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Twins Insider

La Velle E. Neal III and Phil Miller report on the Twins from wherever they make news

Postgame: Slumping Sano moves into MLB lead in strikeouts

    Three final notes from the Twins’ 15th home loss of the season:

    Miguel Sano looked at a 79-mph curveball from Luke Hochever in the seventh inning Tuesday, but didn’t move. It dropped into the strike zone, and Sano was out, his third K of the night.

    And with that, the second-year slugger moved into a tie for the major-league lead in strikeouts.

    Sano has 66 on the season, matching Justin Upton of Detroit and Trevor Story of Colorado, with Cleveland’s Mike Napoli right behind at 64. The Twins understood that their top prospect was strikeout-prone, but he looks mismatched more frequently lately. In fact, it’s been a pretty miserable month for the Twins’ 2015 MVP — since May 4, Sano is 10-for-64 (.156) with 27 strikeouts.

    “I think he’s a little off. Like [Byung Ho] Park, he hits in between — a lot of check swings,” manager Paul Molitor said of Sano, who has whiffed 21 times in his last 11 games. “Like a lot of our guys, he’s young and frustrated and trying to get back on track.”

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    The Twins loaded the bases with no outs in the ninth inning, the sixth time they’ve set up such a ripe scoring opportunity this season. But Wade Davis showed why he’s one of the best relievers in baseball — remember, he’s allowed 18 runs in the past three seasons combined — by keeping all three runners where they were.

    Eduardo Nunez and Joe Mauer struck out, and Sano, the newly crowned strikeout king, somewhat ironically ended the game by flying out.

    And that kept the Twins’ run total in innings that started out so promisingly at a mere six. It was the second time they have failed to score at all.

    While we’re at it, here’s one more rather amazing stat about bases-loaded-no-outs situations: The Royals haven’t had a single one this season.

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    The Twins’ bullpen, already the second-most-overworked unit in the AL (one inning behind Oakland), has been overloaded the past two days, with 11 2/3 innings dropped on them by a bad outing by the starter. That could trigger a roster move, though there may not be enough time.

    “We’re talking about what we need to do and who’s available tomorrow. It’s getting pretty thin,” Molitor said after Tuesday’s game. “Nothing’s been concluded as of yet.”

    If they’re going to make a move, it has to be quick. Wednesday’s game begins at 12:10 p.m., and while a reliever doesn’t need to be present at first pitch, it may be a lot of trouble to summon someone so quickly. With an off day Thursday, Molitor and general manager Terry Ryan could just cross their fingers and hope that Tyler Duffey goes deep into Wednesday’s game.

    As for the pen, well, four relievers pitched Tuesday, after five went the night before, with Brandon Kintzler and Fernando Abad getting work both nights. They allowed only one run in Tuesday’s game over 5 1/3 innings, and that was a cheap one: Lorenzo Cain, fooled on the pitch from Ryan Pressly, served a soft line drive into right field to drive in Jarrod Dyson in the sixth.

    “Pressy had a good night. He gave up a run on a pretty good pitch that Cain dumped into right field. [Michael] Tonkin did a nice job, Fernando continues to pitch well,” Molitor said. “These guys are taking the ball. I give them credit for that, because they’ve been asked to do that quite frequently.”

Grossman gets first-ever middle-of-the-lineup start tonight for Twins

    The Twins will use their 42nd different lineup of the season tonight in their 45th game, and this one’s unique feature is easy to spot: Robbie Grossman has gone from out of baseball one week ago to the fifth spot in the Twins’ lineup.

    “For some guys out there who are floating around, to come to Minnesota, with where we’re at right now, they might think they have a good chance to get an opportunity to play,” said Twins manager Paul Molitor, sounding a little amazed at this turn of events. “And that’s what’s happened for him.”

    It’s a wonder that Carlos Quentin and Ryan Sweeney, who walked away from the game when they didn’t make the team in spring training, haven’t called back.

    Grossman, though, has had an immediate impact, collecting hits in three of the four games he’s played, six hits in all, four of which drove in runs. He’s drawn a couple of walks, too, and has had no problems in the outfield.

    “[There’s] not a huge splash when you sign Robbie Grossman, but a lot of times opportunities come and people kind of wedge their foot in there a little bit,” Molitor said. “… He’s been a nice little spark for us.”

    And now he’s right in the middle of the lineup, which is a first; in his 195-game major-league career, Grossman has never started a game in the third, fourth or fifth slot. 

    That lineup, for a second straight day, doesn’t include Brian Dozier, who is still getting a break while working to bust out of his slump. And it doesn’t include Byung Ho Park, either, considering the Korean slugger is 1-for-21 (.048) over the past week. Molitor said he talked with both players on the field before batting practice today. “I asked [Park] what he did when he had to get back on track over in Korea,” Molitor said, “and he said he never got off track.”

    Here are the lineups for tonight’s second game of a three-game set with Kansas City, which is now 4-0 against Minnesota this season:

ROYALS

 

Escobar SS

Merrifield 2B

Cain CF

Hosmer 1B

Morales DH

Perez C

Orlando RF

Cuthbert 3B

Dyson LF

 

Volquez RHP

 

TWINS

 

Nunez 2B

Mauer 1B

Sano DH

Plouffe 3B

Grossman LF

Arcia RF

Escobar SS

Centeno C

D. Santana CF

 

E. Santana RHP