Category Archives: 2019 Twins Game Recaps

2019 Recap: Game Forty-three

MINNESOTA 11, SEATTLE 6 IN MINNESOTA

Date:  Thursday, May 16.

Batting stars:  C. J. Cron was 4-for-5 with a two-run homer, his tenth.  Eddie Rosario was 3-for-5.  Byron Buxton was 2-for-5 with a three-run homer (his third) and two runs.  Miguel Sano was 2-for-5 with two doubles.  Jorge Polanco was 2-for-5.  Max Kepler was 1-for-4 with a home run, his ninth, and two runs.  Jason Castro was 1-for-5 with a home run (his seventh), scoring twice and driving in two.

Pitching star:  Michael Pineda pitched seven innings, giving up three runs on five hits and no walks and striking out six.

Opposition stars:  Mitch Haniger was 2-for-4.  Daniel Vogelbach was 1-for-4 with a three-run homer, his twelfth.  Mallex Smith was 1-for-4 with a home run, his second.  Ryon Healy was 1-for-4 with a home run, his seventh.  J. P. Crawford was 1-for-4 with a home run.  Connor Sadzeck pitched two perfect innings, striking out one.

The game:  It was scoreless through two, but Castro changed that by leading off the third with a home run.  Kepler also homered in the inning, giving the Twins a 2-0 lead.  Smith got one of the runs back with a home run of his own in the bottom of the third, making the score 2-1.

The Twins then broke it open with a big fourth inning.  Rosario singled and Cron homered to make it 4-1.  Marwin Gonzalez singled, Sano doubled, and a fielder's choice/error made the score 5-1.  Buxton then hit a three-run homer to increase the lead to 8-1.  The Twins still weren't done, as Kepler was hit by a pitch, Polanco singled, and an error brought home a run to make the score 9-1.

The Mariners got back-to-back homers from Healy and Crawford leading off the fifth to cut the margin to 9-3.  There was no more scoring, or even threats, until the eighth, when Buxton singled, took second on a wild pitch, and score on Polanco's single.

With the score 10-3, it was deemed safe to let Tyler Duffey pitch.  He retired Dee Gordon, but Haniger doubled, Edwin Encarnacion singled, and Vogelbach hit a three-run homer to cut the lead to 10-7.  To Duffey's credit, he regrouped to retire the next five batters.  The Twins added a run in the ninth on singles by Rosario and Cron and a double by Sano.

WP:  Pineda (3-3).  LP:  Erik Swanson (1-5).  S:  None.

Notes:  Sano returned to the lineup, playing third base and batting seventh.  There is probably some wisdom in not throwing him into the middle of the lineup right away, although I assume he'll be put back up there at some point.  Gonzalez moved to first, with Cron taking the DH spot and Nelson Cruz still out of the lineup.  Jonathan Schoop batted third.  He's not really an ideal third-place hitter, of course, and he didn't get the job done last night, either, going 0-for-5.  Still, it didn't hurt them.

It had to feel good to Sano to get a couple of doubles in his first game back.  I gather that one of them was not exactly hard hit, but still, a double's a double.  One game proves nothing, of course, but at least he's off to a good start.

By game scores, last night was not Pineda's best start of the season.  That would be his first start, when he pitched four shutout innings against Cleveland.  I think most of us would agree that this one was better, though.  He gave up a few gopher balls, but this start would be the perfect illustration of "solo home runs don't hurt you".  He has gotten steadily better in his last few starts.  It is to be hoped the trend will continue.

This would seem to have been a perfect game to use new Twin Austin Adams.  Perhaps they wanted to give him more chance to get acclimated before using him in a game.  Or, perhaps they would've used him to pitch the ninth if Duffey had pitched a clean eighth.

Over the last two weeks, the Twins have played Toronto, the Angels, Detroit, and now Seattle.  Not exactly a tough schedule, but at least a couple of those teams are close to .500.  Over that same time, Cleveland has played the White Sox, Oakland, the White Sox again, and now Baltimore.  That's certainly no tougher schedule, and arguably an easier one.  Over that stretch, the Twins have gained 2.5 games on the Indians.  That strikes me as a good sign.

Record:  The Twins are 28-15, first in the American League Central, 4.5 games ahead of Cleveland.

Projected record:  We're still on track for 147-15!

2019 Recap: Game Forty-two

MINNESOTA 8, LOS ANGELES 7 IN MINNESOTA

Date:  Wednesday, May 15.

