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Game Recap: Twins 2, Pirates 0


J.A. Happ carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning Friday night and both Willians Astudillo and Jake Cave hit home runs. Who saw that coming!? Continue reading for more on tonight’s 2-0 Twins victory over Pittsburgh.Box Score

Happ: 7.1 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 3 K

Home Runs: Astudillo (1), Cave (1)

Top 3 WPA: Happ .406, Duffey .140, Astudillo .104

Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs):

Download attachment: chart.png

 

Happ takes a no-hitter into the eighth

 

We were all wondering how J.A. Happ’s outing would turn out to be, after ten days since his last start. I don’t think anyone imagined it would be this brilliant, as he took a no-hit bid into the eighth inning, on a little over 90 pitches, providing the Twins with his best start of the year.

 

The lefty took care of the Pirate lineup with ease, as it took him only 75 pitches to pitch through the sixth. Even though he allowed six hard-hit balls throughout his start, the only time he came close to losing the no-no before the eighth was when Wilmer Difo actually reached first on a ground ball in the fifth but was then called out for batter interference. Minnesota caught a huge break there.

 

The no-hit bid came to a conclusion in the eighth. Todd Frazier grounded out after jumping on the first pitch, Happ’s 88th of the game. Then, he did get ahead of Jacob Stallings next, 1-2, but three pitches later the catcher smacked a 106 mph double to corner left, ending Happs amazing start.

 

 

Happ’s ERA is now down to 1.69 after three starts, which would be good for the ninth-best in the majors if he qualified.

 

Bats pick up where they left off. Then slow down

 

After the offense had an excruciatingly bad performance against the A’s on Tuesday’s doubleheader, failing to score and hitting a combined seven hits in the two games, they exploded for 12 runs scored on 18 hits during game three of the series. Tonight, they kept the ball rolling a bit, going for five hits in the first five innings.

 

Two of these went yard. First, La Tortuga hit his first of the year in the third, chasing a fastball way outside the zone, in his best Eddie Rosario impression:

 

 

The Twins threatened again in the fourth when Nelson Cruz hit a 116 mph rocket and was followed by an infield single by Byron Buxton. However, they stranded both runners. Then, in the fifth, it was time for Jake Cave to go oppo for his first of the year, making it 2-0 Twins:

 

 

Donaldson had his first hitless game of the season, but even without a hit, his performance at the plate looked really good:

 

 

As a matter of fact, after Cave’s home run in the fifth, Minnesota never got another hit, having its final 11 batters retired.

 

Duffey, Rogers secure the W

 

Fortunately, the lack of run support wasn’t a problem. Things didn’t start well when Tyler Duffey took over for Happ in the eighth, as he got ahead of Difo with 0-2 in the count, but then lost him after four consecutive balls. With two men on, we’ve all started having Oakland flashbacks.

 

However, that was all the scare we had to experience. He was perfect after the walk, retiring the next two batters on five pitches and really showing his excitement after an inning-ending strikeout. He also struck out Phillip Evans to open the ninth, before Taylor Rogers took over. He took care of the last two batters with no problems, in spite of some hard-fought at bats.

 

Postgame Interview

 

Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet

Click here to see the bullpen usage over the past five days (link opens a Google Sheet).

 

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Woo!! Feels good to be back in the win column. Happ was really good tonight. After the second inning I was wondering if he was going to be able to get through 5 innings, but he bounced back. The defense was really good tonight, especially polo making some plays I don’t think we would’ve seen him make in the past. Lineup was off balance, but I was really impressed with brubaker; his fastball had a ton of movement. Nice to see cave and astudillo make an impact on the game, and Duffey and Rogers both lock things down. I know neither guy got a hit tonight, but JD and AK both hit the ball hard a lot.

 

Twins win!!

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POSITIVES--The start was encouraging from Happ (granted, against the worst team in the league by a country mile). The defense didn't mess up tonight. The bullpen also held the fort for once.

 

NEGATIVES--The offense. These no-name Pittsburgh pitchers came here and shut us down, I don't like that. Yeah, it's colder rn and therefore there won't be as much offense, but it's concerning.

 

Overall, good to see a win for once.

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POSITIVES--The start was encouraging from Happ (granted, against the worst team in the league by a country mile). The defense didn't mess up tonight. The bullpen also held the fort for once.

 

NEGATIVES--The offense. These no-name Pittsburgh pitchers came here and shut us down, I don't like that. Yeah, it's colder rn and therefore there won't be as much offense, but it's concerning.

 

Overall, good to see a win for once.

Don’t look now, but the 2 runs off brubaker are the most hes allowed all year, as are the 5 hits. I know it’s early, but I was really impressed with him tonight.

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The best thing on the night was to see Astudillo hit that high pitch for an HR. Looks like someone lit a fire under Cave, maybe he could see himself out the door.

 

I don't understand why so many fans are so down on Astudillo? He's one of the better hitters and adequately covers the holes. He plays 1B pretty well for only being 5'9''.

 

I don't want to be a wet blanket but I'm still not that impressed with Happ. The best thing he did was keeping the ball in the field and was fortunate to have the ball hit right at players. I was more impressed with Brubaker. I'm super happy that we were fortunate to have won this one.

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"Was I the only one expecting Rocco to pull Happ after 5 innings?"

 

No.

 

He's supposed to be a smart guy - if he can learn from his mistakes and repeat them less he could be fine.  I've been critical of him; he's formulaic and with the recent troubles it appeared he was flailing as much as the players. Still, he's a relatively inexperienced manager. His first year the bats exploded and he was probably thinking the job isn't that hard. Last year was a cluster for everyone, hard to conclude anything. This year we'll find out what he's made of. 

