MIN 6, STL 3: Donaldson Breaks Out, Early Offense Leads to Another Twins Win
Image courtesy of © Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY SportsBox Score
Bailey: 5.0 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K
Home Runs: Polanco (1), Donaldson (1)
Top 3 WPA: Bailey .131, Polanco .122, Sanó .093
Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs):
With former Twins behind the backstop watching the Bomba Squad play their home opener, they got off to a hot start. Homer Bailey pitched his way to a win in his debut. The Bringer of Rain arrived at Target Field in style with his first bomba in a Twins uniform.
Following the game, Donaldson said, "I've been on some teams to where it's been strictly relied on the home run ball. This team has the capability to do that, but we also have the ability to manufacturing some runs, and create some runs without just the home run ball."
Just like the Twins’ offense did for Kenta Maeda in his debut, Homer Bailey was given an early cushion to work with. The Twins got off to a quick start in the first filling the bases, but fell short of punching one across. They didn’t make that same mistake twice.
In his first at-bat of the 2020 season, Byron Buxton was able to pick up an RBI on a fielder's choice. Just two batters later, Josh Donaldson was able to pick up his first RBI in a Twins uniform with a sac-fly. The Twins found themselves with a comfortable five-run lead after Jorge Polanco gave Target Field its first home run of the season with a 2-run blast.
Just like Maeda, Bailey used his early cushion to his advantage. Through four innings, Bailey had given up just two walks and two hits while striking out four Cardinals. Three of those strikeouts came off his sinker with the slider picking up the fourth.
Of the run support, Bailey smiled and said, "With this type of offense, it's not a surprise when you have this many weapons in your lineup." He later added, "You try to have that short inning, and get these guys back in the dugout as quick as you can after you team puts up big innings like that."
After a strong start by Bailey, the Bringer of Rain decided to make his presence felt across Twins Territory. He went oppo in the bottom of the fourth for his first home run in a Twins uniform.
It took a little longer than Twins fans were hoping, but they should get used to seeing Donaldson trot around the bases in the coming years.
Rocco Baldelli said after the game, "That's probably the first of many."
"I was pretty excited running around the bases," said Donaldson after the game.
Bailey got brought back to reality for a moment in the fifth when he left a hanging slider right over the heart of the plate on a full count. Tyler O’Neill hit the ball a long way in the bullpen to cut the deficit to just four runs.
Before turning the ball over to the bullpen, Bailey came back very strong and retired the next three batters to end the fifth. His night was ended after five innings giving up just two runs on four hits and two walks.
Following the game, Bailey said, "I like the score at the end of nine innings, and that's the most important thing."
The bullpen came in and helped Bailey earn a deserving win in his debut. With a four run lead, they allowed just one run, that very easily could’ve been an out, but we’ll give Buxton a break for all the runs he’s saved us.
The lone run came on a deep fly ball to center field. Buxton appeared to have an *easy* leaping catch, but instead, the ball hit the palm of his glove and bounced over the fence. After that solo shot, May struck out the side and passed the duties along to Sergio Romo.
Taylor Rogers is yet to make his 2020 debut but hopefully it’s solely because there hasn’t been a spot where he’s really needed. Whether or not that’s the case, Rogers hopefully can see some action soon so the lefty can bring havoc on opposing batters.
Baldelli said after the game that not using Rogers to this point in the season is circumstantial. He added, "It's absolutely circumstance. I want to get Rog out there as much as anyone. Believe me. Tonight was an opportunity, surely, for him to pitch, but also, looking ahead, looking at Sergio being up and hot in the bullpen in the eighth inning, making sure we set ourselves up going forward. I just thought it was the right thing to let Sergio go in in a three-run game and pitch tonight."
He continued, "Nothing has changed from last year in any way. Rog is our guy. Rog is the guy we're going to lean on in very difficult circumstances when we need outs. He's the guy we're going to turn to. We want him pitching the innings that we would call our most important innings."
In all three of their wins now, the bullpen has helped hold the early lead the offense has set up. They’ve given up just one run in 13 innings in those three wins.
It’s been nice to see guys like Cody Stashak and Lewis Thorpe come in early in the season and show they can be key pieces for the Twins. Not to mention Trevor May, Tyler Duffey, Romo and Taylor Rogers who haven’t had to work as much with these younger guys stepping up.
The Twins finish up this two game series tomorrow and look for a sweep in their first interleague play of the season.
Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet
At our postgame pint, Andrew Thares, Ted Schwerzler and Nathan Palmer join John Bonnes to talk about the Twins lineup jumping on the Cardinals early and the bullpen shutting the door late. Check it out below, or download the podcast. And check out PostgamePint.com to find out how to join us after the next Twins game.
Seth Stohs contributed the player and manager quotes to this article.
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