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Twins 4, Royals 2: Kepler Finds His Bat, Thielbar an Immovable Force in Win


Twins Daily Contributor

Max Kepler found his bat, and Caleb Thielbar got two huge outs as the Twins open the home series with a win. 

 

Box Score
SP: Joe Ryan: 5 1/3 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 6 K (80 pitches, 54 strikes (67.5%))
Home Runs: N/A
Top 3 WPA: Caleb Thielbar (.226), Max Kepler (.158), Jose Miranda (.136)  

Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs)

image.png.ee00a0a1f5d69f743544ae537aaa4b69.png

After a rough road trip to LA, the Minnesota Twins needed to return home and find some home cooking. A familiar division foe in the Kansas City Royals awaited them. Only playing the game would let us know if the Twins would take advantage of an easy stretch in their schedule.  

Royals New and Old
A familiar Royals bat and a new royals bat teamed up in the first inning to give the visiting team an early lead. Joe Ryan has struggled as of late and was looking to find the front-line starter form that he had exhibited early in the season. That form looked to have returned as Ryan struck out the first two batters of the night. 

That changed as usual Twins killer Salvador Perez, broke open the hitting with an opposite-field single. Something the Twins will take as Perez has made loud contact against the Twins more often than anyone wants to remember. While Ryan avoided loud contact against Perez, he didn't, with Vinny Pasquantino facing the Twins for the first time. Pasquantino squared up a Ryan fastball and dropped it in the right field bleachers to give the Royals an early 2-0 lead.  

Breaking Streaks
Max Kepler’s bat has been absent since coming back to action after breaking his toe. Coming into the evening, Kepler was 0 for 29. With runners on first and second, Kepler would slap the ball to the opposite field. The hit had just enough run to bring Jorge Polanco around to score and bring the Twins within one run. 

While snapping his individual hitless streak, Kepler also snapped the Twins 0-19 streak with runners in scoring position. The new haircut Kepler was sporting will certainly receive lots of attention and credit through the evening as Kepler went on to go 3-for-4 with a double, a run, and an RBI. 

Ryan hits the century-inning mark
As Ryan steadied his form after the first inning home run, in the middle of the fifth inning, he hit a significant number on the season. Ryan became the first Twins pitcher to log 100 innings in 2022. The Minnesota Twins were also the last remaining MLB team to have a pitcher hit that mark. A further display of the struggles in the rotation when it comes to both health and having any starters who can pitch deep into games. 

The Rookie and Polanco show up in the fifth
As the Twins bats struggled through much of the game to get going against Royals starter Kris Bubic, in the fifth, the Twins finally began to string some hits together. Jose Miranda added an exclamation point by singling to right-field to score Luis Arraez to tie the game. Polanco followed with a sac-fly to score Carlos Correa to give the Twins a 3-2 lead. 

Thielbar slams the door in the sixth
As Ryan was making his way a third time through the Royals lineup, he ran into trouble. After a walk to Pasquantino and a near homerun to Michael Massey there were runners on second and third with no outs. Ryan was able to strike out Nate Eaton before being lifted for Caleb Thielbar. 

Thielbar came into the game to face former Twin Brent Rooker and forced him to fly out. The lefty then slammed the door on the Royals scoring opportunity by striking out Michael A. Taylor to strand two Royals runners in scoring position. That outing from Thielbar set up the bullpen to do what it is designed to do. That is shut down the opposing lineup as it goes through Griffin Jax, Jhoan Duran, and lastly Jorge Lopez to finish out the win. 

What’s Next? 
Tomorrow evening the Twins will send Sonny Gray to the mound. Gray will be looking to put together a complete outing after falling apart late last time out. The Royals will counter with veteran Zack Greinke. Greinke has not been the same pitcher as he has been in previous seasons, and the Twins bats will look to capitalize on that. 

