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Royals 3, Twins 2: Smeltzer Dazzles, Bullpen and Bats Fall Short


Twins Daily Contributor

An incredible outing on the bump from Devin Smeltzer wasn't enough to propel the Twins to a series-opener victory against the Royals. Get all the details on Thursday night's game. 

Box Score 
SP: Devin Smeltzer: 7.0 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K (80 pitches, 52 strikes (65.0%))
Home Runs: None
Bottom 3 WPA: Tyler Duffey (-0.590), Max Kepler (-0.208), Nick Gordon (-0.197)

Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs)

359764225_chart(4).png.843f044beb7b17346c391869d0331d2d.png

Despite a ninth-inning rally and a stellar outing from Devin Smeltzer, the Twins fell short to Kansas City by a score of 3-2 on Thursday night. 

The Twins outhit the Royals 12 to 6 and left 12 runners on base but ultimately fell short thanks to a three-run eighth inning from Kansas City. 

And while the loss was a tough one, starting pitcher Devin Smeltzer was an incredible icing on the cake for the Twins on the night. 

Called up from St. Paul to start for Joe Ryan (who was placed on the Covid IL), Smeltzer wasn’t just a replacement; he provided one of the strongest pitching outings the Twins have seen all year.

After a quarter of the season spent flirting between Triple-A St. Paul and the Twins, Thursday evening proved that Smeltzer deserves a permanent spot on the Major League Roster. Smeltzer pitched seven innings of shutout ball while only allowing two hits and one walk, striking out six. The crafty lefty has started three games for the parent club this season and has passed the test with flying colors. Through those three games, Smeltzer has a 1.74 ERA in 17 ⅓ innings while only allowing two runs. Keep the man up. 

The Twins plated their first run in the second inning when Ryan Jeffers laced an RBI single to left field that scored Luis Arraez from second base. Originally perceived as a downgrade from Mitch Garver, Jeffers has been absolutely rock-solid all season. Thursday’s RBI was his fourth in his last three games and the Raleigh, NC native sits in the 95th percentile for pitch framing behind the plate. Not too shabby. 69406414_Jefferssavant.png.dc009f71b1cc6e3647e107955aefc2f2.png

The Twins struck again in the fourth inning. Jose Miranda put his recent slump in the rearview with a leadoff double (5) and was later scored by a Gilberto Celestino line-drive single to right field to put the Twins up 2-0.

As highly-touted a prospect there is, Miranda’s woes at the plate drew attention from Twins Territory. Yet the 23-year-old rookie has excelled recently. Miranda notched a second-inning single in addition to his double on Thursday and has recorded two multi-hit games in the past week. There’s still a ways to go, but it’s relieving to see the young slugger find his footing. 

Following Smeltzer’s stellar outing, Tyler Duffey struggled in the bullpen, allowing three runs on four hits in the top of the eighth inning to give Kansas City the lead. 

The Twins mounted a rally in the bottom of the eighth thanks to a string of singles from Gary Sanchez, Gio Urshela, and Arraez. Yet with the bases loaded, the Twins were unable to plate a run. 

Rookie Yennier Cano had his first solid outing of the season, pitching the top of the ninth inning. After giving up a leadoff walk, Cano retired the next three batters to keep the Twins within a run going into the ninth inning.

After a ninth-inning infield single from Byron Buxton, the Twins fell just short due to a pair of Fielders Choices and a sharply hit ball by Gary Sanchez that found the glove of Kansas City shortstop Bobby Witt Jr.

Gio with the Glove

Despite the loss, Gio Urshela made one of the finest plays the league has seen all season in the second inning. Web gem!

What’s Next? 

The Twins continue their Memorial Day weekend series against the Royals tomorrow night at 6:40 p.m. CST at Target Field. Young talent Bailey Ober (1-1, 2.85 ERA) will face off against Brad Kelly (1-4, 3.40 ERA) on what is supposed to be a gorgeous night in Minneapolis. You can buy tickets to tomorrow night's game here

Postgame Interview 

Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet
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As for the game, I don't understand:

-how Duffey is allowed to cough up 3 runs without even having another reliever warming up. I understand there are times when you just have to trust the guy you brought in...but this wasn't such a situation. 

 

- how we get 2 OF singles with a runner on 1st and don't score. I realize ww lose the DH if we pinch run for Sanchez in the 8th, but...it's a 1 run game on the 8th.

- if Buxton is so injured he can't attempt a SB in a one run deficit in the 9th, why isn't he on the IL?

-what does Gordon provide? 

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As much as the lack of offense is to blame for this loss--------2nd straight game leaving the bases loaded without scoring a run with zero out-------I have to take issue with Baldelli leaving Duffey in to face Merrifeld with 2 outs in the 8th when he had 2 better options (Smith and Duran) in the pen.

