MINNEAPOLIS — Fernando Romero and lady luck had a hand in the Minnesota Twins’ successful effort to contain superstar Mike Trout on Sunday. Trout’s 0-for-5 was an unusual sight for baseball fans, and it happened to come at a very good time for the Twins.
This column presents 5 thoughts on the Twins’ 7-5 win Sunday.
In the season series against the Angels, the Twins have held the world’s best baseball player to 2-for-22. Fernando Romero struck out Trout twice Sunday, including an 11-pitch battle in the 4th inning that could have been the biggest out of the afternoon for Minnesota. After the count reached 2-2, five of his next six pitches the rookie Romero delivered were fastballs, including a 96 mph heater at the belt blown by Trout to put him away.
“Primarily fastballs, he fouled off some good ones,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said of the Trout-Romero battle. “That might have been the peak of his velocity for the day, because he was kind of rearing back and challenging him, and [Romero] finally got one by him. It’s nice to see that he didn’t really feel like he had to trick him.
“Got ahead [in the count] … and then the foul balls began before he finally got him to swing under one of those higher velocity fastballs,” Molitor said.
The Angels had scored 2 runs that inning and had 2 more runners on base with only one out. It wouldn’t be too hard to picture bad things happening in that spot for the Twins. Romero stood up and made sure that nothing bad did happen, which kept the 1-run game within reach.
Trout also struck out in the 1st inning and hit a scorching line drive into the glove of shifted first baseman Logan Morrison. He later flew out and grounded out into another shift to complete the 0-for-5. It’s the first time Trout had 5 plate appearances without reaching base since opening day, March 29, against the A’s in Oaklad.
The other day Escobar hit a single and a triple in his first two plate appearances. I’d joked at the time that we already were on “Cycle Watch” at that point, even though Escobar still needed two extra-base hits to get there. What’s a couple knocks to Eduardo Escobar?
These days it doesn’t seem like much. Sunday he was playing second base to give Brian Dozier a day off — and he’s hit so well this year that Molitor actually said he felt bad that he had to move Escobar off his typical position at third base. This about a guy who came up as a utility infielder, about whom the word was that he could move around the diamond, but might not hit much and hardly had any power.
Well, now he’s hitting .286/.340/.558 and his 39 extra-base hits are one behind Cleveland’s star Jose Ramirez for the most in baseball. He’s helping Eddie Rosario to carry the Twins. And Escobar has folks around Minnesota wondering: When would be the best time to offer a contract extension?
Fernando Romero seemed to have shaky control in the 1st inning and the Angels took a 1-0 lead looking to lock up a sweep. But Morrison unleashed a mighty swing and put a ball in the seats to jump back in front 2-1.
After Joey Gallo bunted for a base hit against an extreme shift the other day, I’m pretty curious to see if there will be a ripple effect around the league. Morrison — a lefty with pull power — gets shifted on about two-thirds of the pitches that he sees, so he’s the guy I’m most curious about with the Twins. I talked to Morrison about that topic recently and I’m working on a column. Should Morrison square around to bunt more often? It’s complicated, but I think it’s worth noting that his 1st-inning homer is one argument against the idea of bunting all the time.
Max Kepler drew a leadoff walk in the 5th inning off Angels starter Nick Tropeano. He had retired 10 Twins hitters in a row between Morrison’s homer and Kepler’s walk. With a 2-1 count and Tropeano pitching out of the stretch, he threw to first base three times in a row to look at Kepler. Then Molitor called a hit-and-run, and Garver swung over the top of the pitch, and Kepler was thrown out at second base.
After that base runner was erased, Garver doubled, Jake Cave hit an RBI single, Ehire Adrianza hit a ball in the right-field corner that was misplayed and allowed another Twins run to score. Escobar drove in the final run of the inning with an RBI double. (Kepler later stole his first bag of the season and scored on Cave’s home run.)
On one hand, it would have been nice to have Kepler’s run still out there on the bases if you’re the Twins. On the other, maybe there’s something to be said for disrupting Tropeano’s rhythm and shaking things up against a cruising Angels team. That’s a time-tested baseball trope, I know, but it’s just how it felt to me during Sunday’s 5th inning.
In any case, the bottom of the order deserves props for the rally that eventually won the game for the Twins.
I still feel like Garver leaves something to be desired behind the plate. What’s with all the passed balls and wild pitches? Some of it has to be on Twins’ pitchers, to be sure. But I don’t think it would be asking too much if the Twins challenged Garver to be better in that area of the game.
Ian Kinsler walked to lead off the game. He took second base on a wild pitch, and later he took third base on a passed ball. Generally speaking, a wild pitch takes two people to pull off, while a passed ball can take just one. Two more Angels runners moved up on a “wild pitch” in the 2nd inning, but Romero and the Twins stranded them there.
Garver now has 4 passed balls and has had a hand in 14 wild pitches for the season in a little more than 250 innings as a catcher. That’s not quite as bad as Gary Sanchez or Martin Maldonado. But the numbers look worse than guys like Wilson Ramos and James McCann.
Anyway, the point is to compare catchers head to head in a made-up stat combining wild pitches and passed balls. It’s just to say that the Twins should strive to clean things up behind the plate, whether it’s Garver or Bobby Wilson or somebody else. Little things can add up over time to real runs and real wins.