Postgame Interview

 

Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet

  THU FRI SAT SUN MON TOT
             
Duran 0 15 19 0 10 44
López 0 10 19 0 13 42
Fulmer 0 12 0 20 0 32
Jax 0 0 13 0 14 27
Megill 0 0 0 26 0 26
Thielbar 0 0 13 0 8 21
Pagan 0 0 9 10 0 19
Sands 0 0 0 0 0 0
 

 


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One game winning streak! Is that a streak? It's a start. 4 games over .500. Nothing a nice 10 game winning streak won't fix. Now is the time. 

Lopez sure is scary. Seems every batter can make good contact, and he is giving up a lot of hits since he has put on the TC uniforms.

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Yet again Rocco has to use essentially every good bullpen option to nail down the win (not blaming him for that in this particular instance, just observing).  It bit the Twins hard on Saturday and Sunday last; here's hoping the Twins bats can make the unavailability of the bullpen aces irrelevant tomorrow.

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7 hours ago, Cap'n Piranha said:

Yet again Rocco has to use essentially every good bullpen option to nail down the win (not blaming him for that in this particular instance, just observing).  It bit the Twins hard on Saturday and Sunday last; here's hoping the Twins bats can make the unavailability of the bullpen aces irrelevant tomorrow.

I would actually think that there is a strong possibility every arm is available again. There may be a preference to try and not use Duran and Lopez, but in a pinch both could probably go. Everyone's work load was (and has been) about as minimal as you could hope for. 

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So nice to see Kepler break out!!  Decent performance by Ryan.  Lopez IS a little scary.  He had two blown saves in his first five games.  Royals we're hitting him hard.  But he got that game ending double play.  Good job.  Thank God it wasn't Pagan.  We may have to deal with him Tuesday.  Nice win Twins against a team with seven rookies.  Nothing less than a sweep is acceptable.  After all we are playing basically a AAAA team.  We are using our top three starting pitchers this series.  We are at home and in a pennant race.  A sweep is a must.  The only negative this week is we still have Pagan and Baldelli in the wings that could throw a wrench in the works.

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The way this game played out with only a two run lead after the 6th I really thought the pen would find a way to blow it as they seem to have lots of trouble holding slim leads.  Lopez almost made my gut feeling come to fruition but managed to hang on this time.  Kind of starting to feel like we got hosed in that trade with Baltimore. Not sure what the deal is but he hasn't been the same pitcher since coming over to the Twins.  HIs first outing was his best and he was facing a rookie Royals team this time.  I don't know why the pen is cursed this year but karma says next year they should be untouchable.

Anyway they got the W but this team has problems all the way around IMO.  Will be interesting if they can hang with the Sox and Guardian's.

Note: After I blasted Correa last week he has a 1.086 OPS the last seven games.  We will see if he can keep it up but those are big boy numbers.  Gonna need his bat if the Twins are going to have any chance at all.  Twins need to do batting practice with the infield in and at double play depth as the offense is getting killed with runners in scoring position.  Would be nice if they could break a game open once in a while.

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A win, but it's still a team with the same old problems: the inability to score runs and a bullpen that will always make things interesting. This could have easily gone the other way - just imagine how low we'd be on this team if that'd happened. 

Until they do something like win 9-out-of-10 and blow out a good team or 2 in the process, I really don't see any reason to feel differently about the Twins today than I did yesterday. A team that's been treading water for months, finally getting tired and slowly sinking without putting up much of a fight. 

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That stat on Ryan being the first Twin to get to 100, and the Twins being the last team in baseball to get a pitcher to 100 innings just has be shaking my head.  With all of the glaring problems we've had with the bullpen I absolutely do not understand why we haven't stretched pitches for one more inning more frequently. 

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25 minutes ago, HokieRif said:

That stat on Ryan being the first Twin to get to 100, and the Twins being the last team in baseball to get a pitcher to 100 innings just has be shaking my head.  With all of the glaring problems we've had with the bullpen I absolutely do not understand why we haven't stretched pitches for one more inning more frequently. 

This is all Rocco. He started using the bullpen too early in week #1 of the season and never changed his approach. He has worn out the bullpen. Can you imagine how bad it would be, if they had not went out and got 3 new arms for the pen?

