MIN 9, HOU 5: Bats Thrive, Pitching Survives
Image courtesy of © Erik Williams-USA TODAY SportsBox Score
Odorizzi: 5.2 IP, 8 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 63% strikes
Home Runs: Castro (1), Polanco (4)
Multi-Hit Games: Polanco (4-5, 2B, HR), Cruz (2-5, both infield hits)
WPA of +0.1: Odorizzi (.157), Cron (.146), Polanco (.149), Kepler (.112)
WPA of -0.1: none
(chart via FanGraphs)
Lowest High-Hanging Fruit
This is the game in this series that the Twins really needed. On Tuesday they’ll face Wade Miley (LHP, 3.32 ERA) and on Wednesday Justin Verlander (3.00 ERA, 38K). Tonight they faced Brad Peacock, who is far from a pushover, but is Houston's fifth starter and hadn’t pitched as a starter in two weeks.
But that doesn’t mean it was low-hanging fruit. The Astros were still favored. Vegas gave them a 60% chance of winning.
Survive and Advance
Given the offense was seeing the back of the Astros' rotation, the Twins biggest challenge was keeping the Astros' lineup relatively in check for nine innings. Twins starting pitching hasn’t had a lot of success getting much past the fifth inning, even with good starts.
Plus, after playing (and winning) three games over the last two days, the Twins two best relievers were probably unavailable. Taylor Rogers threw 45 pitches Saturday and Sunday, and Trevor Hildenberger threw 38, so it was unlikely either was going to be used except in the direst of emergencies.
Odorizzi's performance gave him the highest Win Probability Added (WPA) score, and it probably underplays just how valuable he was. He navigated the Astros lineup almost completely three times. You might remember that navigating a lineup three times was not Odorizzi’s strong suit last year: opponents had a 1.159 OPS against him when facing him a third time. This time he gutted his way through 5 2/3 IP, giving up just two runs. Trevor May, who also threw 20 pitches yesterday, got the last out of the sixth.
That left three fairly high-leverage innings to navigate and four available bullpen arms: RHP (and closer) Blake Parker, RHP Ryne Harper, RHP Tyler Duffey and LHP Adalberto Mejia. Manager Rocco Baldelli chose Harper for the seventh inning, Mejia for the eighth and Parker for the ninth. Harper gave up a three-run home run on a questionable pitch choice, but the rest of the trio held. The Twins had the game they needed, pieced together from some unlikely names.
Defensive Play Of The Game
In the bottom of the fourth, with the Twins leading 3-1, Odorizzi escaped a possible big inning thanks to an Eddie Rosario to Jonathan Schoop to Jason Catro relay that cut down Josh Reddick at the plate. Enjoy:
The firepower that the Twins displayed in Baltimore continued in Houston, with a couple of noteworthy rebounds. Jorge Polanco, after a mini-slump in Baltimore and a rough first at-bat, had another monster game. Seriously, he has a .776 slugging percentage. That's obscene. Jason Castro, who entered the game hitting .143, left the game with an .823 OPS and hit his first home run this year. And Nelson Cruz beat out two infield singles that left Twins announcer Dick Bremer joking about the imminent apocalypse. Watching the top half of the innings was legitimately fun all night.
Alternately, the bottom half was legitimately nerve-racking, but a middle-of-the-rotation starter and some middle relief arms did anything but a middling job. The Twins stole a game in Houston while simultaneously resting some of their more valuable bullpen arms. That can only help as they face even more difficult pitching the next two nights.
Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days. It looks like the only bullpen arm who might be held back is Trevor May:
Next Three Games
Tue at HOU, 7:10 pm CT (Pineda-Miley)
Wed at HOU, 7:10 pm CT (TBD-Verlander)
Fri vs BLT, 7:10 pm CT (Berrios?-Cobb?)
MIN 4, BAL 3: Gibby Good, Hildy Holds, Rogers Saves the Sweep
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