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MIN 9, HOU 8: Max to the Rescue!

Things didn’t need to be this interesting. The Twins held an 8-1 lead at one point. They were even up 8-6 entering the ninth, but the Astros just wouldn’t go away. Good thing Max Kepler was in beast mode. He blasted a walk-off homer, his second dinger of the game, to give the Twins a series victory over Houston.
Image courtesy of Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
Snapshot (chart via FanGraphs)
Attached Image: Snapshot411.png Attached Image: WinEx411.png
Here’s the walk-off homer:

For a moment, it appeared the Twins were going to turn a game-ending double play in the top of the ninth. Instead, Brian Dozier’s throw sailed past Fernando Rodney, who was coming over to cover first base. The ball bounced into the stands allowing two runs to score, tying the game at 8-8.

And if we go back even earlier in this game, there was a point where it really seemed unlikely any ninth inning dramatics were going to place.

Lance McCullers Jr. had a shut out going through three innings, but he fell apart in the fourth and the Twins pounced. The inning opened with back-to-back four-pitch walks followed by Ehrie Adianza and Brian Dozier each delivering RBI singles.

McCullers has extreme reverse splits over his career (.754 OPS vs. RHB, .628 OPS vs. LHB), and entering this game left-handed hitters had only gone 3-for-19 against him in 2018 with all three hits being singles. Instead of going to the bullpen at that point, McCullers remained in the game to face a lefty-heavy portion of the Twins lineup.

Joe Mauer walked to load the bases, then McCullers threw Eddie Rosario five-straight knuckle curves, the last of which was tattooed into the gap for a bases-clearing triple.

Logan Morrison followed with an RBI single and Kepler blasted a two-run homer to cap off an eight-run inning for the Twins. I enjoy a good bat flip, but Kepler may start a new trend with this savage mic drop he did after destroying that pitch:

Pretty impressive display from that trio of left-handed swingers. Unfortunately, that big lead didn’t last long.

Up 8-1, Kyle Gibson came back out in the top of the fifth and did some unraveling himself. After striking out the leadoff man, Gibson gave up four straight hits. Trevor Hildenberger took over with one out and the bases loaded. He could not stop the bleeding. Houston tallied four runs in the fifth to pull back to within three runs of the Twins. They scored again in the sixth.

Things could've gotten worst if it hadn't have been for Addison Reed. Zach Duke came in for the seventh inning and walked the leadoff batter. He struck out the next hitter, but then hit a guy and issued another free pass to load the bases. Reed got a massive strikeout and then induced an inning ending fly out from George Springer. Reed also pitched a scoreless eighth inning.

All’s well that ends well, but there are a few guys who I’m sure will be offering to buy Kepler dinner tonight. This series figured to be a huge test for the Twins. I'd say they nailed it.

Postgame With Molitor

Bullpen Usage
Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days:
Attached Image: Bullpen411.png
Next Three Games
Thu vs. CHW 7:10 pm CT
Fri vs. CHW 7:10 pm CT
Sat vs. CHW 1:10 pm CT

Last Three Games
MIN 4, HOU 1: Odorizzi, Twins Battle Their Way to Victory
HOU 2, MIN 0: Failure to Launch
SEA 11, MIN 4: That Escalated Quickly

More From Twins Daily
Logan Morrison: Bad or Just Bad Luck?
Changing Timeline: Is It Time To Start Worrying About Santana?
The Twins Almanac for April 8–14

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35 Comments

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twinssporto
Apr 11 2018 03:48 PM

These are great recaps!!!  Thanks Tom!

    • USAFChief, glunn, Jerr and 6 others like this
A demoralizing loss becomes an energizing win.

Nice.
    • glunn, Blake, Mike Sixel and 6 others like this
So, that tangible "turning the corner" for Gibson...

