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!