Wetmore: 5 thoughts on Mauer's replacement, hot hands, and 4 hits
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MINNEAPOLIS - For the second time this season the Twins were blanked by Royals lefty Jason Vargas. One day after scoring 10 runs, the Minnesota couldn't get a runner as far as third base, and lost to the Royals, 4-0.
This column presents 5 thoughts from Wednesday'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. Eduardo Nunez found himself in the leadoff spot for a second day in a row. He led off Tuesday, in part because Brian Dozier was given the day off. But he got three hits with a home run and a walk, so naturally he was back in that spot Wednesday. Despite Nunez's career .317 on-base percentage, it's hard to criticize the Twins for the move too much because after Brian Dozier, they don't have many good alternatives for leading off.
I don't agree with the thought process of trusting the hot hand because I don't believe anyone can accurately predict when hot or cold streaks will start or end. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire seems to disagree, which is fine because he's the one writing out lineups.
"He got a lot of hits [Tuesday]," Gardenhire said. "That makes it easy to bat him leadoff. I don't know how many times he's done that in his career but he's an aggressive hitter, he has a pretty good plan at the plate, he can run a little bit. He came out of the shoot [off the disabled list] swinging good. We were looking for offense and looking to change something around. Put him up there and put [Chris] Parmelee in the 3-hole and see what happens. They both got hits [Tuesday]."
Parmelee (2-for-4) had half the Twins' hits Wednesday, but Nunez went 0-for-4.
Parmelee batted third and that could continue in the near term with Joe Mauer on the disabled list.
"We try to bunch them up. The new theories are to put all the good hitters at the top and put the sucky ones at the bottom," Gardenhire said with a chuckle. "I always thought that was little league baseball but I guess we're trying to put all the guys that are swinging good and bunch them together."
I agree with the theory of putting good hitters atop the lineup to give them the most plate appearances, but it seemed like Gardenhire may have been dismissing it.
2. Nunez made a slick play in the second inning to limit the damage during what could have easily been more than a two-run inning for the Royals. Salvador Perez reached on a single. Then Nunez was shaded toward the bag when Raul Ibanez hit a roller to the shortstop hole. Ranging to his right, Nunez bent over, turned and threw to second -- all while on the run away from second -- to nab Perez at second base. The Royals tacked on a double, two singles and a walk before Kevin Correia struck out Billy Butler to end the inning with the bases loaded.
Nunez was advertised as a poor fielder when he was acquired. Not by the Twins, but by other publications I read and follow, and certainly by his defensive metrics. He's no Pedro Florimon with the glove, but to my eyes he's been serviceable, or at least better than I expected. All while being asked to play shortstop, third and for some reason left field.
He said he feels most comfortable at shortstop because it's his natural position.
3. The Twins guessed correctly in the fourth inning and were not rewarded for it. With speedy Jarrod Dyson on first and one out, the Twins pitched out on a 1-1 count to leadoff hitter Alcides Escobar. The Twins essentially were guessing that Dyson would try to steal second, and they were right. They picked the right count to execute a pitch out and seemed like they would throw out Dyson at second.
Escobar stuck out his bat in a faux half-swing to make it harder for catcher Eric Fryer to throw down to second. Fryer sprang from his crouch to catch the ball (pitched well outside to the righty Escobar) and fired down to second, but Dyson was safe. The Twins guessed right to pitch out, it just didn't work out for them.
4. One day after scoring 10 runs, the Twins offense shut down. They got three batters as far as second base Wednesday. The first came in the fourth inning, when Parmelee singled, and after two strikeouts, Oswaldo Arcia drew a walk. Trevor Plouffe grounded out to end the inning. The second came when Sam Fuld originally was called out on a stolen base attempt in the fifth inning. The call was overturned after replay review, but then Eduardo Nunez popped out in the infield and Brian Dozier grounded out. The third and final time came with two outs in the 9th inning, when Josh Willingham walked and took second on a defensive indifference. His run wasn't important to the outcome, so the Royals let him have the base.
5. That kind of offensive production makes the Twins miss their best on-base threat, Joe Mauer.
Mauer was placed on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday with a strained right oblique. He's eligible to come off the day after the All-Star Break. To fill his roster spot, the Twins recalled Chris Colabello from Triple-A Rochester.
Other options on the 40-man roster would have included Kennys Vargas, who has struggled lately but is putting together a nice season at Double-A New Britain. He turns 24 on August 1. The other options were Chris Herrmann, Jorge Polanco, Pedro Florimon, or Max Kepler. Josmil Pinto is on the disabled list at Rochester. Polanco and Florimon seemed unlikely for what the Twins need now, and Kepler, 21, is still in A-ball.
Additional reading: Kevin Love has withdrawn from the All-Star week celebrity softball game.