Attached Thumbnails

  • Attached Image: image.jpg
    • Twins33, Danchat, Sconnie and 6 others like this
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TheLeviathan
Apr 11 2018 03:53 PM

I freaking LOVE the way Kepler reacted after those homeruns.

    • Carole Keller, glunn, Jerr and 8 others like this

Some really good things happened today. The Astros can beat you in so many ways. Buxton got a hit. Even Morrison got a hit. Reed was great. The 8 run inning. And the Maximum walk off 2nd homer of the game! 

 

I personally can't stand Rodney being on this team, and expect him to blow leads. I am surprised if he doesn't. It is just a matter of time before this team eats it and moves on from him. But I expect Dozier to not make rookie decisions.......

 

"For a moment, it appeared the Twins were going to turn a game-ending double play in the top of the ninth. Instead, Brian Dozier’s throw sailed passed Fernando Rodney, who was coming over to cover first base. The ball bounced into the stands allowing two runs to score, tying the game at 8-8."

 

??? It was not even close. The runner had touched first base and the ball was still 10-15 feet or so from Rodney's glove..... that is if it was actually thrown to Rodney's glove. Dozier got nothing on the side arm throw, and seemed to even want to not throw it as he threw it. The lead (the metal) glove award for the game. That was an easy throw to not make. Dozier needs to lead (the verb) better.

 

Escobar got eaten up at third on that Stassi grounder, and a double play became another run scored. That was the double play, for a moment, that looked like it would happen, to me. Tough play, but Hildenberger had already let his 6th inherited runner score in his last 3 appearances in 5 days -and that run became the 7th, 7 of 7, 100% (Duke 3 - double on the second pitch and homer on his 4th, Rodgers 1 - single on the 2nd pitch, Gibson 3 - single on the first pitch today - they all say thank you, I'm sure). 7 out of 7 runners inherited scored in his last three appearances, plus 3 earned of his own! I don't understand why he is still in Minnesota instead of Rochester, and especially why MOY is still using him, and bringing him in with the bases loaded, today, again? I think Hildenberger will get it together, but he needs to do it in Rochester, and not in the bigs. He has options. He has no touch since he arrived in ST camp.

 

Great win, all in all. But we only get better if we look at the good and the bad.

 

 

    • Thrylos, dgwills, jud6312 and 1 other like this

They won. Wasn't pretty on teh run prevention side, but the run scoring side was nice. 

    • MN_ExPat likes this

That's an extremely quick look at bullpen usage, at least on my computer.

 

I was listening to the game, paused it to run some errands, and came back to find the score had gone from 0-1 to 8-1. Disappointed I'd missed it, I was delighted when I unpaused and the radio was still right where I'd left it.  By the time I got done listening to the 8 run rally, I checked the realtime score again and it was 8-6.  Sheesh.  

 

I'm a neophyte, but it seems like when Max means it, his bat speed is ferociously fast. Is there a device that measures bat speed yet?

 

Man, toe to toe with the Astros.  What was the final run tally?  13-11?

    • Carole Keller, Jerr, tarheeltwinsfan and 1 other like this

This win was really satisfying, but it also brings up a lot of mixed feelings about the season.  

  • I like a player like Rosario or Kepler instead of Sano because a K does nothing to move the game forward.
  • Gibson reminds me of Gibson - that's not good
  • Duke looks like his rehab is not over
  • Reed looks like the real thing
  • Escobar should have had an error - that was the ball Hildenberg wanted
  • Hildenberg should be in AAA until he gets settled, but then Duke and especially Rodney should be too.
  • Our young outfield is still terrific.
    • Oldgoat_MN, twinssouth, jud6312 and 1 other like this

 

So, that tangible "turning the corner" for Gibson...

But... but... the team won its 11th straight game when he starts.

    • Jerr, Mike Sixel, h2oface and 4 others like this

 

But... but... the team won its 11th straight game when he starts.

 

I can hear Gibson mumbling, "Bite Me!" He gets no respect. The Rodney Dangerfield of the Minnesota Twins.