Batting stars:  Ehire Adrianza was 2-for-3 with a double, a walk, and two RBIs.  Jorge Polanco was 2-for-4 with a triple.  Jonathan Schoop was 2-for-4.  Jason Castro was 1-for-3 with a two-run homer (his sixth) and a walk.  Byron Buxton was 1-for-4 with a two-run homer, his second.

Pitching star:  Jake Odorizzi pitched 5.1 innings, giving up three runs on nine hits and two walks and striking out three.

Opposition stars:  Brian Goodwin was 4-for-4 with two doubles and two runs.  Tommy La Stella was 4-for-5 with a home run (his eleventh) and a walk.  Jared Walsh was 3-for-5.  Jonathan Lucroy was 2-for-4 with a home run (his sixth), a double, and a walk.  David Fletcher was 2-for-5.

The game:  The Angels threatened in the first two innings but did not score.  They started the game with a walk and a single, but a line out and a double play ended the threat.  Goodwin had a leadoff double in the second, but nothing came of that, either.  The Twins got on the board in the bottom of the second.  C. J. Cron reached on a strikeout/wild pitch, Schoop had an infield single, and Adrianza hit a two-run double to give the Twins a 2-0 lead.

The Angels immediately cut it to 2-1 in the third on La Stella's home run.  It then stayed 2-1 until the fifth, when the Twins had a big inning.  Castro walked and Buxton hit a two-run homer to make it 4-1.  With one out, Polanco tripled and scored on Eddie Rosario's double.  A wild pitch moved Rosario to third and a Willians Astudillo sacrifice fly scored him to give the Twins a 6-1 advantage.

The Angels again immediately cut it to 6-3 in the sixth when Goodwin singled and Lucroy homered.  The Twins got the two runs back in the bottom of the sixth when Adrianza singled and Castro homered.  It was 8-3 through six and it looked like it should be an easy Twins win.  Los Angeles got one in the seventh on two singles and a sacrifice fly, but it was still a comfortable 8-4 lead going to the ninth.

It got uncomfortable in a hurry.  Trevor Hildenberger started the inning and got the first out, but then gave up doubles to Goodwin and Lucroy and a single to Fletcher, making the score 8-6.  Mike Morin came in and gave up a single to Walsh.  He struck out Luis Rengifo, but La Stella singled to load the bases and Mike Trout was hit by a pitch to force in a run, cutting the margin to 8-7 and bringing up Shohei Otani.  Otani, however, grounded to short and the Twins escaped with a victory.

WP:  Odorizzi (6-2).  LP:  Trevor Cahill (2-4).  S:  Morin (1).

Notes:  With Nelson Cruz still out, Polanco was the DH and Adrianza was at short.  Willians Astudillo was at third, with Marwin Gonzalez given the day off.  It seems odd to give Gonzalez a day off with Miguel Sano presumably returning to third base soon, but then I don't know just what Rocco Baldelli might have in mind over the next few games.

Polanco raised his average to .331.

Blake Parker retired the only man he faced and his ERA is now 1.17.  Ryne Harper gave up two hits but did not allow a run in two-thirds of an inning and has an ERA of 1.50.  Morin also gave up two hits but did not allow a run in two-thirds of an inning and has an ERA of 1.80.  Matt Magill gave up a walk but no runs in two-thirds of an inning and has an ERA of 2.35.  Trevor May gave up a run on two hits in a full inning and has an ERA of 2.76.

Odorizzi did not have one of his best games, especially compared to the way he's been pitching recently.  He was constantly in trouble and finally, in the sixth, couldn't get out of it.  On the other hand, it wasn't reasonable to think he would keep pitching as well as he had been, and he got through 5.1 innings keeping the Twins in the game.  It's not what you want, but if that's as bad as it gets he'll be in good shape.  His ERA is now 2.63.

The Twins' bullpen did not have one of its best games, either, but they did do a good job cleaning up each other's messes.  They then created messes of their own, of course.  But May came in with men on first and third and one out and got out of the inning with neither runner scoring.  Magill came in with men on first and third and one out and allowed only one to score on a sacrifice fly.  Parker came in with men on first and second and two out and retired the man he faced.  Even Morin came in with men on first and second and one out and only allowed one to score.

My first thought for the ninth was that Rocco should've left Parker in.  But Parker had pitched 1.1 innings the night before, and the Twins had a four run lead.  If you can't trust Hildenberger for one inning with a four run lead there's no point in having him on the team.  As it turned out, unfortunately, you can't and there's not, at least not right now.  Hildenberger is kind of a puzzle.  He has stretches where he seems unhittable, and he has other stretchers where he seems to be throwing batting practice.  I wonder if there's some sort of flaw in his delivery that he slips into sometimes and has a hard time getting out of again.  That's just speculation, of course.  But I can't blame the Twins for wanting him to go to Rochester until he gets straightened out.

