While Twins shortstop Jorge Polanco went 1-for-2 with an RBI single and pitcher Jose Berrios threw a scoreless inning with two strikeouts in the American League’s 4-3 win at the All-Star Game in Cleveland on Tuesday night, the rest of the Twins roster got a much needed rest.
Yes, the All-Star break came at the right time for the Twins, even if that seems odd to say for a team that is 23 games over .500 at 56-33, has the fourth-best record in baseball and is only 1 ½ games behind the Yankees for the best record in the American League.
But the team just went through a tough stretch. After its 5-4 win over the Royals on June 16, it was 47-22 and had an 11-game lead over the Cleveland Indians in the American League Central.
In their final 20 games before the break, they went 9-11 and played five extra-inning games, including a 4-3 win over the Red Sox in 17 innings and a 5-2 loss to the Rays in 18 innings.
They also dealt with injuries to Byron Buxton, Eddie Rosario, Marwin Gonzalez, C.J. Cron, Willians Astudillo and Jake Odorizzi.
That the Twins went 9-11 while dealing with all of that facing teams such as Boston, Tampa Bay, Oakland and Texas would not have looked as bad if the Indians hadn’t gone 14-5 after June 16 and gained 5 ½ games in the standings, leaving them just 5 ½ games behind at the break.
Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said that kind of schedule could easily cause a slump, but he was proud that his team didn’t let that happen.
“I don’t think we were in a slump at all,” Baldelli said. “It was definitely a difficult stretch in a lot of ways. Our team, I think, is pretty resilient and has done a nice job getting through it. A difficult stretch of games and played relatively well. We will take it. Over the course of a long season you are not going to stay hot for six months. And our guys have taken a spot that could have been a very difficult time for us and turned it into a lot of positives.”
Healthy in Cleveland?
Astudillo, Cron, Odorizzi, Rosario and minor league call-up LaMonte Wade are on the injured list, but Baldelli said there’s a good chance several of those players will be back after the break.
It will be necessary to have a full roster soon. The Twins have a huge series right out of the gate with three games in Cleveland starting Friday. In their final 73 games they’ll face the Indians 13 times.
Odorizzi is scheduled to start Saturday, and Rosario also will return to action in the series.
“I think it’s a good time for the All-Star break right now, and I think there are probably a lot of teams thinking the same thing. It’s a good opportunity for guys to get off their feet, rest, let little things heal up, maybe even some big things heal up,” Baldelli said. “I think once we get there, take a few days, get over to Cleveland and open up the second half, I think our guys will be ready to go and feeling good.”
Is he worried about the Indians’ charge?
“They’re a good team. Anyone that expected them to struggle or not play well probably doesn’t know their roster very well and doesn’t know what they do,” the first-year manager said. “That’s a highly successful organization that we should expect to play well the entire season. They have good players. They have a great staff. They do a lot of things as well as you can do them.”
Baldelli said the Twins will not dwell on their division lead being cut in half.
“We’re just going to try to win the next game and basically focus on that,” he said. “That’s how we’ve won games and gotten to this point. We have basically focused on preparing for today’s game. I think if we’re worried about anything else besides that, if we’re thinking and spending energy worrying about anything besides that, we’re probably doing it not quite the right way. We have been pretty good about that. We have done it right from the beginning until now.”
Depth has helped
There’s no doubt that a team with less depth than the Twins would have had a much worse stretch over the most recent 20 games. But the performance of players such as Luis Arraez (.393 average, 14 runs scored in 26 games) and Ehire Adrianza (.283 average with four homers and 15 RBI in 48 games) has helped keep the team afloat.
“We have had guys that are important players and pieces go on the IL and had a lot of guys battle through things and not go on the IL but not be anywhere close to 100 percent,” Baldelli said. “Again everyone sees it, everyone in the clubhouse knows it, but again every guy keeps showing up and performing and preparing for the game even though they know it’s not always perfect circumstances. Guys go out there and get the job done.”
Does he think anything needs to change for a successful second half?
“I would say nothing that we haven’t done already to this point. If we continue to do what we’re doing, I think that’s a great place to start.”
Prep hoops standouts
Two local high school basketball players were in the news this week because they are proving to be two of the best prospects in the nation.
Jalen Suggs won a gold medal with the USA Basketball Under-19 team at the FIBA U19 World Cup in Senegal. Suggs averaged 9.6 points, 2.7 rebounds in 15.9 minutes per game.
The Minnehaha Academy point guard, who is ranked as the No. 12 prospect in the country by ESPN, also won gold medals with USA Basketball in 2017 and 2018.
He told 247Sports recently that he is receiving a lot of attention from Gonzaga in his recruiting and that it is one of the top schools on his list.
And while the Gophers are on his list, and his decision will be delayed because of his football season — where he is the second-best prospect in the state and could get an invitation to the Under Armour All-America Game in January 2020 — there’s little to no chance he’ll go to the U based on his statements.
Also in the class of 2020 is Dawson Garcia of Prior Lake, who is No. 32 in 247Sports’ national rankings. He reported that he is having great communication with the Gophers.
“I like [assistant] coach Kyle Lindsted and [head] coach Richard Pitino a lot,” Garcia told Gophers Illustrated. “Last year obviously I didn’t talk to them too much, but this year during the winter season and during the spring season we have built a great relationship. I liked the visit a lot. The new facility is sweet, I like it a lot. I like the Gophers a lot.”