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Great effort by Happ, give credit where it's due. Any time you can get a gem like that out of your 4th starter, you have to be thrilled. Looks like he may have some gas in the tank still. We'll take it.

 

Astudillo and Cave with the offense. That's cool, but also troubling. Maybe that 12-run outburst was really just a product of those infamous Oakland Day Games where the ball really flies.

 

On a side note, it's really unfortunate to see yet again more ugly spring weather in Minneapolis. Don't get me wrong, outdoor baseball in Minnesota cannot be beat, it's absolutely the only baseball we should be considering....but man, watching guys have to play in snow, 30, 40 degree weather for a MONTH is pretty brutal. There's nothing we can do about it, but it just feels like such a severe disadvantage for this Twins team. Play on the road, or play in 30 degree weather - those are your two choices. Maybe it's just magnified for me this year because of the bad start to this team, I dunno.

 

I played high school ball in Minneapolis - I remember playing with piles of snow in the outfield grass and mud puddles on the infield. The Twins are pros and their field is pristine, so they should be able to push through this. Just looks like they're not comfortable and it really shows offensively.

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POSITIVES--The start was encouraging from Happ (granted, against the worst team in the league by a country mile). The defense didn't mess up tonight. The bullpen also held the fort for once.

 

NEGATIVES--The offense. These no-name Pittsburgh pitchers came here and shut us down, I don't like that. Yeah, it's colder rn and therefore there won't be as much offense, but it's concerning.

 

Overall, good to see a win for once.

Not sure what standards you use to measure who the worst team in the league is, or how much a country mile is to measure that by.  However, coming into game Pirates had better record than 8 teams, Twins and Yankees being two of those teams.  They had more runs scored than 6 teams, and over 20 runs scored more than the Mets who lead the NL east.  Pirates have allowed less runs than 7 other teams, and have a run differential better than 2 other teams.  

 

Detroit is at the bottom of almost all of those lists.  The Pirates pitcher last night, counting the game still has just over a 2 era, a sub 1 whip and putting up decent numbers.  Also, his pitches have some nice movement.  

 

The Pirates may be expected to be a bad team, but right now they are far from the worst in the league by a country mile in my opinion.  

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Not sure what standards you use to measure who the worst team in the league is, or how much a country mile is to measure that by.  However, coming into game Pirates had better record than 8 teams, Twins and Yankees being two of those teams.  They had more runs scored than 6 teams, and over 20 runs scored more than the Mets who lead the NL east.  Pirates have allowed less runs than 7 other teams, and have a run differential better than 2 other teams.  

 

Detroit is at the bottom of almost all of those lists.  The Pirates pitcher last night, counting the game still has just over a 2 era, a sub 1 whip and putting up decent numbers.  Also, his pitches have some nice movement.  

 

The Pirates may be expected to be a bad team, but right now they are far from the worst in the league by a country mile in my opinion.  

 

Ok that was an exaggeration. And the Pirates might not be the worst team in the league. It could easily be Texas or Detroit or Baltimore. But I'll be shocked if they finish anywhere close to .500. Once again, it's early. Seattle started 13-2 in 2019.

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I played high school ball in Minneapolis - I remember playing with piles of snow in the outfield grass and mud puddles on the infield.

Ditto that. Not to mention the late fall football games in freezing rain and snow. We were playing at Roosevelt in a huge rain storm and I got tackled in a deep puddle, face down at the bottom of the pile. I thought I was going to drown. They called the game after the play. Good fun.

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Happ is certainly capable of pitching almost as good as he did last night. He won't win 20 games but he is a decent veteran. I don't like Ausudillo and was even surprised to see him make the team. But he is playing well enough to hang around for awhile, he is versatile and boy, can he pitch. Cave is a favorite of mine though he really isn't more than a fill-in. Nice to see him contribute.

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Not sure what standards you use to measure who the worst team in the league is, or how much a country mile is to measure that by.  However, coming into game Pirates had better record than 8 teams, Twins and Yankees being two of those teams.  They had more runs scored than 6 teams, and over 20 runs scored more than the Mets who lead the NL east.  Pirates have allowed less runs than 7 other teams, and have a run differential better than 2 other teams.  

 

Detroit is at the bottom of almost all of those lists.  The Pirates pitcher last night, counting the game still has just over a 2 era, a sub 1 whip and putting up decent numbers.  Also, his pitches have some nice movement.  

 

The Pirates may be expected to be a bad team, but right now they are far from the worst in the league by a country mile in my opinion.  

 

The comment about "worst team" was in the context of Happ's pitching performance, and it might be accurate referring to the Pirates offense. Over 2020-2021, the Pirates are tied with Colorado for the worst team wRC+ in MLB at 76, and right now the Pirates are without by far their best hitter in that time frame (Ke'Bryan Hayes, 196). I don't know that looking at the 20 game sample of 2021 in isolation would be too meaningful yet for this kind of measure.

 

If you want to expand it to overall, keep in mind the Pirates recent pitching and run prevention probably look better than they really are too -- in 2020, the Pirates got to exclusively face the two worst hitting divisions in MLB (the AL & NL Central).

 

The Tigers and Rangers are also very bad teams, so it's definitely debatable overall, but the Pirates still have the worst cumulative W-L record over 2020-2021.

 

FWIW, the Pirates took 2 of 3 in Detroit this week, but both teams scored 9 runs over the series, so it was probably a draw by Pythag. :)

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