editor’s note: I totally forgot to post this yesterday, I’m sorry Marea! -TJ
Remember like two weeks ago when I told you guys not to panic? Maybe we can start shifting uncomfortably in our seats now. I mean, the Twins and their fans aren’t in full catastrophe mode yet, per se, but great Odin’s raven the bleeding needs to stop before this season becomes unsalvageable.
The Twins went on a five-game losing streak going into last week, and just before their doubleheader on Wednesday, they found out their shortstop Andrelton Simmons has Covid. Despite the ‘rona setback, things finally seemed to be going in the right direction when they had their first walk-off win of the season against the Red Sox in game two of said doubleheader. Yay! No tenth inning ghost runner to lose the game! The tides must be turning.
And then? They played one game against the Angels and we found out that no, in fact, things were not heading in the right direction. I mean, they had to throw Tortuga on the mound to close out that 10-3 crap fest. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Astudillo and I’m glad there was SOME entertainment to be had there. But you know it’s probably not going well when you throw your back up to your back up catcher on the mound.
AND THEN! It turned out that Simmons didn’t keep his Covid to himself, and the rest of the series against the Angels ended up being cancelled. When this came out I thought, ok, mayyyyybe the horrible stretch of games could be chalked up to players starting to feel sick. Or maybe they were reacting to their vaccinations that had been received the weekend before Covid started to ravage the locker room. Sore arms, headaches, or fatigue could surely be impeding the Bomba Squad’s ability to win a game. I went into this long stretch of no Twins games thinking that the rest would do them some good if this was the case. Shake off the ‘vid, sleep off the vaccine, remember how to play baseball.
Which brings me to now.
The first game of the doubleheader with Oakland saw the Twins get a 7-0 beatdown, and the second game saw a heartbreaking 1-0 loss. Wednesday’s game saw the Twins claw their way to a tenth inning 12-10 lead, thanks to a two run shot from Buxton (yay! We finally scored a ghost runner!). Only to see two really bad errors in the bottom of the 10th blow the game - once again with Colomè on the mound. The Twins are now 6-11 and at the bottom of the AL Central. And who is sitting in the top spot? Kansas. Freaking. City. If you’d have told me a month ago that the first month of the season that the Twins were in the cellar and the Royals were number one, I’d have laughed and told you that drugs are bad, mmmmkay?
So what is going wrong?
Here’s my list of things that are currently contributing to the April Suck-Fest:
- Many of the guys forgot how to get hits. Garver, Jeffers, Cave, and Sano are stuck with batting averages below .200, and Polanco finally got his up to a whopping .212. We thought we might be able to move some guys around, or be able to sit these broken bats out of the lineup, and then BAM. Covid. No Garlick, Kepler, or Simmons means that our infield and outfield need these craptastic bats in the lineup at least for a little longer. At least we get Rooker back from the IL! Wait.. He’s hitting .095. Shit.
- Covid. Already covered. Whether the virus itself or the vaccine is what’s hitting them, The guys feel crappy, and they’re missing half the team. Moving on.
- Colomé. Again, already covered. Well, in a previous post I covered it. But Brian may have found the bright side. Let’s hope he turns it around.
- The goddamn ghost runner. Damn you, Rob Manfred. Then again, if the Twins would stop blowing leads (see Colomé), maybe we wouldn’t be doomed to lose these heartbreaking extra inning games.
- The weather. I love Target Field. I do. But there’s something to be said about the Metrodome always being 72 and sunny - and I hated that marshmallow and garbage bag and concrete monstrosity. But it’s been freaking cold in Minnesota and you have to wonder if it’s affecting some stiff joints.
- Josh Donaldson’s lack of bringing the rain. He’s healthy now, right? BRING THAT THUNDER, MF! One home run this season thus far is nary a sprinkling, let alone the rain.
- Randy Dobnak. Oof. Dude’s had a rough go of it lately, hasn’t he? Eleven earned runs in just five games/9.1 innings pitched, with an ERA of 10.61. Ouch. To be fair, some of those earned runs came off a grand slam after he left a game, but he put those runners on base. Maybe he’s turning it around, though, because on Wednesday he got through his entire one inning outing without giving up a hit or a walk or a run. Progress?
So what is going right?
- Byron Buxton. It turns out a healthy Buxton is, in fact, worth every bit of the hype. He’s hitting .432/.479/.977. In 44 at-bats, twelve of his nineteen hits have been for extra bases - and six of those have been home runs. As the kids would say, he’s fire.
- Jose Berrios. Granted, he was tagged with the loss in Oakland in game two of the doubleheader, but he only gave up one run. He can’t make the batters score for him too. In four games, he’s 2-2 and has 30 strikeouts in 21 innings. The more I think of it, I can’t just leave this as Jose Berrios being the brightest spot of the pitching staff so I’ll amend this to...
- Most of the starting rotation is actually pretty dang good. One of them <ahem, Shoemaker> needs to get his shit together.*
* I began to write this post prior to Maeda getting rocked for 8 hits and 7 runs in 3 innings on Wednesday. The 2020 Cy Young candidate Maeda is flirting with being in the “what’s wrong” column.
- Nelson Cruz. The man is aging even better than Paul Rudd. He’s 40 years old and still kicking ass harder than most players, not just on his team, but within all of the major leaguers out there. He is tied for first (with the likes of Buxton, Mike Trout to name a few) for most homers in the AL with six, and only Atlanta’s Ronald Acuña Jr has more with seven. He’s eighth in the AL in batting average, fifth in slugging among all of MLB, and fifth in AL OPS (7th in all of the majors). To be leading like that at his age? Ridiculous.
- FANS. IN. THE. STANDS. I’ll be at my third game already on Sunday. Win or lose, to be able to be AT Target Field this season is something I am not taking for granted. There’s something to be said about real noise rather than piped in crowd noise - and many of the players have said just that. Playing in front of fans is definitely a morale booster, even if they’ve lost a bunch of games at home.
Yes, the team is on a dangerous skid to the bottom of the AL. However, they’ve only played 17 games out of 162. There’s a lot of baseball left and a lot of time to correct course. I’ll still continue to think that Covid has played a huge part in the skid for now - either from playing with sore arms, or exhaustion from shots and/or symptoms of the actual virus. There’s already been a few non-Covid trips to the IL (Rooker, Donaldson) that impacted game play (i.e. the inability to move a struggling Jake Cave or Sano to the bench for a while). These things are not going to be permanent, and hopefully the things on the “going wrong” list start going right.
And that going wrong list? All semi-easy fixes. The slumpers can’t slump forever - they’re historically pretty good hitters. Covid will eventually leave the Twins alone and fix the lineup. Colomé will hopefully either remember how to get outs, or Rocco Baldelli will stop giving him the ball in the 9th. The ghost runner unfortunately isn’t going anywhere, so this is where they’re going to have to stop making boneheaded errors in the 9th or 10th. The weather is starting to get warmer. And Josh Donaldson has barely played yet this season, so there’s plenty of rain to bring.
And with that, my friends, I’ll put on a happy face and watch the Twins take on the unusually good Pirates starting tomorrow, with a glimmer of hope that the bleeding stops. If the bleeding doesn’t stop? Well... then Twinkie Town’s own Tawny gave us a fantastic manual on how to deal.