MIN 3, KC 1: Walk-Off Willians
Image courtesy of © Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY SportsSnapshot (chart via FanGraphs)
De Jong: 59 Game Score, 4.0 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 4 BB, 5 K, 56.2% strikes (41 of 73 pitches)
Home Runs: Astudillo
Multi-Hit Games: Astudillo (2-for-4, HR)
WPA of 0.1 or higher: Astudillo .324, De Jong .225, Littell .137, Rogers .126
WPA of -0.1 or lower: Rosario -.106
If you think about it, Astudillo isn't even really supposed to be here, which makes his success to this point all the more fun. The Twins catching duo was supposed to be Jason Castro and Mitch Garver, of course, but even after Castro went down Bobby Wilson came up.
Even down in Rochester, the Twins were constantly cycling through other catchers. They brought in Cameron Rupp, who has 287 MLB starts behind the plate to his credit, and after Rupp departed they added Juan Graterol, who (unlike Astudillo) had some MLB time prior to this season.
Astudillo's defensive flexibility has obviously made him an attractive piece, but it's still pretty remarkable the way things have turned out for him this season, and really over his career. The walk-off was Astudillo's 15th home run of the season (three with the Twins and 12 more with the Red Wings). He had 17 in 560 minor league games coming into this season.
De Jong, who was acquired in the Zach Duke trade, threw a lot of pitches considering how brief his start was, 73 total. I guess that’s what happens when you strike out five batters and walk four over four innings. He gave up only one hit, a single that was quickly erased by a 5-4-3 double play.
De Jong relied on his four-seam fastball, throwing it 57.5 percent of the time according to Baseball Savant. He averaged 89.7 mph with that pitch, topping out at 92.1. His main secondary offerings were his changeup and slider, which he threw 15 and 13 times, respectively. While there wasn’t much impressive about his stuff, De Jong did get nine swinging strikes on those 73 pitches he threw.
De Jong was originally drafted in the second round by the Blue Jays, was eventually dealt to the Dodgers, then again to the Mariners. He made his major league debut last season with Seattle, pitching to a 6.35 ERA and 1.55 WHIP over 28 1/3 innings.
Zack Littell piggybacked off De Jong’s start, taking over in the fifth inning. He was pumping in more impressive velo with his four seamer, topping out at 96 mph, but the Royals actually handled him a little better than De Jong.
Littell gave up two hits, one being a solo home run, over his 3 1/3 innings. He only got one strikeout, but didn’t walk anybody and threw 35 of his 49 pitches for strikes (71.4 percent). He induced only three swinging strikes.
After giving up seven earned runs over 3 1/3 innings in the first two appearances of his MLB career, Littell has toned that down to three earned over 7 1/3 innings in his two outings since.
It was an encouraging performance from the pair of young pitchers. Obviously both of these guys are being developed to go more than three or four innings, but with expanded rosters, piggybacking seems like an effective way to help get these guys more opportunities.
Taylor Rogers was next up, and he delivered his 20th consecutive scoreless outing. He struck out three of the four batters he faced, the other reached on a hit by pitch. Trevor Hildenberger retired the only two batters he faced to close out the ninth, putting him in the position to earn the win.
The Twins’ lineup just couldn’t string together much offense. Robbie Grossman led off the second inning with a double and was driven home on a single by Ehire Adrianza. They eventually left runners on first and second base that inning, did the same thing in the third inning, then didn’t get a runner into scoring position again until the ninth.
Max Kepler hit a two-out double in the ninth, giving Astudillo the opportunity be the hero. Willians, who was the behind the plate today, was 2-for-4 and is now hitting .297 with a .911 OPS.
Postgame With Astudillo
Next Three Games
Mon vs. NYY, 7:10 pm CT: Kyle Gibson vs. TBD
Tue vs. NYY, 7:10 pm CT: TBD
Wed vs. NYY, 7:10 pm CT: Jake Odorizzi vs. TBD
Last Three Games
KC 4, MIN 1: Good, Great, GRAND, WONDERFUL!
MIN 10, KC 6: It’s a Lot Easier to Beat Bad Teams
HOU 9, MIN 1: The Astros Are Really Good At Baseball
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