The Runner Sports

Twins Enjoying An Embarrassment Of Riches

Where to begin? The Minnesota Twins were left for dead two weeks ago when the front office decided to trade away Jaime García and Brandon Kintzler, and they muddled through their first week of games after that. But after a terrible first inning against the Texas Rangers last Sunday, everything has been coming up.

They have won five straight, they are back above .500, they are now in second place in the American League Central –just 3.5 games behind Cleveland– and they are 0.5 games behind the tied Seattle Mariners and Tampa Bay Rays for the second Wild Card spot. And they aren’t there just from getting lucky.

It is hard to believe I spent the entire first half of the season and then some talking about how the bullpen was the team’s biggest weakness. They still have only allowed three runs in the month of August, and it has been a group effort. Tyler Duffey is getting his groove back. Taylor Rogers, who was one of the best relievers all season long was terrible for a bit, and is now back on top of his game. Matt Belisle was bad all year and has now become the go to guy in the final inning. Buddy Boshers, Alan Busenitz, and Trevor Hildenberger have also added to the success with great outings in recent days.

But perhaps the best part of the bullpen is Dillon Gee. Once an average starter for the New York Mets, Gee struggled over the last couple years and eventually found his was to the Twins when the Rangers released him earlier this year. In two outings, Gee has proven to be a phenomenal pickup. He has gone a total of seven innings in those two appearances and has yet to give up a run while only allowing one baserunner per inning and striking out nine. A weapon like that relaxes Paul Molitor and the starting staff, as now they know a short start won’t handcuff the team for the rest of the game. Perhaps less pressure will also lead to an increase in performance from the rotation.

Speaking of the rotation, they are way better too. The true hero of late is Bartolo Colón. He has thrown 16 innings over his last two starts and given up just four runs. There was talk just a couple weeks ago that he might retire, but now he is on his way to being the American League pitcher of the month. He has done it with a great 67% strike rate and a lot of weak contact.

And he is not the only one throwing great. Ervin Santana has gotten back to the pitcher he was in April and May, which is wonderful. José Berríos has continued to show he can dominate, and that he at least has nerves of steel on days where he loses his electrifying pitches. Adalberto Mejía was doing wonderfully but is now on the disabled list for what his hopefully a short period of time. Not that it matters too much, Dietrich Enns made his major league debut in the series finale on Thursday and though he only lasted into the third inning, he showed great potential. Let’s not forget Kyle Gibson, who has gone from bad to serviceable, which is perfectly fine when the offense is playing as well as it is.

What a great transition! Remember when Jorge Polanco lost a lot of playing time while mired in a terrible slump? Well, now he is the second hottest hitter on the planet. He went 10-15 in the Milwaukee series with three extra base hits and a walk. Clearly he has figured something out, and if he continues at even half that pace he will be a dangerous player for the rest of the year.

But he still won’t be the most dangerous, because he shares a lineup with Eddie Rosario. It is time to stop saying that Rosario is on a hot streak and admit that he is having a great year. His batting average has not dipped below .280 since the end of June, and his eye at the plate, historically his biggest weakness, has become a great asset. It’s not that he is drawing more walks, it’s that he is striking out less and hitting balls right on the barrel for quality, line drive base hits. And he is forcing pitchers to balk.

Plus, Brian Dozier is hitting the ball out of the park, Joe Mauer is still doing everything right, and Max Kepler is finding his way on base. At this point, Miguel Sanó is sort of the forgotten man in the lineup, so if he turns it on this team will get even more dangerous.

With Milwaukee in the rearview mirror, it is time for the Twins to redeem themselves in Detroit. The last meeting of the teams went terribly, but Detroit is playing worse since then and the Twins are obviously playing better. With Gibson, Berríos, and Santana starting, the phenomenal bullpen may not have a lot of work to do, but at this point, it feels like no matter what happens the Twins will find a way to win.

Charlie Gillmer

Charlie Gillmer

Charlie Gillmer is a lifelong Twins fan who spends most nights dreaming of learning a knuckleball and pitching them to a World Series victory.
Charlie Gillmer

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