    • Thrylos likes this
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Tom Froemming
Apr 11 2018 04:46 PM

 

"For a moment, it appeared the Twins were going to turn a game-ending double play in the top of the ninth. Instead, Brian Dozier’s throw sailed passed Fernando Rodney, who was coming over to cover first base. The ball bounced into the stands allowing two runs to score, tying the game at 8-8."

 

??? It was not even close. The runner had touched first base and the ball was still 10-15 feet or so from Rodney's glove..... that is if it was actually thrown to Rodney's glove. Dozier got nothing on the side arm throw, and seemed to even want to not throw it as he threw it. The lead (the metal) glove award for the game. That was an easy throw to not make. Dozier needs to lead (the verb) better.

You didn't think that may have been a double play ball off the bat?

    • Jerr and h2oface like this

This was Gibson pitching against one of the best teams in baseball. Yes, it was disappointing he didn't make it through the 5th, but, these things happen.

 

And, the starter for one of the best teams in baseball got knocked around pretty good.

 

I'd say Gibson has done okay so far.

 

I still remain cautiously optimistic about Mr. Gibson.

    • Jerr, h2oface, DocBauer and 6 others like this
Opponents are 23-12 against the league, and 4-6 against the Twins. Collectively they’ve shown resiliency, if not consistency.
    • Brock Beauchamp, Blake, Jerr and 7 others like this

It was very encouraging to see basically the WHOLE lineup get in on the action today... 

The potential is there to have big days from any one of those bats, and as we saw today, they can explode when everything clicks

 

When the weather warms up and the team morale and chemistry is higher, I believe this lineup will rake.

    • tarheeltwinsfan likes this

 

You didn't think that may have been a double play ball off the bat?

Cory Provus' voice did, therefore I did as well.

 

As long as the Twins keep winning, I like that Molitor is sticking with Hildenberger and others that are struggling.  There is something to be said for trust and loyalty.  Again, as long as the team is winning.  Builds good feelings all around to pick each other up.

 

Wish he'd give Moya a shot in some tighter spots.

 

 

    • Carole Keller, Dozier's Glorious Hair and MN_ExPat like this

 

Opponents are 23-12 against the league, and 4-6 against the Twins. Collectively they’ve shown resiliency, if not consistency.

Very true... we've ran into some hot teams to start the year 

    • MN_ExPat likes this

 

Opponents are 23-12 against the league, and 4-6 against the Twins. Collectively they’ve shown resiliency, if not consistency.

Yes, it was my impression the Twins have been playing pretty well against some good teams. Glad to see that impression confirmed.

    • tarheeltwinsfan and MN_ExPat like this
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Tom Froemming
Apr 11 2018 05:01 PM

I've now included video of both the non-double plays referenced in the comments.

    • glunn, Jerr and h2oface like this

I've now included video of both the non-double plays referenced in the comments.

hi Tom, is my phone being goofy, or is the bullpen chart missing from your article?
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minnesquatcha
Apr 11 2018 06:02 PM
I can't see the bullpen usage chart... Not sure if just me or what...

 

You didn't think that may have been a double play ball off the bat?

 

OK.... maybe for a second... two max. Definitely not anywhere close to a moment. ;-)

(I was screaming don't throw it. I mean, it was Rodney taking the throw!)

 

This walk off win was nice, but the Twins are gonna need a long start from Berrios tomorrow.

    • Sconnie likes this
How long until Kepler's hitting after Mauer against RHP? Hope the breakout continues.
    • Sconnie, tarheeltwinsfan and Taildragger8791 like this

Is it just me, or does Das Kepler have sick bat speed through the zone.....

    • Jerr, Twins33 and DocBauer like this
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Tom Froemming
Apr 11 2018 08:10 PM

 

hi Tom, is my phone being goofy, or is the bullpen chart missing from your article?

You should be able to see all the usual bells & whistles now.


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