Small sample sizes can be a lot of fun, especially when they defy expectations. Take the Twins’ first week of games, for instance.
A lack of clutch hitting has defined the Twins during their three-year stretch of 96-plus losses, and they bottomed out with a .225 batting average with runners in scoring position in 2013, worst in the American League. It’s an important reason why they scored only 614 runs last season, 13th in the AL.
It’s also the reason their run of clutch hitting has been so impressive since the season opened. Their 21 hits with runners in scoring position are the most in the AL, one reason why the Twins also entered Tuesday leading the league in runs scored with 41.
“Some of the concerns about scoring runs — we’ve been pleased with how we’re swinging the bats,” said Rob Antony, Twins assistant general manager. Saturday and Sunday’s victories in Cleveland were particularly encouraging, he said, because after taking early leads, “we continued to tack on runs,” he said. “... It wasn’t one [scoring] outburst.”
Another reason for the offensive production: The Twins led all of baseball in drawing walks, 36 so far, which explained their AL-best .353 on-base percentage.
One other random category they led: They were the only team with two balks this season, both of them by Sam Deduno.
The Twins will express their gratitude toward manager Ron Gardenhire and their pride in his 1,000th career victory by holding a pregame ceremony at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday at Target Field.
Gardenhire, whose career record in his 13th season stands at 1,001-951, will be honored with a video of his career highlights, a couple of speeches and the presentation of gifts from the team. Gardenhire became the 60th major league manager to reach 1,000 victories Saturday, when the Twins beat Cleveland 7-3.
Viola out of hospital
Former Twins ace Frank Viola was released from a New York hospital following open heart surgery last week, the Mets said.
The Mets announced in spring training that the 53-year-old lefthander, who is in his first year as the pitching coach for their Class AAA Las Vegas affiliate, would need heart surgery after a condition was detected during a medical exam.
Viola went 112-93 with the Twins from 1982 to ’89, winning World Series MVP honors in 1987 and the AL Cy Young Award the following year.
‘A weird at-bat’
Twins righthander Kevin Correia, on Jed Lowrie’s odd at-bat Monday in which the Oakland infielder tried to take first base on a walk after only three balls, then hit a long foul ball that umpires reviewed to confirm it had not crossed inside the foul pole: “It was a weird at-bat. First he walked but didn’t walk. Then he hit a home run but didn’t hit a home run. I was asking the umpire, “What’s he going to do next?’ ”