Wetmore: 5 thoughts on Danny Santana's game, arrivals, Kubel's slump
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MINNEAPOLIS - The Twins lost Thursday's game, 5-4, and as a result, lost the four-game series to the injury-riddled Texas Rangers.
Reliable setup man Casey Fien took the loss after a double and a pair of sacrifices pushed across the winning run in the 8th inning.
This column presents 5 thoughts from Thursday's game.
As always, feel free to ask any questions or make any 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. Sam Deduno loaded the bases in the second inning and couldn't quite get out of the jam. After consecutive singles and a walk, Deduno got an infield popup. Then he struck out No. 9 hitter Rougned Odor with a curveball. Leadoff hitter Shin-Soo Choo doubled home two runs before Deduno got out of the inning. He lasted 5 1/3 innings and gave up three runs.
2. Danny Santana showed off his speed in the third inning. He placed a perfect bunt on the first base side past the right-handed pitcher, Nick Martinez. Martinez got off the mound to attempt to field the bunt but the ball had just enough speed to get past him. So first baseman Mitch Moreland had to field it and by the time he did, Santana won a foot race to the bag with Martinez.
He moved to second on Joe Mauer's single through the left side. That's when Satana really got a chance to exhibit his wheels.
2(b). Santana scored from second on Trevor Plouffe's bloop single in front of the left fielder. Santana had a lead off the bag when Plouffe lofted a ball softly to left. Santana made his read almost immediately that the left fielder wouldn't have a chance to get to the ball.
He took off for third base with every intention of rounding the bag and trying to score. It was a minor gamble, because if the fielder had somehow made the catch, Santana was sure to get doubled off second base. But it paid off. Michael Choice couldn't come up with the catch and could not prevent Santana from scoring.
"Before he hit it, we look where the outfielders stay," Santana said. "When he hit that ball, I looked at the outfielder and looked at the ball and said, 'no chance to catch it.'"
Did he think there was even a small chance he'd get thrown out at the plate? No chance, Santana said.
"Too much speed."
3. He's still raw in center field, though, where he started Thursday for the second day in a row in place of Aaron Hicks. He doesn't look entirely comfortable in center, which shouldn't come as a grand surprise, because he's a shortstop by trade.
His arm strength and foot speed have come up several times in these '5 thoughts' columns -- two important traits for a center fielder to possess. Merely having a strong arm and wheels, however, does not assure success in the outfield.
In a sacrifice fly situation, Santana called off right fielder Oswaldo Arcia on a medium fly ball in the eighth inning. But he didn't get far enough behind the ball when he made the catch to put himself in position to make a strong throw to home plate. He fired toward the plate, but wasn't close to throwing out the runner from third, who scored what turned out to be the difference in the game.
Santana knows he's not a finished product in the outfield, but he's playing there because it's a way for the rookie to get into the lineup and the Twins desperately need outfield help right now.
"You learn a little something every day. You have to play a lot to learn," Santana said.
3(b). Santana had a 12-pitch at-bat that ended with a single to right. He's shown signs of life at the plate since his call-up and his first hit May 5 and first start May 6.
He was batting .324/.395/.412 in a small sample size of 39 plate appearances entering Thursday. He went 3-for-4 with a strikeout and a stolen base Thursday. His career-high three hits raised his batting line to .368/.429/.447.
He hadn't yet conquered the minor leagues at the time of his call-up, so it's somewhat surprising to see him have all this early success at the plate.
Willingham hit a monster home run over the bullpens in left-center field to plate a pair and temporarily give the Twins the lead, 4-2. Willingham was 2-for-3 with two walks and three RBIs Thursday; Arcia was 3-for-5 with a double.
Willingham says he thinks he's gotten his timing back after a long layoff. He also said Arcia was swinging well in Triple-A Rochester.
The Twins could have activated Arcia on Saturday in San Francisco, but instead decided to wait until Monday so he wouldn't jump from the East Coast to the West Coast and back to the Midwest in short order.
He went 4-for-12 in the series with two doubles and two strikeouts.
5. If the Twins extended Thursday's game one more batter, Eduardo Nunez would have pinch-hit for Jason Kubel against a right-hander. Kubel hits righties much better than lefties, but since a hot start to the season, Kubel isn't hitting much of anything. It's telling that the Twins would have pinch-hit for him against right-handed closer Joakim Soria.
The veteran lefty is hitting .238/.329/.313 with one home run. He has 19 walks and 53 strikeouts in 167 plate appearances. That includes two strikeouts, a fly out and a walk Thursday.
This is cheating a little, but it helps illustrate a point: Kubel played in his 1,000th career game on April 11; since that game, he's hitting .191/.299/.209 in 127 plate appearances.
That's an arbitrary cut-off point and some of those outs are a result of significant shifts opponents employ for Kubel. Even so, that's not getting it done.