MIN 3, STL 0: Hill Pitches 5 Shutout Innings in Twins Debut
Image courtesy of © Brad Rempel-USA TODAY SportsBox Score
Hill: 5.0 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K
Home Runs: Rosario (1)
Top 3 WPA: Hill .281, Cruz .123, Rosario .064
Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs):
Rich Hill finally made his first start in a Twins uniform, after being scratched from his scheduled start on Saturday. For Twins fans who didn’t know what they could expect from the 40-year-old Hill, they should take nothing but positives from this start. Hill pitched five scoreless innings with two strikeouts, all while allowing just two hits and one walk. Hill barely had to work up a sweat, throwing just 68 pitches before Rocco Baldelli decided that was a job well done, and turn the game over to the bullpen.
His catcher on Wednesday was fellow veteran Alex Avila who said, "With him (Hill), it's not too difficult to call a game. Two pitches. Knowing when to go in, stay away, go up, stay down." He later added, "He was great. I barely broke a sweat."
Hill noted, "It felt great to get back out there."
Hill tipped his cap to the doctors that completed his surgery, then noted the work put in to come back. "There were a lot of days at home, throwing by myself at a field with a net to throw my bullpens."
Luis Arraez got his first start in the leadoff spot this season and played the role to perfection, drawing a leadoff walk in the first. However, he was still stranded at first with two-outs when Nelson Cruz came up and drove him in with a double into the right-field gap, giving the Twins an early 1-0 lead. A big part of this at-bat was Cruz working the count full, after falling behind 1-2. This allowed Arraez to leave early from first and scored easily on the Cruz double.
The Twins added to their lead with two more runs in the bottom of the 4th. They got their first run of the inning on Eddie Rosario’s first home run of the season.
Rosario said after the game, "In the last couple of games, I wanted to select good pitches to hit, but I felt a little late on strikes. So today I wanted to be a little more aggressive tonight."
The bottom of the order was then able to put together a two-out rally, as Jake Cave and Marwin Gonzalez reached on a hit-by-pitch and a walk, respectively, before Alex Avila picked up his first RBI with the Twins on a soft single to left, scoring Cave from second.
Tyler Duffey looked very impressive in his inning of work, sitting down the top of the Cardinals’ lineup 1-2-3, all three coming on strikeouts. Dick Bremer and Roy Smalley mentioned on the broadcast how confident Duffey looks when he is out there pitching, and it is hard not to be with the success he has had since the beginning of the 2019 season. At this point, an argument can be made that Duffey is the second-best reliever, behind Taylor Rogers, in what is a very deep Twins bullpen.
After Duffey worked the 6th, Baldelli called on Sergio Romo in the 7th for his second consecutive night of work, and like Duffey, Romo set the Cardinals hitters down 1-2-3. The second and third outs of the inning came on flyballs to newly inserted centerfielder Aaron Whitefield, who replaced Miguel Sano in the lineup, and moved Jake Cave over right and Marwin Gonzalez in to first.
Regarding the move, Baldelli said it was all planned out, "Everything is great with Miggy. There's a few reasons why we make that move. While we have a 30-man roster, we're able to take advantage of some real strengths of our guys. Today's a day where - we weren't going to talk about it before the game - but a day we were going to try to keep Buck off of his feet. A day were were going to keep Kep off his feet. What were were able to do is bring in a really fast, really good outfielder and play him out there for a couple of innings, in Whitefield and he went out there and did a really nice job. In order to do that, we have to make a move during the game. You look at our lineup, and you really don't want to take any of our guys out of the game, but today it was going to be Miggy. I'm sure we'll see him back in there very soon. He's doing fine."
In the bottom of the inning the Twins had an excellent chance to add onto their lead, after getting 1st and 3rd with only one out, after singles from Marwin Gonzalez and Luis Arraez. However, the Twins were unable to get a run across, as Josh Donaldson grounded into a fielder’s choice, getting Gonzalez out in a rundown between home and third, before Jorge Polanco fly out to end the inning.
Tyler Clippard got the call in the 8th inning and gave the Twins a bit of a scare to start the inning. After giving up a leadoff single to Dexter Fowler, Clippard fell behind Matt Carpenter 3-0 before coming back to strike Carpenter out. He then got the pinch-hitter Matt Wieters to pop out to Luis Arraez, who doubled-up a stealing Fowler at first to end the inning.
In the 9th, Taylor Rogers came in for his first appearance of the season, picking up the save in what was an easy inning of work for the Twins closer. The brass of the Twins bullpen, which includes Rogers, along with Sergio Romo, Tyler Duffey, Trevor May, Tyler Clippard and Cody Stashak have been very impressive to start the season. So far, they have combined to pitch 13 innings, while allowing just one run and striking out 19 batters.
Baldelli acknowledged after the game, "Our guys are really good baseball players. They know that we're not going to come out and put up five or ten runs every single game. That's not how it works. Especially when you play good teams."
Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet
After the game, Nick Nelson, Matthew Braun, Lucas Seehafer and John Bonnes discussed the game, looked forward to the Cleveland series and answered questions from a live virtual audience. You can download the podcast or watch the video below:
Seth Stohs contributed the post-game player and manager quotes to this article.
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