HOU 5, MIN 2: Rough Opener, Strong Stewart Homecoming
Image courtesy of Troy Taormina, USA TodaySnapshot (chart via FanGraphs)
May: 18 Game Score, 1.0 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 K, 0 BB, 69.2% strikes (18 of 26 pitches)
Home Runs: Polanco (4)
Multi-Hit Games: Grossman (2-for-3)
WPA of 0.1 or higher: Grossman (.154), Stewart (.101)
WPA of -0.1 or lower: May -0.302
The Sample Size is just two, so making any grand statements about the Opener concept at this point would be silly. The “Openers” have been non-good, but the young pitchers who have come after them have been pretty solid.
Gabriel Moya gave up two, first-inning runs on Sunday. In this game, Trevor May gave up four runs in the first inning. Littell performed pretty well on Sunday, and Stewart was terrific for five innings and twice through the Astros lineup. He gave up just three hits and one walk and didn’t allow a run. He struck out three batters.
So, did they do better because of the “opener” or did they do better because when they came on in the second inning, the team was already behind and there was, at least theoretically, less pressure. Did Stewart pitch better because he now has three prior starts to learn from? Did Stewart pitch well because he was pitching at home, in front of many friends and family members? How much did pitching to Chris Gimenez help him?
Doesn’t really matter why he pitched better, if you ask me (and you probably won’t). The coaches and Stewart will sift through the data tonight and tomorrow. What matters is that he pitched really well. In those five innings, he was more economical than he has been, throwing just 73 pitches (44 strikes, 60%, still not ideal). But as much as young pitchers can learn from their rough outings, it can be equally important for them to experience some success.
YouTube video by Mike Berardino, Pioneer Press
If nothing else, there is no reason to give up on the Opener concept yet.
Aside from Stewart, the only other real positive was Robbie Grossman had a couple of hits including an RBI double. In 13 games since returning from the disabled list, Grossman has hit .342 (13-for-38). In seven games on this current road trip, he has hit .429 (9-for-21). As much as it may make sense for the Twins to move on from Grossman with newer options, he continues to be a reliable guy in taking quality at- bats. He works the counts well, and he is capable of these types of streaks. While he isn’t a great outfielder, he does make nearly all of the plays that he gets to. He is making $2 million in 2018. My guess for what he might make in 2019 would be in the $3-4 million range. For a part-time DH, part-time OF, pinch-hitting option on a team with a lot of young, inexperienced hitters in need of playing time, it might not be out of the realm of possibility to bring him back again. (Though I would still think it’s not terribly likely.)
Jorge Polanco added his fourth homer of the season in the ninth, though it was too little, too late.
On a roster that includes the reigning AL MVP (Jose Altuve), the reigning World Series MVP (George Springer) and a likely future MVP in Carlos Correa, the Astros best player this year has been third baseman Alex Bregman. In this game, he took over the MLB doubles lead from Eduardo Escobar. With three in this game, Bregman now has 46 two-baggers on the season.
Maybe the best news to come out of Houston for the Twins on Tuesday night is that Miguel Sano appears to “only” have a leg bruise. So I don’t have to type out the play-by-play, here is a view of when Sano got injured and Twins fans all over gasped, wondering aloud why we can’t have nice things (again).
Sano left the game on a cart. Fortunately, x-rays were negative, which is positive for Sano and Twins fans. Instead of likely being done for the year, he could be back in the lineup in the not-too-distant future, though they will certainly be cautious.
This is likely the first time that Sano has felt any sort of pain through his left leg, the titanium rod-filled one. Molitor noted after the game that he felt pain up and down his leg, down even to his ankle. He probably got a bit scared, I know I would, and wisely stayed off of it as a precaution. Looking at the video, his leg and knee just stopped at the bag, so if it’s truly just a bruise, it is very lucky.
While Tom has stopped doing the daily reliever pitch count chart, I figured that I would at least update you on the Twins who pitched on Tuesday. In the “Opener” role, Trevor May threw 26 pitches. Oliver Drake came in for the seventh inning and needed 19 pitches. Tyler Duffey had a very nice, tidy, nine-pitch eighth inning.
By the way, Ryan Pressly was really good for the Astros. He was throwing hard, spinning it well, and putting up numbers. But he struck out the side against the Twins in the eighth inning. He struck out the pinch-hitting Mitch Garver, Joe Mauer and Logan Forsythe. While the radar gun looked the same, Pressly appeared so much more confident on the mound. He looked smoother, more in control. In his time with the Astros, he has 22 strikeouts without issuing a walk.
Next Three Games
Wed at HOU, 7:10 pm CT: Jake Odorizzi vs. Framber Valdez
Fri vs. KC, 7:10 pm CT: TBD (meaning, Opener to go with “primary” Stephen Gonsalves)
Sat vs KC, 6:10 pm CT: Jose Berrios vs Somebody
Last Three Games
TEX 18, MIN 4: Speechless
TEX 7, MIN 4: Is Jose OK?
MIN 10, TEX 7: Tex-plosion!
HOU 4, MIN 1: Astros Take Advantage of Pivotal Polanco Error
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