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Week in Review: Between Rock Bottom and a Hard Place – Twins

Weekly Snapshots: Mon, 7/25 through Sun, 7/31
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Record Last Week: 1-4 (Overall: 53-48)
Run Differential Last Week: -14 (Overall: +26)
Standing: 1st Place in AL Central (1.0 GA)

Last Week’s Game Results:

Game 97 | THOUSAND 7, MIN 6: Bundy, Bullpen Let Down Bats in Loss
Game 98 | THOUSAND 10, MIN 4: Tellez Sinks Twins with Pair of 3-Run Homers
Game 99 | SD 10, MIN 1: Ryan Gives up 5 Home Runs in Laugher
Game 100 | MIN 7, SD 4: Sonny Plays Stopper, Correa Steps Up
Game 101 | SD 3, MIN 2: Offense Goes Quietly, Twins Drop Series

NEWS & NOTES

Miguel Sano was back … then he wasn’t. Following a three-month rehab from knee surgery, the slugger was activated ahead of Tuesday’s game. Appearing in three games, he went 0-for-6 with four strikeouts, then went back on the injured list with knee inflammation. Evidently the injury flared up during a slide in the final game of his rehab.

For Sanó, whose career was basically on the line this year, it’s another terrible break. He was in need of a good season to resuscitate his sagging stock ahead of his date with free agency. Instead, his body is letting him down and he may find himself settling for a minor-league deal in the offseason. It seems likely (to me, anyway) we’ve seen him for the last time in a Twins uniform.

Sano was far from the biggest loss for the lineup. Max Kepler went on the injured list alongside him, with his fractured pinky toe providing too much to play through. most disturbingly, alex kirilloff came out of Saturday’s game with wrist soreness. More on that later.

Filling in these key roster spots are names like Tim Beckham and Mark Contreras. They’re deserving of chances, and both great stories in their own right, but it’s tough to be leaning on unproven Triple-A players at a time like this. The Twins are in the grinder right now.

Alas, the pitching staff also keeps getting blindsided by crushing blows. Danny Coulombe, who’s been unable to fight his way back from a hip injury, is now out with season-ending surgery. Meanwhile, Josh Winder landed on the injured list again due to his recurring shoulder impingement. He’s been shut down and sent to Fort Myers as the team tries to figure out what’s going on. They aren’t calling this a season-ending move for him, but it very well could be.

HIGHLIGHTS

For me personally, the biggest highlight of the week was traveling to San Diego and taking in a couple of games at Petco Park. The stadium lived up to the hype, and the downtown gameday experience far exceeded all expectations. Admittedly, it felt a lot easier to ride out a rotten week for the Twins while enjoying an incredible city and soaking in the vibes of sold-out summer games in perfect weather.

I realize this does little for any of you. I’m sorry.

My own experiences aside, there were some legitimately good moments on the field, even as the Twins bumbled through a sloppy 1-4 week. Joseph Miranda stood out as the biggest bright spot, starting every game and going 8-for-19 with two homers and five RBIs.

He has suddenly become the pivotal force in the middle of the order, with an aggressive free-swinging approach that yields powerful drive after powerful drive. Opposing pitchers just can’t find a way to stop the kid. He even made a few nifty plays defensively at third base.

Byron Buxton was the other explosive performer in a generally underwhelming week from the offense. He homered three times and stole a base (notable after the previous week’s PRP injection in his knee from him).

On the pitching side, Sonny Gray was good.

LOWLIGHTS

Gray’s solid outing on Saturday – 5 IP, 1 ER – was much needed in the wake of three straight duds from the rapidly unraveling Twins rotation. Dylan Bundy and Chris Archer were bad against Milwaukee, but joe ryan‘s clunker to open the Padres series took the cake.

In 4 ⅔ innings, the right-hander was knocked around for 10 earned runs on FIVE homers. It was a very odd game for Ryan, who also struck out seven and set a career high with 15 swings and misses. His stuff about him was either really working or really not working, and that’s a scarily unpredictable proposition for a guy who’d likely be starting in the postseason.

