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Twins 5, Pirates 4: Nelson Cruz Delivers a Walk-Off Hit to Cap Comeback

Nelson Cruz put the finishing touch on a Twins comeback, delivering a walk-off hit to score Jorge Polanco in the bottom of the ninth inning. Pittsburgh scored the first four runs of this game but could not build upon its lead, nor keep the Twins’ lineup at bay.
Image courtesy of © Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Box Score
Thorpe: 4.0 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 3 K
Home Runs: None
Top 3 WPA: Kepler .459, Wisler .207, Cruz .178
Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs):
Attached Image: Winchart.png

The night didn’t start off all the optimistic for the Twins, as the Pirates jumped over Lewis Thorpe right from the get-go, as leadoff hitter Cole Tucker took Thorpe deep on the first pitch of the game.

Thorpe said, "It was a bit of a reality check. You're not expecting him to swing first pitch, then all of a sudden, he lets loose and it gets over the fence. That's baseball."

After cruising through the rest of the first, Thorpe did anything but in the rest of his outing. In the second inning, the Pirate strung together three straight singles to tack on another run. Then in the fourth it was walks that did Thorpe in, as he gave up four walks and a double to the seven batters that he faced that inning. Luckily though, the Pirates still only managed to bring one run across in that inning.

Following the game, Thorpe said, "I feel fine. I don't know it was tonight, but hopefully I can get that velo back, but just put this one behind me and go from here."

After Thorpe’s disappointing start, Jorge Alcala was brought in to make his 2020 debut. Alcala also struggled with his command in the fifth, but it was a couple of hits that helped the Pirates take on another run in the fifth, increasing their lead to four. The sixth inning, however, was a very impressive one for the young pitcher, as Alcala seemed to find his rhythm on his way to an easy 1-2-3 inning.

The Twins bats were very silent during the first half of the game. Through the first five innings of the game, Twins failed to get a runner into scoring position, as the only two runners to reach base were Max Kepler and Nelson Cruz on singles in the second a fourth innings, respectively.

That narrative all changed in the bottom of the sixth, when the Twins used a patient approach to score four two-out runs to tie the game back up. Mitch Garver, Miguel Sano, Marwin Gonzalez, Jake Cave and Byron Buxton all drew walks in the inning, but it was two big hits that did the damage in the inning. Nelson Cruz got the Twins on the board with a two-out squibber to beat the shift and bring Garver home for the first run of the inning. Then a couple batters later Max Kepler came through with this massive double, to bring the lead down to one.



The Pirates went to the bullpen after that Kepler double, but that decision didn’t pan out well for them as reliever Miguel Del Pozo walked all three batters that he faced, which included a wild pitch that brought Kepler home from third as the game’s tying run.

Pirates manager Derek Shelton then turned the game over to Chris Stratton to face Ehire Adrianza. In his second at-bat of the inning, Adrianza made an excellent bid for a go-ahead base hit, but he was robbed by a great catch by Pirates left fielder Bryan Reynolds.

After pitching a scoreless inning and a third in yesterday’s ballgame, Matt Wisler was back out on the mound tonight, in a suddenly meaningful spot. Just like he did against the Indians on Sunday, Wisler looked very impressive tonight retiring all six batters that he faced.

Wisler said, "Coming into the game, my job in that situation is just to try to keep the team where it's at."

Taylor Rogers then came in to pitch a scoreless ninth, giving the Twins bats a chance to end it in the ninth.

Jorge Polanco pinch-hit for Ehire Adrianza to leadoff the inning off of former Twins farmhand NIck Burdi, and blooped a single out into left-field. He then advanced to second on a passed ball, during the Mitch Garver plate appearance, that eventually resulted in a walk, putting runners on first and second with nobody out. The next batter was Luis Arraez, why drilled a line drive into the right-centerfield gap, that was hauled in by Pirates right fielder Guillermo Heredia. However, both Polanco and Garver were able to tag-up on the play.

That set the table for Nelson Cruz, who surprisingly was not intentionally walked to load the bases for Miguel Sano.

Cruz said, "I thought maybe they would pitch around me."

Cruz took full advantage of the situation and drove a deep fly ball to the warning track in right-centerfield that drop for a walk-off base hit.



Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet
Attached Image: Bullpen.png

Postgame Pint
A live virtual audience joined John Bonnes, Cody Christie, Ted Schwerzler and Jeremy Nygaard and discussed the Minnesota Twins' walkoff 5-4 win over the Pirates.




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Seth Stohs contributed quotes to this article.

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19 Comments

Photo
milldaddy35
Aug 03 2020 09:34 PM

That was far from a pretty game, but I was convinced we were toast after being down 4-0. Was nice to see some good at-bats from our hitters. Not a huge fan of Thorpe, but Alcala, Wisler, and Rogers were all really good down the stretch of this game. Kepler hitting the ball hard off of a lefty is a positive development, and Cruz continues to not age. Hopefully Berrios is on tomorrow and can give the bullpen another day of well earned rest.

 

    • Danchat, mikelink45, DocBauer and 4 others like this
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VivaBomboRivera!
Aug 03 2020 09:51 PM

Matt Wisler was a bargain. 

    • birdwatcher, spycake, DocBauer and 3 others like this

Matt Wisler was a bargain. 

I was an extreme skeptic and am happy to be proven wrong.
 

    • birdwatcher, spycake, mikelink45 and 4 others like this
Just gone with the game thread and a read here of the overview. Just a bunch of thoughts to lay out there.

1] Thorpe is better than this. His milb success says so, and the brief glimpses of him in 2019 at the ML level also says so. I won't say he was pitching "scared" but I will say he looked nervous. Felt like he was aiming instead of throwing. Whatever personal issues he was dealing with in ST...and I'm not making light...an abbreviated summer training hasn't resolved yet. At least on the mound. The Twins clearly believe in his potential and I love that they are sticking with him and working with him. I don't think he's going to be ready, not really, until 2021. But that doesn't mean he can't still gain confidence and refine his game in 2020, but I was disappointed tonight.

2] Remember when Wisler was just like some of the rule V guys we picked up that never turned out and might just sneak on to the roster for an extended look-see? While not "hairy" and not throwing frisbee style, guy reminds me of a young Romo. That slider can be devastating! Mourneau touched on the topic with a story in his younger days, and brought Johnson and the modern Twins philosophy in; if you've got a special pitch, use it. Might have a real find here.

3] No quit in this team, which we also saw last season. And you won't win them all. And patience can be a virtue. And this is true for a team that seems to balance aggressiveness along with patience. (And they obviously are not firing on all cylinders yet offensively, no surprise there). But there is too much talent/ability for "crafty" SP to make this team look so bad some days.

4] You take all the wins you can get. Even the ones you may not "deserve" because there are also games you should win but don't. So never apologize for the ones you sneak out.
    • mikelink45, JoshDungan1, bighat and 4 others like this

Two more good relief pitchers in Matt Wisler and Jorge Alcala? 

 

"Pen Pals," indeed. I'm thinking the Stealth Fighters. 

    • birdwatcher, mikelink45 and JoshDungan1 like this
Photo
VivaBomboRivera!
Aug 04 2020 01:52 AM

I was an extreme skeptic and am happy to be proven wrong.
 

All the sliders you can eat for just $725,000!

    • birdwatcher, spycake, DocBauer and 4 others like this

Thorpe just didn't have great stuff or command last night and doesn't really know how to pitch through that yet. It's not like he was awful. He probably would have been better served this year to start in AAA, work on stuff, build up consistency, etc but this year is what it is. I still like his potential.

 

Alcala was exciting. He can definitely throw some serious heat. I think I agree with Morneau that he just needed to get comfortable out there. He looked like he was trusting his stuff and the fastball started getting into the upper 90's...he looks like a weapon in the back of the bullpen sooner rather than later.

    • birdwatcher, 70charger, DocBauer and 3 others like this

Thorpe isa puzzle, starting with his ST absence.This should have been his year.He was ready the end of last year and now he just has not looked like the pitcher we hope will be in future rotations.I am sure Wes is working on this.Thorpe and Smeltzer were supposed to be with Dobnak in the reserve corp, but only Dobnak has taken the ball and made the most of it.After these three, who would be the next rotation arm in the system?Would it be Poppen or is there someone else in St Paul.I still wish Balazovic was there. 

