MIN 6, DET 3: Offense, Bullpen Come Through Late as Twins Take Opener
Image courtesy of © Raj Mehta-USA TODAY SportsBox Score
Pineda: 5.0 IP, 8 H, 3 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 72.1% strikes (57 of 79 pitches)
Home Runs: Garver (10), Cron (14), Cruz (9)
Multi-Hit Games: Gonzalez (4-for-5, 2B, RBI), Garver (3-for-5, HR, RBI), Cron (2-for-4, HR), Buxton (2-for-4), Polanco (2-for-5)
WPA of +0.1: Gonzalez .200, Garver .200, Cruz .150, Cron .170
WPA of -0.1: Rosario -.110, Astudillo - .120, Pineda -.120, Schoop -.140
(chart via FanGraphs)
There were two opposite games at Comerica Park on Friday night. One while Boyd was out on the mound for the Tigers and a completely different one after he completed his great outing, as usual. Minnesota took advantage of Detroit’s bullpen, which came into this game with the third-worst ERA in the league since the start of May, at 5.60. It took the Twins offense only three pitches into the eighth inning to break the tie and take the lead for good.
Gonzalez maintained his great moment and had the fourth four-hit game of his career, the first one since Sept. 25, 2017, while still with the Astros. Mitch Garver also found his swing after a bad start since returning from the IL, hitting the first home run of the game, to go with two other hits. Overall, Minnesota managed to get 14 hits.
Michael Pineda was making his first start after 10 days in the IL due to a knee tendinitis. He didn’t pitch as well as in his previous four games, in which he got four consecutive quality starts, but he did deliver a good outing, completing five innings and allowing three earned runs with no walks. That was good enough and you probably couldn’t have hoped for much more than that. If he’s not been great so far, he’s proven to be a solid fifth starter.
The bullpen held the Tiger offense scoreless through four innings, bouncing back from a rather bad trip to Cleveland. The Twins improve to 42-20, maintaining the best record in the American League and a 10.5 game lead in the Central Division.
Story of the Game
Pineda struggled right away, as he loaded the bases in the first inning and saw Brandon Dixon score Christin Stewart on a one-out sac fly. Fortunately, he managed to hold the Tiger offense to that one run. In his 21-pitch effort, he gave up a walk and hit Nicholas Castellanos. In the end of the second, Byron Buxton made yet another fine defensive play in center field, robbing JaCoby Jones of an extra-base hit, to end the inning.
Minnesota took the lead in the top of the third. After Buxton snapped his 0-for-18 matchup against Matthew Boyd and advanced to third base on a balk (which got Ron Gardenhire ejected) Mitch Garver hit his first home run since coming back from the IL. That homer also ended his mini-slump since coming back from rehab assignment, as he had hit 2-for-15 in his previous four games. And he crushed that, too.
While things appeared to be stabilizing for Big Mike in the fourth, the Tigers had other ideas. They tied the game after Miguel Cabrera led off the inning with a double and was later brought home by a one-out double to left by Ronny Rodriguez. In the fifth, Pineda's struggles continued, as Detroit retook the lead on a Castellanos two-out single to left that scored old friend Niko Goodrum.
But just like that, the SotaPop offense was at it again, scoring right after being scored on. C.J. Cron destroyed a curveball from Boyd to hit his 14th homer of the year and tied the game once again.
Boyd finished yet another great start against Minnesota having dealt through seven innings. Then, in the third pitch of the eighth, with Joe Jimenez pitching, the tie was broken. Nelson Cruz hit a bomb to right field, making it 4-3 Minnesota. The eighth inning party, sponsored by the Tiger bullpen, continued. Cron doubled off Jimenez, just to be followed by Gonzalez’s fourth hit of the night, bringing him home.
Meanwhile, after being roughed up in Cleveland, the Twins bullpen did a superb job to hold on to the victory. Mike Morin and Ryne Harper combined for two flawless innings following Pineda’s departure. Both of them had identical performances of 13 pitches with nine strikes, giving up nothing but a hit. Harper truck out the side and earned his first MLB win. Tyler Duffey, on the other hand, didn’t pitch in the eighth as well as they had in the sixth and seventh. He allowed two runners to reach, and both advanced on a wild pitch, but he managed to deliver scoreless outing.
Another Twins insurance run was added in the top of the ninth. Buxton led off the inning with a double, his MLB-leading 21st and his second hit of the game. Then, he was scored by a Garver grounder to center, his third hit of the night, making it 6-3 Twins.
Blake Parker got his ninth save of the season, but he made it interesting. Detroit batters demanded 28 pitches from him and two runners reached on walks. But, in the end, Parker pushed through.
Postgame With Baldelli
Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days:
Sat at DET, 3:10 pm (Gibson-TBD)
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