by Dan Cook, WCCO Radio
The Twins just finished a successful seven-game homestand, going 6-1 against the Orioles and Tigers and now begin a well-deserved break from the grind of the season as the All Star break is upon us.
As usual with this club there were surprises, frustration and more than a little bit of drama.
Let’s dig in to some notes and musings from the homestand that was.
Sweeping The Birds…
The Twins began the homestand about as well as they could. Namely, with a three-game sweep of Baltimore.
The sweep began with disappointment and a dramatic finish. The disappointment came in the fashion of finding out that Brian Dozier hadn’t been named to the All-Star team. Sure, he was part of the Final Vote, but there were plenty of folks – especially in and around the Twins organization – that felt he was deserving of being selected by players and coaches for a spot.
Dozier made that point emphatically as he came to the plate in the 10th inning on Monday night with the game tied 2-2 and Danny Santana on first. Baltimore closer Tommy Hunter was on the hill and served one up that Dozier proceeded to deposit in the Home Run Porch in left field.
After the game, Dozier talked about his emphatic point towards the dugout when he knew it was gone.
“It was Pelfrey. He always says, ‘do something, Rook,'” Dozier said, “I told him to sit right here, you got a free ticket, we call it ‘souvenirs’. I could’ve grounded out and I’d have still told him the next at-bat, ‘Hey just sit right here’. We always say it every at-bat, but it kinda happened this time.”
Turns out, that wouldn’t be the only drama for Dozier on the homestand.
Game two wasn’t as close as the Twins used a 3-run first and a 4-run fourth to give Kyle Gibson a comfortable cushion to work with. Gibson didn’t have his best stuff, but pitched six solid innings for a quality start and his seventh win on the season.
In the finale on Wednesday, Tommy Milone gave up just a single run over his seven innings of work to backstop the Twins to a 5-3 win. Dozier boosted the offense with his second homer of the series. The win provided the Twins with their fifth sweep of the season and their 14th series victory of the year.
The sweep was a big boost for the Twins, who traditionally struggle with AL East clubs. They went 3-4 versus Baltimore last season, with two of their three wins coming at Target Field.
Joe Mauer continued his hot hitting off Baltimore pitching. He entered the series hitting .343 lifetime off the Orioles and went 4-for-13 (.308) during this series, scoring four runs and homering in the sweep-clinching win on Wednesday.
On Sunday Mauer had his eight-game hitting streak snapped. Over that stretch he hit .371/.389/.600 with 2 doubles, 2 home runs and 3 RBI.
Mauer had some rough stretches to say the least earlier this season, but as he enters the heart of summer, he’s starting to turn things around. His success will be key for the Twins in the second half.
Perk Is An All-Star Again…
Though there was initially disappointment over Brian Dozier not being selected to go to Cincinnati (the good news is coming – be patient), Twins fans were thrilled to see Glen Perkins get selected for the third time in his career.
Perkins earned the save in the 2014 All-Star Game held right here at Target Field, and now joins Camillo Pascual, Rick Aguilera and Johan Santana as the only pitchers in Twins history to be named to three consecutive All-Star Games.
Perk earned his 28th consecutive save in Wednesday’s finale, surpassing Joe Nathan for the longest consecutive Save streak in Twins History. That save also gave him 116 for his career, which tied him for third on the Twins All-Time list with his bullpen coach, Eddie Guardado.
The Twins came into their series with Detroit having gone just 2-7 against the Tigers in 2015, but finished it with a more-respectable 5-8 record.
The series began frustratingly as David Price dominated the Twins on the way to a 4-2 Tigers win. Price gave up just two runs in his eight innings of work. Minnesota managed just six hits off Detroit that evening, all singles and went 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position.
More bad All-Star news came for Brian Dozier on Friday as it was announced that Mike Moustakas from the Royals had won the AL Final Vote and would be joining the All Stars in Cincinnati.
In Friday night’s game, it looked like the Twins were well on their way to extending their futile 2015 record against the Tigers to 2-9 as they trailed 6-1 going into the ninth inning. Justin Verlander had 2-hit them for seven innings, and Minnesota had barely scratched out their lone run in the 8th.