Photo
MMMordabito
Aug 04 2020 08:05 AM

Good teams find ways to win, and bad teams find ways to lose. 

 

It's always fun to watch a walk-off, but that's about as close as I've seen a team come to saying, "Here, take this win. We don't want it."

 

I think Morneau nailed it with assuming Shelton was trying to see how guys performed in different situations.

 

 

    • DocBauer, PDX Twin and JoshDungan1 like this
Photo
Alex Schieferdecker
Aug 04 2020 08:14 AM

It's remarkable that even after a string of close games, there's still juice left in the bullpen because of how deep it is. Of course, ideally you win this Tuesday game with Poppen pitching a significant amount, and Stashak to close any doors. But you've got Romo and Duffey on a day of rest if needed as well.

    • birdwatcher likes this
Thorpe looked like Gibby out there. Afraid his stuff isn’t good enough
Photo
puckstopper1
Aug 04 2020 08:53 AM

 

Matt Wisler was a bargain. 

I don't know how Wisler is doing it, but I certainly hope he keeps it up. 

 

With the lack of innings out of the SPs, the Twins are going to need more of these bullpen arms to contribute.

 

All the sliders you can eat for just $725,000!

Even better -- prorated for 60 games, it's actually about $269k!

Photo
birdwatcher
Aug 04 2020 09:51 AM

 

Matt Wisler was a bargain. 

 

 

Credit to the Pro Scouting department for both Wisler and Alcala, who has now out-performed Ryan Pressly of the hated Houston Astros. Hope Pressly recovers from his sore elbow, but I also really hope Houston is so bad they have to use Fernando Rodney, who they just signed.

I know it benefitted the Twins last night, but it was kind of painful to watch Miguel Del Pozo be forced to throw to 3 batters. I mean, Shelton knows the rules and probably shouldn't have brought him into that situation to begin with, so he deserves plenty of blame, but I don't like that rule.

    • USAFChief, EPEZRider and VivaBomboRivera! like this

I know it benefitted the Twins last night, but it was kind of painful to watch Miguel Del Pozo be forced to throw to 3 batters. I mean, Shelton knows the rules and probably shouldn't have brought him into that situation to begin with, so he deserves plenty of blame, but I don't like that rule.


It's an embarrassment to MLB that Del Poso is on a roster. 16 BBs in 11 career IP.

That's not major league baseball.
    • spycake, JoshDungan1, jkcarew and 1 other like this

 

Credit to the Pro Scouting department for both Wisler and Alcala, who has now out-performed Ryan Pressly of the hated Houston Astros.

Out-performed in a one-game sample in 2020?

 

Here's how meaningful a one-game sample is: in Pressly's lone 2020 outing so far, he gave up 1 "earned" run in 2/3 of an inning -- and it was a due to a leadoff flyball misplayed into a triple, who only scored on an infield single with 2 outs by Anthony Rendon. Switch contexts, and I'm not sure Pressly and Alcala wouldn't have exchanged results too.

 

Credit Alcala for settling into a decent outing, but let's not bring specious comparisons into play quite yet!

    • dbminn and railmarshalljon like this

 

It's an embarrassment to MLB that Del Poso is on a roster. 16 BBs in 11 career IP.

That's not major league baseball.

And that's actually tempered by his more "reasonable" 8 BB in 9.1 IP last year.

 

in 2020, he has 8 BB in 1.2 IP now. (5 in 1.2 IP entering yesterday's game.) And yet Shelton brought him in to protect a lead in the 6th inning and a runner already in scoring position, knowing he'd either have to escape the inning of face a minimum of 3 batters, and with at least 3 better relievers apparently available...

    • JoshDungan1 likes this
Boy....I wonder how the rest of the AL teams trying to make the playoffs feel about how Shelton managed that game against his buddy? Wait...8 teams will make the playoffs, which is more than are actually trying. Never mind. If you take away last night’s outing...against the closest thing to a AAA lineup that you can see in a ‘regular season’ mlb game...Wisler had given up 6 base runners in 3.2 innings, so...I’m not sure I should be exited by Wisler, or horrified by Thorpe. Hate to say it, I’m leaning toward horrified by Thorpe. He had absolutely nothing.