La Velle E. Neal III
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La Velle's 3-2 Pitch: Three observations and two predictions on Sundays.

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We're not going to look at the eighth inning Saturday in Toronto and say the Twins' offensive problems are all cured.

After all, look at the first seven innings.

Yes, the bats broke out in a big way to turn what looked like another low-scoring defeat into a 9-4 victory. But that doesn't change the fact that this is often an enormously uncompetitive offensive team that chases too many bad pitches and fails to put the ball in play in run-scoring situations.

Throw in a wave of trips to the trainer's room, and it makes filling out a lineup challenging for manager Rocco Baldelli.

But here are a couple of suggestions to boost the offense.

First, Baldelli has to stop batting Carlos Correa third. Correa's batting average has been tumbling toward .200 and many of his at-bats have ended with him striking out on breaking balls that would have hit a lefthanded hitter. A No. 3 hitter can't bat .182 with runners in scoring position, but that's Correa.

Bat Correa fifth or sixth and make him work his way up the order. He homered as the No. 4 hitter both Thursday at Tampa Bay and again Saturday with his grand slam. Go lower. Keep him out of the three hole until he can show he belongs there.

Move No. 2: Play Ryan Jeffers more. The top four players in WAR for the Twins are starting pitchers. The top position player: Jeffers at 1.2. Christian Vázquez was signed as a free agent to upgrade the catching position following the comprehensive disaster that was Gary Sánchez last season. Vázquez's work with the pitchers has been strong. Offensively, he's accomplished something that's hard to do. His on-base percentage of .301 is higher than his slugging percentage of .267. His OPS of .569 would be 160th in baseball if he had enough qualifying at-bats.

Jeffers has been more selective at the plate, his walk rate is up and he has a .781 OPS. He's thrown out 39% of players attempting to steal. Jeffers should be playing at least three times a week, if not more.

The final suggestion has to do with a pitcher, not a hitter. They can't hide Jorge López, who was in a funk before pitching a scoreless seventh inning Saturday. Before that, he had given up runs in five of his last six outings, posting a 21.60 ERA over that stretch.

The Twins don't have many options. Emilio Pagán should avoid high-leverage situations. Brock Stewart and José De León are intriguing but untested. López is going to have to figure things out on the fly. He's throwing fewer fastballs and many more sliders than a year ago. Address that mix and go from there.

The Twins are a first-place team but also only a game over .500. It's time to shake things up.

Messi to MLS

Legendary soccer players on the back end of their careers grabbing headlines and boosting demand for ticket sales — a staple of American soccer. And this doesn't bother me.

I never had a chance to watch Pelé play in person, but I wonder what Metropolitan Stadium was like when his New York Cosmos came to play the Kicks in 1976 in front of 46,164. I did see David Beckham play in an exhibition game before he made the move to MLS and the LA Galaxy.

Now comes the mind-bending news that Lionel Messi, the best player of his generation and one of soccer's all-time greats, will play for Inter Miami, which is owned by Beckham.

I can wait to see Messi face the Loons on ... (checks schedule) ... darn it, Miami is not on Minnesota's schedule this season.

Aurora shining bright

Speaking of soccer, the Minnesota Aurora have problems. How dare they allow a goal?

Their defense Wednesday against Chicago was unacceptable. They obviously have problems with set pieces, as Chicago burned them on a free kick in the 72nd minute. If they expect to make a run at the USL W League championship, they are going to have to clean up some things. That reduced their goal differential to plus-25 through five games. Doesn't coach Nicole Lukic understand that there are standards here?

In all seriousness, this is a blazing start for a team that has become the gold standard of the league in a little over a year. Even if Lukic wasn't happy with ball movement on Wednesday, the Aurora get on the front foot and entertain. After playing at Chicago City FC on Sunday they return home Wednesday to play host to the Green Bay Glory.


Hunter would leave hole

In the event the Vikings trade Danielle Hunter, they will either get a younger edge rusher in return or sign one of the free-agent veterans on the market. I am not proposing a reunion with Yannick Ngakoue.

Miranda will get another shot

After a poor start following his demotion to Class AAA St. Paul, José Miranda has started to produce. He entered the weekend batting .356 over his previous 11 games and will be called back to the Twins within two weeks.