Throughout the season, we’ll take a look back at the month that was for the Minnesota Twins. Today marks the third installment after the Twins fell to last place in the American League Central with a bumpy June.
June record: 12-16
Tyler Mason’s player of the month: SS Danny Santana (.309, 13 RBI, 4 SB)
Although Santana is currently on the 15-day disabled list with a bone bruise in his knee, he was one of the Twins’ more exciting players to watch in June. The 23-year-old Dominican Republic native made his MLB debut in early May and hit .375 in his first 15 games. While it was unlikely he would keep his batting average that high throughout the year, a strong June showed that Santana indeed is able to hit at the major-league level. He also provided versatility on defense, playing a handful of games in center field before switching back to being the Twins’ everyday shortstop.
Tyler Mason’s pitcher of the month: RHP Kyle Gibson (3-2, 3.16 ERA, 21 K, 7 BB)
Gibson had one blip on the radar in late June when he allowed seven runs in just two innings against the Los Angeles Angels, but he was otherwise solid over the past month. That included a stretch of three straight games in which he pitched seven innings without allowing a run. He also went eight innings — tying a season high — while surrendering just two runs to help the Twins beat the Texas Rangers on Sunday. Even in Minnesota’s 2-1 loss to Boston at Fenway Park, Gibson was brilliant. He struck out eight batters and didn’t issue a walk in seven scoreless innings, giving up just two hits.1
Looking up: After going through an uncharacteristic slump that crept into June, Twins first baseman Joe Mauer has finally started to look like his old self. The three-time batting champion saw his average dip as low as .254 in mid-June, but he rebounded nicely in the last two weeks of the month. Entering July, Mauer is now batting .270 after hitting .364 with 10 RBI and five doubles during his current 11-game hitting streak. Before that stretch, he had just 16 RBI in his first 64 games.
Looking down: Most of the Twins’ big bats were quiet in June. Outfielder Oswaldo Arcia batted just .154 with a .250 on-base percentage last month. Kendrys Morales, whom the Twins signed in early June as a free agent with the hope of injecting some life into the lineup, batted .148 with five RBI and nine strikeouts in his final 14 games of June. Third baseman Trevor Plouffe hit .205 with five RBI in June but missed two weeks with a rib injury. Minnesota’s offense struggled in clutch situations, too, and left an average of 7.25 runners on base per game.
Looking back: With nobody running away with the AL Central, the Twins appeared to be in the mix through a good portion of June. They got to within three games of first place on June 13 with a win over first-place Detroit, but have since fallen to nine games back following Monday’s loss to the Royals. Minnesota was done in by tough series in Detroit and Boston, during which the Twins went 1-5 and fell from three games out of first place to 6.5 games back by the end of the trip. The Twins’ latest road trip wasn’t much better, as Minnesota went 1-5 against the Angels and Rangers to drop even further back from the pack.
Looking ahead: July is a big month in Minnesota as Target Field will play host to the 2014 MLB All-Star Game, as well as the Home Run Derby and Futures Game. Before that happens, though, the Twins will need to put together a string of wins in order to go into the All-Star break on a positive note. After wrapping up a series at home with second-place Kansas City, Minnesota hosts the New York Yankees for four games. The Twins then hit the road for their final trip before the break, entering the brief layoff with four games in Seattle and three at Colorado. The division remains relatively close from top to bottom, but Minnesota can’t afford to fade leading up to the break or it might get left behind.