It was asked if the Twins didn't have someone in Rochester better to bring up than Austin Adams.  The answer, in my opinion, is no, they really don't.  Kohl Stewart, maybe, but I suspect the Twins want him to continue starting.  Devin Smeltzer has made two really good starts for the Red Wings, but it's only two starts, so I suspect a) they want him to get more experience before bringing him up and b) they want him to continue starting as well.  Adams appears to be a replacement-level pitcher at best.  He will presumably try to fill the Fernando Romero groundskeeper role, but I'm not sure I wouldn't rather have another position player on the team instead.

Record:  The Twins are 27-15, first in the American League Central, 4.5 games ahead of Cleveland.

Projected record:  We're still on track for 147-15!

2019 Recap: Game Forty-one

MINNESOTA 4, LOS ANGELES 3 IN MINNESOTA

Date:  Tuesday, May 14.

Batting star:  Mitch Garver was 1-for-4 with a two-run homer, his ninth.

Pitching stars:  Kyle Gibson pitched 5.2 innings, giving up three runs on six hits and two walks and striking out five.  Ryne Harper pitched a scoreless inning, giving up one hit.  Blake Parker pitched 1.1 scoreless innings, giving up two hits and a walk and striking out one.

Opposition stars:  Shohei Otani was 3-for-4.  David Fletcher was 2-for-3 with a double.  Tommy La Stella was 2-for-5.  Taylor Cole struck out four in two shutout innings, giving up two hits.

The game:  The Twins got on the board in the first inning.  Jorge Polanco got a one-out single, stole second with two out, went to third on a wild pitch, and scored on Eddie Rosario's single to make it 1-0 Minnesota.  It went to 3-0 in the third when Max Kepler led off with a single and Garver hit a one-out two-run homer.  The Twins added one more in the fourth when Marwin Gonzalez led off with a double and scored on Byron Buxton's two-out double to make it 4-0.

The Angels got back into the game in the sixth.  Gibson had been in control through five, not allowing a man past first base.  In the sixth, however, Luis Rengifo walked and David Fletcher doubled him home.  La Stella's single put men on first and third and a wild pitch made the score 4-2, still with none out.  Mike Trout struck out, but Otani's RBI single cut the margin to 4-3.  Andrelton Simmons then singled, but Otani was thrown out trying to go to third.  Ryne Harper then came on to retire Albert Pujols and keep the score 4-3.

Each team threatened in the seventh.  Los Angeles got a pair of singles but did not score.  The Twins got three walks and failed to score.  The Angels again threatened in the eighth.  Singles by Otani and Pujols put men on first and second with two out.  Brian Goodwin singled, but Byron Buxton threw Otani out at the plate to keep the score 4-3.  Catcher Garver was injured on the play, about which we'll say more later.  Los Angeles got a one-out walk in the ninth, but no more, and the Twins held on for the win.

WP:  Gibson (4-1).  LP:  Cam Bedrosian (1-2).  S:  Parker (7).

Notes:  With Nelson Cruz out, Willians Astudillo was the DH.

Garver is batting .329 with an OPS of 1.164.  Polanco was 1-for-3 with a walk and is batting .327 with an OPS of 1.010.  Harper has an ERA of 1.56.  Tyler Duffey gave up a hit to the only man he faced, but he didn't score and his ERA remains 1.42.  Mike Morin retired the only man he faced and his ERA is 2.08.  Taylor Rogers pitched two-thirds of an inning and gave up a hit, but no runs, and has an ERA of 1.47.  Parker has an ERA of 1.20.

Take a look at those bullpen ERAs for a second.  The Twins bullpen has taken some criticism, and I know ERA isn't necessarily the best way to evaluate a relief pitcher, but still.  Four relievers with ERAs under two.  Morin is just barely over two, and the other two relievers are at 2.35 (Trevor May) and 2.56 (Matt Magill).  That strikes me as being pretty good.

Garver was injured when Otani slid into him in the eighth inning.  Nothing wrong with the slide or the way Garver set up--no matter how hard MLB tries to make the game safer, injuries will still happen sometimes.  Reports this morning say Garver has a sprained ankle and will be evaluated further today.  I would certainly expect him to go on the injured list.

