There was a battle of mediocrity for the American League’s second wild card in 2017 and the Twins were able to claim it with an 85-77 record. The Yankees claimed the first wild card with 91 wins.
That’s a number that will not get either wild card this season, not with the Yankees and Boston in the East and Houston and the Angels in the West.
The Twins have another problem in 2018: They were playing Game No. 40 on Friday night, the theoretical quarter-point of the schedule, and improvement will be required merely to regain mediocre form.
Eddie Rosario and Eduardo Escobar are to be commended for trying to carry an attack that is batting .244 as a whole and scoring a fraction over four runs a game.
I don’t see this team, with the current, shallow lineup, getting to .500 if someone doesn’t get to Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano.
Three years ago, one was going to be the slugging backbone of the batting order, and the other would use that amazing speed to become a better version of Torii Hunter, as soon as he figured it out at the plate.
The backbone, Sano, is winding up another slow recovery from another injury to his left leg. There are plans to soon start a rehab assignment.
If Sano returns as the same hitting mess that he was in April, there’s no sense in having him hurry back.
On occasion, Sano will get a hanger or a fastball at the belt, and he will hit it a long distance. That happened five times in the 20 games Sano played before being waylaid by a hamstring pull.
The rest of the time, Miguel mostly struck out, trying ferociously to pull pitches on the far side of the plate, or pursuing fastballs at the letters that he can’t get to.
On Thursday night, a broadcast of the Red Sox game was on my car radio and J.D. Martinez homered to Fenway Park’s distant center field. Soon, the announcers were informing that Martinez had 13 home runs, and 10 of those had gone to center or right field.
Martinez is a powerful man, listed at 6-foot-3, 220 pounds. More than that, he is a professional hitter — a righthander who knows he has the strength to drive an outside pitch for extra bases (including four) to the opposite field.
Sano is 6-foot-4 and if he were to weigh in at 275 pounds, the Twins would celebrate his fine conditioning. Bottom line: There’s no way Martinez is stronger than Sano. But Martinez is immensely smarter as a hitter.
Martinez was 25 when the Astros played him halftime in 2013. Houston released him late in spring training in 2014, he was quickly claimed by Detroit, and started an incredible ascent as a reliable power threat.
Maybe it was the shock of being released that woke up Martinez as a hitter. Sano turned 25 last week and there’s no hint as to what shock it would take to have the same effect on him.
All we’ve seen in this abbreviated start to his fourth season is the same futile flailing in the search for 450-foot home runs to left field on all pitches, rather than going with a pitch and driving it out to right or center.
As for Buxton, the Twins’ modern baseball administration put that limitless brain power together and came up with one of the dumbest ideas of all-time: Buxton had a migraine that was going to cost him two games in Puerto Rico (April 17-18), so the Twins placed him on the 10-day disabled list, meaning he would miss another five games after the Puerto Rico series.
The migraine was gone and there was nothing else to do, so Buxton went to Fort Myers to get some at-bats, fouled a ball off his left big toe, suffered a hairline fracture and wasn’t able to play again until May 10.
Let’s see here: One, Buxton will miss two games (maybe three), so we’re going to DL him and send him on rehab to Fort Myers; and two, Buxton hasn’t played in three weeks, so we’re going to put him back in the lineup without a rehab assignment.
Buxton’s back to taking hittable fastballs for strike one, jumping at other pitches, and he’s generally as futile as when he was sent to the minors last season. He struck out twice in RBI situations in the first four innings of Friday night’s game.
Sano and Buxton. Somebody has to get ’em fixed.
I’d say that otherwise mediocrity awaits, except this lineup isn’t at that level.