The Twins lead in the American League Central is down to four games, the closest Cleveland has been since May 14, after their 14-4 loss to the Mets on Wednesday, which also marked their first three game losing streak of the season.
The Twins were undone by their defense, committing two errors which led to seven unearned runs.
It was an ugly series.
While the Twins entered Wednesday tied for the major league lead in runs per game at 5.65 and were fifth in club ERA at 3.89, they ranked 19th in fielding percentage (.982).
After their defensive showing on Wednesday the Twins have allowed 48 unearned runs, which is the fifth-worst mark in baseball, trailing the Orioles (56), Braves (54), Dodgers and Tigers (49).
And while the Twins faced a quality opponent in the Mets (44-51) and have the playoff probables the Athletics (54-41) and Yankees (60-33) coming up, the Indians faced the lowly Tigers (29-61) and have the struggling Royals (34-62) and Blue Jays (36-60) in the next two series.
If the Twins aren’t careful, they won’t get out of July with a division lead.
Garver keeps hitting
If there was one bright spot Tuesday it was catcher Mitch Garver, who went 2-for-3 with a solo homer in the fifth, a double and two runs scored.
Last season Garver got pushed into the starting job when Jason Castro injured himself and missed the bulk of the 2018 season.
Garver played so well, hitting .268 with seven homers, 19 doubles, 45 RBI and 38 runs scored in 102 games, that there was no doubt he was going to make the club this season.
He has played even better this season, hitting .298 with 15 homers, 37 RBI and 37 runs scored in 48 games this season. Garver has given the Twins a unique benefit because both he and Castro are hitting and handling the pitching staff well.
Garver had a unique start in catching from his grandfather.
“My grandfather played fast-pitch softball all across the southwest part of the United States,” said Garver, a Albuquerque, New Mexico native. “He was a catcher. When I first got introduced into baseball he was the one who was kind of pushing me to be a catcher, and he bought me my first catcher’s helmet and really was that important role for me to grow into that position.”
He said that being around fast-pitch softball also extended into his college career with New Mexico.
“So my grandpa and my college hitting coach Ray Birmingham, he also played fast-pitch baseball, and I don’t know if you know anything about UNM but there has always been good hitters coming out of there because of the way that he teaches the baseball swing,” Garver said. “It is very compact, very tight, you have to be able to hit upward of over 100 miles per hour in fast-pitch softball. It’s translating well into baseball now.”
Garver gets to work closely with not only all the pitchers on the team, but also the hitting and the pitching coaches.
He said that one of the things he has enjoyed about his time in the pros is working with hitting coach James Rowson, and it appears to be paying off again in 2019.
“This is my third year kind of getting to know him,” Garver said. “We know each other well, and I think we work together well. He knows my tendencies, and you know I’m never afraid to take some criticism from him if he sees something off.
“That’s what you need from a hitting coach is somebody who can tell you what they really see as opposed to telling you what you want to hear.”
When it comes to first-year pitching coach Wes Johnson, Garver said so far the team has really taken to the former college coach.
“Wes is a good dude. He brings a lot of energy to the club, and he is young and this is his first year in the major leagues, so there is some adjustment period,” he said. “But he has been good for us. I think the guys are really starting to grow on him and we have been working well together.”
And if there is one thing the Twins are surely aware of it is that Garver is under team control until 2023, and he isn’t arbitration eligible until 2021.
Castro meanwhile is making $8 million this season and will be an unrestricted free agent next year.
The fact that Castro is having one of his best seasons at the plate — with a career high in slugging percentage (.514) and OPS (.841) — could mean that he’ll demand a big contract in the offseason.
With the Mets in town, it’s worth remembering that at one time the business leaders trying to bring professional baseball to Queens and the Twin Cities in the late 1950’s were battling Major League Baseball to create a new league.
That battle happened in 1959 with the creation of the Continental League, spreaheaded by Bill Shea and had founding members in the Twin Cities, New York, Denver, Toronto and Houston.
Wheelock Whitney Jr. and Gerald Moore were the two chairmen of the group representing the Twin Cities in trying to get a professional club here with the Continental League.
In 1959 Moore appeared in Washington for an antitrust committee investigation into Major League Baseball. The Continental League was looking to get MLB to release a large number of their reserve players — including minor leaguers and farm team players — to be available for their league.
Moore was testifying about the efforts Minnesota had made to get a club here.
“It’ll be my job to outline how we went about building Metropolitan stadium in Minneapolis and to trace our efforts to obtain major league baseball for the area,” he said at the time.
What ended up eventually happening was that Shea convinced Major League Baseball to have a second franchise in New York, which became the Mets, and that led him to stop being a big supporter of the Continental League.
Meanwhile the Twin Cities were able to get the Washington Senators to move here in 1960 and started their first season here in 1961.
The Mets had their expansion season in 1962. They posted a 321-648 record over their first six seasons. And in 1964 they opened Shea Stadium in recognition of Bill’s work to get the National League back in New York.