Go ahead and call me out for this, but the the following FACTS cannot be ignored:

1.  Duffey's pitch count was already at 17.  His command was not good as evidenced by falling behind Rivera (sub. 230 avg) 3-1 and O'Hearn (.171 avg) 2-0.  Gave up singles to both.

2.  Merrifeld---before his game tying double------was a career .385 hitter (5-13)vs. Duffey with a .846 OPS.

Why leave him in at that point Rocco??

3.  Joe Smith was available---throwing only 3 pitches yesterday------and was a much better option to face Merrifeld:  1-6 career vs. Smith.

4.  As bad as that non-decision was by Baldelli------why after walking Benintendi, after being ahead 0-2, was Duffey allowed to stay in to pitch to Witt, Jr. with his pitch count now at 25?

No shock to me that Duffey's implosion continued, again after getting ahead 0-2 of Witt.

Baldelli's failure to hook Duffey is just mind boggling to me.  It sure conjured up images of Rocco hanging Josh Winder out to dry (now on IL and his last game pitched) vs. Oakland on May 17th.

As much as Duffey (and a bunch of hitters) owe an apology to Smeltzer, Baldelli should be first in line.

 

 

 

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Agree with a number of comments.

1, Why wasn’t Smeltzer staying in to start the 8th - especially with the lead off batter being a lefty.

2. Duffy stayed in too long. Too quick to yank Smeltzer and too slow to yank Duffy. Rocco was 0-2 tonight on his primary bullpen decisions.

3. DH - smeeH.  How you don’t pinch run Gordon for Sanchez is unbelievable. Was anyone else screaming at the TV set “Pinch run Gordon!”

In summary, a lot of the blame for this was is on Rocco. 

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52 minutes ago, Monticore said:

Would it have killed him to have Smeltzer pitch the 8th? Why did he leave Duffy in after the first 2 hits? After last night's bases loaded futility, why not bunt a runner in this time? 

First, Duffey... 

Second, 

 

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3 hours ago, USAFChief said:

As for the game, I don't understand:

-how Duffey is allowed to cough up 3 runs without even having another reliever warming up

- how we get 2 OF singles with a runner on 1st and don't score. I realize ww lose the DH if we pinch run for Sanchez in the 8th, but...it's a 1 run game on the 8th.

- if Buxton is so injured he can't attempt a SB in a one run deficit in the 9th, why isn't he on the IL?

-what does Gordon provide? 

All seems fair to me. Gordon is a useful player but we have too many MLB caliber  players in the organization to justify him anymore.

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3 hours ago, darwin22 said:

As much as the lack of offense is to blame for this loss--------2nd straight game leaving the bases loaded without scoring a run with zero out-------I have to take issue with Baldelli leaving Duffey in to face Merrifeld with 2 outs in the 8th when he had 2 better options (Smith and Duran) in the pen.

Go ahead and call me out for this, but the the following FACTS cannot be ignored:

1.  Duffey's pitch count was already at 17.  His command was not good as evidenced by falling behind Rivera (sub. 230 avg) 3-1 and O'Hearn (.171 avg) 2-0.  Gave up singles to both.

2.  Merrifeld---before his game tying double------was a career .385 hitter (5-13)vs. Duffey with a .846 OPS.

Why leave him in at that point Rocco??

3.  Joe Smith was available---throwing only 3 pitches yesterday------and was a much better option to face Merrifeld:  1-6 career vs. Smith.

4.  As bad as that non-decision was by Baldelli------why after walking Benintendi, after being ahead 0-2, was Duffey allowed to stay in to pitch to Witt, Jr. with his pitch count now at 25?

No shock to me that Duffey's implosion continued, again after getting ahead 0-2 of Witt.

Baldelli's failure to hook Duffey is just mind boggling to me.  It sure conjured up images of Rocco hanging Josh Winder out to dry (now on IL and his last game pitched) vs. Oakland on May 17th.

As much as Duffey (and a bunch of hitters) owe an apology to Smeltzer, Baldelli should be first in line.

 

 

 

Baldelli's entire tenure here has been mind boggling to me, but I keep getting told that I shouldn't question the MOY (what year was that again.......oh, never mind, it was back there somewhere), and that nobody lets pitchers throw more than 80 pitches anymore or complete games (or was that going a 4th time through a lineup?).  So who am I to question a plan that requires 3-6 pitchers all 162 games regardless of how well the starter is doing that game?  We play the game today by 2 rules:  #1) the computer is always right.  #2) when the computer is wrong............see rule #1.  Never let it be said that Rocco doesn't play by the rules.

