Twins looking ahead after lopsided finale loss

Three takeaways as Minnesota heads home for division battle

June 20th, 2022

PHOENIX -- An up-and-down six-game West Coast trip for the Twins ended with a low Sunday afternoon, as they fell to the D-backs, 7-1, at Chase Field.

After beginning the road swing by winning two of three in Seattle, Minnesota dropped two of three in Arizona to finish the trip at 3-3. The D-backs broke the finale open on their fourth home run of the day -- Buddy Kennedy’s sixth-inning grand slam off left-hander Caleb Thielbar.

“Any time you go West and you go .500, I think that’s a successful West Coast trip,” Twins starter Chris Archer said. “We do know what we’re capable of, we had a higher expectation. But going .500, we’re OK with that.”

Here are three takeaways as the Twins head back to Minneapolis for a six-game homestand starting Tuesday.

1. The offense’s inconsistency continues to be an issue
When Minnesota’s mashing, it can put up a lot of runs, and it does that quite often. However, there have also been too many times the club has showcased the other extreme.

In the Twins’ 38 wins this season, they’re averaging 6.4 runs per game. In their 30 losses, they’re averaging 1.9 runs per game.

Minnesota’s lone run on Sunday came in the first inning, when Luis Arraez opened the game with a double and came in to score on a Carlos Correa double play. For much of the afternoon, D-backs right-hander Merrill Kelly cruised, allowing five hits and no walks over seven innings.

“We probably got a little big, trying to do a lot with some of our swings, and he knows how to pitch, he knows how to take advantage of that,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “He executed well and we didn’t adjust today as much as we could’ve.”

Over the six-game trip, Minnesota tallied 22 runs -- 11 of which came in its lone win at Arizona on Saturday. So the breakout potential is there for this lineup, the Twins just need to decrease their number of low-scoring outputs.

2. More length imminent for Archer?
The Twins have been careful managing Archer’s workload after the 33-year-old right-hander pitched only 19 1/3 big league innings over the previous two seasons (and 34 2/3 frames overall). He allowed three runs (two earned) in two starts on the road trip, but he pitched only eight innings -- four in each outing.

Archer came out after throwing 61 pitches and giving up two Christian Walker solo homers on Sunday. Minnesota’s bullpen was well rested after Dylan Bundy’s eight-inning gem on Saturday, so Baldelli decided it was time to turn it over to the relief corps.

But the Twins may need Archer to go at least five innings in more outings moving forward, which Baldelli said is a possibility. MLB teams have been allowed to carry 14 pitchers on rosters thus far -- a byproduct of the shortened Spring Training -- but Sunday marked the final day before that limit drops to 13.

Archer has understood the team’s plan for him, but he’ll be ready for more if it’s asked of him.

“If it’s a day where an extra inning or two is necessary, then that’s what I’m going to do,” Archer said. “So it’s really going to be game dependent.”

3. Here come the Guardians
The top two teams in the American League Central will be seeing quite a bit of each other over the next two weeks.

Eight of the Twins’ next 11 games are against the Guardians, who are in second place in the AL Central and have trimmed their deficit to one game back of Minnesota. The division rivals will play a three-game set at Target Field beginning Tuesday, then meet again for a rare five-game series at Progressive Field from June 27-30.

Cleveland has been surging, having won 15 of 19 games since May 30. During that stretch, Minnesota is 9-11 and has won consecutive games only once -- a two-game win streak vs. Tampa Bay from June 10-11.

The Twins will use their off-day on Monday to rest following a difficult end to their road trip and to prepare for this AL Central showdown.

“This will be another well-deserved day for the guys to rest up and get ready for a big series,” Baldelli said. “We played some good baseball on this road trip. Probably played one of our tougher games, overall days, [Sunday] at the end. That doesn’t feel good, but we’ll be fine. We’ll regroup and be ready to go on Tuesday.”