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Game Score: Twins 5, Astros 4


It was a wild one, but the Twins came back from an early 3-0 deficit to beat the Astros in the second game of the series, earning at least a split. Minnesota’s bullpen had an outstanding game to support Bailey Ober’s solid start.

Box Score
Ober: 5.0 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 5 K (68.7% strikes)
Home Runs: Garver (13)
Top 3 WPA: Minaya .718, Colomé .305, Kepler .110
Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs)
chart.png.b8c46943b6426b64abffb6730d69d822.png

The bats started this game very eager to create an early lead as they did on Thursday night. That became evident by Max Kepler jumping on the game’s very first pitch and smacking a 106 MPH line drive to center. In fact, that was the first of four hard-hit balls collected by the Twins offense in the first four innings and the first out of five that had at least .500 xBA, per Statcast. Unfortunately, it was also the only one to become an actual hit. Despite allowing a great deal of hard contact, Astro’s starter Zack Greinke managed to retire the eight batters he faced following that Kepler leadoff single.

Meanwhile, Bailey Ober had a hard time against the long ball, which allowed Houston to create a three-run lead. After a scoreless first inning and retiring the first two batters faced in the second, Ober gave up back-to-back two-out hits. The second one was a two-run home run for Taylor Jones. Ober got back on track and tossed a scoreless third, but then Chas McCormick took him deep with a solo shot in the fourth, making it 3-0 Houston.

Twins rally back; bullpen helps to take the game into extras
Minnesota finally managed to ambush Greinke in the fifth inning. After being limited to only the one hit through four, the Twins produced four hits in the same inning. Mitch Garver hit a leadoff homer to left to put Minnesota on the board. Miguel Sanó and Rob Refsnyder followed him with back-to-back singles, making it three consecutive to open the inning. Then Kepler grounded into a force out to score Sanó from third, pulling the Twins within a run.

Ober finished his outing with a strong display. After getting two outs on nine pitches, he battled Kyle Tucker on a tough, seven-pitch at-bat. Ober prevailed and struck out Tucker, his first punchout since the second inning. Over his last six starts, dating back from the start of July, Ober has posted a 4.22 ERA while striking out 9.7 batters and walking just 2.9 per nine. Ober seems to be steadily evolving into a solid bottom of the rotation presence. He finished July with a 3.97 ERA over five starts and has now delivered at least five innings of work in four of his last six starts.

Jorge Polanco opened up the sixth inning with a double, showing that the Twins’ comeback wasn’t done. A couple of at-bats later, Luis Arraez hit a hard ground ball to left, his first hit of the night, pushing Polanco across and tying the game. That run also earned Ober a no-decision.

John Gant celebrated his birthday with a strong outing. He struck out the first two batters he faced before inducing a groundout to complete a 1-2-3 sixth on 17 pitches. However, Tyler Duffey’s outing after him wasn’t nearly as uneventful. He gave up back-to-back one-out hits, including a single to José Altuve that snapped an 0-for-11 stretch. Duffey took advantage of a fantastic defensive play from Arraez that ended the inning. Unfortunately, it also forced Arraez to leave the game a few moments later, as it seems like he twisted his knee on the play.

The offense struggled against Houston’s bullpen. After the game-tying single from Arraez in the sixth, the Astros relievers retired 12 Minnesota batters in a row. That put a lot of pressure on the Twins bullpen, but they managed to navigate through it. Jorge Alcala pitched a 1-2-3 eighth on 14 pitches, striking out a pair. That was his fourth consecutive outing without allowing an earned run, for a total of 5 ⅓ innings. Has he finally turned the corner? Similarly, only with fewer innings, Alexander Colomé pitched a fourth consecutive scoreless outing, keeping the game tied after nine, taking the game to extra innings.

Both teams exchange punches in extras
With Refsnyder starting the 10th inning on second, the Twins managed to score quickly. Andrelton Simmons swung on the second pitch he saw from reliever Phil Maton and sent Refsnyder to third. Then Kepler got ahead in the count and hit a sacrifice fly to center, moving up both runners. Minnesota took the lead for the first time in the game, 4-3.

That didn’t last long, though. Houston tied it up in the bottom half of the inning. Lefty Danny Coulombe came in relief of Colomé. Michael Brantley grounded out to move up Altuve, the automatic runner, to third. Then Yordan Álvarez singled to left to score Altuve. Coulombe gave up a two-out walk to Tucker, putting two runners on for Houston. Rocco Baldelli brought in Juan Minaya, who struck out Aledmys Diaz on three pitches to end the inning.