Bedrosian was used as the opener by the Angels and gave up one run on two hits in one inning.  It strikes me that being used consistently as an opener would be a pretty thankless job.  If you hold the other team scoreless, well, that's what you were supposed to do.  And it was the first inning, maybe two, of the game, so by the end of the game everyone's forgotten about it anyway.  And if you give up a run or two, well, who put that bum in to start the game, anyway?  Plus, you'd have the chance to get a really ugly won-lost record, because you can't possibly get the win, but it wouldn't be at all hard to get the loss.  I don't think it's a job people would be clamoring for the chance to do.

The Angels out-hit the Twins 11-7, went 3-for-4 with men in scoring position, but still lost the game.  Two double plays helped, and two outfield assists were very important, too.  I've said this before, but it is a lot of fun to watch a good defensive baseball team.

Record:  The Twins are 26-15, first in the American League Central, four games ahead of Cleveland.

Projected record:  We're still on track for 147-15!

2019 Recap: Game Thirty-six

MINNESOTA 6, DETROIT 0 IN MINNESOTA

Date:  Friday, May 10.

Batting stars:  Mitch Garver was 1-for-1 with a two-run homer (his eighth) and three walks, scoring twice.  Max Kepler was 1-for-4 with a home run, his eighth.  Jorge Polanco was 1-for-4 with a walk and three RBIs.

Pitching stars:  Jake Odorizzi pitched seven shutout innings, giving up one hit and no walks and striking out five.  Matt Magill struck out two in a perfect inning.  Fernando Romero pitched a scoreless inning, giving up two hits and striking out one.

Opposition stars:  None.

The game:  Christin Stewart doubled with one out in the first, but did not get past third base.  That was the only baserunner the Tigers would get off Odorizzi, and the only runner they would get until the ninth.

Meanwhile, the first six Twins also went out.  After that, though, things got better.  In the third, Garver walked and Jonathan Schoop singled.  With one out, Kepler walked to load the bases and Polanco delivered a two-run double to put the Twins up 2-0.

In the fourth, Marwin Gonzalez was hit by a pitch and Garver followed with a home run, making the score 4-0.  Kepler led off the fifth with a home run to make it 5-0.  In the sixth, Gonzalez got an infield single and walks to GarverByron Buxton, and Polanco forced home a run to bring the score to 6-0.

The Tigers opened the ninth with singles by Grayson Greiner and JaCoby Jones, their first baserunners since the first inning.  A strikeout, a force out, and a lineout ended the inning and preserved the shutout.

WP:  Odorizzi (5-2).  LP:  Tyson Ross (1-5).  S:  None.

Notes:  Garver is batting .364 with an OPS of 1.228.  Polanco is batting .341 with an OPS of 1.056.

Odorizzi has an ERA of 2.32.  If you could throw out the game against Philadelphia, his ERA would be 1.50.  He has not given up a run in his last three starts (twenty innings) and has struck out twenty over that span, allowing just seven hits and five walks.  Over his last five starts (31.1 innings) he has allowed three runs on twenty-one hits and six walks.  I think you could say he's on a roll.  He's obviously not going to keep that up all season--he'd win the Cy Young award unanimously if he did--but he's sure pitching well right now.

Fernando Romero is now unscored upon in his last five games.  Granted, it's only four innings, and he's allowed four hits and three walks.  Still, his ERA has come down from 11.25 to 5.62.  It's improvement.

Matt Magill is also unscored upon in his last three games (three innings).  He has struck out four and has allowed just one hit and no walks, dropping his ERA from 6.75 to 3.18.

There was a scary moment in the sixth inning when, on a play at first base, Gonzalez' head collided with the knee of Niko Goodrum.  Reports this morning are that Gonzalez has cleared the concussion protocol and is day-to-day, which is certainly good news.  I expect he won't play today, and maybe not tomorrow, but if the reports are correct and nothing else happens, he should be good to go soon.

The Twins have a record of 24-12.  That means they have won exactly two-thirds of their first thirty-six games.  Granted that it's still May, and thirty-six games represents just two-ninths of the schedule.  Granted, as well, that the Twins haven't always played the toughest schedule.  But even granting all that, winning two-thirds of your games over a thirty-six game span is an achievement.  It would be unusual for a bad team to be able to do that, even against weak competition.  Again, lots of things (injuries, slumps, etc.) can happen.  But it certainly appears that the Twins are a good baseball team this season.

Record:  The Twins are 24-12, first in the American League Central, 4.5 games ahead of Cleveland.

Projected record:  We're still on track for 150-12!

