sports 1 week ago

Strasburg, Nationals too tough for short-handed Twins

Star Tribune (Minneapolis) — By La Velle E. Neal III Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

Sept. 11-- MINNEAPOLIS-There really wasn't an injury update on Wednesday on the missing Twins. Manager Rocco Baldelli announced that no one has had any setbacks, which the club views as a good thing.

What's not good is not knowing when Marwin Gonzalez, Max Kepler, Miguel Sano, Jake Cave or C.J. Cron will return. The Twins have benefitted from great lineup depth for most of the season, but that depth is depleted, leading to recent lineups that lack their normal bite.

Not good if you're trying to close out the AL Central title. Also not good if Stephen Strasburg is looking at the lineup card while breathing a sigh of relief.

Strasburg handled the Twins lineup, while the Nationals took an early lead and held on to take down the Twins, 6-2, on Wednesday. The Twins and Nationals will complete their three-game series on Thursday with each team having won one game.

Gonzalez has an abdominal/oblique injury that has taken longer to heal than expected. Kepler, who took swings in the cage Wednesday, has soreness in a scapula area of his back. Sano has a sore back, Cave a mild groin strain and Cron and nagging thumb injury. Of the group, Cron could be in the lineup as soon as Thursday. While the others continue to with therapy and workouts, the Twins try to win with what they have. With Mitch Garver getting a break on Wednesday, 139 home runs were missing from the lineup.

"All the updates are positive," Baldelli claimed before the game. "They're just not significant. There are no real declarations today on any of those guys."

Falling behind 5-0 to a Washington team that's in the middle of a wild-card fight is not good for a team missing key hitters. Twins left-hander Martin Perez gave up an RBI single to Juan Soto in the first inning, a grounder just past the reach of shortstop Jorge Polanco, to drive in the first run. Two batters later, Ryan Zimmerman singled up the middle to drive in Anthony Rendon.

Perez got the first two outs of the third inning but walked Juan Soto. Howie Kendrick followed with liner to right field, where Eddie Rosario was playing so Luis Arraez could start in left.

Rosario looked to have a good read on the ball, but it sailed over him for an RBI double. Perez had to throw seven more pitches to get out of the inning, but one was drilled into the seats by Zimmerman for a two-run home run and a 5-0 Nats lead. Trea Turner added a home run in the ninth inning to make it 6-0.

Strasburg, the powerful three-time All-Star, gave up a two run home run to Jorge Polanco on the third inning but stranded two runners on base in the first and the fourth. The Twins did what they could with the formidable five sidelined. The Twins have thrived because they have had power threats throughout the lineup, but they are trying to ride out injuries.

In six innings, Strasburg gave up two runs on four hits and two walks with seven strikeouts. He even struck out Willians Astudillo in the fourth, just the second time he's struck out since returning on Sept. 1.

The Twins kept squandering opportunities after Strasburg left the game. They got the first two batters of the eighth on against former Twin Fernando Rodney but the next three batters, Eddie Rosario, Astudillo and Ehire Adrianza, flied out to end the threat. The Twins did what they could to make the offense functional. Polanco twice had eight-pitch at bats in the game and Nelson Cruz saw 23 pitches in four plate appearances, walking twice. But the Twins entered the ninth inning 0-6 with runners in scoring position.

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