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Game Recap: Astros 6, Twins 4


Bailey Ober had his best outing in the majors and the Twins once again showed they had some fight in them late, but the now reliever Matt Shoemaker allowed Houston to regain the lead with a two-run ninth and Minnesota drops the series opener against the Astros at Target Field.

Box Score
Ober: 5.0 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 7 K (71,2% strikes)
Home Runs: Cruz (12), Sanó (13), Donaldson 2 (10)
Bottom 3 WPA: Shoemaker -.352, Duffey -.174, Larnach -.130

Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs)

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Some great news brought in some optimism for Twins fans earlier today. The club announced that struggling starter Matt Shoemaker would be sent to the bullpen and rookie Bailey Ober would start tonight’s game. Could this mean that Shoemaker’s stint in Minnesota is close to an end?

Ober took advantage of another opportunity, making his third start of the season. It didn’t take very long for this one to become special for him. He pitched through the first two innings quickly, on only 28 pitches. After giving up a leadoff single to Martín Maldonado in the third, he struck out the next batter, then his fifth punchout of the game, already his career-high.

However, he did pitch himself into a small jam during that same inning. Michael Brantley doubled on a 0-2 curveball, putting two runners in scoring position right away. No team in baseball has allowed more 0-2 hits than the Twins this season. Alex Bregman pushed a run across on a sac-fly, but Ober limited the damage to that one run.

Fortunately, while Ober navigated through his ups and downs, he got some early run support to make things a bit less difficult for him. Minnesota hit a solo home run in each of the first three innings. Nelson Cruz picked up right where he left off on Thursday night, taking José Urquidy deep after a nice, seven-pitch at-bat. With that dinger, his 12th of the year, he tied Miguel Sanó for the team-lead.

But Miggy wouldn’t just sit there and take that. He had something to say about that.

Then, when Houston cut the Twins’ lead in half in the top of the third, Josh Donaldson brought the rain and with a solo shot of his own, he gave Ober the two-run lead back, making it 3-1 Minnesota.

After pitching a quick, scoreless fourth, Ober’s pitch count was still under 60. He earned himself the chance to pitch into the fifth inning for the first time in his big league career. José Altuve homered to the corner of the left field, on a ball that ricocheted off the foul pole into the limestone. Immediately after that, Brantley singled and suddenly Ober was in a potentially tough situation.

Ober didn’t shy away from the challenge, as he managed to retire both batters that followed, including a strikeout against red-hot Yordan Álvarez (Ober’s seventh in the game) to close the inning, after a tough seven-pitch at-bat with a man on. You couldn’t ask for a better learning opportunity for the rookie, who was pulled right after this, in line for his first major league win.

Rocco Baldelli decided not to bring Ober back to the sixth, even though he was still at 73 pitches (52 for strikes). Jorge Alcalá took over, making his fourth appearance in the last five days. After falling behind 3-0 on the count, he was later taken deep by Yuli Gurriel, who tied the game with a leadoff home run. He retired the side on ten pitches next. In spite of the game-tying home run, Alcalá is still having a very positive month of June, in which he has as many strikeouts as innings pitched (five) and has yet to give up a walk.

While the offense struggled to produce baserunners, Tyler Duffey took over to pitch the seventh. He looked off from the beginning and even got one of the trainers to check on him on the mound after he retired the leadoff man. Command started to elude him and the inning became really sloppy. He walked Altuve and hit Brantley just before Bregman grounded out to bring Altuve home, making it 4-3 Astros.

Donaldson ties the game, Shoemaker chokes it

After the offense went down in order in the bottom of the seventh, it was time for Shoemaker’s first appearance out of the bullpen in a Twins uniform. Very convincingly, he pitched a 12-pitch, 1-2-3 inning. Which immediately raised the question: could the Twins find value (or trade value, for that matter) for him in relief pitching?

Donaldson decided he wasn’t done being on fire, so in the bottom of the eighth, he brought the rain again. That’s three home runs in less than 24 hours for him, or five at-bats, to be more precise.

But the question some of us were asking ourselves about Shoemaker after the eight was quickly answered in the ninth. Looking completely lost, he gave up two runs on three hits, in what seemed to be one of his worst outings as a Twin. A leadoff single to Myles Straw, followed by an RBI-double to Maldonado, and an RBI-single to Brantley later, while recording only one out. Former Twin Ryan Pressly didn’t have an easy task, as it took him 20 pitches to close out the game, but he did manage to retire Minnesota batters in order.

Postgame Interviews
Bailey Ober:

Rocco Baldelli:

Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet

  SUN TUE WED THU FRI TOT
Jax 0 23 51 0 0 74
Duffey 14 0 0 20 22 56
Farrell 13 19 0 23 0 55
Alcalá 10 21 0 7 15 53
Shoemaker 0 0 0 0 35 35
Colomé 0 9 25 0 0 34
Robles 15 0 0 11 0 26
Rogers 0 20 0 0 3 23

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Waaaay to Gooooo Roccooooooo! Shoemaker pitching the last two innings in relief in a tie game....

