Twins’ momentum vanishes as they fall back into last place

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Digging out of their massive early season hole seemed possible and then some when the Twins chased Giants starter Madison Bumgarner from last Tuesday’s game with an eight-run first inning.

They’d won eight in a row as part of a 15-2 stretch that improved the Twins from an MLB-worst 17-37 to 32-39, miraculously bringing .500 into reach just two weeks after the season looked all but lost and putting them 6.5 games out of first place in a division there for the taking.

Not only have they lost all five games since then, the Twins have scored a grand total of nine runs in 53 innings since that eight-run opening inning Tuesday, plummeting past the Royals to reclaim the league’s worst record. Anything short of ending the first half on a 13-game winning streak would make clawing back to .500 at the All-Star break mathematically impossible and the Twins are now nine games behind the division-leading Tigers with just 86 games to play. So much for momentum, huh?

Momentum left as suddenly as it arrived, but the injury bug unfortunately stuck around. Just as they were finally getting healthy with Joe Mauer, Jim Thome, Glen Perkins, Joe Nathan, and Tsuyoshi Nishioka returning from the disabled list Justin Morneau unexpectedly will undergo neck surgery that may end his season, Delmon Young was carted off the field and placed on the DL with an ankle injury, and Jason Kubel’s return timetable has been delayed again.

Because they play 21 of the next 25 games at home and the rest of the division is so mediocre even this buzz-killing setback doesn’t totally wipe away their great run, but ultimately we’re a week from the season’s midway point and the Twins have the AL’s worst record while being further out of first place than all but the Orioles. Detroit sits atop the division despite being on pace for just 87 wins, but in order for the Twins to win 87 games they’d have to finish 55-31.

Possible? Sure, but before and after the 15-2 stretch they’ve gone 17-42.

Clayton Kershaw could return on September 1

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Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw has been out since July 24 with a lower back strain. He’s slated to throw a three-inning simulated game in Pittsburgh on Monday, per Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register. Plunkett adds that if all goes well, the earliest Kershaw could return is August 31 against the Diamondbacks, but September 1 is more likely against the Padres.

Kershaw, 29, hit the disabled list on a pace to win his fourth Cy Young Award. He’s 15-2 with a 2.04 ERA and a 168/24 K/BB ratio in 141 1/3 innings.

The Dodgers have managed just fine without Kershaw. The club is 19-4 since July 24. At 87-35, the Dodgers own baseball’s best record, well ahead of the second-best Astros at 76-48.

Ian Kinsler was fined for ripping umpires publicly. Brad Ausmus says it’s the largest fine he’s seen in 25 years.

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Last week, Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler was ejected from a game against the Rangers after giving home plate umpire Angel Hernandez a look after a pitch was thrown outside for a ball. Kinsler was apparently unhappy with calls Hernandez had made earlier. Manager Brad Ausmus, too, was ejected.

After the game, Kinsler said that Hernandez “needs to find another job.” He added, “…he needs to stop ruining baseball games.”

Kinsler was fined by Major League Baseball for his remarks, Mlive’s Evan Woodbery reports. According to Ausmus, the fine levied on Kinsler was the largest one he’s seen in nearly 25 years in baseball. Kinsler said, “I said what I felt and what I thought. If they take offense to that, then that’s their problem.” Ausmus said, “To single out one player as a union is completely uncalled for.”

As Ashley noted on Saturday, the umpires wore white wristbands to protest “escalating attacks on umpires.” The umpires agreed to drop their protest on Sunday after commissioner Rob Manfred agreed to meet with the umpire union’s governing board, Gabe Lacques of USA TODAY Sports reports.