It’s early yet, but the Minnesota Twins most recent series against the New York Mets may be the craziest series we see all season.
First of all, it was snowing. In April.
This would be normal in December. Everyone knows that it snows a lot in Minnesota, but this is absurd. When we decided to build an outdoor park, everyone knew there would be a couple cooler games in the beginning of the year. But nobody expected to see snow at Target Field.
There’s an adage that parents tell their kids this time of year: “April showers bring May flowers.” Well, what do April snowstorms bring? Armageddon? Ice Age? A Twins World Series?
All seem equally likely right now.
No matter how cold it is, fans still showed up and cheered on their slumping team. There was free coffee and hot chocolate and plenty of overhead heaters, but Minnesotans sent a strong message over the weekend: “We love our team…and this still beats playing in the Metrodome.”
Secondly, the series is technically not over. Sunday’s game was cancelled due to—you called it—a snowstorm that was really a combination of snow, rain and slush. It was weather from hell.
Hey, look on the bright side, at least we’ll be prepared for nuclear winter!
The final game of the series will be played on August 19. If it’s still snowing on that day, then we’re really in trouble.
The final reason this season was out of the ordinary is because the Twins were playing the Mets. It is only the second time in Twins history that the Metropolitans have visited Minneapolis, the first series was played in the Metrodome in 2004, and at first glance I just assumed that Minnesota was playing the Yankees, only they were disguised in blue and orange.
It would be a clever play, right? Instead of heading into the season with low expectations after setting such a high standard over the last 20-odd years, why don’t you pretend to be a team that would be more than happy to finish with a .500 record and third in your division?
After seeing Minnesota get throttled 16-5 in the first game, I wasn’t the only one thinking that the Twins were playing the Bronx Bombers.
'27 Yankees have been reincarnated into Mets uniforms in Minnesota. 14 runs, and counting. As K.Hernandez says: "Like batting practice."— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) April 13, 2013
Alas, it was truly the Mets, and, yes, they extended a Twins losing streak that has now reached five games after an impressive start in the first two series.
The starting pitching needs to help an otherwise impressive bullpen
Vance Worley has to go more than one inning in his starts. The former Philadelphia Phillies righty gave up seven earned runs on seven hits and left the game with the bases loaded and no outs in the second inning.
Reliever Pedro Hernandez had to face John Buck, a player that has come out of nowhere this season, who has hit .317/.318/.780 with six home runs already. “A modern day Chris Davis,” as Aaron Gleeman of NBC Sports cleverly called him, Buck took Hernandez deep for a grand slam, but the 24-year-old lefty looked solid otherwise in his four-plus innings of relief.
“Buck had a good at-bat against him,” said manager Ron Gardenhire. “But after that, he gave us a great effort and kept us in the ballgame,” adding that Hernandez used his breaking ball after facing Buck, which made all his other pitches a lot more effective.
Ryan Pressley and Brian Duensing did not give up any earned runs in mop-up duty, and while closer Glen Perkins gave up two runs in the ninth, the game was already out of hand at that point.
Scott Diamond looked solid in his first start on Saturday until he gave up a solo home run to Marlon Byrd and allowed three runs to score in the fifth inning. His performance is easier to justify, however, given that he was coming off the disabled list after undergoing surgery on his left elbow and won 12 games for the team last year.
Josh Roenicke, Casey Fien and Jared Burton took care of business after Diamond was pulled, allowing no earned runs and keeping the team within striking distance in a game that Minnesota ended up losing 4-2.
The starters need to go longer into the game going forward, however, in order to keep an otherwise impressive bullpen from tiring.
The Francisco Liriano trade isn’t looking so bad anymore
On the bright side, last year’s Francisco Liriano for Pedro Hernandez and Eduardo Escobar trade isn’t looking all that bad anymore.
At the time the transaction took place, it looked like the Twins were handing the division-rival Chicago White Sox a former ace for two farmhands. Hernandez had one loss and an 18.00 ERA in four innings in his lone start on the South Side, and the 5’10”, 175-pound Escobar looked undersized and was batting .214/.278/.260 in 131 plate appearances.
A year later, the trade doesn’t look so bad.
While Liriano could have brought more in return back in 2010, the team was winning at the time, and he was the ace of the rotation. The lefty lasted only until the end of the season with the White Sox, who never made the playoffs and has yet to pitch for his current team, the Pittsburgh Pirates, this season.
Hernandez, on the other hand, has a 3.86 ERA and has given up four runs in just over nine innings pitched this season. He’s only 24 and has a lot of room to grow.
Escobar, also 24, began the year on fire. He is batting .400/.400/.667 with a home run and a walk-off hit. Not only does he appear to be laying claim to the shortstop position, a void the Twins desperately need to fill, but he may get a shot at the leadoff position following Aaron Hicks’ recent struggles.
Right now, Minnesota looks like it got a square deal.
About that leadoff spot…
Safe to say, the Twins are really missing Denard Span and Ben Revere right now. The two table-setters, who were dealt to the Washington Nationals and the Philadelphia Phillies, respectively, in the offseason, left a gaping hole in the lineup.
Aaron Hicks won the job over Darin Mastroianni and Joe Benson with an impressive performance in spring training but is hitting a paltry .047/.109/.047 in 43 at-bats this season. He has struck out 20 times and owns a -0.8 WAR (per baseball-reference).
While it is always smart to be patient with a young player, the 23-year-old rookie who jumped directly from Double A to the majors, needs a little seasoning in the minors before his next call-up.
The difficulty will be finding his replacement.
Escobar will get a look because of his recent play, but he does not project to be a leadoff hitter. Mastroianni is known for his impressive fielding but struggles to produce against major league pitching. Benson was called up directly from Double A two years ago, but struggled mightily last season, hitting .202/.288/.336 while limited to 76 games due to injury.
Twins Daily blogger Nick Nelson suggested Julio Borbon, a player the Texas Rangers are allegedly shopping, but Minnesota has to be careful giving up assets. While Hicks may be struggling now, he’s also a blue chip prospect that was drafted out of high school in the first round in 2008.
For a rebuilding team, it would be nice if Escobar, Mastroianni or Benson could step up and take the position for the time being.
If the Twins are going to end this five-game slump and start winning series again, they are going to need their starters to go six or seven innings and give the bullpen some rest. As long as the team has a serviceable leadoff man, the lineup can produce offense to win on most nights.
Hopefully by the time the team plays the Mets again on August 19, the Twins will have worked the kinks out of their system and is playing like they did against the Detroit Tigers and Baltimore Orioles.
And maybe, just maybe, it won’t be snowing anymore.