It’s been pretty rough these past three games, no? Starting with Sunday, the Twins appeared to be on their way to stealing a game from the Tampa Bay Rays thanks to four unanswered runs late in the ballgame. However, closer Brandon Kintzler couldn’t hold the lead and the game turned into a marathon 15-inning affair that ended when starter Hector Santiago surrendered a pair of home runs. That heartbreaker hurt even more because it led to an exhausted bullpen that was unable to hold down Ervin Santana’s pitching gem on Monday, as Memorial Day turned into a day we’d like to forget when the relief corp allowed 14 unanswered runs in a 16-8 blowout loss. Finally, we have yesterday where nothing was particularly horrendous, but nonetheless it was still a disappointing 7-2 loss.
This season has been a welcome surprise and already I’ve seen Twins fans buying in to their success. Santana, once considered the best midseason trade chip, suddenly looks like a top-of-the-rotation starter necessary to keep the team in the playoff race. Brian Dozier used to be the team’s best offseason trade chip, and now those trade talks are but a distant memory. Thus, it makes the past couple days sting even more as these losses have put the Twins in a virtual tie for first place in the AL Central with the Cleveland Indians.
However, I am here in an attempt to talk you off the ledge. Well, sort of. First, the bad news I have to share is that I don’t think this team has a shot of being successful in the playoffs. The pitching is bad. Like, really bad. Their ERA is in the bottom third of the league and their FIP and strikeout rate are within shouting distance of dead last. The only reason we haven’t noticed is because the defense has been incredibly good, as the Twins are second in the major leagues in turning batted balls into outs. You can argue all you want about acquiring a starting pitcher and a couple relief pitchers, but that comes at the cost of the future. That means no more Nick Gordon, Niko Goodrum, Fernando Romero, Daniel Palka, and other prospects.
“But why should we always be looking to the future?” I guarantee multiple people reading this are thinking that very thought. Well, when you’re building a successful baseball team, you want that success to be sustainable for years. It’s foolish to think that the current iteration of the Twins lacks significant flaws and it’s even more foolish to think that a wave of a wand and the disposal of a couple prospects will turn this team into a legitimate playoff contender capable of taking down the best teams in the league. Hell, we just saw them get dismantled by the Astros these past two days. Clearly the Twins need some help.
But, within those sobering thoughts comes reassurance. The Astros are the best team in the majors! We’re essentially looking at last year’s Chicago Cubs, except now they’re in the American League. That drubbing on Memorial Day was embarrassing, but it reinforces that the best teams in the league will often find ways to win games they should have lost. The 15-inning game on Sunday, it sucks but games like that will happen every year. While the bullpen is starting to show its cracks, the team still has a solid young core built around Miguel Sano, Max Kepler, Byron Buxton, Jose Berrios, and more. This team is certainly better than last year’s and even if they’ve been playing over their heads this season, they are still very likely to improve over last season’s record.
Coming into the season, what would the Twins have needed to do for you to be satisfied? 75 wins? A .500 record? I feel that playoff aspirations were a bit ambitious, but those first two possibilities seemed a bit crazy but also within reach. Even if the Twins slip a little, they still have the ability to make this season a success. Don’t let a couple games change that outlook.