@DerekWetmore: The Twins enter the weekend 11 games over .500 for the first time in four years. What impresses you most about the first-place Twins right now?
@JZulgad: The biggest surprise to me hasn’t been any one player but the overall performance of the starting pitching staff.
Yes, Michael Pineda (6.09 ERA in seven starts) has been a disappointment but other than that a unit that entered the season with plenty of question marks has been solid.
Entering Wednesday, Twins’ starting pitchers had posted a 1.40 earned-run average (45 innings pitched, seven earned runs) with 47 strikeouts in seven games since May 1. This came after Jose Berrios pitched seven scoreless innings on Tuesday. Berrios is the ace of the staff so his success is not a surprise – he’s 6-1 with a 2.53 ERA – but Jake Odorizzi (4-2, 2.78 ERA) and Martin Perez (5-0, 2.83 ERA) have been outstanding and Kyle Gibson gave up one run and two hits in six innings Wednesday in a victory at Toronto to lower his ERA to 4.19.
Will Odorizzi and Perez, who was signed during the offseason after a poor year in Texas, continue to have this kind of success? That’s up for debate, and there’s a case to be made the Twins might need to explore their options for a top-line starter, if they feel they are in position to not only win the American League Central but make a postseason run.
There is plenty of time for all of this to play out, but the early returns have been favorable and that’s a nice surprise considering how we felt about the majority of the starters when spring training opened.
DW: You bring up the preseason expectations and how some people have been pleasant surprises. (By the way, I think you’d throw the whole catching situation, Jorge Polanco and Byron Buxton into that mix, as well.) But how about the unspectacular? Which ONE great development doesn’t surprise you at all?
JZ: The Twins’ power likely surprises some, but you knew this lineup would be able to hit home runs when the season opened and that certainly has been the case.
The Twins belted four more home runs on Wednesday against the Blue Jays – Eddie Rosario (13), C.J. Cron (seven), Jorge Polanco (seven) and Jonathan Schoop (six) – and are near the top of the American League with 64 as a team.
In addition to those who went deep on Wednesday, Max Kepler, Nelson Cruz and Mitch Garver have seven apiece and Jason Castro has four.
This is all being done before the weather warms up and the ball really starts to carry.
The Twins might not break their single-season record of 225 home runs set in 1963 but there promises to be plenty of fireworks at the plate this summer at Target Field. Having added the likes of Cron (30 home runs in 2018), Cruz (37 in 2018) and Schoop (32 in 2017) to the lineup, that is not a shock.
DW: I’ll go one step further. The Twins will break their franchise record of 225, and I think that they could do so comfortably. Home runs are up across baseball, and you know the marketing geniuses in the Commissioner’s Office aren’t going to interfere and change the baseball at the midway point of the season. That’s an admission that something’s up! And nobody likes a smoking gun.
Headed into the weekend series with Ron Gardenhire’s Tigers, the Twins were on pace to hit nearly 300 home runs. And that’s before the weather warms up and before they get Miguel Sanó back in the lineup. (By the way, on Sanó, he’s on his way to Triple-A, where he’s expected to play Saturday. Rocco Baldelli said before Friday’s Twins game that Sanó will get a significant number of at-bats with Rochester, and he’s not counting on a lot of off days. “More than a few games” was the phrase the manager used.)
But to the point: A Twins lineup that’s already mashing taters with the best teams in baseball could add another power bat to the mix.
In other words, plenty of souvenirs to be had out in the left-field bleachers this summer at Target Field.