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Twins Insider

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

Twins return home after sweep of Orioles, prepare for holiday weekend


It's Friday. Memorial Day weekend is here. And the Twins are in first place.

Will the Twins start to see a success-related spike in attendance?

Checked with one club official this afternoon, and they are hoping for 80,000 this weekend against the Rays and a really nice crowd on Monday when the Astros come to town. The club has noticed an increase in walkup sales during the last couple of homestands and, with school ending and the weather turning nice, they anticipate a response to how well the club has been playing.

I'm being asked if the Twins are for real several times a day. I'm not quite there yet, but if they can remain over .500 they should be in the wild card race. And, as we see them play more teams, there have been few moments where they have looked overmatched.

Pitching will be the key. They can't afford any more injuries to the starting rotation. And they could use a power arm in the bullpen.

Here are a couple things to watch tonight and this weekend:

Target Field will be the site for a center field showdown between the Twins' Byron Buxton and the Rays' Kevin Kiermaier. Kiermaier is outstanding in the field, but did have a clunker defensive game recently that has affected his overall numbers. But he has range and is fearless. Buxton already is one of the best center fielders in the game and has made several outstanding plays this season. It will be hard to hit a ball past these two stud defender.

Hector Santiago is on the mound tonight, looking for his first win since May 9. He's has terrible problems with left-handed hitters, as they are 13-for-26 against him with three home runs. Santiago needs his change up to shut them down but has not had the right feel for the pitch in recent outings. 

Tampa Bay has four lefties on their roster, and three of them are in the lineup tonight.


Brian Dozier, 2B
Joe Mauer, 1B
Miguel Sano, 3B
Max Kepler, RF
Kennys Vargas, DH
Jorge Polanco, SS
Eddie Rosario, LF
Byron Buxton, CF
Jason Castro, C

Hector Santiago, LHP

Postgame: Berrios passes first difficult test

    BALTIMORE — Three more extras from the Twins’ sweep-clinching victory at Camden Yards:

    Unlike his first two dominating starts, Jose Berrios got into some trouble against the Orioles on Wednesday. That’s not a bad thing, either, because the Twins want to see how he responds.

    So far, so good. Berrios gave up a one-out single to Manny Machado in the fourth inning, then walked Mark Trumbo and Trey Mancini (with a Chris Davis popup in between) to load the bases. Pitching coach Neil Allen walked to the mound to confer with the 22-year-old starter.

    “You can tell he gets a little bit sped up and tries to throw a little bit harder. Maybe gets too fine,” Molitor said of the pep talk. “You try to get him just to go back and be free and easy and just make pitches.”

    “Neil said to trust myself, trust my stuff. And throw the ball inside,” Berrios said. “That’s what I did.”

    Berrios put the advice into action against Jonathan Schoop. He got ahead 1-2, then threw a curveball in the dirt that caused Schoop to flinch, and he was called out on the check swing. “He had a good matchup there,  a good long at-bat and got him to chase,” Molitor said of Berrios, whose ERA rose all the way to 1.66. “That was a big inning.”

    And a good test.

   One inning earlier, Berrios unleashed this nastiness

XXX

    With his 12th save on Wednesday, in 13 opportunities, Brandon Kintzler moved within one save of AL leader Cody Allen of Cleveland. It wasn’t a clean inning, but it was close.

    Mancini led off the ninth with a single to right field, putting the tying run on base. But just as the Camden Yards crowd of 32,267 came alive, Kintzler snuffed the threat. He got Schoop to hit a grounder up the middle, and though there was momentary confusion, it worked out for Minnesota.

    “Kintzler put his glove up to get it, and then he moved it all of a sudden,” said Brian Dozier. “It caught me a little off guard.”

    That’s because Dozier recovered, snagged the ball one step from second base, kicked the bag and calmly tossed to first base. 

    “It’s a sweet double play,” Dozier said.

XXX

    When Taylor Rogers fell behind 3-0 to Chris Davis in the eighth inning, having thrown nothing but curveballs out of the strike zone, he knew how to fix the problem: Just throw fastballs.

    Not because he wanted to try something else, but because he believed they would get his curve back on track.

    “I was lucky to get back in the count with two heaters. And [catcher Chris Gimenez] and I were on the same page the whole way — 3-2 curveball,” Rogers explained. “It’s kind of like when you’re in the bullpen and you can’t quite find the breaking ball, so you throw a fastball to try to find the release point again. I think it helped that I threw those two fastballs, got back on my release point, and was able to get [the 3-2 curve] in there.”

    Count Molitor as impressed.

    “He had been trying to ambush the whole series,” Molitor said of the Orioles’ slugger, who swung at Berrios’ first pitch in the fourth inning with two runners on, and lofted a popup to third.  Then he swung at the first pitch again in the seventh and rocketed it onto the plaza in right field. Good timing for the Twins, of course, and it all set up Rogers’ big moment in the eighth.

    No wonder, Molitor said, that Rogers pumped his fist in exuberance as umpire Lance Barrett signaled strike three.

    “That’s as dangerous as it gets,” Molitor said.