Two huge at-bats, more on excused absences & Memory Lane [5 Thoughts]
The Twins are officially more than 25% of the way through the 2022 regular season, and while the official stance here is to take things One Series at a Time, it’s OK to look out the window and acknowledge the mile markers as they pass. I learned this week that the “quarter pole” is not technically the correct term, given that in horse racing, the quarter pole is the marker on the track indicate that there’s one-quarter of the race remaining.
Thankfully, we’ve got a lot more baseball left to be played.
This column is powered by Members, so today we extend a warm welcome to reader J. Johnson, a new member who’s joining this club with fully 75% of the season left to go. Welcome!
This column presents 5 thoughts on the Twins as we pass the quarter mark of 162.
1 - Anatomy of a comeback, zooming in on Kyle Garlick.
If you missed Sunday’s action, you might have missed the best comeback in recent memory. Certainly in terms of scale. The Twins trailed by 6 runs with just 6 outs left to play with, thanks in large part to a shaky outing from rookie reliever Yennier Cano. Let’s look back at the anatomy of a comeback.
When 5 Thoughts originally debuted as a column some years ago, it was built on the idea of pointing out the little things. The play before the play. Saying, effectively, We know everyone will talk about the home run so let’s give some love to that two-out, two-strike walk that preceded the homer. In that way, it felt like there could be an entire 5 Thoughts column written on just the 8th and 9th innings of Sunday’s win.
But nevermind that for today, we’ll just point out a few things and remark that this Twins team is interesting right now for many reasons, not least of which it has shown that it can win a game in several different ways and, when needed, survive and even thrive with spare parts.
To wit, backup outfielder Gilberto Celestino led off the 8th inning with a single, the Twins still down 6-0. Luis Arraez singled and Jorge Polanco drove home Celestino with another single. Then a mound visit (with apparently bad advice) before Max Kepler sent another single to the outfield to plate Arraez and chase reliever Taylor Clarke, who had himself just replaced a glided-through-7-innings starter Brady Singer.
Gary Sanchez hit a sacrifice fly, his first of two in 2 innings. Trevor Larnach, just returned from a rehab assignment, struck out in quick fashion. Now, in the sort of anti-hipster way that would defy this column’s raison d'être, I want to talk about the home run.
Kyle Garlick appears to be on this team to hit the ball hard against left-handed pitching. He’s come in handy more than a couple times when he’s been healthy this year, and he came up in the big spot Sunday. After the quick-hits rally, Garlick walked up to face Scott Barlow, a righty, with the Twins still trailing, 6-3, and with Kepler still on base in front of him.
Barlow started the at-bat with a slider, and Garlick was out in front enough and missed the pitch by a big enough gap that if I had to guess, I would say he had decided beforehand that he was going to swing at the first pitch – hard – in case he got a fastball in a hittable zone. He didn’t, it was a slider, so he swung and missed for strike one. Then Barlow tried another slider, this one a bit low beneath the strike zone, and Garlick didn’t flinch. So Barlow went back to the slider, this one a touch outside but closer to the zone than the one before it, and again, Garlick didn’t offer. I can only guess, since I am not Kyle Garlick, that after he saw that first slider he decided that he wouldn’t swing at another one until he had to. Armed with the Count Advantage at 2-1, Garlick dug in his cleats and got the next pitch – the one he was looking for all along – and ripped that belt-high fastball in the middle of the plate and deposited the baseball into the bullpen in deep left field. One-run game.
To me it was an incredible sequence and one reason why, for better or for worse, watching highlights is not the same as watching a baseball game. Garlick played a little chess, got his pitch, and came through.