by Dan Cook, WCCO Radio
Another homestand for the Minnesota Twins is in the books, and the pattern of home field success continues.
This six-gamer saw the Twins accomplish something they hadn’t done since 2006, and afforded them a view of the division they hadn’t had since 2013.
Here are some notes and musings from the recently completed Boston and Toronto series…
How Sweep It Is…
Lousy broom-related puns aside, the Twins taking three-straight from the Red Sox was no small feat. While it was their third series sweep of the 2015 season, it was the first time they’d swept a series from Boston since 2006.
The Twins gave up just seven runs to the Sox over the three games and pushed their winning streak to five in a row, and 19 of their last 25 as they entered the Toronto series.
The Twins also found themselves in a first-place tie with Kansas City for a brief period of time during the week, and finished alone in first by the end of the weekend.
Minnesota’s win on Wednesday afternoon coupled with a Kansas City loss a short time later placed the Twins in a tie with the Royals atop the American League Central division.
It was the first time they’d been in first place since they spent five whole days atop the division in 2013. The last time they won the division, of course, was 2010.
Both teams had an off-day on Thursday, meaning the Twins were in first place for over 48 hours before a loss in the opener to Toronto put them a game back of KC.
But the club came right back with wins on Saturday and Sunday and were aided by a rain-out in Chicago to finish the week a half-game ahead of the Royals, all alone in first place.
Bouncing Back Against the Blue Jays…
The Twins and Blue Jays split the first two games of their series, with the Blue Jays using a two-run homer from old friend Chris Colabello in the 9th off of Glen Perkins to claim their win Friday night. The Twins bounced back on Saturday with a 3-2 win despite an uneven performance by starter Kyle Gibson.
In Sunday’s finale, starter Ricky Nolasco left the game in the 2nd inning after rolling the ankle on his landing leg. The offense picked him up, however. A pair of doubles by Brian Dozier – who’s now tied for the league lead in extra-base hits – a 2-run blast by Trevor Plouffe and a key 2-RBI double by Torii Hunter helped lift the Twins to a 6-5 victory.
The series victory was the 11th of the season by the Twins. It was also the fifth straight series win for Minnesota who has now won eight of their last nine series as well. It was the third straight series win for the Twins over Toronto. The last time the Blue Jays beat Minnesota in a series was September of 2013.
Torii’s On a Roll…
Torii Hunter continues to exceed expectations from fans and pundits alike.
He’s now hit safely in nine straight games, hitting 11-for-35, .314, with a homer, three doubles and 11 RBI in those nine games.
Hunter’s last 9+ game hitting streak came last season when he hit for 13-straight with the Tigers from September 14th through the 27th. His career high is a 23-game streak back in his first run with the Twins from April 11th through May 9th of 2007.
If he gets a hit Monday in Boston, he’ll tie Brian Dozier for the longest hitting streak by a Twin in 2015 at 10 games.
Torii also tied Justin Morneau for eighth on the Twins all-time games list at 1278. Joe Mauer is 7th with 1345, and they’re both trying to catch Gary Gaetti who’s in 6th with 1361.
Defense is Clicking…
Coming into this season, it was clear that the Twins were going to have to improve in the field to be competitive.
The first week of the season was less than encouraging. Over their first six games, the Twins committed seven fielding errors and turned several other outs into base-hits via defensive lapses.
Contrast that to their recent winning ways and it’s no surprise that they had gone eight straight games without committing an error before Chris Herrmann had a couple of throwing miscues on Saturday.
They’d committed only two errors in a 12 game span before committing four over the course of the Toronto series.
Don’t believe the connection between catching the ball cleanly and winning is real? The Twins are 18-9 this season when they don’t commit an error.
Getting out of the Gate Quickly…
The Twins have made a habit of fast starts of late.
They’ve scored 30 first-inning runs, 37 second-inning runs and 42 third inning runs this season.
Those 109 runs in the first three innings are the most in baseball. That’s all the more impressive given the fact that only two teams in the AL have hit fewer home runs than Minnesota.
Trevor Plouffe said it best, “When we’re able to get guys on, we’re usually scoring.”
The Twins are hitting .302 with runners in scoring position this year, which is more than 50 points higher than they hit in 2014.
Not So Much Down The Stretch…
As good as they’ve been early in games, the Twins have struggled maintaining that offensive flow later in games.
Though they’re leading the league in innings 1-3, they’ve scored just 69 runs in innings 4-6 (21st in baseball) and a mere 43 in innings 7-9 (29th in baseball).
Some of that is due to simple variance, and it seems like manager Paul Molitor is choosing to focus on the positive.
“We like the fact that we come out ready to play,” Molitor said, “people make adjustments to us and sometimes we don’t always add on the way that everyone would like to see. The run totals are fine, it’s just that we have a tendency to put a lot up early and then at times we see the zeroes start coming.”
So far the bullpen has done a solid job of holding leads, but the Twins could take a lot of pressure off of them by scoring some insurance runs later in games.
Perkins Still Rolling…
Despite the rough outing on Friday night in which he took the loss, Glen Perkins is still leading all of baseball with 19 saves, having converted each opportunity he’s been presented with this season.
The last time a Twin had that many consecutive saves in a single season, Joe Nathan was closing out 20-straight games for the Twins in 2009.
Perkins is still busy climbing the Twins all-time saves list. He’s currently fifth on that list with 107 Saves and needs just one more to tie Ron Davis for fourth at 108.
Minor League Player of the Week…
This week’s winner may not be a name as well known as Byron Buxton or Miguel Sano, but Aaron Slegers is a name to watch all the same.
The right-hander Slegers made just one start for Single-A Ft. Myers this week, but what a start it was. He threw a complete game shutout against Brevard County, giving up just three hits with nary a walk while striking out 9 Manatees en route to a 4-0 win for the Miracle.
The 2013 5th-round draft pick has made nine starts for Ft. Myers this season, compiling a 3-3 record with a 3.83 ERA, striking out 34 hitters while walking only 10.
Twins fans won’t have to wait long to see their favorite squad back at cozy Target Field.
After a brief four-game road trip to Boston, the Twins return home on Friday for another 6-game homestand featuring an interleague series with Milwaukee, and three games against second-place Kansas City.