 

2019 Recap: Game Twenty-nine

MINNESOTA 8, HOUSTON 2 IN MINNESOTA

Date:  Thursday, May 2.

Batting stars:  Marwin Gonzalez was 2-for-3 with a double and two runs.  Jorge Polanco was 2-for-3 with a triple and a double.  Jason Castro was 2-for-4 with a home run (his third) and a double, scoring twice and driving in four.  Jonathan Schoop was 2-for-4.

Pitching stars:  Jose Berrios pitched seven innings, giving up two runs on seven hits and no walks and striking out five.  Ryne Harper pitched a scoreless inning, giving up a hit and striking out one.  Trevor May pitched a perfect inning and struck out one.

Opposition stars:  Aledmys Diaz was 2-for-4.  Alex Bregman was 1-for-4 with a home run, his sixth.

The game:  Bregman homered with two out in the first to give the Astros a 1-0 lead.  Each team got a two-out double in the second but did not score.  In the third, singles by Tony Kemp and George Springer put men on first and second with none out, but a strikeout, a fly out, and another strikeout left them there.  Castro led off the bottom of the third with a home run to tie the score at 1-1.

The Twins took control in the fourth.  With one out, C. J. Cron walked and Marwin Gonzalez singled, putting men on first and third.  Schoop delivered an RBI single, Castro had a two-run double, Byron Buxton had a run-scoring triple, Max Kepler hit a sacrifice fly, Polanco doubled, and Nelson Cruz had an RBI double.  In all, six runs scored, putting the Twins up 7-1 and effectively ending the game right there.

They kept playing, of course.  The Twins added a run in the fifth when Gonzalez walked, went to third on a Schoop single, and scored on a fielder's choice.  Polanco hit a one-out triple in the sixth but did not score.  Houston threatened to get back into it in the seventh.  Singles by Yuli Gurriel, Josh Reddick, and Diaz loaded the bases with none out.  A strikeout, a sacrifice fly, and another fly out limited the damage to one run, making the score 8-2, and neither team threatened after that.

WP:  Berrios (5-1).  LP:  Brad Peacock (2-2).  S:  None.

Notes:  Polanco raised his average to .336.  Cruz was 1-for-4 with a double and is batting .302.

Even though it was a day game, Rocco did not go with any sort of B lineup.  The regulars played.  The Twins alternate their catchers quite a bit, so that's not really an issue, but there were no substitutes at any other position, either.

Eddie Rosario was 0-for-4 and is now riding an 0-for-24 streak.  He hit two balls hard, though.  I'm not too worried about him.

Berrios pitched a fine game.  It shows the difference expectations can make, though.  If Michael Pineda ever had a game like this, we'd be ecstatic.  When it's Berrios, we just kind of nod our heads.  We expect Berrios to have games like this every time out.  That's a compliment to him, but at the same time, it's something that shouldn't be taken for granted.

Since reaching a low point of .213 on April 17, Schoop has gone 17-for-50 and is now batting .278.

Entering this series, I said the next ten games would tell us a lot about how good the Twins are.  They're off to a good start, winning three of the first four.  Now, of course, we go to New York to play the Big Bad Yankees.  I have a feeling that this year things are going to be different.  I don't have a lot to back that feeling up--the pitching matchups aren't particularly favorable or anything.  But it's a new day, it's a new team, and I just think this is the year things change.  I guess we'll find out soon enough.

Record:  The Twins are 19-10, first in the American League Central, three games ahead of Cleveland.

2019 Recap: Game Twenty-six

MINNESOTA 1, HOUSTON 0 IN MINNESOTA

Date:  Monday, April 29.

Batting star:  Ehire Adrianza was 1-for-1 with a home run.

Pitching stars:  Jake Odorizzi struck out seven in seven shutout innings, giving up four hits and a walk.  Taylor Rogers struck out two in a scoreless inning, giving up a walk.  Blake Parker pitched a scoreless inning, giving up a hit.

Opposition stars:  Justin Verlander struck out seven in six innings, giving up one run on two hits and two walks.  Michael Brantley was 2-for-4.  Carlos Correa was 2-for-4.

The game:  It was an old-fashioned pitchers' duel, except that in the old days both starters would've gone the whole game.  The Astros got a couple of two-out singles in the first but could not score.  The Twins got a two-out double from Jonathan Schoop in the second but did not score.  In the third, Adrianza made sure the Twins scored by hitting a home run to put Minnesota up 1-0.

