Minnesota Update: The Lynx are in the playoffs, but still trying to be in the playoffs

We start with the Minnesota Lynx, who are in the playoffs - but in the WNBA this year, there’s in the playoffs, and then there’s in the playoffs.

The good news is that Washington lost on Friday night, meaning that Minnesota won’t have to play either Las Vegas or New York in the first round of the playoffs. The bad news is that Minnesota lost to a pretty bad Chicago team on Friday night, too, 92-87, meaning that Atlanta is now in the driver’s seat for the #5 seed.


Minnesota Update: Coaching the ball over the fence in St. Paul

The St. Paul Saints hitting coach is a man named Nate Spears. I looked him up; he’s almost the definition of a guy who had the proverbial “cup of coffee” in the majors. He played in seven games as a middle infielder, and got eight plate appearances, all - and I find this slightly sad - without getting a hit.

The minors, meanwhile, are a different story. Spears played 1190 minor-league games, and got 1067 hits, batting .268 across 12 years. But in all that time, he did only hit 71 home runs - 20 in a single Double-A season, and then never more than 10 in any other year.

Why do I mention all this? Well, I assumed that whoever the Saints hitting coach was, he was going to be somebody who loved home runs, because St. Paul cannot stop hitting the ball over the fence.


Emanuel Reynoso is the short-term MLS MVP

I don’t want to get into arguing about what the true meaning of the Most Valuable Player award is, in this blog. All I want to say is this: No matter how you slice it, there’s a strong argument that Emanuel Reynoso is the most valuable player in Major League Soccer this year.


Minnesota Update: Saints homer, Twins flail

Hubris gets us all. I was far from the only person to kick dirt on the Guardians’ grave after Tuesday’s game, so naturally, Cleveland came back on Wednesday and held the Twins to two lousy hits, as Minnesota lost 2-1.

Royce Lewis got a single and Andrew Stevenson hit an RBI single, and that was it for Minnesota. Edouard Julien walked twice, making him the only Twin to stand on first base more than once.

To their credit, the Twins pitchers did a good job - four innings from Joe Ryan, three from Louie Varland, in a possible preview of what the Twins would do in Game 3 or 4 of any potential playoff series. It seems clear that Minnesota has about six starting pitchers that they view as somewhat untrustworthy - basically, everyone but Sonny Gray or Pablo López - and so their plan is to combine several in opener / long relief fashion.

Right now, you’d have to say that Ryan is the most likely to start a potential Game 3; I’m not totally sure how much room the postseason roster might have for potential relief appearances from all of Varland, Dallas Keuchel, Kenta Maeda, and Bailey Ober.

Minnesota has 22 games remaining now. They have six - three with Tampa Bay, and three with Cincinnati - against teams that might make the playoffs. This does not prevent them from losing - they are, after all, just 26-22 against the rest of the AL Central this year - but in terms of a stretch drive to clinch a playoff spot, you can’t ask for a lot more than what they’re getting.

I guess we should put it this way: if the Twins do miss the playoffs this year, it’ll be one of the worst collapses in baseball history.

I didn’t watch St. Paul’s game in Louisville on Wednesday, which is probably for the best because it was an all-time disaster, followed by an all-time triumph. The Saints hit three home runs in the first inning and led 5-0 before the Bats had a chance to… bat. They carried that lead into the bottom of the 8th, when Louisville turned a 6-2 deficit into an 8-6 lead, thanks to a dramatic grand slam.

Faced with this horrifying swing in momentum, the Saints… strung together four singles and walk to re-take the lead in the ninth, followed by a Trevor Larnach grand slam to make it 13-8, which was the final score.

That’s 13 grand slams for St. Paul this year, including two in the last two days; Larnach also hit one of the first-inning homers, and ended the day with six runs batted in to lead the Saints.

It’s been kind of a weird year for Larnach. In 50 games with the Twins, he batted .216 and struck out 67 times; in 63 games in St. Paul, he’s hit .246 and struck out 80 times. All of that is bad, but he also has 67 walks across both levels, which makes his on-base numbers a lot more respectable; he’s also hit 14 homers for St. Paul, giving him an .852 OPS for the year in Triple-A.

This is kind of league-average, for the International League - if you include everybody, it’s 14th on the Saints this year - but it’s also not terrible. This has sort of been the deal with Larnach, who’s been more or less like this for 180 games in the majors and 87 at Triple-A.

