MIN 6, PHI 2: Twins Find Power Stroke, Slug 3 Homers in Victory
Image courtesy of © John Geliebter-USA TODAY SportsSnapshot (chart via FanGraphs)
Pineda: 5.0 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 63.8% strikes (51 of 80 pitches)
Home Runs: Kepler (2), Astudillo (1), Rosario (1)
Multi-Hit Games: Kepler (2-for-5, HR)
WPA of +0.1: Rogers .137, Buxton .121, Pineda .114, Hildenberger .106, Kepler .103
WPA of -0.1: Cave -.160
The Twins held a 3-2 advantage heading into the ninth inning, but the Phillies seemed to be gaining momentum. They left the bases loaded in the eighth inning, and it was starting to feel like it was only a matter of time before they busted loose, as if bad things were to come in the bottom of the ninth.
Luckily, Rosario took a lot of the tension out of this game by blasting that three-run homer.
It's been rough going early on for Rosario. He actually started today's game on the bench, but here's hoping that big pinch hit homer breaks him out of this mini seson-opening funk.
That meant Blake Parker, who was already warming in the pen at the time the homer was hit, entered the bottom of the ninth with a four-run cushion. But prior to that, his bullpen mates Adalberto Mejia, Trevor Hildenberger and Taylor Rogers did a great job at protecting the lead.
The bullpen combined for four scoreless innings and gave up just three hits, two of which were fluky infield singles. It was an impressive performance against a formidable lineup.
Prior to that big homer from Rosario, the Twins haven’t had a ton of luck batting with runners on base so far this season, but they found a workaround today. In the third inning, Byron Buxton singled, stole second base, advanced to third on a groundout and scored on a wild pitch.
Max Kepler and Willians Astudillo followed that up with back-to-back two-out home runs.
Possibly the most shocking thing we saw today, however, was Astudillo draw a walk.
Lots to Like About Big Mike
There were no shortage of candidates, but my pick for biggest x-factor on this Twins club was Michael Pineda. So far, so good.
It’s only been two starts and a grand total of nine innings pitched, but Pineda has been strong. He’s only yielded five hits and two runs, walked a pair and has 10 strikeouts. The big issue with him has been staying healthy, but if Pineda can be a pillar in this rotation it’ll go a long way toward this team finding consistency.
The only run Pineda surrendered while on the mound was on a Rhys Hoskins solo home run. Mejia allowed an inherited runner of Pineda’s to score. Speaking of which ...
Rubber Arm Mejia
Mejia wasn’t exactly a workhorse as a starting pitcher. I’d have to imagine he’s still getting acclimated to work in the bullpen, but manager Rocco Baldelli seems motivated to break him in out there.
Mejia threw 42 pitches Wednesday and 37 more last night, but was back on the job again this afternoon. He was brought into the sixth inning to face Bryce Harper, which makes a lot of sense to set up the left-on-left matchup, but he gave up a double, a walk, a sac fly and then got bailed out by some good defense by Byron Buxton and a poor risk taken by Harper.
A shallow fly ball was hit to center, Buxton did a nice job of getting himself set to make a play, but Harper took off for home anyway. The throw was a bit up the line, but Willians Astudillo was able to reel it in and tag out a leaping Harper for a double play.
Mejia only ended up with 12 pitches today, but it’s still pretty striking to see a guy all the way up at 91 on the bullpen usage chart. Trial by fire, I guess.
Needing some extra length in the bullpen, the Twins called up Chase De Jong, who also needed to be added to the 40-man roster, and designated Tyler Austin for assignment. This was probably bound to happen to Austin sooner or later, but he was a great guy to have around as insurance in case C.J. Cron or Nelson Cruz got hurt.
Austin would need to clear waivers in order to remain in the org, but since he’s been DFAd once before already, he’ll also have the chance to elect free agency if he clears. That’s probably a moot point anyway, since I imagine one of the rebuilding teams will happily put in a waiver claim on Austin.
As for De Jong, it’s a surprising to see him be the first man up, especially considering the Twins dropped him from the 40 man this offseason. It’s possible the Twins think it’s more important to keep the Kohl Stewart, Zack Littell and Stephen Gonsalves types on their starting schedules for developmental purposes. Stewart also just started Thursday.
Postgame With Baldelli
Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days:
Next Three Games
Sun at PHI, 12:05 pm CT (Berrios-Eflin)
Tue at NYM, 6:10 pm CT (TBD-deGrom)
Wed at NYM, 6:10 pm CT (TBD-Syndergaard)
PHI 10, MIN 4: Polanco Cycles in the Rain, Rest Is All Pain
More From Twins Daily
Twins Minor League Report (4/5): Powerful Pitching Performances
Seth's Preseason Top 20 Minnesota Twins Pitching Prospects
Seth's Preseason Top 20 Minnesota Twins Position Player Prospects
- mikelink45, dbminn and nclahammer like this