You totally have outdone yourself. Even with your goofy managing, I could not have anticipated THAT one.

Rocco's managing is like a box of chocolates.....

(It would have made more sense to bring in The Turtle to pitch relief than Shoemaker... and I'm not kidding)

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Said this in the GDT, but this was a CLASSIC “bad team” loss. Couldn’t build off the improbable win last night. But a couple leads, then flop and fumble around the field, giving away runs like candy. And the incomprehensible bullpen management. It will be interesting to see what the biggest win streak will be for the rest of the year. I can’t imagine being able to put it all together for more than 3-4 games.

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I know that hindsight is 20-20, but I wouldn't really think that Shoemaker had earned a chance in such a high leverage situation. He can't get out of the first inning when he starts a game. I was thinking of him coming into games when the Twins are losing by 6-7 runs. I'd have much preferred to see Jax in such situations, Why not? We already know what we don't have in Shoemaker. If Jax lost the game, we could chalk it up to experience, but for it to be Shoemaker........I think there is every reason to DFA him, and the sooner the better. If he miraculously turns out to be great, all the power to him. 

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14 minutes ago, Aerodeliria said:

I know that hindsight is 20-20, but I wouldn't really think that Shoemaker had earned a chance in such a high leverage situation. He can't get out of the first inning when he starts a game. I was thinking of him coming into games when the Twins are losing by 6-7 runs. I'd have much preferred to see Jax in such situations, Why not? We already know what we don't have in Shoemaker. If Jax lost the game, we could chalk it up to experience, but for it to be Shoemaker........I think there is every reason to DFA him, and the sooner the better. If he miraculously turns out to be great, all the power to him. 

He won't get DFA'd. He had a good 8th, but then a couple of poorly located hanging splitters along with a passed ball/cross-up spoiled his outing. I think Rocco stands firmly behind his decision to throw him there. I didn't agree with it.

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I'm not going to debate whether they should have made any roster moves, but let's look at the bullpen decisions: 

First, based on the pitch chart above, Jax and Farrell are likely not available. More on that later.

After five innings, Ober has thrown 75 pitches, has gotten hit harder in the fifth, and is in the third time through the order. He's in position to win, and can leave with confidence in having a solid start. 

So you go to Alcala. That's a logical decision, though he's pitched three of the previous four nights. Unfortunately, he gives up a run and it's now tied. 

You don't score in the sixth. Alcala has now pitched four of the last five nights and had 15 pitches in the sixth, so you can't run him out for the seventh, so you go to Duffey. Again, a logical decision, though less than ideal given that he'd thrown 20 pitches Thursday night, but he'd had the two previous days off. Unfortunately, he gives up a run and is looking like he could give up more. 

So you go to Rogers to keep yourself in the game. He gets you out of the inning with no more damage, but you're down a run thanks to Duffey. 

You don't score in the seventh, so what do you do? It's still a one-run game, but do you want to use your best reliever when you're down a run, certainly shooting that bullet for tomorrow night? No. 

Your choices are a rested Shoemaker, a tired Colome, and Robles, who also pitched last night. You don't want to use your other closer down a run, and you don't fully trust Colome. Besides, it would have been his third game in four days. 

So you go to Shoemaker, which seems logical given the options. Though less than an ideal situation for him, it's also a chance to see how he does in a new role. He does well, getting the 5-6-7 hitters in order. 

Donaldson homers to tie the score. So for the ninth, here's your options, in a tie game: 

  • Colome, who would be pitching his third game in four days.
  • Jax, who threw 23 pitches on Tuesday and 53 on Wednesday.
  • Farrell, who threw 19 on Tuesday and 23 on Thursday.
  • Robles, reasonably rested, though he threw 11 pitches Thursday. But if you don't score in the ninth, your options for the 10th are Colome, Jax, or Farrell. And you've also shot yourself for Saturday. 
  • Or Shoemaker, who has just thrown a solid eighth, is accustomed to going multiple innings, who hasn't thrown in several days, and who will be facing 8-9-1 in the order. 

Again, I'm not discussing whether someone else should have been called up. And even if you had brought someone, do you want to throw them into this high-leverage situation? So as the game played itself out and with what Rocco had to work with, I think running Shoemaker out for both the eighth and the ninth was the right choice. 

Like so much of the season, it didn't work out.

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Baldelli little talk makes me vomit. "Shoe is ready. He'll be ready tomorrow".....  That makes it worse. 

