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Minnesota sports, as seen elsewhere

Look: People elsewhere are starting to notice Twins' success

The Twins’ early success is starting to get national attention.

The club has won six of its last seven games and sits in first place in the American League Central Division two months into the season.

The Twins swept Baltimore earlier this week and Orioles manager Buck Showalter said, “They’re not going away.”

Here is roundup of other national buzz surrounding the Twins’ hot start:

From The Ringer

After knocking around the underbelly of the Orioles’ pitching staff on Monday, the Twins are back alone in first place in the AL Central. That position isn’t new for the Twins in 2017, but it is an anomaly for this decade of Minnesota teams: Already this year, they have ended a day of play in first place 19 times; from 2011 through 2016, they did so on just 13 days combined. …

It’s in the third phase of the game, defense, that the 2017 Twins exhibit signs of a remarkable turnaround. Last year, the Twins supplemented a bad pitching staff with a porous defense, which ranked 28th or 29th in MLB by all three major advanced defensive metrics. This year, the staff is just as poor, but it’s supported by a defense that leads the majors with 27 defensive runs saved — no other team exceeds 17 — and ranks second in fielding runs above average and third in ultimate zone rating. The effect on the Twins’ bottom line is stark: Last year they allowed 5.49 runs per game, just six-thousandths of a decimal point out of last place, but this year they’re allowing 4.58 per game, directly in line with the league average.

The Twins’ transformation from MLB’s worst team to a division leader — albeit one that’s unlikely to maintain its current pace — is attributable mainly to that defensive leap.

Read more.

From Sports Illustrated

Jose Berrios made the best start of his young career last week, striking out 11 while allowing just two hits in 7 2/3 shutout innings. He has made two outings this season and held his opponents, the Indians and Rockies, to two hits apiece in 15 1/3 total frames with 15 strikeouts against two walks. In other words, he has pitched like the future ace many expect him to be. …

Two starts into this season, Berrios is showing the ace potential he has had since the Twins made him the 32nd overall pick in the 2012 amateur draft. He’s not going to making any midseason trips to Triple-A Rochester this season like he did a year ago. With those struggles behind him, Berrios is ready to make the first big leap in his career.

Read more.

From SB Nation

Earlier this month, Jeff Sullivan briefly discussed the Twins much-improved defense, and that largely has continued. The Twins are third in the Majors in UZR and second in FanGraph’s DEF metric. Defensive metrics, especially in small samples, don’t necessarily correlate with team success, as evidenced by the fact that the Reds and Royals are one and two in UZR and the Reds are number one in DEF. …

The Twins have benefitted from some good luck, some good sequencing, and two players who look like they’re playing far better than they actually are. It won’t be long before the Indians overtake them for the divisional lead. But there’s nothing wrong with some optimism generated by early season luck. It’s almost Memorial Day, and if the Twins can stay lucky for another few weeks, who knows, they might position themselves to even make July 4th interesting in the Twin Cities.

Read more.

From the Baltimore Sun

[Ervin] Santana was the picture of efficiency. He went right at the Orioles lineup and the O’s hitters went right at him, as evidenced by the fact that he needed just six pitches to get through the first inning. He also had a six-pitch inning in the sixth and a seven-pitch inning in the seventh as he cruised into the ninth without hitting the hundred mark. …

Santana went all the way and allowed just two hits and two walks on the way to his seventh victory and 10th career shutout, which tied him with Dallas Keuchel and Clayton Kershaw for the major league lead.

“I think he came in second in the league in ERA. ... Good pitcher,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “Still, frustrating night for our guys. We didn’t have many opportunities.”

Read more.

From ESPN 991

Twins 2017 bounce back similar to 2015 season. …

Similarities through the first stages of both seasons are striking. In both April campaigns Minnesota was right around the .500 mark.

May 2015 was better comparatively as a whole. The main thrust came from 13 wins just at home on the way to a 20-7 record winning 7 out of 8 games to close the month.

This year with a week to go in the month there are already 7 losses on the board, but there is an interesting mirror image to note. After 42 games the Twins’ record was 24-18 in both years.

Among the starting pitching comparisons, the ’15 Twins through the first two months were led by the 5-1 mark for Ricky Nolasco. He admittedly got a lot of run support on the way to winning his first 5 May starts.

Ervin Santana (8-2) has two complete game shutouts this season. Along the way Santana has emerged as an early Cy Young candidate.

Read more.

Ex-Wolves guard turned Beijing basketball legend Marbury stars in biopic

Minnesota basketball fans may cringe at any mention of former Timberwolves star Stephon Marbury. While on the other side of the world, Marbury is beloved by millions.

In China, two statues were erected in honor of Marbury. Around the corner from Tiananmen Square in the center of Beijing is the Marbury museum. There was a musical, in which Marbury starred, centered on his life story. On Wednesday, Marbury debuted the trailer for the Chinese movie he will star in titled “My other home.”

Marbury is a megastar in the Chinese Basketball Association. He led the Beijing Ducks to their first franchise championship in 2012 and three titles in four years. The nation’s capital has shown its appreciation by giving Marbury all the fame and recognition he was never fully attained in the NBA.

Marbury was the two-time NBA All-Star and averaged 19.3 points and 7.6 assists during his 13-year career with five teams. His career began to turn sour when he demanded the Timberwolves trade him in 1999. Later in his career, he was benched in New York and then played a supporting role off the bench in Boston before stepping away from the game in 2009.

Eight years later, Marbury has rebuilt his basketball career.

The Undefeated’s Marc J. Spears, who traveled to China last year to tell Marbury’s story, described the 40-year-old New York native as a “Jordanesque” basketball figure in Beijing.

Marbury has a Chinese postage stamp, has been honored by the local government and has a Chinese green card. Spears wrote, “Marbury is quite possibly the most popular African-American in the city’s history and likely the country, too.”

China’s Yao Ming, the former NBA star, doesn’t even have a statue in the nation’s capital.

Marbury has played six seasons in CBA and announced in February he would retire after the 2017-2018 season.

“Well family next season I’m back but it’s my last go around,” Marbury tweeted. “Next year is the #masterpieceseason. Everything I’ve learned will go into it all.”

Marbury told The Undefeated he believed his problems in the NBA began when he demanded to be traded from the Timberwolves and left behind Kevin Garnett. Marbury said he wanted to leave Minnesota because of the winters were too cold and the roads were too dangerous.

“I remember those days when it wasn’t fun with what I contributed on and off the court,” Marbury said. “I thought the league was mad about me messing up their money in Minnesota.”

The IMDB description of Marbury’s upcoming movie, scheduled to be released July in China, read “The story of Stephon Marbury's fall from the NBA and journeying to rediscover his passion in China.”

The movie will feature cameos from former NBA stars Baron Davis and Allen Iverson.

Marbury had a lot more to say in The Undefeated piece if you have not yet read it. Also, be sure to watch the short film they produced on Marbury’s stardom.