Anyway, Michael Helman and Yunior Severino and Austin Martin also homered for St. Paul. Severino is up to 31 homers for the year - 24 with Wichita, and now seven in 97 plate appearances with St. Paul. He’s also struck out 149 times across both levels, so I declare him ready to be a Minnesota Twin.


SAINTS at Louisville, 5:35 pm


TWINS vs New York Mets, Friday
LYNX at Chicago, Friday
LOONS vs New England, Saturday
GOPHER FOOTBALL vs Eastern Michigan, Saturday
VIKINGS vs Tampa Bay, Sunday


Minnesota Update: Cleveland pulls a Twins

Nothing’s over until it’s over, but it does kind of feel like the AL Central race* is pretty much over now.

*Someone, sorry that I don’t remember who, referred to it as “more of a fun run,” and that’s perfect.

The Twins beat the Guardians 8-3 on Tuesday, thanks to a fairly epic Cleveland bullpen meltdown, and Minnesota’s lead is now seven games. The teams both have 23 games to go; the Guardians would have to win 16 of the 23 just to reach .500 for the season, which seems pretty unlikely, given how they’ve played most of the year. And so the Twins are in “trip and fall across the finish line” territory.

Could everything go wrong? Sure. But Minnesota could be forgiven about thinking less about the Guardians and more about their playoff plans at this point.


Minnesota Update: Three touchdowns for the Twins

Last Wednesday’s Twins game - which Minnesota blew in the late innings against Cleveland, turning what would have been a seven-game AL Central lead into a five-game lead - affected my whole view on the their Labor Day weekend.

What should have been a really good series, taking two out of three in Texas, turned into a “yeah but the Guardians won twice too.” What should have been positive signs, like the Twins averaging more than six runs a game, turned into “yeah but they couldn’t score against Cleveland last week.”

So Monday’s game - a 20-6 Twins win, in which they hit six home runs, including another Royce Lewis grand slam - came at the absolute perfect time.

Since returining from the IL on August 15, in 18 games, Lewis has a .997 OPS, with seven homers - including three grand slams - and 24 runs batted in. He may be the most popular player on the team now, if not the American League.


Minnesota Update: Nebraska befouled a graveyard or angered a witch

I cannot explain Nebraska’s commitment to losing football games.

You occasionally see teams in any sport described as “knowing how to win,” of having some combination of confidence, knowledge, skill, and luck that allows them to win games in situations where other teams might falter.

Nebraska, on the other hand, simply knows how to lose football games. Minnesota’s 13-10 win on Thursday night gives the Cornhuskers a 2-14 record in one-score games over the past three years, which is simply not possible.


Minnesota Update: The unique losses of the Minnesota Twins

I wonder how many baseball games I’ve seen in my life. I’ve been watching baseball for nearly four decades. Twins games weren’t on TV much when I was a little kid, but since the second half of my childhood, baseball has mostly been available on TV, daily, for six months a year. Have I seen thousands of games? Multiple thousands? How many ninth innings have I watched?

By any estimation method, it’s a lot. And I cannot say that I have ever seen a relief pitcher blow a save by throwing a wild pitch, in the dirt, behind a hitter.


Minnesota Update: The seething hatred that is volleyball

There is only one reason I can think of that college volleyball, which is a very popular spectator sport, is not an even more popular spectator sport, and it is this one: it probably makes me more incandescently angry than any other spectator sport.

The Gopher volleyball team lost to Texas on Tuesday, a four-set loss that included a fourth set in which the Gophers took an early lead and then just sort of bled to death for the rest of the set. By the time Texas, and former Gopher (and noted traitor) Jenna Wenaas, closed out the match at 25-23, I was screaming what I would describe as “Vikings words” at the television.


Minnesota Update, 8.29.2023

Who does Royce Lewis remind you of?

I’ve used a lot of comparisons for the young Twins shortstop / third baseman / center fielder, but most of them have not been people-related, because his particular combination of youthful enthusiasm, fearlessness, and disregard for personal well-being is more comparable to many of our friends from the animal kingdom than it is to most people.

Lewis hit his second grand slam in two days on Monday, leading the Twins to a win over Cleveland, 10-6. He became the first Twin ever to hit grand slams on back-to-back days, he has three this season, and he’s showing off a flair for delivering in big situations - something that has especially stood out as so many of his teammates have struggled with runners on base, and as Carlos Correa has shown a proclivity for hitting into double plays instead of driving in runs.

So who does he compare to, in the human, baseball world?