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MIN 3, STL 0: Hill Pitches 5 Shutout Innings in Twins Debut

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Rich Hill capped a nice string of Twins pitching debuts by delivering five innings of shutout ball, surrendering just a pair of hits in the process. The new-look Twins rotation is off to a strong start, as Hill, Homer Bailey and Kenta Maeda each earned a victory the past three games.Box 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):

Download attachment: Winchart.png


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

Download attachment: Bullpen.png


Postgame Pint

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.


Click here to view the article

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There might be better ones out there, but dear lord do I love our bullpen. Just a great mix of flame throwers and veterans with a couple of guys able to give you a couple of innings in case of a short start. Looking forward to seeing what Wisler brings to the table, as I missed both of his appearances thus far.

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"Just a great mix of flame throwers and veterans" -- yes! So fun to watch.


Style makes fights, that old boxing saying, feels like it can be true with baseball, too, with all the 1-on-1 match-ups...


And I love so many of the different styles on this team -- batters and pitchers.


You got a barrel-to-ball Carew-acolyte in Arraez; wildman Rosario, equally ready to thrill or infuriate; stoic, ultra-professional Polanco, quietly improving and impressing; the humble GOD-veteran Cruz; on and on, up and down the order, they're all so different -- except that they ALL grind out at-bats, grinding down opposing starters.


And our pitchers: fastidious Machina, the would-be Ace hoping to harness his super stuff (and emotions); then, alongside him, 40-year old Hill tossing only two pitches, but one's a bender that's just a delight to watch; in relief, you've got the goofy, guileful Romo who stands out there like a toreador tossing his confounding, 78-mph sliders, and then the next inning, batters might have to face the straight-up, square-jawed power of May or amped-up Duffy; then, you've got bespectacled Clippard somehow doing his veteran-with-a-change-up thing... and then, as a capper, there's the calm, almost "aw shucks" demeanor of Rodgers while he just destroys opponents' 9th-inning hopes with his brutal offerings -- so many different styles!


I know I'm overly exuberant -- probably enhanced by my pent-up yen for Twins b-ball...


But, man: I just LOVE the different styles and personalities on this team!

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In a shortened 60 games season, every game is worth 2.7 games compared to a regular 162 game schedule.


Based on that, the Twins current 4-1 record in a 60 game schedule translates to an 11-3 record in a 162 game schedule.


In other words, they are off to an excellent start!


Bring on the Tribe!

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Once through the rotation - that was pretty spectacular.  Bullpen is going great with the one loss exception, but the rotation needs more applause.  How many runs - 10 in five games and half of them came against our number one in the first game.  That is some great pitching and ultimately as these starters heat up and go longer, the game is shortened for the BP. 


We have had some bats really come through, but we need Garver, Donaldson, Sano, Kepler to heat up.  Even two HRs opening day is not enough Max and the other three need to get their timing down and start driving the ball again.  Sano is just flailing. 


And Byron, one game out of five, I am not sure what I expect any more.  

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Rogers looked VERY sharp.


LaVelle E. Neal said on Twitter that getting 5 innings from Hill in a good appearance is all we should really expect at this point. He's got some mileage but he can still get it done and he did so last night.


Watching Ponce de Leon pitch in those first two innings was painful. I am totally against a pitch clock, but then you see guys like that and you understand why it's under consideration.


Cards can't be too happy leaving MPLS with 3 total runs after facing Homer Bailey and Rich Hill. Woof. The White Sox looked like a much more complete team than St. Louis IMO.


Big series coming up.

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Of all the starters, Hill has pitched the best (it was great that he removed all doubts about his arm) . W/ the line up getting crucial 2 outs hits to score the 3 runs needed to win the game in support. Baldelli brought out all the big guns in the BP to secure the win. Next to Hill, Dobnak pitched  the best & could have won his game if he had the BP support the other starters had. Let`s see what Odo can do & Berrios bounce back in our series against CLE. Go Twins

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A week ago I was a bit concerned that the St. Louis series with Bailey and Hill starting could be a real challenge. Sure was, for the Cards!


And kudos to the FO for their plan this winter. While all the big names chose elsewhere, they quietly went out and got three veterans to give this rotation unbelievable depth. Yes, its only five games and once thru the rotation, but the three guys they brought in had the three best games and we are 4-1. Is it possible Berrios is going to prove to be the weakest link?


Can't say too much about that bullpen. After so many years of promise combined with struggles, can not imagine how pleased Mr. Duffey must be with himself.



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Very nice performance by Hill. I think the combination of the expanded roster and Hill's age/injury status had them playing safe with him last night; with that pitch count I would expect him to roll out for the 6th under normal circumstances. But I can't say I have a problem with not pushing it and allowing him to build up to 80-90 pitches, especially with the bullpen depth we have.


Duffey looked great, really nice to see. He's a weapon, and will definitely be a go-to guy in late innings.


The Sergio Romo Experience remains a surreal, hilarious, and awesome show. He's like 9000 years old, he's basically got one pitch, he's got a trick knee that could go on him at any minute...and he can still make hitters look silly. There aren't too many pitchers who can cross up a major league hitter with an 85 mph "fastball". He's a delight.

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Donaldson's swing looks all kinds of messed up right now. There is no one outside the AL Central I have watched swing as much as Donaldson over the past seven years. I absolutely love watching him swing the bat. It's gorgeous.

The swing he is putting on the ball right now is not that swing I love. He is getting loaded late and not able to get his hands in his proper position. His hips are not as far into their rotation as they have been in the past when his bat is entering the hitting zone.


As a result, he is rushing his bat thru the zone, looking like he is trying to catch up to the baseball while his feet are still "flat", swinging level or even down at a ball. We are seeing a lot of ground balls from him as a result. 

On his follow thru, his hands are often chest high, where in the past his hands have been at earhole height. 

This is THE guy that popularized the 10-15 degree swing plane in the pop culture of MLB fans. The camera caught him last night at a monitor in the dugout talking to guys about his swing and pointing something out. I'm sure he is as aware of this issue as I am. His last PA of the night he did have a better swing plane, but it was still off time. He swings so hard and he is still hitting the ball with great exit velos, but the launch angle is Eric Hosmer-like.

I don't know if this is a timing issue with a short ramp-up or if he has some nagging leg issue going on. He has pulled up from a few runs looking like he has a cramp going on. He has a notorious history with calf issues so it is something to watch.

I hope it's just rust. I have no doubt he can turn that around if that is the case. 

If it's a barking calf, this may not be as quick of a fix.

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