September 29, 2015

Twins recap: youth movement, veterans help team down the stretch

The end: So that’s it for the Twins and the 2015 season. The Twins were swept out of wild-card contention by the Royals, but the team still won 13 more games than last year to finish with their first winning record (83-79) since 2010. Better things to come. I can feel it.

Update: Well, this may be it. The Twins on Friday night lost to the Royals and the Astros won, which means the Twins fall two games back of the second AL wild-card spot with two to play. Time for some luck.

Previous: So the Twins remain 1.5 games behind the Astros after they split a doubleheader with the Indians on Wednesday. The Twins have one more game with the Indians on Thursday and then they head home to play their final three games against the Royals. The Royals are tough customers, but at least the Twins are 46-32 at home. So this is it: 1.5 games back with four to play.

Earlier: The Houston Astros lost to the Seattle Mariners Tuesday night, but the Twins were unable to gain ground in the wild-card race because their game was postponed due to rain. The Twins and Indians play a doubleheader on Wednesday.

Original post: So here we are: six games left in the regular season and the Minnesota Twins find themselves 1.5 games behind the Houston Astros for the second AL wild-card position.

All they have to do is close the gap by beating the Cleveland Indians and Kansas City Royals in the final week of the season. That sounds like an easy task, given the recent history of both clubs, but that’s not the case this year. The Indians have great pitching (but can’t hit) and the Royals ran away from everyone else, including the Twins, to win their first AL Central title in 30 years.

It won’t be a disaster if the Twins fall short, however, because they finally have shown signs of life after four seasons of losing 90 or more games. Young talent finally emerged to help the team. Combine that with just enough pitching, a decent bullpen and veteran leadership in the form of Torii Hunter and the Twins have hung around all year to play meaningful games in early October.

A few shoutouts before the season ends:

Torii Hunter: Would the Twins have amounted to anything without him? Hunter returned to his old ball club in the off season, likely signed as much for his bat as for his ability to be a leader in the clubhouse and offer guidance to younger players. His hitting became a bonus because Hunter, who turned 40 this year, has managed to hit 22 home runs and drive in nearly 80 runs.

Torii Hunter is hitting .390/.405/.634 over the last two weeks.

— Parker Hageman (@ParkerHageman) September 23, 2015

Eddie Rosario: Rookie Rosario, among a number of young players that have helped the Twins this year, has probably been the most consistent at the plate and in the field, leading the league in triples (he’s fast) and regularly picking off base runners.

Eddie Rosario picked up his 16th outfield assist in the second and just hit his MLB-leading 15th triple in the fifth. Twins up 3-0.

— Rhett Bollinger (@RhettBollinger) September 26, 2015

Brian Dozier: The second baseman continues to go where few second baseman typically go by hitting with power and scoring runs. In addition to back-to-back seasons of scoring 100 runs or more, Dozier will once again lead the team in home runs.

Brian Dozier just became 3rd Twin ever to score 100 runs in back-to-back years. C Knoblauch 1995-96-97 T Oliva 1964-65 B Dozier 2014-15

— Phil Miller (@MillerStrib) September 26, 2015

Tyler Duffey: Rookie Duffey’s debut pitching start was not good after he lasted only two innings against a powerful Toronto Blue Jays lineup on Aug. 5. But he’s turned it around since then, compiling a 5-1 record late in the season to keep the Twins in the playoff hunt.

Tyler Duffey leads #MNTwins starters in strikeout rate (8.2 per 9), ERA (3.14), xFIP (3.75) and whiff rate (23% of swings).

— Phil Mackey (@PhilMackey) September 27, 2015

Ervin Santana: Well, what can we say about the veteran pitcher? I guess better late than never because after he signed as a free agent with the Twins, Santana promptly failed a test for performing enhancing drugs and was suspended for the first 80 games of the season. The Twins were competitive without him, but have benefited from his seven wins since July. They will need him down the stretch.

.@ErvinSantana_54 improves to 7-4 after 7 solid innings this afternoon. #SMELLBASEBALL #MNTwins

— Minnesota Twins (@Twins) September 27, 2015

Miguel Sano: One of the Twins’ top prospects has lived up to his billing as a rookie sensation, crushing the ball with ease out of Target Field. So far he has 71 hits in 74 games, including 17 home runs and 17 doubles. Look out, American League, Sano is here to stay. Can’t wait to see what kind of numbers he puts up over a full season.

