HOUSTON 11, MINNESOTA 0 IN MINNESOTA
Date: Tuesday, April 30.
Batting stars: Max Kepler was 2-for-3 with a walk.
Pitching star: Fernando Romero struck out two in a scoreless inning, giving up a hit and a walk.
Opposition stars: Gerrit Cole struck out eleven in seven shutout innings, giving up one hit and three walks. Michael Brantley was 3-for-5 with a double, a walk, and two runs. Josh Reddick was 3-for-5. Carlos Correa was 2-for-3 with a double, a walk, and three RBIs. George Springer was 2-for-5 with a home run (his ninth) and a double, scoring twice and driving in two. Jake Marisnick was 1-for-4 with a two-run homer (his second), a hit-by-pitch, and a stolen base, scoring twice. Alex Bregman was 1-for-5 with a home run (his fifth) and a walk.
The game: The Twins opened the bottom of the first with walks to Kepler and Jorge Polanco. Nelson Cruz then hit a very hard smash right at shortstop Correa, who turned it into a double play. That was pretty much the last chance the Twins had.
The game didn't fall apart right away. The Astros were hitting lots of balls hard from the start, but between atom balls and good defense they didn't score until the third, when Marisnick was hit by a pitch, stole second, and scored on a Springer double. Houston left the bases loaded in the fourth, but scored two more in the fifth. Springer led off the inning with a home run to make it 2-0. Jose Altuve then doubled, went to third on an infield single, and scored on a sacrifice fly to make it 3-0.
Then the roof fell in, if Target Field actually had a roof. In the sixth Robinson Chirinos singled and Marisnick hit a two-run homer. With two out, Bregman homered, Brantley doubled, and Correa had an RBI single, making the score 7-0. In the eighth, Springer walked and Tyler White singled. With one out, walks to Brantley and Correa brought home a run. Reddick had an RBI single, Aledmys Diaz had a sacrifice fly, and an error brought home another run, bringing the score to 11-0.
The Twins offense was basically doing nothing through all this. They did not get a hit until the sixth, when Kepler doubled. They loaded the bases in the eighth but did not score. And that was pretty much it.
WP: Cole (2-4). LP: Michael Pineda (2-2). S: None.
Notes: Ehire Adrianza was at third base, with Marwin Gonzalez on the bench.
Polanco was 0-for-2 with two walks and is batting .320.
Pineda pitched five innings, allowing five runs on nine hits and a walk and striking out two.
Ryne Harper pitched two-thirds of an inning, giving up no runs on one hit. His ERA is 2.31.
For the most part, I've thought Rocco has handled the pitching staff fairly well, but he did a couple of things in this game that left me scratching my head. The first is letting Pineda start the sixth inning. The Astros were hitting shots off him from the first inning on, and it was just good defense and good luck that kept the Twins somewhat in the game through five innings. It was suggested in the game log that Rocco was hoping to get another inning out of Pineda to save the bullpen, but as has been said many times, hope is not a strategy. There was no real reason to think Pineda would get through the sixth, and in fact he didn't even record an out. All we accomplished by letting him start the sixth is to make sure the game was out of reach before we went to the bullpen.
I'm sure that, when Rocco did go to the bullpen, the plan was to use Magill for two innings and Mejia for two innings. Magill didn't exactly blow anyone away, but at least he filled up his innings. Mejia couldn't even do that. I can't fault Rocco for pulling Mejia. It's one thing when a pitcher is getting hit hard--you figure that eventually either they'll hit some balls at people or they'll get tired of running around the bases and get themselves out. But when a guy can't throw strikes, there's not much you can do but take him out.
What I don't understand, though, is why he went to Harper in that situation. Harper has done well enough not to be considered a blowout pitcher. You had Romero available, and in fact they went to him in the ninth. Why not bring him into the game in the eighth? If he can't throw 1.2 innings of a blowout game, why is he on the team? Harper can probably pitch again tonight, but probably not for more than one inning. Had they used Romero, Harper would be available for two or three tonight. I don't understand it.
It should be pointed out, of course, that the way the Twins batted last night they could've brought in Sandy Koufax in the sixth inning and it wouldn't have made any difference.
It's a long season, and you'll have games like this once in a while. The point is not to have very many of them. Let's come back strong tonight!
Record: The Twins are 17-10, first in the American League Central, 1.5 games ahead of Cleveland.
Projected record: We'll just have to settle for 152-10!