Having a quiet night up until that point, Josh Donaldson stepped in and came through with a big hit to open the 11th inning, and that was enough to score Polanco from second and retake the lead for the Twins who now took a 5-4 lead.

Minaya came back to close the game, and he did it brilliantly, retiring the first two batters on seven pitches. Then, some thrilling plays took place. Minaya induced poor contact from Jason Castro. But Garver, playing at first base, couldn’t field the ground ball cleanly, allowing his former teammate to reach and moving Diaz to third. In the final play of the game, Altuve tried to bunt to third, but Sanó was able to pick up the ball and retire Altuve at first with an 84 MPH “bazooka” throw, securing the win.

Postgame Interview

Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet

  MON TUE WED THU FRI TOT
Minaya 0 0 44 0 17 61
Colomé 0 20 0 7 17 44
Coulombe 0 13 0 17 14 44
Duffey 0 0 0 21 20 41
Gant 0 22 0 0 17 39
Thielbar 0 0 22 8 0 30
Alcala 0 0 0 14 14 28
Burrows 0 0 13 0 0 13

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7 hours ago, Seth Stohs said:

By the way... that Miguel Sano play to end the game was amazing! 

 Sano truly saved that game.... 

Whenever a player is tall and has decent hands many people assume he should be playing first base. However, if that player also has an excellent arm that skill is essentially wasted at that position. (This was also the case with Mauer.) I don't think the game-ending play could have been made by any other player on the roster. Arraez is a satisfactory-at-best third baseman and Donaldson's range is currently hampered by injury.

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8 hours ago, Seth Stohs said:

A quick look at that bullpen chart shows that the team sure could use a 7-8... or even 9(?) inning start on Saturday11 

Someone can confirm, but I was led to believe that Manfred banned those! :)

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1 hour ago, mikelink45 said:

Looking at the BP chart I keep wondering why Burrows and not one of our AAA BP arms?  Is it because the FO wants to show how smart their moves are?  We need some reinforcements for the next two games. 

Because Burrows  is a back-of-the-40-man-roster guy that they want to get some time to see if he's worth keeping on the 40 man roster through the offseason. They likely know what they're going to do 40-man wise with prospects. 

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The question I have concerning Alcala's scoreless streak is how many lefties did he retire?

Looking at his monthly splits let's just hope he can put an awful July behind him.

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1 hour ago, twinfan said:

Whoever said Sano can't play third base was just wrong. For his size, he is a good and nimble fielder at third or first. No, he isn't a Brooks Robinson but he can be adept as a fill in. Now if only Arraez would stop becoming another Buxton and stay on the field.

That was a great play. It's the one play where Sanó is very, very good at 3B. That's been true all along. It's likely why he stayed there as long as he did. Everything else at 3B? Eh, not so much. 

Don't forget that the reason they had to make that play is because of Garver's boot at 1B. Sanó makes that play and the game is over. 

I love Sanó and really hope he can find his hitting groove consistency with the Twins. And he is an overall below average 3B who has the ability to turn dribblers and bunts into outs more than most players. Nelson Cruz also has a cannon for an arm. He hasn't played RF for a long time for a reason. 

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19 minutes ago, puckstopper1 said:

I know starting pitching has been bad for the Twins this season, but I still can't convince myself that 3 runs over 5 innings (a 5.4 ERA) is a "solid" start...

Normally it is not. But when you look at how those runs came, and how this looks for Ober as a futute possible starter, it was solid. He gave those HR and practically nothing else. I prefer to see that of a rookie than an outing where he gets shelled and because of luck he gives only one run or two.  Sure, the best is that the pitcher does not give anything. But that seldom happens, especially with a rookie.

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Sad to see Arraez leave another game with his banged up knee.  If memory serves, most of his injuries have occurred while either sliding head first (which I understand he has eliminated) or to his knee in the outfield.  Maybe next year concentrate on having him play second base, third base and DH.  Keeping his bat in the lineup 150 games sure would help the offense.

Interesting how the Twins are making a lot of waiver claims on young relievers.  Together with Gant, who came in the Happ trade, they have picked up three in the past couple weeks with all appearing to have some potential.  Good way to get a jump on the offseason and maybe find one or two for next year's pen.

Great article in today's Strib about Polanco.  He, Arraez, a healthy Buxton and Garver would go a long way towards making the 2022 Twins competitive.  Getting Sano and Kepler's bat going along with Donaldson and the two rookies should make the Twins lineup dangerous and deep.  Unfortunately, the pitching may take until 2023 to arrive, but we can hope...can't we?

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11 minutes ago, roger said:

Sad to see Arraez leave another game with his banged up knee.  If memory serves, most of his injuries have occurred while either sliding head first (which I understand he has eliminated) or to his knee in the outfield.  Maybe next year concentrate on having him play second base, third base and DH.  Keeping his bat in the lineup 150 games sure would help the offense.