— Minnesota Twins (@Twins) September 2, 2015

Trevor Plouffe, Glen Perkins and Kevin Jepsen: Third baseman Plouffe leads the team with 84 RBI, relief pitcher Perkins was lights out during the first half of the season (32 total saves), but has faltered of late. Jepsen, acquired in a trade from the Tampa Bay Rays, has helped out to record nine saves with the Twins.


— Parker Hageman (@ParkerHageman) September 24, 2015

My sentiments exactly. Go Twins.

July 3, 2015

Go east, young man: a foreign baseball tradition in Japan

Pitcher Kris Johnson, formerly of the Minnesota Twins, has found success playing ball in Japan for the Hiroshima Carp. He began the year running his record to 4-0 with an ERA of 0.71. He’s no longer undefeated, but he still has a record of 7-3 with an ERA under 2.50. Victor Starffin won 300 games... Continue Reading »

May 10, 2015

Twinning: Twins show winning form early

Hope does spring eternal, especially if you’re a baseball fan. And even more so if you’re a fan of the Minnesota Twins because after a disastrous start to the season, Twins nation — if such a fan following exists — have plenty to get excited about. Twins held scoreless for 20 innings to start the... Continue Reading »

November 23, 2014

A few words about Sara

Sara Boone, who has served with Portland Fire & Rescue — the official name of the fire department in Portland, Ore. — for more than 19 years, has achieved another first, becoming the first African-American woman in the 131-year history of the organization to rise to the rank of Battalion Chief. Sara smiles for the... Continue Reading »

September 30, 2014

A job well done for Twins manager Ron Gardenhire comes to an end

This is a post about job security, tenure and the notion of a job well done because when you’ve been a manager of a professional sports team and have survived the whims of ownership, fickle fans and overpaid athletes for 13 years, you’re doing something right. But that all came to an end Monday for... Continue Reading »

September 26, 2014

Twins recap: Pitcher Phil Hughes shines in another losing campaign

Update: So that’s a wrap on the 2014 season for the Twins, the team finishing 70-92 after splitting a final four-game series with the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers, meanwhile, won the division and will advance to the playoffs for the fourth straight year, while the Twins have lost 90 or more games over the same... Continue Reading »

July 27, 2014

Remember the Portland Mavericks? I’m embarrassed I don’t

Frankly, I’m embarrassed. I was born and raised in Portland, Ore., and yet I must confess I knew next to nothing about the Portland Mavericks, a short-lived, independent baseball team that occupied Civic Stadium for five seasons. The Portland Mavericks’ home opener in 1973. That was until I saw a new documentary about the team... Continue Reading »

May 4, 2014

Jack Ramsay, who won title with NBA’s Blazers, dies at 89

Jack Ramsay, the longest tenured coach in the history of the Portland Trail Blazers and who led the team to its only championship in 1977, died last week after a long struggle with cancer. He was 89. NBA Hall of Fame coach Jack Ramsay What a loss, and what a shock to learn that cancer finally... Continue Reading »

March 28, 2014

Remembering the Twins’ Kirby Puckett

Kirby Puckett, who patrolled center field and played his entire 12-year career for the Minnesota Twins, would have been 54 this month. His birthday was March 14. But Puckett, a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2001, died in 2006 at the much-too-young age of 45 from a stroke. His life following the game was tragic,... Continue Reading »

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Hi, I’m Rolf Boone, Twins fan.

I became a fan of the Minnesota Twins after a friendly wager in the early 1980s. I survived Ron Davis, the meltdown in Cleveland, Phil Bradley at the Kingdome and then marveled at a rising generation of stars and two World Series wins in 1987 and 1991. Brad Radke made the 1990s bearable, while Kirby Puckett’s eye injury, exit from the game and eventual death made it almost too much to bear. The new century ushered in more talent — Joe Mauer, Johan Santana, Joe Nathan, Torii Hunter, Justin Morneau — and consecutive seasons of playoff baseball, followed by consecutive seasons of losing baseball. A winning season returned in 2015. So here we are. Go Twins.