One could argue that Rocco Baldelli hung Ryan out to dry on Saturday night, but who can really blame him with a bullpen that continues to inspire zero confidence. Tyler Duffy has fallen back into the pits after a modest run of effectiveness – he took the loss with a brutal ninth-inning appearance in Milwaukee on Tuesday, and then endangered a six-run lead in the ninth on Saturday by coughing up a three-run HR .

caleb thielbar is gearing up for a return, which will be helpful, but this bullpen continues to look direly undermanned, with a void of trustworthy options beyond John Duran and Jax Griffin.

The pitching staff needs impact reinforcements, and they’ll likely get some within the next couple days. Even then, the Twins are clearly gonna need the offense to carry the load if they’re going to hang on for a playoff berth and hope to make any noise. That’s where the past week proved most unsettling.

The team pitched well enough to win on Sunday for a change, but the offense could not answer the call in a 3-2 loss, coming up empty outside of solo homers from Miranda and Luis Arraez. Carlos Correa had a big two-run homer on Saturday night, but otherwise went 1-for-20 on the week. Gary Sanchez went 1-for-10 with seven strikeouts, wrapping up a month of July in which the now-starting catcher slashed .149/.245/.234.

The lineup is lagging and will now be without Kepler for however long it takes his toe to get right. Meanwhile any small hope of Sanó coming in and lighting any sort of spark is gone. But the Kirilloff news is easily the most gutting on the lineup front.

I don’t want to make a mountain out of a molehill, but the revelation from Baldelli that “Kirilloff’s wrist got to the point where he couldn’t swing” strikes me with possible season-sinking implications. I had remarked a few days earlier about how Kirilloff was noticeably reverting to the habit of topping every pitch – that tendency was a clear indicator of how his wrist issues were impeding his swing before he went to the minors, received a cortisone shot, and got back-on-track. Following his initial power surge, he had one of the highest grounder rates in the league in July.

Kirilloff was such a huge factor in the offense’s midsummer success, slashing .307/.328/.548 with 17 RBIs in his first 18 games back after being recalled from Triple-A. But his gradual regression of him back into an unimposing ground-ball machine was painfully evident, and the numbers back it up. Sadly, news of his wrist re-emerging as a debilitating factor comes as no surprise.

Several of the key young players that the Twins were hoping to rely on this year – Coulombe, royce lewis, Chris Paddack – are already gone for the season. Several others – Kirilloff, Winder, Jorge Alcalá, Matt Canterino, Randy Dobnak – are persistently plagued and repeatedly sidelined by mysterious injuries and conditions that the players and medical staff can’t seem to solve.

It makes you wonder, at this critical moment… is the structural core of this team good enough to be fixed up for a successful stretch run? Or are we flailing against inevitability?

TRENDING STORYLINE

That question weighs heavily with the trade deadline looming at 5:00 PM CT on Tuesday. The philosophical dilemma I pondered over the All-Star break – how much does it make sense to sacrifice key future capital in a leveraged market to aid a deeply flawed current roster? – has only grown murkier in two weeks since. The Twins have gone 3-4, watched their division lead shrink to one, and absorbed bad break after bad break on the health front, as outlined above.

The Twins, Guardians and White Sox are bunched in the standings, each separated by a game piece. They are all looking to add ahead of Tuesday’s deadline, and are pretty much in direct competition to address semi-similar weaknesses in a finite seller’s market. It’s going to be fascinating to see how things play out between these three competing clubs as they set themselves up for the final stretch in a division that’s very much there for the taking.

LOOKING AHEAD

The Twins have seven home games in the week ahead, setting the tone for a month in which 20 of their 28 games will be played at Target Field.

MONDAY, 1/8: TIGERS @ TWINS – LHP Tarik Skubal v. TBD
TUESDAY, 2/8: TIGERS @ TWINS – RHP Matt Manning v. RHP Chris Archer
WEDNESDAY, 3/8: TIGERS @ TWINS – LHP Tyler Alexander v. RHP Joe Ryan
THURSDAY, 4/8: BLUE JAYS @ TWINS – RHP Alek Manoah v. RHP Sonny Gray
FRIDAY, 5/8: BLUE JAYS @ TWINS – RHP Ross Stripling v. RHP Dylan Bundy
SATURDAY, 6/8: BLUE JAYS @ TWINS – RHP Jose Berrios v. TBD
SUNDAY, 7/8: BLUE JAYS @ TWINS – RHP Kevin Gausman v. RHP Chris Archer

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