But the Twins bats came alive in the ninth off relievers Bruce Rondon and Joakim Soria. They strung together five hits, a walk and a hit batter to score seven runs and roar back for a 8-6 win over Detroit. A win that was capped off by yet another walk-off home run by Brian Dozier.
Dozier is only the second player in Twins history to record multiple walk-off homers in a single homestand. Roy Sievers is the only other hitter to do it in franchise history, accomplishing the feat back in July of 1958 when they were the Washington Senators.
The win was the first time the Twins had walked one off after trailing by at least five runs since May 27, 1997, when they erased a 5-run deficit against the Seattle Mariners.
That good vibe carried over to Saturday, when there was good All-Star news for Dozier as it was announced during the game that he’d been named to replace the injured Jose Bautista and was now officially an All-Star!
It’s not a tough case to make that Brian is deserving of the nod: Dozier’s 48 extra-base hits are the most by a Twins batter before the All-Star break in franchise history and he leads all MLB second basemen in home runs (19) and RBI (50), he’s second in doubles (26) and walks (34), and he’s second in all of baseball in runs scored (67).
The news came in the midst of another Twins win as they scored three runs in the 2nd inning and four more in the 3rd on the way to a 9-5 win, a win that guaranteed them at least a split with the Tigers. The win featured a third-deck bomb by Torii Hunter that his teammates joked was a result of “granddad pop.
Hunter played along with the humor saying, “I told all the guys when I came in [the dugout], you gotta have kids in college to hit balls like that,” Hunter said, “And they kind laughed, but they said I was old. Ruined the joke.”
In the finale, the Twins jumped out to yet another early lead with two runs in the first and four in the fourth on the way to a 7-1 win. Kyle Gibson had a superb day going 7 strong innings, giving up just 1 run and striking out 6 on the way to his 8th win of the year.
In all, the Twins out-scored the Tigers 26-16 over the course of the four-game set.
The Sano Era Has Begun…
As frustrating as Byron Buxton’s big league start was (at least at the plate), Miguel Sano has made the transition fairly smoothly.
He started by collecting hits in his first seven games, which matched the third-longest such streak by a Minnesota Twin. The only Twins with longer streaks to start their career? Luis Rivas with an 8-gamer and Glenn Williams who began his career with a 15-game hitting streak.
Perhaps more impressively, he took six walks over that same 7-game streak. A feat only bested by Rich Becker who had eight walks in his first seven games.
Sano enters the All-Star Break hitting .378/.489/.649 with 4 doubles, 2 homers, 8 walks and 8 RBI. He has registered hit in 10 of his first 11 games as a big leaguer. He’ll have to continue to adjust as pitchers find new ways to attack him. But if he makes said adjustments, he’ll be a fixture in the Twins line-up for the rest of the season.
Torii’s Climbing The Lists…
On Thursday night, Torii Hunter drove in his 758th RBI as a Twin which tied him for sixth with Gary Gaetti on Minnesota’s All-Time list. On Saturday, he hit a monster 2-run homer to give him 760 and sole possession of sixth.
That homer also gave him 714 runs scored as a Twin, which passed Chuck Knoblauch and gave Torii sole possession of seventh place in that category.
And with one more home run, he’ll tie the legend and one of his mentors, Kirby Puckett, for sixth all time in a Minnesota uniform.
Minor League Player of the Week…
This week the award goes to an interesting name that’s familiar to Twins fans. Oswaldo Arcia appeared in eight games for the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings this week, hitting .296 (8-for-27) with a double, five homers, 11 RBI, seven runs scores – and perhaps most impressively – four walks.
There’s no question that if there were a clear opening in the Twins outfield (or even on the bench), Arcia would be called up. At the moment, there’s not, but it won’t be any kind of surprise if he gets that call sooner than later in the second half.
It’s All-Star Break time. Glen Perkins is headed to Cincinnati for the Mid-Summer Classic. The rest of the Twins are off for a well-deserved rest. After the break it’s a 6-game trip out west to face the Athletics and Angels. The Twins return home for a 9-game homestand starting on July 24 that features the Yankees, Pirates and Mariners.