The Twins on Tuesday won a tense game at Fenway Park this week that accomplished a number of things for them.
Unfortunately, Berríos was hit hard by former A.L. MVP Mookie Betts and his outing did not go the way that he might have hoped.
Randy Dobnak started the game for the Twins, as was announced. But he’s not the one that got the majority of outs for Minnesota. That would be lefty Lewis Thorpe.
Now, I don’t think the Boston Red Sox were waiting around to see who would start the game before deciding that they’d lead off with Mookie Betts, Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez. But after that they do have a few lineup decisions, and batting order choices to make. (Who is playing first base? Which game are we giving the starting catcher a breather?)
And for the Twins, it worked out that Dobnak faced those first four monsters and got through it just fine. Then Thorpe came in and faced 18 Boston hitters, and 12 of those matchups were against same-side lefty hitters, giving Thorpe a platoon advantage more often than not.
It’s a winner’s mindset and the Twins got through it, tallying 27 outs with 6 different pitchers, and the end result was a dramatic 6-5 win at Fenway Park.
Randy Dobnak is about to make his MLB debut for the #MNTwins
Retweet for the facial hair
Fav for the rec specs pic.twitter.com/NrmMZxvZnh
— Derek Wetmore (@DerekWetmore) August 10, 2019
Could Lewis Thorpe be that answer? You liked what you saw for the first couple of innings this week in Boston. He held a very good lineup in check, recorded 10 outs, and maybe most encouragingly, he drew empty swings-and-misses on his fastball and two different breaking balls.
I look at his overall body of work, though, and I’m left saying: “I don’t know.”
He has a 4.58 ERA in the minors this year. He’s done a job with the Twins a couple of times, although his ERA in the big leagues is north of 5.00. Take away his 3 ugliest minor league outings, however, and his stats might make you type out an eyeballs emoji. If you removed those three bad outings and cherry picked the rest of his minor league stats, Thorpe suddenly jumps to a 3.01 ERA (29 runs in 86 2/3 innings), with 110 strikeouts and 17 walks.
He hasn’t faced enough hitters in the big leagues for me to have a strong opinion about how he might do against great lefties in October. I guess I consider this month an audition. Other guys I’d be looking at for that lefty reliever role include Martín Pérez and Devin Smeltzer, among others.
They could take it even a step further – Berríos is at his best, statistically, when he’s had 6 days to rest between starts. That’s tough this time of year, and the guy never even got the all-star break to chill. But I think it’s a mission worth achieving, since he can be the team’s best starter when he’s at the top of his game. How big of a difference might that make in the month of October?
That’s an especially difficult mission now that Kyle Gibson is on the Injured List after a recent hard time with ulcerative colitis. From a human standpoint, you wish the best for Gibson as he goes through his process with his own health. From the cold-blooded, tactical standpoint, his absence makes it more difficult for the Twins to patch together a rotation. Especially in the short term if Martín Pérez doesn’t regain his form fully.
Goal Number 1 should be to bury the Indians in the A.L. Central standings. After that, I’m wondering: How will the Twins use September to right the ship with their starting rotation?
And that’s saying something. You’ve got questions about Byron Buxton, and Berríos. You’ve got Miguel Sanó, Nelson Cruz, Mitch Garver and Luis Arraez. We could just keep going.
But none of those guys are 21 years old and armed with a 100 mph fastball and the ability to throw strikes. That’s what Graterol has, and I’ll be fascinated to see if the Twins and Rocco Baldelli put the hyped prospect in bigger spots than he’s pitched in so far.
He closed out the Tigers game with a 5-run lead on the road against a lackluster Detroit team. He hit 100 mph with his fastball, threw his slider, and was able to stay calm enough to fill up the strike zone.
As Glen Perkins pointed out Thursday on the SKOR North Twins show, it’ll be fascinating to see if Graterol can turn his excellent raw stuff into more swinging strikes. Graterol’s fastball, Perkins pointed out, is a unique offering in that it’s 100 miles-an-hour, but he also hasn’t appeared to overwhelm hitters in the way that you might expect. In his two outings, including one in Boston on Wednesday night, he’s combined for just one swinging strike, according to Baseball Savant.
Maybe that’s not concerning on its own — after all we’re talking about just two innings here and one of them was against a great offensive club. I’ll be eager to monitor his progression this month, with one eye on October, as the Twins probably try him out in some tighter spots. And that was true even before we heard that Trusted Reliever Sam Dyson was still ailing.
Last season, I remember the Twins catching some smoke for having fewer people go to their 81 home games than the number of people who hit the turnstiles at the Great Minnesota Get Together.
A good team and a little Bomba record will turn that around quickly.
This season’s attendance at Target Field is roughly 1.93 million fans, according to ESPN.com, which right now ranks 15th in baseball. According to one estimate I saw, the State Fair drew 2.13 million people this time around. The Twins have a fighting chance to top that record on their upcoming homestand (3 with the Indians and 3 with the Nats). If they average 33,000 humans buying tickets to each show, they’ll get there. Otherwise they’ll have to wait until later in September.
Either way, they’re very likely to top last year’s attendance mark of 1.96 million (20th in the Major Leagues).