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Twins Insider

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

Twins-Astros: Keuchel not sharp, but he doesn't lose at home

This is the first if three games between two unexpectedly crummy teams. The Astros finished the month 7-17, just like the Twins, and it can be argued that their fall is more shocking given that Houston made the playoffs last season and have top end young talent in Carlos Correa, George Springer and others. It shows how hard it can be to take the next step after that breakthrough year.

The Astros even did something the Twins declined to do during the offseason. The Astros added closer Ken Giles during the offseason to shut down the end of games. He was supposed to be the proven reliever the Twins failed to land.Giles has been awful and hasn't been used as the closer - and has scuffled as a set-up man..

These are two bad, underachieving teams.

But Houston has their skid-stopper on the mound tonight in Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel, who is 2-3 with a 4.41 ERA but has has won 17 straight at Minute Maid. That's 17-0 with a 1.36 ERA.

The Twins, however, had Keuchel on the ropes here last year. Brian Dozier and Eduardo Escobar hit solo homers as the Twins led 2-0 heading to the bottom of the seventh before Houston scored five runs, four on Jed Lowrie's grad slam.

Third baseman Trevor Plouffe has rejoined the team after playing two rehab games with Class A Fort Myers. He has recovered from his right intercostal strain and should be activated after the game. Jorge Polanco is the guess here as to who heads to the minors to make room for Plouffe's return.

Righthander Ervin Santana will throw between 30-40 pitches on Tuesday during a simulated game. If that goes well, the Twins would like to start him on Saturday against the White Sox in Chicago. So the pitch-off is on to determine who will be sent out to make room for him. 

Twins

Danny Santana, CF
Brian Dozier, 2B
Joe Mauer, 1B
Miguel Sano, RF
Byung Ho Park, DH
Eduardo Escobar, SS
Eddie Rosario, LF
John Ryan Murphy, C
Eduardo Nunez, 3B

Jose Berrios, RHP

Astros

Jose Altuve, 2B
George Springer, RF
Kevin Correa, SS
Colby Rasmus, CF
Evan Gattis, DH
Preston Tucker, LF
Marwin Gonzalez, 1B
Luis  Valbuena, 3B
Jason Castro, C

Dallas Keuchel, LHP

Postgame: It's called May Day, appropriate for the Twins' season

    A couple of extras from another disappointing day for the Twins:

    A message board at the entrance to the Twins’ clubhouse had an optimistic message on Sunday.

    “New dawn, new day, new month. Let’s go!” it read.

    Nice sentiment. As it turns out, May Day was more mayday for the Twins.

    The Twins’ 6-5 loss on Sunday, a game full of missed chances and squandered opportunities, was one of the more painful losses thus far. And now the Twins go on the road, where they’re losing at a historic rate.

    Minnesota is 1-10 on the road, its worst start in franchise history, and the worst by any American League team since Kansas City opened the 2006 season 0-12 away from home. Making matters worse: Now the Twins head to Houston, where they face Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel — who is 17-0 at home since August 2014 — on Monday. 

XXX

    The new month hasn’t changed Joe Mauer. Already off to one of the best starts of his career, Mauer collected two singles and a double on Sunday, and the double fell about 2 inches short of being a home run. Its bounce off the top of the padding in left field was so close, the umpires checked it on video to make certain it hadn’t gone out.

    The two singles give Mauer 22 on the season, just one short of Ian Kinsler’s 23 for the AL lead. And Mauer now has reached base 51 times, six ahead of Houston’s Jose Altuve for the AL lead. One big difference: each of the top five leaders in reaching base has scored at least 17 runs this season. Mauer, surrounded by an anemic Twins offense, reached 10 runs scored on Sunday.

    How anemic is that offense? The Twins’ 80 runs score in April were their fewest since 1981 (not counting the strike-delayed 1995 season), and their 3.3 runs-per-game average is the fourth-worst in franchise history.

XXX

    As the game ended, Molitor was out on the field conferring with the umpires about Miguel Sano’s ball into the corner, which turned into a double — and the final out. Nothing controversial, the manager said — he just can’t see the corner from the dugout.

    “I just wanted to make sure the ball came back out on the field cleanly without hitting a part of the field that was out of play,” he said.