Wetmore: 5 thoughts, 2nd half begins, Mauer hurt, Nunez leading off
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MINNEAPOLIS - The Twins finally busted out of an offensive slump and capitalized on a few Kansas City gaffes en route to a 10-2 victory Tuesday.
This column presents 5 thoughts from Tuesday's game.
As always, feel free to ask questions or make observations in the comments. If you have a unique baseball observation during a game, feel free to share it with me on Twitter (@DerekWetmore).
1. Tuesday was the first day, mathematically, of the second half of the season for the Twins. Minnesota concluded the first half 37-44. That's one game better than their record at this time a year ago.
Run differential is a good gauge for a team's ability. The Twins entered the second half having been outscored by 34 runs on the season. That was one run better than the Boston Red Sox and Chicago White Sox, and a run worse than the New York Yankees. That's the 22nd best run differential in the Majors.
The Twins aren't terrible, but they aren't good, either.
Their first-half run differential a year ago? Minus-39. Twenty third in baseball.
2. The Twins took advantage of a dropped popup in the third inning. Chris Parmelee skied a ball to shallow left field and took off running for first, although it was sure to be a routine fly ball out. Third baseman Mike Moustakas and left fielder Alex Gordon converged on the ball, and Gordon called off his teammate. They brushed past each other and Gordon bobbled and eventually dropped the ball to keep the inning alive. Gordon is ordinarily a strong outfielder, but the Twins capitalized on his error.
With runners on second and third, Kendrys Morales legged out an infield single -- yes, seriously -- to drive in a run and give Minnesota a 2-1 lead. The Twins have played from behind an awful lot lately, so for them it was a welcomed sight to have a lead early in a ballgame. Shortstop Alcides Escobar was shifted up the middle against Morales. He fielded the ball to his right and tried a jump throw to first. That throw pulled Eric Hosmer off the bag far enough that he couldn't tag Morales. The Twins latest free agent acquisition is by no means a burner, but give him credit for running hard down the line.
3. Joe Mauer doubled down the left field line to drive in two runs but later came out of the game with an apparent injury. Manager Ron Gardenhire and a Twins trainer went to check on Mauer after the double, but he stayed in the game.
The next half inning, however, Chris Parmelee moved in from left field to replace Mauer at first base. Josh Willingham entered the game in left field. It was announced in the press box that Mauer left with a strained right oblique and will be evaluated Wednesday.
For more on Mauer's injury, here's the story.
4. Eduardo Nunez reached base four times Tuesday while batting in the leadoff spot. He went 3-for-3 with a home run, a walk and 2 RBIs. I personally don't think it makes sense to make decisions based on one day's performance. With that said, I wouldn't be shocked to see Nunez leading off Wednesday.
He said he struck out Monday on a sinker from reliever Michael Mariot. Nunez was looking for that same pitch Tuesday and got him back when he hit Mariot's sinker out to left field. (The MLB Gameday app classified the pitches as a 2-seamer and a cutter, but in this situation I'll give the benefit of the doubt to the Major Leaguer.)
5. International free agency opens Tuesday, when teams can sign amateur players outside the United States and Canada. Any player outside those two countries who will turn 17 by Sept. 1, 2015, is eligible to sign with a Major League club.
The Twins will have a $3,686,600 million bonus pool, according to Baseball America's Ben Badler. The size of each team's pool is based on a reverse order of Major League winning percentage from the previous season. The Astros have the largest bonus pool at just more than $5 million. The Twins have the fifth largest pool.
Twins GM Terry Ryan said they'll be aggressive in spending that money.
"Yeah, just like 29 other teams," Ryan said. "There'll be people we're all chasing and a lot of them are the same guy."
The Twins did not spend their entire bonus pool last year. It's possible they could go over the limit provided by Major League Baseball, but they would be heavily taxed for that. Ryan said they'd consider going over, but said that it "depends on the player and the situation and how much you would pay if you go over [the allotted bonus pool], with the tax."