I don’t have the numbers at my fingertips to know whether the Twins are better with or without third baseman Josh Donaldson, but I do know they have certainly looked like a better team the past two days.
Pitching and hitting were in sync to win 6-2 over the Kansas City Royals on Sunday, and they did it all over again Monday with an 8-5 win over the division-leading Chicago White Sox. The Twins beat the South Siders for only the second time this season.
Rookie pitcher Bailey Ober limited the Sox to two hits over five innings with seven strikeouts, and although middle relief got roughed up, Taylor Rogers got five outs — four of them via the strikeout — and Hansel Robles closed out the game for his eighth save.
Meanwhile, the Twins scored eight runs on 10 hits, including six extra-base hits: Max Kepler hit two home runs, Nick Gordon tripled, Miguel Sano added two doubles (talk about your stop-the-press moments; Sano has really been struggling) and rookie Alex Kirilloff also doubled. Luiz Arraez also had two hits at the top of the order, but it was his fielding at third base that made me question whether the Twins really need Donaldson, or if he’s become more of a headache than he’s worth.
Arraez turned a nice game-ending double play in the ninth, getting the force at third base and then throwing hard to Kirilloff at first.
Jose Berrios gets the ball Tuesday. I was disappointed to see that Berrios’ first-half record of 7-2 with a 3.52 ERA was not good enough for the American League all-star team. Instead, slugger Nelson Cruz will represent the Twins at the mid-summer classic. I think both players should be there.
-Ober pitched well enough to get the win on Monday, but he also walked three batters, which led TV color analyst and former Twins pitcher, Jim Kaat, to comment on his own struggles with control early in his career. In 1961, the first year of Twins baseball, Kaat walked a career high 82 batters in 200 innings pitched, including 16 batters in 21 innings during three starts in late June and early July of that season, according to Baseball-Reference.com.
His pitching control only improved after that first season in Minnesota, and by 1966 he walked only 55 in more than 300 innings pitched. He went 25-13 that season with a 2.75 ERA, 19 complete games and 205 strikeouts.