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Just another one of Rocco's  mismanaged games  ,,, leaving in duffey  ,,, duffey couldn't locate any pitches on the corners , either out of the zone or  right in the hitters sweet spot  , didn't throw many fastballs  , mostly curves and sliders  ....

The offense didn't help much with bases loaded and no outs  ,,, 

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4 hours ago, Aggies7 said:

The twins offense is somehow in the top half of all MLB in most classic offensive categories. Certainly not BA with bases loaded, no outs

That is amazing, considering they have scored 3 runs or less in 25 of their 45 games so far.  It would be interesting to see what categories they are so high in.

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1 hour ago, Mark G said:

That is amazing, considering they have scored 3 runs or less in 25 of their 45 games so far.  It would be interesting to see what categories they are so high in.

Possible overreaction incoming, but......

Yeah, this team straight up can't hit. The past 2 weeks they've been the lowest scoring team in all of baseball and they've been playing the Tigers and Royals and their no-name pitching staff the whole time. And we know what happens when they face good pitching: Kershaw and Verlander both almost no-hit this team. Yes, the Twins bullpen is all smoke and mirrors but Duffey, Pagan and company would have a much harder time blowing a game if the score was 7-0 for a change. 

The majority of this team's wins this year are 2-1 victories against Detroit, KC, Baltimore and Oakland. There are at least 6 teams in the AL that are much better than Minnesota. I think this fast start might be a mirage and the playoffs might be a pipe dream - a .500 finish would be a miracle and I think we should probably start to adjust our expectations.

Oh and Buxton's feel-good story has taken a pretty dark turn while we're at it. Yikes. I'm starting to feel sorry for the guy out there.

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Smeltzer should have had the win, sorry that he didn't. Good news though, Polanco will be back. Twins got to get their bats going. Somebody needs to start get hot and help carry the team. We have a lot of talent. We need to stop ignoring the absence of our long relief.

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8 hours ago, darwin22 said:

As much as the lack of offense is to blame for this loss--------2nd straight game leaving the bases loaded without scoring a run with zero out-------I have to take issue with Baldelli leaving Duffey in to face Merrifeld with 2 outs in the 8th when he had 2 better options (Smith and Duran) in the pen.

Go ahead and call me out for this, but the the following FACTS cannot be ignored:

1.  Duffey's pitch count was already at 17.  His command was not good as evidenced by falling behind Rivera (sub. 230 avg) 3-1 and O'Hearn (.171 avg) 2-0.  Gave up singles to both.

2.  Merrifeld---before his game tying double------was a career .385 hitter (5-13)vs. Duffey with a .846 OPS.

Why leave him in at that point Rocco??

3.  Joe Smith was available---throwing only 3 pitches yesterday------and was a much better option to face Merrifeld:  1-6 career vs. Smith.

4.  As bad as that non-decision was by Baldelli------why after walking Benintendi, after being ahead 0-2, was Duffey allowed to stay in to pitch to Witt, Jr. with his pitch count now at 25?

No shock to me that Duffey's implosion continued, again after getting ahead 0-2 of Witt.

Baldelli's failure to hook Duffey is just mind boggling to me.  It sure conjured up images of Rocco hanging Josh Winder out to dry (now on IL and his last game pitched) vs. Oakland on May 17th.

As much as Duffey (and a bunch of hitters) owe an apology to Smeltzer, Baldelli should be first in line.

 

 

 

Another thing I don't understand is why Rocco pinch hit for 3 guys who had hits in the game and both rbis. That was a horrible decision. Also, if you've faced the 3 batter minimum and have allowed more base runners than you've gotten outs, you should be pulled. It isn't rocket science. Rocco Baldoofus strikes again. 

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Duffey has not shown anything that makes him a reliable RP this year.  But that said, I understand the angst that is in the comments - we cannot keep leaving pitchers in when they do not have it and watch them fill the bases.  Come on Rocco - you yank Smeltzer when he was still going well, you leave in Duffey when he obviously is not. 

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1 hour ago, bighat said:

Possible overreaction incoming, but......

Yeah, this team straight up can't hit. The past 2 weeks they've been the lowest scoring team in all of baseball and they've been playing the Tigers and Royals and their no-name pitching staff the whole time. And we know what happens when they face good pitching: Kershaw and Verlander both almost no-hit this team. Yes, the Twins bullpen is all smoke and mirrors but Duffey, Pagan and company would have a much harder time blowing a game if the score was 7-0 for a change. 