Interesting how the Twins are making a lot of waiver claims on young relievers.  Together with Gant, who came in the Happ trade, they have picked up three in the past couple weeks with all appearing to have some potential.  Good way to get a jump on the offseason and maybe find one or two for next year's pen.

Great article in today's Strib about Polanco.  He, Arraez, a healthy Buxton and Garver would go a long way towards making the 2022 Twins competitive.  Getting Sano and Kepler's bat going along with Donaldson and the two rookies should make the Twins lineup dangerous and deep.  Unfortunately, the pitching may take until 2023 to arrive, but we can hope...can't we?

Maybe it's time to have Tortuga give sliding lessons. He looked awesome sliding into 1st base last night! LOL

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1 hour ago, Seth Stohs said:

Because Burrows  is a back-of-the-40-man-roster guy that they want to get some time to see if he's worth keeping on the 40 man roster through the offseason. They likely know what they're going to do 40-man wise with prospects. 

If they want those guys in Minnesota next year, they should be in Minnesota now. How many terrible outings, in addition to his time in Detroit, do they need to see? 

Great play by Sano! 

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1 hour ago, puckstopper1 said:

I know starting pitching has been bad for the Twins this season, but I still can't convince myself that 3 runs over 5 innings (a 5.4 ERA) is a "solid" start...

We do need to consider that neither one of those HRs is a HR in a lot of ML parks.  He is showing very good command and leaves very few pitches over the plate.  Let's also keep in mind most starting pitchers get better after they get some major league experience.  Remember Berrios when he first came up.  Ober and Jax have looked great in comparison.  Will either one of the be as good as Berrios.  Doubtful for sure but Ober could be a very solid SP for the next several years.   That's encouraging in a season that has been very discouraging.   

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1 hour ago, roger said:

Sad to see Arraez leave another game with his banged up knee.  If memory serves, most of his injuries have occurred while either sliding head first (which I understand he has eliminated) or to his knee in the outfield.  Maybe next year concentrate on having him play second base, third base and DH.  Keeping his bat in the lineup 150 games sure would help the offense.

Interesting how the Twins are making a lot of waiver claims on young relievers.  Together with Gant, who came in the Happ trade, they have picked up three in the past couple weeks with all appearing to have some potential.  Good way to get a jump on the offseason and maybe find one or two for next year's pen.

Great article in today's Strib about Polanco.  He, Arraez, a healthy Buxton and Garver would go a long way towards making the 2022 Twins competitive.  Getting Sano and Kepler's bat going along with Donaldson and the two rookies should make the Twins lineup dangerous and deep.  Unfortunately, the pitching may take until 2023 to arrive, but we can hope...can't we?

The last couple games gave me a little more hope for next year.  I did not see ML pitchers in Jax and even more so in Barnes.  Ober looks to have more ceiling.  However, they have all shown very good command.  Minaya has looked very good too.  These guys along with Joe Ryan and a couple others will make the rest of the season very interesting to watch.  Establishing these guys plus a couple free agents and 2022 looks much better.  Contention better ... I doubt it.  I agree the more effective plan is to continue to establish the numerous pitching prospects we have over the course of 2022.  Martin / Miranda also likely start to play a role in 2022.  Add to that a healthy Buxton and Kirilloff and it should make for an entertaining product in 2022.

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Sano is not a "good" defensive third baseman overall, and never was. But even back when we (and the team) were trying to sort out his best role, his first year or three, that was the play he would consistently make as well as anyone there is. He would charge accidental slow rollers or intentional bunts with complete authority and confidence, and his arm was never suspect.

If Altuve thought it was a good gamble to test him on that play, after a long absence from the position, well he lost.

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16 hours ago, Seth Stohs said:

By the way... that Miguel Sano play to end the game was amazing! 

Smart decision by Altuve also... swinging away, he gets a hit about 25-30% of the time... That bunt is a hit at least 50% of the time... Sano truly saved that game.... 

I didn’t see the play live, but while it was a nice play, I wasn’t awestruck. Altuve bunted a bit too hard and a bit closer to the mound allowing Sanó a decent chance to throw him out and giving the big man a good angle. Sanó did everything properly and nipped Altuve at first. 

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15 minutes ago, stringer bell said:

I didn’t see the play live, but while it was a nice play, I wasn’t awestruck. Altuve bunted a bit too hard and a bit closer to the mound allowing Sanó a decent chance to throw him out and giving the big man a good angle. Sanó did everything properly and nipped Altuve at first. 

 

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