I think his brain is shrinking. Alcala overused. Doughboy Duffey creates his own problems. Rogers is wasted for only 3 pitches and one batter. So Baldelli goes to the Shoe on the wrong foot late inning too many innings. 

How about that turning point at the end of last nights game. Some turning point. Especially with Baldelli making the decisions during the game. 

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I don’t know how anyone could defend Rocco ever again after this one. Even the players are likely losing faith. No sane person would ever remove a 3 days tested Rogers after a dominant 3 pitches for Shoemaker.

 

rocco has this ridiculous notion that if the twins are losing by even 1 run the game is likely over and he can’t use his best relievers. Well nice job idiot, this entire loss was on you. 

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1 hour ago, VivaBomboRivera! said:

Given what the bullpen usage situation was (see above), there were not a lot of choices to get the last six outs:

  1. Leave Rogers in
  2. Bring in Colomé
  3. Run out Shoemaker

Less than attractive, all three. It is up to management to stock the shed with sharper tools.

How is the number 1 option unattractive? Rogers last pitched 3 days ago and just threw 3 pitches. There was no logical sense in removing him knowing you had to find someone for the last 2 innings 

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1 hour ago, jimbo92107 said:

Well, one thing should be obvious to us all by now: Matt Shoemaker should be our closer!

Definitely... like "close the door behind you as you take your stuff and leave"

Also, Baily Ober looks like he's going to be a pretty good starter.

Hmmmmm..... just like Dobnak?

Also, a few guys are starting to hit.

 

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1 hour ago, Azviking101 said:

How is the number 1 option unattractive? Rogers last pitched 3 days ago and just threw 3 pitches. There was no logical sense in removing him knowing you had to find someone for the last 2 innings 

Baldelli is decimating what pen we have with the way he uses them. He torches the pen by removing starters when they are doing well with low pitch counts. Lost in space.

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1 hour ago, Azviking101 said:

How is the number 1 option unattractive? Rogers last pitched 3 days ago and just threw 3 pitches. There was no logical sense in removing him knowing you had to find someone for the last 2 innings 

Excellent question.  Look to Indiana Twin for the answer:

1 hour ago, IndianaTwin said:

So you go to Rogers to keep yourself in the game. He gets you out of the inning with no more damage, but you're down a run thanks to Duffey. 

You don't score in the seventh, so what do you do? It's still a one-run game, but do you want to use your best reliever when you're down a run, certainly shooting that bullet for tomorrow night? No. 

Your choices are a rested Shoemaker, a tired Colome, and Robles, who also pitched last night. You don't want to use your other closer down a run, and you don't fully trust Colome. Besides, it would have been his third game in four days. 

So you go to Shoemaker, which seems logical given the options. Though less than an ideal situation for him, it's also a chance to see how he does in a new role. He does well, getting the 5-6-7 hitters in order. 

There is still a case for staying with Rogers, but he will not be able to go the distance.  Even if he made it all the way through the 8th, it still means turning the 9th over to Robles (or Colomé). At that moment, nobody could know that Donaldson would tie the game in the bottom of the 8th (think about it - the only reason Duffey didn't get the Big L is because of the Rainman).   If the Twins do not score and lose 4 - 3, then everyone but Shoemaker, Jax and Colomé are blown for Saturday's contest.  What does that do for our chances of converting a good outing from Berrios into a W?

It's a balancing act.  Some choices have a higher probability of success than others.  This takes us back to making the most of the tools at hand.  The on-field manager could be faulted for any number of decisions, but there is also the undeniable fact that he wasn't given great arms to work with.  Hell, we're damn lucky that Ober has pitched as well as he has.

Oh, and before we make this all about pitching, let's not forget the bats went 0 - 2 RISP and left 4 more runners on base today.  Ptui.

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To respond to Indiana Twin,

First, let me say that this is the first time I've commented on this website/thread/etc.  I'm a big Twins fan, but a rookie here.  As such, I'll take my lumps.  If my opinion is worth any salt, then such lumps are required to be taken by experienced veterans.  That's the best way to learn.

I agree with your in-game analysis, Indiana Twin, about bullpen management.  But my frustration goes beyond just this game.  It gets to Rocco's basic management style.

He's way too sabermetrics.  Way too attached to the math.  (And, likely, the powers from on-high of Falvey and Levine).

He has no feel for the game.  If he did, he would've never pulled Ober tonight.  73 pitches and 52 strikes--obviously good command--and had worked through the top of the Astros lineup through the 5th (who are some of the best hitters in the AL, if not all of MLB).  All the while, he had a 3-2 lead and was on the "hook" for the win.

My mathematics say that 15 pitches per inning is top rate.  Ober was -2 in the right direction after 5 (and again, had retired the top of the Astros lineup through his third time facing them).