The majority of this team's wins this year are 2-1 victories against Detroit, KC, Baltimore and Oakland. There are at least 6 teams in the AL that are much better than Minnesota. I think this fast start might be a mirage and the playoffs might be a pipe dream - a .500 finish would be a miracle and I think we should probably start to adjust our expectations.

Oh and Buxton's feel-good story has taken a pretty dark turn while we're at it. Yikes. I'm starting to feel sorry for the guy out there.

The only saving grace is how bad the rest of the central has been, but the last 2 games should have been W's if they had a manager who was able to manage a bullpen competently. 

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Nice job by Smeltzer, only to have the Doof completely blow it. Can't believe Rocco didn't pull him before all that damage was done, and to not even have someone warming up was a total WTF moment. C'mon Rocco...what the hell are you thinking? 

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7 hours ago, Seth Stohs said:

First, Duffey... 

Second, 

 

Sorry this is just writers kissing the organizations butt (or just be lazy one of the two) trying to stay in good graces with the team. Smeltzer had 77 pitches in his first start up and 74 in the second and had made 5 AAA starts if a pitcher can't make 90 pitches in his 8th start that is terrible

Do you know what a real writer would say? The Twins will tell us Smeltzer was taken out because of pitch count but guess what all but 3 starting pitchers last night pitched more than him.

No analytic should every justify pulling a pitcher averaging 11 pitches(80 total) with a 2 hit shut out for an inferior pitcher.

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8 hours ago, USAFChief said:

 

The Twins outhit the Royals 12 to 6 and left a whopping 30 runners on base

The Twins did not leave 30 runners on base. That's not even physically possible in a 9 inning game. 

 

For the record, it was 12.

MLB calculates the number of runners each batter left on base, which some batters strand the same runners so the total is 30. See graphic. 

2022-05-27 06_58_37-Royals 3, Twins 2 (Final Score) on MLB Gameday.jpg

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Duffey is on a roll.  He's allowing an earned run on every other hit, on average.

But...he's not allowed an intentional walk.  So, there is that.  

 

Sidenote: anyone that still rocks stirrups gets some respect from me!  Smeltzer pitched a nice game, he deserved better.

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2 minutes ago, TwinsDr2021 said:

Sorry this is just writers kissing the organizations butt (or just be lazy one of the two) trying to stay in good graces with the team. Smeltzer had 77 pitches in his first start up and 74 in the second and had made 5 AAA starts if a pitcher can't make 90 pitches in his 8th start that is terrible

Do you know what a real writer would say? The Twins will tell us Smeltzer was taken out because of pitch count but guess what all but 3 starting pitchers last night pitched more than him.

No analytic should every justify pulling a pitcher averaging 11 pitches(80 total) with a 2 hit shut out for an inferior pitcher.

If the Twins gave up selling their collective soul to analytics and actually used their brains they would win far more games. Even the game Sunday they came back and won was in spite of analytics, not because of it. 

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3 minutes ago, wsnydes said:

Duffey is on a roll.  He's allowing an earned run on every other hit, on average.

But...he's not allowed an intentional walk.  So, there is that.  

 

Sidenote: anyone that still rocks stirrups gets some respect from me!  Smeltzer pitched a nice game, he deserved better.

At least his mediocrity is consistent?

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8 hours ago, darwin22 said:

As much as the lack of offense is to blame for this loss--------2nd straight game leaving the bases loaded without scoring a run with zero out-------I have to take issue with Baldelli leaving Duffey in to face Merrifeld with 2 outs in the 8th when he had 2 better options (Smith and Duran) in the pen.

Go ahead and call me out for this, but the the following FACTS cannot be ignored:

1.  Duffey's pitch count was already at 17.  His command was not good as evidenced by falling behind Rivera (sub. 230 avg) 3-1 and O'Hearn (.171 avg) 2-0.  Gave up singles to both.

2.  Merrifeld---before his game tying double------was a career .385 hitter (5-13)vs. Duffey with a .846 OPS.

Why leave him in at that point Rocco??

3.  Joe Smith was available---throwing only 3 pitches yesterday------and was a much better option to face Merrifeld:  1-6 career vs. Smith.

4.  As bad as that non-decision was by Baldelli------why after walking Benintendi, after being ahead 0-2, was Duffey allowed to stay in to pitch to Witt, Jr. with his pitch count now at 25?

No shock to me that Duffey's implosion continued, again after getting ahead 0-2 of Witt.

Baldelli's failure to hook Duffey is just mind boggling to me.  It sure conjured up images of Rocco hanging Josh Winder out to dry (now on IL and his last game pitched) vs. Oakland on May 17th.

As much as Duffey (and a bunch of hitters) owe an apology to Smeltzer, Baldelli should be first in line.

 

 

 

I could not possibly agree more, with everything you said.

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