And the pitchers, on both sides, took it from there.  Houston only got a man into scoring position one more time, in the sixth.  Alex Bregman drew a one-out walk and Brantley followed with a single, but Odorizzi struck out Correa and Yuli Gurriel to end the inning.  The Twins also only had a man in scoring position one more time, when Nelson Cruz had a pinch-hit double leading off the eighth.  He did not score, either.  Correa led off the ninth with a single, but Gurriel hit into a double play and Josh Reddick grounded out to end the game.

WP:  Odorizzi (3-2).  LP:  Verlander (4-1).  S:  Blake Parker (6).

Notes:  Jake Cave started the game in left field, with Eddie Rosario at DH and Cruz on the bench.  Adrianza started at third base, with Marwin Gonzalez moving to first and C. J. Cron on the bench.  Mitch Garver, who has led off a couple of times this season, batted cleanup.  I don't suppose it's exactly rare for a player to bat both leadoff and cleanup, but it is somewhat unusual.

Garver was 0-for-3 and is batting .348.  Jorge Polanco was 0-for-3 with a walk and is batting .327.  Cruz was 1-for-1 and is batting .307.  Rogers has an ERA of 1.98.  Parker has an ERA of 0.96.

I know this isn't exactly brilliant insight, but I feel like the recap wouldn't be complete if I didn't mention how unusual it is for Adrianza to hit a home run off Justin Verlander for the only run of the game.  It was the twelfth career home run for Adrianza in 920 plate appearances.  Not only had Adrianza hit a home run this season, he hadn't had an extra-base hit of any kind this season.  He came into the game with an OPS of .411.  The point is not to be critical of Adrianza.  The point is that it shows, once again, what a great game baseball is, and how you just never know what might happen in any individual game.

It's also noteworthy that the Twins, who are becoming notorious for swinging early in the count, made Verlander throw one hundred pitches in just six innings.  Yes, the strikeouts were part of that, but Odorizzi struck out the same number, pitched one more inning, and still only threw eight-six pitches.

This was Odorizzi's third consecutive good game, and the best of the three.  Over that span, he has pitched 18.1 innings and given up three runs on eighteen hits and just two walks.  He has struck out fifteen.  That kind of pitching would take us a long way this season if he can keep it going.

I don't know why I can't get comfortable with Parker as the closer.  Maybe I got scarred by his Twins debut or something.  He certainly has gotten the job done--he has both an ERA and a WHIP of less than one.  And he was a very effective reliever with the Angels over the last two seasons, so it's not like this just comes out of the blue.  Of course, as long as Rocco is comfortable with him as the closer, it really doesn't matter how I feel anyway.

Yesterday I said that we'd know more about the Twins after their next ten games.  Well, this was just one game, not ten, but it's certainly a hopeful start.  One down, nine to go!

Record:  The Twins are 17-9, first in the American League Central, 2.5 games ahead of Cleveland.

Projected record:  We're still on track for 153-9!

2019 Recap: Game Twenty-five

MINNESOTA 4, BALTIMORE 1 IN MINNESOTA

Date:  Sunday, April 28.

Batting stars:  Max Kepler was 2-for-4 with a home run (his seventh) and two runs.  Byron Buxton was 1-for-3 with a home run.  Marwin Gonzalez was 1-for-2 with two walks.

Pitching stars:  Kyle Gibson pitched seven innings, giving up one run on three hits and no walks and striking out six.  Trevor Hildenberger pitched a scoreless inning, giving up one hit and striking out one.  Blake Parker struck out two in a perfect inning.

Opposition star:  Chris Davis was 1-for-2 with a home run, his third.

The game:  Jonathan Villar led off the game with a double for the Orioles but did not score.  It cost them, as Kepler led off the bottom of the first with a home run to give the Twins a 1-0 lead.  It went to 4-0 in the third.  Buxton led off the inning with a home run and Kepler followed with a double.  The next two batters went out, but walks to Eddie Rosario and C. J. Cron loaded the bases and Gonzalez delivered a two-run single.

Meanwhile, Gibson was in control.  Through six innings, Baltimore only once got a man to third base.  With two out in the seventh, Davis hit a home run to cut the lead to 4-1, but that was as good as it got for them.  They got only one more hit, a two-out double in the eighth, and did not get the tying run up to bat.

WP:  Gibson (2-0).  LP:  Dylan Bundy (0-4).  S:  Parker (5).

Notes:  Mitch Garver was 0-for-3 and is batting .372.  Jorge Polanco was 1-for-4 and is batting .337.  Hildenberger has an ERA of 1.93.  Parker's ERA is 1.08.

