games with 2 runs, 3 hits, 0 extra base hits, 2 RBIs and 2 walks with 14 strikeouts. He’s been hit by a pitch twice and has grounded into 2 double plays. That comes out to a .083/.175/.083 (AVG/OBP/SLG) triple slash. Park Bang is the sound of him hitting the bench for a break as he’s been struggling for the last couple weeks.
Minnesota Twins at Oakland Athletics
Monday-Ervin Santana (1-3) vs Kendall Graveman (1-6)-3pm-ESPN
Tuesday-Tyler Duffey (2-3) vs Eric Surkamp (0-3)-9:05pm-FSN
Wednesday-Pat Dean (1-1) vs Sean Manaea (1-3)-2:30pm-FSN
Later, TwinsTakers! Have a GREAT Memorial Day!
Remember those who sacrificed everything for our freedom every day!
Did you like this? Share it: