When Tim Beckham came into the game in the top of the ninth Monday with the Twins trying to close out a 4-2 victory, it was a bit head-scratching.
He replaced Jorge Polanco, the Twins' starting second baseman. Luis Arraez shifted to second while Beckham occupied his first-base spot. Polanco hurt his knee in the bottom of the second inning while sliding into home plate to score the Twins' first run. And while he played most of the rest of the game, the pain became too much ahead of that pivotal final inning.
Beckham has played all around the field at different points in his career, but in some spots it's just a handful of games. For first, just 13. But Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said despite that relative inexperience, he wasn't surprised the veteran — who has played parts of nine seasons at the MLB level since 2013 — was able to turn the game-ending double play against the Royals.
Beckham fielded MJ Melendez's ground ball, tossing it to shortstop Carlos Correa at second and then catching the ball back at first to seal the victory.
"That's a very difficult play," Baldelli said. "Some guys might actually go, 'I'm just going to take the out.' Or panic. Not purposely, but it's a big moment. And he doesn't. He knows what to do."
Beckham wasn't in the lineup for Tuesday's second game against the Royals at Target Field, even though Polanco was also on the sideline.
"We know he's never out of the lineup, always wants to play. But we can take a day right now to make sure he gets right," Baldelli said.
After Tuesday's game, Baldelli said Polanco underwent an MRI earlier in the day that revealed "no real structural changes" and that he is "a day-to-day case right now, which is a good outcome."
Ahead of Sunday's final game at the Angels, Emilio Pagan was sitting by himself in the clubhouse, looking a bit grim.
Saturday's game was another rough one for him, when he took the loss after pitching the 10th and 11th innings and giving up a walkoff, two-run homer. It was a familiar scenario for him, as he's blown seven saves this season and has a 3-6 record. He's served up 10 home runs in 42⅓ innings, coming to the Twins just before the season opener in a trade from the Padres.
Pagan has taken a lot of criticism for his performance, especially stark considering the Twins gave up closer Taylor Rogers in the same trade, someone who has stacked up 28 saves this season.
But through all of his trials, Pagan has remained — somewhat impressively — confident. He's been adamant that his actual pitches are elite. But for whatever reason, his mistakes almost always become game-changers.
"That's the really frustrating part is because analytically, the way that our organization grades out pitches, all three of my pitches grade out as well above average. So you would think that there's a little bit more room for error," Pagan said. "… It seems like lately that they've just been on it, on time for everything. So that's been the most frustrating part about it. And then because my stuff is so good and because of the work that I've put in over my entire career, I'm a very confident person. And I will figure it out.
"… Eventually, I'll put it all together. I'm not far off, even though it might look far off, I'm not far off from being the top reliever in baseball."
Pagan has acknowledged some of not-so-flattering stats, like how he walked 10 in the first month of the season. Or how he's been particularly bad against Cleveland — the American League Central leaders at the moment — giving up nine hits and 12 runs in 6 1/3 innings.
After Saturday's defeat, he didn't sleep much, instead doing some research. He uncovered that this season, he's struggled against righthanded hitters and been great against lefties. Righthanded batters are hitting .323 against him (.216 through his career) and lefties .141 (.215 career).
The reason why, though, is still confusing for him.
"The swing and miss, the strikeouts per nine, all the underlying numbers say that I'm [doing good]," Pagan said. "I just have to find a way to neutralize righties more consistently, like I have my whole career, going down the stretch. Because down the stretch, the team's obviously going to need me. And if I can throw the way I've thrown and handle righties like I have in the past, I have a chance to be a huge weapon for us going into the playoffs."