It came as something of a surprise to me that Kepler has seven home runs already.  He must have gotten them when I wasn't paying attention or something.  His career high is twenty, set last year.  One would think he has a good chance of bettering that this season.

This was Gibson's second consecutive solid start.  Both came against Baltimore, of course.  If he can sustain that over his next couple of outings, it will be a really good sign for the Twins' rotation.

In fact, this next week and a half or so will tell us a lot about just how good the Twins are.  They host Houston for four, have three in New York with the Yankees, and then go to Toronto for three.  If they can handle that stretch of games, we just may have something this season.

Record:  The Twins are 16-9, first in the American League Central, two games ahead of Cleveland.

Projected record:  We're still on track for 153-9!

 

2019 Recap: Game Twenty-three

MINNESOTA 6, BALTIMORE 1 IN MINNESOTA

Date:  Friday, April 26.

Batting stars:  Nelson Cruz was 3-for-4 with two home runs, his fourth and fifth.  Max Kepler was 2-for-4 with a home run, his fourth.  C. J. Cron was 1-for-3 with a home run, his fourth.  Eddie Rosario was 1-for-4 with a home run (his eleventh) and two runs.

Pitching stars:  Martin Perez pitched six innings, giving up one run on six hits and no walks and striking out four.  Ryne Harper pitched a perfect inning, striking out one.  Fernando Romero struck out two in a scoreless inning, giving up a hit and a walk.

Opposition stars:  Trey Mancini was 3-for-5 with a double.  Jonathan Villar was 2-for-4 with a walk.  Gabriel Ynoa pitched 3.1 innings, giving up one run on four hits and no walks and striking out one.

The game:  With two out in the first, the Twins hit back-to-back-to-back home runs, with CruzRosario, and Cron all going deep to give Minnesota a 3-0 lead.  The Twins missed a chance to add to their lead in the second, as they put men on first and second with none out and did not score.  In the third, however, Rosario singled, went to second on a ground out, and scored on an error to make it 4-0.

The Orioles, who did not have a baserunner through three innings, opened the fourth with consecutive singles, but a double play took them out of the inning.  Meanwhile, Kepler homered in the fourth and Cruz hit his second homer of the game in the fifth to make the margin 6-0.

The Orioles sixth opened the same way their fourth had, with consecutive singles by Villar and Mancini.  This time there was no double play, however, and a one-out single by Dwight Smith got Baltimore on the board at 6-1.  They threatened in the eighth, as a Mancini double and two-out walks to Smith and Rio Ruiz loaded the bases.  Trevor May came in and retired Hanser Alberto on a force out.  Baltimore also put a couple of men on in the ninth but again did not score.

WP:  Perez (3-0).  LP:  Alex Cobb (0-2).  S:  None.

Notes:  Mitch Garver was 1-for-3 with a walk and is batting .400.  Jorge Polanco was 0-for-4 and is batting .349.  Willians Astudillo was 1-for-1 as a pinch-hitter and is batting .313.  Cruz raised his average to .308.

Harper lowered his ERA to 2.45.  Matt Magill made his season debut and pitched two-thirds of an inning, giving up a hit and two walks but no runs, so his ERA is zero.

As you can see, the Twins hit five solo home runs in this game.  I don't know what the record is for solo home runs in a game, but I'd think five has to be fairly close.  If you just look at most solo home runs without getting any other kind of home run, it seems like it'd be even closer.

It was kind of lost in all the home runs, and kind of discounted because they were playing the Orioles, but Perez had another fine game.  I was pretty skeptical about Perez when the Twins acquired him, and his first few relief appearances did nothing to dim my skepticism.  In his three starts, however, he has pitched very well.  He has pitched six innings in each game and has given up six runs, giving him an ERA of 3.00 with a WHIP of 1.17.  He has struck out eleven and walked just three.  We'll see if he can keep it going, but so far he's pitched quite well as a starter.

I don't know why A-Stud didn't start on La Tortuga night, but you can't argue with the results.  I've said before that I have no idea how Rocco decides who his catcher is going to be on a given night, and that continues to be true.  I assume he has a method, that it's not just random, but he doesn't seem to want to tell anyone what it is.  And that's fine--he doesn't owe it to me or anyone else to explain how he chooses his lineup, and I haven't heard anything about any of the players complaining.  Winning helps a lot with that, of course.

One can feel a bit for the Orioles fans.  We've all rooted for some bad Twins teams, and we know it's not any fun.  But there's nothing we can do for them, just as no one did anything for us when the Twins stunk.  The Twins are doing what you're supposed to do with bad teams--take care of business and beat them.  The Orioles will be good again someday, and I'm sure they'll return the favor to us if they can.  That's just how it works.

