Cleveland comes to town, and calling out a Twins turning point [5 Thoughts]
I’m not the type to fret over the fact Cleveland, 13-4 this month, is inching ever closer to the Twins. Nor am I one to ring the alarms pointing out that the Guardians have a chance in the upcoming 3-game set at Target Field to reverse roles with Minnesota and move out of their current position as rearview-mirror objects. Or that the two teams square off 8 times over the next 10 days.
But with that necessary promise out of the way, do you know the last time that the Twins won consecutive games?
June 10th and 11th against the Rays. But before that?
May 23rd and 24th against the Tigers.
Like I said, I’m not one to overreact to momentary standings positions, but as someone who tends to get fixated in these columns over One Series at a Time, I’ve gotta say, it’s hard to win a series if you can’t win more than one game in a row. With the Twins hoping to get their Plan-A starters back and healthier, you’d have to guess that they’ll expect more in the month ahead than they’ve achieved in the month behind.
This column presents 5 Thoughts on the Twins ahead of their 69th game of the season and what’s being viewed as a crucial 3-game home series with the Guardians.
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1 - What’s the deal with the cut fastball?
Last week I left you with a quick thought on how the Twins had attacked some of the best cutters in the game very recently – Nestor Cortes Jr. and Gerrit Cole – and that my theory would get some quick testing later that day, with Drew Rasmussen of the Rays on the hill.
Rasmussen threw 33 cutters in that start (41% of his pitches). Of their 20 swings against that pitch, according to Baseball Savant, the Twins put 8 cutters into play and I logged that they got 3 hits out of that, two singles and a Jorge Polanco double. Rasmussen was credited with 4 ⅓ innings of work, and the Twins scored 7 runs against him, four of which were earned runs. He had 3 strikeouts, two walks, and Buxton hit two homers before Rasmussen clocked out for the day.
I asked Rocco Baldelli about that propensity to punish the cut fastball. Is there an approach specific to staying on the cutter?
“Well, yes, for some hitters,” Baldelli conceded before retreating to secretiveness. “And I’m not going to get into the details of it.”
“Different guys’ swings are gonna need to do different things against the cutter,” he continued. “There are guys that are looking for the cutter away so they can shoot it the other way; there are guys that are looking for the cutter in the middle of the plate so they can turn on it. But it’s gonna depend on the individual hitter.”
“And I agree: our guys have done a good job. But it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. It’s a good pitch and he [Rasmussen] is good. …And I don’t know exactly how we’re going to attack this guy tonight but each one of our guys is going to be doing it in a little bit of a different way.”
It would be fun some time to hear what goes on in Rocco’s mind behind the veil of secrecy, and I wonder what he’d say about the way, for example, Byron Buxton stays on a cutter versus how Luis Arraez does it. Or Trevor Larnach vs. Carlos Correa. Is it something about the plane of the swing? The preferred point of contact? The decision between covering multiple pitches or selling out for the best chance at hitting one in a preferred location? I’m genuinely curious.
2 - Get your rosters ready!
First came the trim down to 26 players on the active roster. Next up – as in, today – is the cut-down that some teams probably have dreaded. The league is going to begin enforcing something that’s been talked about for some time now. And every roster will be capped at 13 pitchers after more than two-and-a-half months at a higher capacity.