HOUSTON 7, MINNESOTA 1 IN HOUSTON
Date: Wednesday, April 24.
Batting star: Jorge Polanco was 1-for-4 with a home run, his fifth.
Pitching stars: None.
Opposition stars: Justin Verlander struck out eight in eight innings, giving up one run on four hits and no walks. Mickey Brantley was 2-for-3 with a two-run homer (his fifth) and a walk, scoring twice. Josh Reddick was 2-for-3 with a two-run homer (his third) and a walk, scoring twice. Robinson Chirinos was 2-for-4 with a double. Carlos Correa was 1-for-4 with a home run, his fifth.
The game: Correa homered leading off the second to give the Astros a 1-0 lead. In the third, Alex Bregman hit a two-out double and Brantley followed with a two-run homer to make it 3-0. Polanco homered with one out in the fourth to get the Twins on the board and cut the lead to 3-1.
Houston got the run back with interest in the bottom of the fourth. Reddick walked and scored on a Chirinos double. Chirinos later came around to score on a pair of wild pitches and the score was 5-1.
The Twins never got back into the game, thanks to the pitching of Verlander. Other than the Polanco home run there was only one time when they got a man past first base. The Astros added two runs in the eighth when Brantley singled and Reddick hit a two-run homer.
WP: Verlander (4-0). LP: Kohl Stewart (0-1). S: None.
The game: Max Kepler returned to the leadoff spot. He played center field, with Willians Astudillo in right and Byron Buxton on the bench. Ehire Adrianza played second base, with Jonathan Schoop on the bench.
Polanco's average is .366. His OPS is 1.119.
You never go into a game thinking you have no chance to win. On the other hand, any fair-minded observer would have said that this was likely to be a pretty tough go for the Twins. In the first place, Houston is simply a very good team. More than that, though, the Astros were using Justin Verlander, who is a very good pitcher and has always been hard for the Twins to deal with. The Twins were countering with Kohl Stewart, who--well, let's just say he's not Justin Verlander.
Given that, this game actually went much better than it might have. Stewart was able to fill up six innings and not embarrass himself. In fact, if not for a couple of gopher balls, he'd have been right in the game. I know you can't just discount the home runs, but the point is that he wasn't all that far away from pitching a pretty good game. As it was, he at least saved the bullpen. Your fear, when you bring up a AAA guy for a spot start, is that he'll be so overwhelmed that you have no choice but to take him out in the second or third inning. Then you end up using five relief pitchers in a game that you're not going to win anyway. By going six innings, Stewart saved the Twins from having to do that. Granted, with an off-day today that's not as important as it otherwise would have been, but it's not nothing, either. The season is long, relievers can only warm up so many times and pitch so many innings, and you hate to waste those times and those innings in blowout games. Good job by Stewart, and to a lesser extent by Fernando Romero, for filling up the innings.
Record: The Twins are 13-9, in first place in the American League Central, a half game ahead of Cleveland.
Projected record: We'll just have to settle for 153-9!