Watch Twins reluctantly, Huskies exuberantly
My plan was to not bother paying such close attention to the Twins. After management chose to trade away key players such as Brian Dozier and Eduardo Escobar, and tossed aside a few more Major Leaguers for a roomful of minor leaguers we may never see with the club, I figured if they can give up on this season, so can I.
But I’ve given in. I found for a few days that I would watch the Twins only as background room-sharing TV, but then I found a sort of macabre interest in whether the few remaining Major Leaguers could lead the group of back-up guys and compete with the top teams.
But I also was quick to check online to see how Arizona came out, and to check on Escobar, who stepped into a vital role at third base and has delivered key hits almost every game, while continuing to hit doubles all over the park. The Major League leader in two-base hits, Escobar is hitting .344 since joining the Diamondbacks, and has batted second, fourth and fifth in the order.
And Dozier, moved up to leadoff for the Dodgers, opened Tuesday night’s late game with a hit and is now batting .438 — leaving behind his paltry .230 average with the Twins. Much as I’m sure he hated to leave Minnesota, he might have realized it’s a refreshing new start with a Dodgers team that has a potent lineup and, like Arizona, a chance to do something in the post-season.
Lance Lynn, sent off to the Yankees after only flashes of promise this season with the Twins, gave his new team an enormous lift Monday night. The Yankees had just been swept in four games by the Boston Red Sox team they had hoped to catch, and they flew to Chicago to let Lynn face the White Sox. Lynn went 7 1/3, giving up only two hits, walking 1 and striking out 9 as the Yankees broke a five-game losing streak with a 7-0 romp.
Still, the Twins put together three straight victories, and went off to Cleveland convincing at least a few in the Twin Cities media that they could move right into contention if they could sweep the Indians. But with a thud heard all the way back to Minnesota, the Twins fell 10-0 in the first game of the series. Kyle Gibson, who has been so sharp pitching this season, had none of that sharpness, missed his target pitch after pitch, and got hammered to an early shower.
But in Game 2 of the series, Adalberto Mejia went to the mound and completely baffled the potent Indians batting order. Mejia gave up only one hit in five innings, then had to come out with a wrist injury. All was fine until the last of the eighth, when Trevor Hildenberger came in and immediately gave up a home run and another on a sacrifice fly before escaping further damage. The score, however, was Twins 3, Indians 2, instead of 3-0.
The lead was established at 3-0 on Mitch Garver’s 3-run home run in the second. Garver is hitting .259 but was batting ninth in the order before he came through with his big blow. Otherwise, Eddie Rosario was the offensive star, going 4-for-4.
Fernando Rodney, bouncing a couple wild pitches, survived the last of the ninth and the Twins hung on to win by that 3-2 score.
Huskies secure Northwoods Playoffs
Still, it turns out to be an exercise in futility watching the Twins play in fits and starts...and occasional finishes. Much more rewarding, these days, is watching the Duluth Huskies battle their way through a wild second-half pennant race to clinch a playoff spot.
Not that it was easy. The Huskies are in the midst of a closing six-game road trip, but in their final home game of the regular season, they rallied from a 2-1 deficit to beat Eau Claire 6-2 in a victory that assured Duluth of reaching next week’s playoffs.
Jack Corbell pitched the home finale, and he came back from yhielding two runs in the top of the third to go seven innings, allowing 9 hits, but striking out 3 and walking none.
The Huskies, who appeared on the verge of collapes when they committed eight errors and lost 10-9 in a Saturday game with Eau Claire that neither the Huskies nor the Express will want included in their highlight film, made a determined comeback Sunday.
A lot of credit goes to manager Tyler Pederson’s emphasis on small-ball techniques. The Huskies gained a 2-2 tie in the last of the third on a double steal, then they edged ahead 3-2 on aggressive baserunning and a sacrifice fly.
In the last of the sixth, the Huskies continued to press, and forced a couple of bad throws and errors, and key hits here and there created a 3-run rally, and after Corbell finished seven innings, reliever Tim Holdgrafer came on and threw two perfect innings, striking out five of the minimum six he faced.
After the victory was secured, the Huskies mobbed Holdgrafer and celebrated, and the Express players lined up for handshakes, just like they do in hockey.
There was, of course, this final road trip, and the Huskies went to Rochester Monday for another strong performance. Again the Huskies scratched out one run, unearned, in the sixth, and starting pitcher Hayden Shenefield almost made it stand up.
Shenefield went eight innings, giving up only three hits and striking out 11 in support of that 1-0 lead. But in the last of the ninth, Matt Hardy socked a one-out triple for Rochester, and Michael Michalak hit one out of the park for a 2-1 walk-off victory for the Honkers. They play again Thursday in Rochester.
But in any case, there is still time to follow the Huskies in the playoffs, following what has been a highly entertaining season at Wade Stadium.