Twins monthly recap: May
Throughout the season, we’ll take a look back at the month that was for the Minnesota Twins. Today marks the second installment after the Twins continued to hang around the .500 mark through May.
May record: 13-16
Tyler Mason’s player of the month: INF Eduardo Escobar, .322 average, 13 doubles, 5 RBI
After shortstop Pedro Florimon was demoted to Triple-A Rochester, Escobar started to get more regular playing time instead of the utility role he served for most of April — he started just seven games in the first month. Escobar made the most of his opportunity to play every day, leading the Twins with 13 doubles in May as he helped spark the bottom of Minnesota’s lineup.
Escobar’s 29 hits in May were also the most of any Twins player, but he did strike out 20 times — fourth-most on the team for the month. While the majority of his starts have come at shortstop, he’s also played third base and even made starts in left field and centerfield in back-to-back games.
Tyler Mason’s pitcher of the month: RHP Phil Hughes, 3-0, 1.62 ERA, 24 K, 0 BB
That stat is indeed correct: Hughes went the entire month of May without walking a batter. He made five starts in May and pitched a total of 33 1/3 innings without a free pass. The Twins won all five games he started that month, three of which were one-run victories.
The key for Hughes was pounding the strike zone, something he didn’t do as well in April when he was 2-1 with a 5.14 ERA in his first five starts. He went seven innings in three of his five starts in May; he did so just once in April. Hughes’ walk-free streak ended in his first June start Sunday in New York, but he had a May to remember in his first season with the Twins.
Looking up: Minnesota played almost all of April without two of its biggest bats in the heart of the lineup as outfielders Josh Willingham and Oswaldo Arcia both landed on the disabled list with wrist injuries. When Arcia was reinstated from the DL, he was initially optioned to Triple-A Rochester before Minnesota recalled him. He and Willingham both rejoined the Twins’ lineup in late May, and made an immediate impact. Though they each played in just six games in May, both Arcia and Willingham each hit two home runs. Willingham drove in five runs in those six games, while Arcia had three doubles and drove in four runs. The impact of their return to Minnesota’s offense was immediate.
Looking down: Twins first baseman Joe Mauer has gotten off to a slow start in 2014, and a slump in May didn’t help. In fact, Mauer heard boos from the hometown fans at Target Field — a rarity for the three-time All-Star — after a rough game against Texas. Mauer batted just .258 with 13 strikeouts in May, well below his high standards at the plate. That included just five extra-base hits and nine RBI in 24 games. Mauer expressed his frustration with the way things have gone for him offensively, but manager Ron Gardenhire remains confident in the former MVP that he’ll be able to pull himself out of this rut.
Looking back: The Twins have continued to stay around the .500 mark, never falling too far below or getting too far above it. May got off to a bit of a rocky start as Minnesota lost its first three games of the month to extend its season-long losing streak to four games. The Twins also endured four straight losses in late May, including a three-game sweep on the road against San Francisco. Both times Minnesota’s losing streaks went to four games, the Twins responded by winning their next game to halt any chance of a further skid. Minnesota’s offense went through a lull, scoring two or fewer runs six times in a seven-game stretch. The big bats that provided a lift in April — including Chris Colabello, who was since optioned to Triple A — didn’t necessarily come through in May.
Looking ahead: Minnesota’s schedule won’t get much easier to begin June. Following a three-game series in New York, the Twins now head to Milwaukee for two games against the 34-23 Brewers, who then come to Target Field for two games immediately after Minnesota’s visit. The Twins’ next road trip could be a doozy. Minnesota heads to face Toronto (34-24), Detroit (31-21) and Boston (27-29). The Twins will have their work cut out for them if they hope to return from that trip and stay around .500.
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