Record:  The Twins are 14-9, in first place in the American League Central, leading Cleveland by percentage points.

Projected record:  We're still on track for 153-9!

2019 Recap: Game Twenty-two

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!

2019 Recap: Game Twenty-one

HOUSTON 10, MINNESOTA 4 IN HOUSTON

Date:  Tuesday, April 23.

Batting stars:  Jonathan Schoop was 2-for-4 with two doubles.  Eddie Rosario was 1-for-4 with a three-run homer, his tenth.

Pitching star:  Ryne Harper retired both batters he faced.

Opposition stars:  Tyler White was 2-for-2 with a walk and two runs.  George Springer was 2-for-3 with two walks, scoring twice and driving in two.  Carlos Correa was 2-for-4 with a double.  Josh Reddick was 2-for-4 with a double and two runs.  Jose Altuve was 1-for-4 with a three-run homer (his ninth) and a walk.  Wade Miley struck out seven in six innings, giving up three runs on three hits and a walk.

The game:  It looked good early.  Mitch Garver led off the game with a single, Nelson Cruz drew a one-out walk, and Rosario followed with a three-run homer, putting the Twins up 3-0.  The Astros got on the board in the third, as White walked, Max Stassi singled, and Springer had an RBI single, but a double play got the inning back under control and the Twins still led 3-1.  It was just a temporary reprieve, however.  In the fifth, Reddick doubled and White singled, putting men on first and third with none out.  Stassi flied out, but Springer had a run-scoring double and Alex Bregman delivered a two-out two-run single to put Houston ahead 4-3.

Meanwhile, the Twins had not had a baserunner since Schoop led off the second with a double.  They hit some balls hard--it's not like there were helpless up there--but still, Miley closed out his evening with fifteen consecutive batters retired.  Hector Rondon came in to start the seventh and retired the first two men he faced.  Then, however, Schoop doubled and Max Kepler came through with a single to tie the score 4-4.  The Twins got men to second and third with two out, but Garver's fly to deep left ended the inning.

And then things fell apart.  Trevor Hildenberger came in to start the seventh.  A single and two walks loaded the bases with one out.  Bregman's sacrifice fly gave the Astros a 5-4 lead.  Adalberto Mejia came in to give up a run-scoring single to Michael Brantley, making the score 6-4.

It didn't get better in the eighth.  Tyler Duffey had come on to get the last out of the seventh and remained in the game.  An error and a single put men on first and third, and another error scored a run.  A passed ball put men on second and third, still with none out.  Stassi and Springer struck out, giving hope that the Twins might at least have a small chance to come back in the ninth.  That hope was dashed as Altuve hit a three-run homer to put the game out of reach at 10-4.  The Twins went down in order in the ninth.

WP:  Rondon (2-0).  LP:  Hildenberger (2-1).  S:  None.

Notes:  With a lefty starting for Houston, Garver was moved to the leadoff spot, with Max Kepler batting eighth.

Garver was 1-for-4 and is batting .405.  Jorge Polanco was 0-for-4 and is batting .372.  Harper lowered his ERA to 2.70.  Hildenberger was charged with two runs on one hit and two walks in two-thirds of an inning, but his ERA is still 2.16.  All four runs off Duffey in 1.1 innings were unearned, so his ERA drops to 1.69.

Rosario's homer made him the first Twin to ever reach ten homers before May 1.  Of course, back in the day, the season didn't start until the middle of April.  Still, it's an achievement, and he deserves credit for it.

I feel like the Twins' bullpen has done fairly well overall, but when it goes south it seems to go clear to Antarctica.  Last night the relief pitchers combined to allow six runs in 2.2 innings.  Four of the runs were unearned, but that's still not good.  They walked three in that span, which obviously contributed to the troubles, especially in the seventh inning.

Twins batters did not have a lot of luck last night.  The play-by-play at b-r.com indicates five deep fly balls for outs, plus one line drive out.  That's not to say that the Twins deserved to win, but had just a couple of those hard-hit balls been hits, things might have gone differently.

It sounds like Kohl Stewart is coming up to make the start tonight against Justin Verlander.  That does not seem like a favorable matchup for the Twins, to put it mildly.  Still, it's baseball.  One never knows what might happen.

Record:  The Twins are 13-8, in first place in the American League Central, 1.5 games ahead of Cleveland and Detroit.

Projected record:  We'll just have to settle for 154-8!