Why not send him out there again?  At least give him a chance before running into trouble.  If his command continues, he can at least get you 6 (notice Urquidy went 7 for the 'Stros . . . and threw 100+ pitches).

Maybe Ober had a pitch count, I don't know.  But he didn't even get to 75!

Instead, it seemed like Rocco played sabermetrics, which says don't send a starter out to face the lineup for a third time (unless he's got a perfect game or no-hitter going).

Rocco played the math.  And the first hitter on Alcala (who I really like), blasted a home run to tie the game at 3s.  Good math call, Rocco.

It's doubtful Rocco will deviate from the math game, but let's just look at the math of where it's left the Twins thus far this season:

25-38 (.397).  Last place in the AL Central (not to mention 2-time defending division champs).  The fifth worst record in baseball (not just the AL).

Come on, Rocco, do the math.  Start feeling the game.  Let the starters ride when they're tossing good ball.

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Of course, if Twins had brought someone up that pitcher (X) could have pitched the 6th or 7th allowing for different choices in the highest leverage situations in 8th and 9th assuming of course this Pitcher X could have pitched a clean 6th or 7th.

Still regardless of all that, I feel bad for Shoemaker, but he has shown conclusively that right now and maybe going forward he can't get it done. Why is he still an option to pitch any innings?

If this is truly the last barely open window to get back into something of a competitive position then that should be the context for decisions right now.

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7 hours ago, VivaBomboRivera! said:

Given what the bullpen usage situation was (see above), there were not a lot of choices to get the last six outs:

  1. Leave Rogers in
  2. Bring in Colomé
  3. Run out Shoemaker

Less than attractive, all three. It is up to management to stock the shed with sharper tools.

Wasn't Robles available? He only threw 11 pitches on Thursday night. 

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Rocco creates a lot of his own bullpen problems. It starts by not letting his Starters go long enough, especially when they are pitching well. There was no reason to pull Ober after 5 innings when he was only at 75 pitches. No reason NOT to trot him out there for the 6th inning and try to get at least 1 more inning out of him. Also no reason NOT to use Rogers for more then 3 pitches. Also no reason to move Shoemaker to the bullpen where he can now lose games in the late innings instead of the early innings. Twins already have Colome and Duffey that can do that, no need for another one. If Robles wasn't available to pitch in the 9th then why was he warming up? Why did Rocco stay with Shoemaker after the leadoff single. Hasn't he seen Shoemaker implode often enough to go out there and pull him for Robles? This is probably all a moot point since the Twins probably weren''t going to score again anyway. They can't score unless they hit Home Runs. Never seen a team that can't string 3 hits in a row like this one. Pathetic.

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7 hours ago, howeda7 said:

Cut Shoemaker 

Cut Colome 

Cut Simmons

Cut Rocco 

Can only go with you in #1. The Simmons hate in TD is weird- is he the new Rosario? Give the guy a break! 

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The idea of having Shoemaker make his first relief appearance in the 8th inning, while having Alcala do the 6th makes no sense to me. Then Shoemaker goes out and pitches a great 8th inning so Rocco tempts fate with having him do the 9th, with Taylor Rogers in the bullpen? Beyond comprehension. 

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4 hours ago, TC-D.MajorBaseballFan said:

Instead, it seemed like Rocco played sabermetrics, which says don't send a starter out to face the lineup for a third time (unless he's got a perfect game or no-hitter going).

Ober faced the top of the Astros lineup a third time in the 5th, arguably their 4 best hitters.

For whatever reason, Ober has not pitched deep into games this year, either at AAA or in MLB. Pitch counts so far 60, 64, 82 (MLB debut), 70, 79, 51 (return to MLB, perhaps on short notice), 73. This is only the 2nd time he has completed 5 innings. I think this goes above Rocco.

Here are Ober’s innings as a pro:

2017: 28 (84 combined with college)

2018: 75

2019: 78.2

2020: 0

2021: 29 so far

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1 hour ago, Richard Swerdlick said:

The idea of having Shoemaker make his first relief appearance in the 8th inning, while having Alcala do the 6th makes no sense to me. Then Shoemaker goes out and pitches a great 8th inning so Rocco tempts fate with having him do the 9th, with Taylor Rogers in the bullpen? Beyond comprehension. 

Alcala started the 6th with a 1 run lead; Shoemaker the 8th with a 1 run deficit. That part makes sense to me.

Rogers had already been used in the 7th. Perhaps you meant Robles? He was loosening up as the 9th began, but unfortunately the tie got away from us quickly — Straw singled, took second on a passed ball, then scored on Maldonado’s double.

If Maldonado had successfully laid down a sac bunt as he was trying to do before he got to 2 strikes, I suspect we would have seen Robles relieve Shoemaker. But once the run scored, it probably wasn’t worth it anymore.

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