Twins manager Paul Molitor won the 2017 American League Manager of the Year vote over Cleveland’s Terry Francona. You have to wonder if the way the Twins are playing — minus stars such as third baseman Miguel Sano, starter Ervin Santana, shortstop Jorge Polanco, and with players such as first baseman Joe Mauer and center fielder Byron Buxton spending time on the disabled list and catcher Jason Castro out for the rest of season — maybe he’ll be even more deserving this season.
While the Twins lost 4-1 to Detroit on Wednesday, their 12 victories since May 2 were tied for the most in the majors coming into the game.
The Twins have gotten support from quite a few players during this run. Logan Morrison extended his on-base streak to 28 games (when he starts) Wednesday when he drew a walk in the sixth inning.
Eddie Rosario continues to be the best offensive player on the roster, collecting three of the Twins’ five hits Wednesday. He is hitting .337 with 18 RBI in his past 25 games. His great game-ending catch on the warning track Monday night was rated a four-star catch by MLB.com, his first of the season.
Kyle Gibson took a tough loss, his third in as many decisions, even though he had a quality start by allowing only three runs over six innings.
Max Kepler continues to put together a historic turnaround against lefthanded pitching. He’s hitting .333 against lefties, compared to .152 last season. That would qualify as the largest jump in batting average against lefties in one season since 1974, according to STATS. Kepler already has 11 RBI against lefties this year compared to 12 all of last season, and he has three homers in 42 at-bats compared to two in 125 in 2017.
Another positive sign for the Twins (21-24) is that they’ve played only 10 of the 62 games they’ll have against American League Central opponents. So far they have a division-best 7-3 record against Central teams and trail Cleveland by only 1½ games.
Still, it was disappointing to see the Twins once again stymied by Tigers righthander Michael Fulmer, who is 4-0 with a 3.04 ERA in his career against Minnesota.
The Twins are 11-12 overall at Target Field, which is a worrisome sign. Last season, one of the Twins’ biggest issues was they couldn’t win at home. They finished 41-40 at Target Field after starting 10-13 at home in 2017.
Molitor said even though the Twins have yet to field a completely healthy lineup, that doesn’t necessarily put them at a big disadvantage.
“It’s not particularly tough,” he said. “I’ve seen enough baseball to know that playing with a full deck is kind of a luxury. You’re going to go through times where you have to reach down and use the depth that you have either up here or in the minor leagues.
“But it’s just part of the game where you have to have people who can fill in adequately when you have people go down. Obviously with so many of our regulars out, it’s made it a little more challenging and we’re just trying to hold our own until we get a little more healthy.”
Molitor said the reason the pitching staff has been so solid lately — posting a 2.99 ERA and 12-8 record over the past 20 games — is that the starters are pitching deeper into games.
“We were taxing our bullpen too much as far as innings and work, and the last couple of times through the rotation, these last three games we’ve got eight [innings from Jose] Berrios, seven last night from [Lance] Lynn and Gibson gives us six,” Molitor said. “The more innings we get out of the rotation, I think that will stabilize our whole staff.”
Molitor said reinforcements might be coming soon. Santana (finger surgery) pitched two innings in a rehab start for Class AA Chattanooga on Wednesday, giving up two runs on four hits with no walks and one strikeout. He will have another start at Class AAA Rochester next week.
And there is hope that if Sano continues to prove he’s healthy at Rochester, he could be back for the three-game weekend series in Seattle. Mauer (cervical strain, concussion symptoms) and righthander Trevor May (Tommy John surgery) could be available soon.
”Joe seems to be doing better each day,” Molitor said. “Castro [knee] is obviously gone for the year. Trevor May is doing well. He pitched [Tuesday] and did decent and he’ll get another start for Rochester next week as well.”
Praise for Pohlads
You have to give Twins owner Jim Pohlad credit for being willing to write off pitcher Phil Hughes’ big contract, because it gives the team a chance to add another player to the 40-man roster. Hughes was due $13.2 million this year and in 2019.
“It’s always difficult when you have to make a tough decision like that with a player who is under contract, but I think we felt this was the best thing for our team moving forward,” said Derek Falvey, the Twins chief baseball officer. “It’s a credit to our ownership to say that we are afforded the opportunity to make the best baseball decisions, independent of contract.”
Forbath will compete
Vikings kicker Kai Forbath told the media Wednesday at the second Vikings organized team activities practice that he is open to being challenged by Daniel Carlson, the team’s fifth-round draft choice from Auburn.
“I’ve fortunately never lost a competition and I’m not shying away from this one just because they drafted him. I’m going to make my case,” he said.
Forbath said it won’t be a tense competition.
“I have become friends with every single guy I’ve competed against every year,” he said. “I still talk with Marshall [Koehn] from last year, and we’re still friends. I used to be the young guy competing against the older guy and now I’m the old guy. I help them out and give them tips. We’re all friends at the end of the day.”
Forbath made 84.2 percent of his field-goal attempts (32 of 38) and 87.2 percent of his extra points (34 of 39) in 2017.
• The Las Vegas sportsbooks have the Gophers football team’s over/under win total for 2018 at six. 247Sports wrote that the Gophers will reach that total by being favored in home games against Iowa, Indiana, Purdue and Northwestern and have potential road victories at Maryland, Illinois and Nebraska.
• Two players who attended small colleges and went undrafted are now battling each other for a spot as a Vikings wide receiver: Brandon Zylstra of Concordia (Moorhead) and Jake Wieneke of South Dakota State.
• Good news for the Vikings’ Kyle Rudolph: New offensive coordinator John DeFilippo is known as a great utilizer of tight ends, and the player with the most pass receptions in a single season with Kirk Cousins as the full-time starter in Washington was tight end Jordan Reed in 2015 with 87.