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.


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.