Three Strikes: Rare sweep in Cleveland thrusts Twins back atop AL Central
- The top storylines from Sunday in baseball include the Twins' first three-game sweep in Cleveland since 1991 and the home run prowess of sluggers Gary Sanchez and Giancarlo Stanton.
Observations, thoughts and musings on a Sunday in baseball.
Party Like It's 1991
The Twins beat the Indians 4–0 Sunday afternoon in Cleveland, marking Minnesota's first such sweep since June of 1991. Good things happened in 1991 for the Twins. Ervin Santana, who has been a revelation this season, led the way with six scoreless innings, striking out seven. The Twins are back in first place, now a half-game up on the Indians. Santana is 10–4.
It would be one thing to call Santana's season a comeback year—but he's never pitched like this. Ever. His lowest ERA was in 2013, when he had a 3.24 with the Royals. But he was 9–10. Entering today, Santana had a 2.97 ERA with three complete game shutouts. In '13, he had zero.
It's not just Santana, of course. Joe Mauer is leading the team in average, entering today at .285. Miguel Sano has finally broken out, with a team-high 18 homers and 52 RBI. Eddie Rosario has been great, with a .280/.318/.471 line. And a year after hitting 42 homers, Brian Dozier has 13, but he's leading the team in hits, with 70.
The Twins certainly need more pitching behind Santana, who is more than carrying the load. But with someone like Byron Buxton to dangle, they might be able to make something work.
Home Run Trot Through History
Gary Sanchez hit his 33rd career home run earlier Sunday, tying him with Rudy York for the second-most home runs in a player's first 100 games. Sanchez has a habit of tying or beating records set by obscure players. Last season, he bested Wally Berger's record for most home runs in a player's first 50 games. Berger hit 38 his rookie year with the Boston Braves in 1930. He would hit over 30 twice more, including when he lead the league in 1935 with 34. After that, he hit over 20 only once. In eight years with the Braves, Berger hit 199 homers. In parts of four seasons with Cincinnati, the Giants and Philadelphia, he hit 43. He does, however, have the distinction of being the starting centerfielder for the National League in the first All-Star Game in 1933.
Rudy York's career got off to a bigger bang and was more consistent than Berger's. York, who played mostly for Detroit, hit 35 home runs in his rookie season, followed by 33 his sophomore year. He would hit 30 or more twice, including 34 in 1943, to lead the league. In 1947, spitting time between the Red Sox and White Sox, he would hit 21, before eventually fading away in his last season with the A's.
Berger and York had nice careers. The Yankees sure hope Sanchez has something a lot better.
Man or Machine
If Giancarlo Stanton played in New York or Los Angeles, he might be the biggest star in baseball. Because, quietly, he's playing like one. Stanton hit a home run in the Marlins' 4–2 win over the Cubs. It was his 20th of the season, putting him in elite company.
That's a pretty good list. His career WAR is 29.4. Bryce Harper has a career WAR of 24.2 (both pale in comparison to Mike Trout, he of the otherworldly 51.9 WAR).
Stanton has been with the Marlins since 2010. The team's best record was 80–82, his first season. He's on his eighth manager. Give him some consistency, and we could see something even better.