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2 minutes ago, roger said:

Please, please, please let this be the start of a nice 7-8 game winning streak.  And hopefully, a couple of those hitters who have been capable in the past will heat up and start punishing the ball.

Roger said please let's have a winning streak and I concur ...

The time is now ... no excuses  ...

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3 hours ago, Nate Palmer said:

I would actually think that there is a strong possibility every arm is available again. There may be a preference to try and not use Duran and Lopez, but in a pinch both could probably go. Everyone's work load was (and has been) about as minimal as you could hope for. 

Available and effective are not necessarily the same thing.  I haven't crunched the numbers on specifically Duran or Lopez, but when I did that in the past for Taylor Rogers, it was clear as day that pitching on 0 days rest resulted in Rogers being pretty bad.  Anecdotally, that holds for Lopez this past weekend.

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22 minutes ago, Cap'n Piranha said:

Available and effective are not necessarily the same thing.  I haven't crunched the numbers on specifically Duran or Lopez, but when I did that in the past for Taylor Rogers, it was clear as day that pitching on 0 days rest resulted in Rogers being pretty bad.  Anecdotally, that holds for Lopez this past weekend.

Agreed, just because the big guns were used & are available tonite doesn't mean they'd be as effective. I'd like if were managed a little different. Also IMO, Duran is the man! I'd trust him more to be put in the closer role than Lopez, better idea use them both in those situations.

Twins let the wind out of the sails of KC after they beat LAD. Happy to see Kepler hit and we pulled out the win but still not really happy w/ the line up, there's still a lot of room for improvement. 

Go Twins!

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2 hours ago, Cap'n Piranha said:

Available and effective are not necessarily the same thing.  I haven't crunched the numbers on specifically Duran or Lopez, but when I did that in the past for Taylor Rogers, it was clear as day that pitching on 0 days rest resulted in Rogers being pretty bad.  Anecdotally, that holds for Lopez this past weekend.

I don’t disagree with the point you’re making. Relief pitchers tend to be more effective when they aren’t pitching back to back games. But isn’t the end point of this thinking something like, ‘the good pitchers shouldn’t pitch, because then they’ll be unavailable to pitch’? If they’re available, they should pitch. 

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1 minute ago, prouster said:

I don’t disagree with the point you’re making. Relief pitchers tend to be more effective when they aren’t pitching back to back games. But isn’t the end point of this thinking something like, ‘the good pitchers shouldn’t pitch, because then they’ll be unavailable to pitch’? If they’re available, they should pitch. 

Taken to an extreme yes, it can end up there.  It's why I specifically pointed out that I had no problem with Rocco using Jax, Duran, and Lopez last night; it was a two-run game, and you needed a win.  However, when Rocco used both Duran AND Lopez with a 4-run lead last Friday, that's where I have an issue.  Both of them were pretty shaky on Saturday (they combined for a 2.5 WHIP and 13.50 ERA on Saturday, and were then unavailable Sunday), and I think you have to attribute at least some of that to pitching on back to back days.  I would have much preferred Rocco used only one of Duran or Lopez, and had either Jax, Theilbar, or even Megill get the other 3 outs (if you can't rely on a guy to keep his ERA under 18 in 95% of their appearances, they should not be on the roster).

If your relievers' effectiveness is diminished when they don't get rest, you have to get them at least 1 days rest.  That means if you're going to empty the bullpen on a Monday, the options will be limited on a Tuesday, so Rocco needs to be very sure he is thinking that through.  Last night made sense to empty the pen.  Last Friday?  Not so much in my opinion.

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3 hours ago, Cap'n Piranha said:

That's where you and I differ; I would much prefer the pitching chart with Pagan not on it.

I really agree with you 100% - I just felt like I might get grief due to being so vocal about him being on our team any longer in the past.  It makes NO sense that he's still even an option for Rocco to use.

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1 hour ago, farmerguychris said:

I really agree with you 100% - I just felt like I might get grief due to being so vocal about him being on our team any longer in the past.  It makes NO sense that he's still even an option for Rocco to use.

I think you'll find very few Pagan supporters on this site.  So long as your criticism of him is respectful and not excessive, you'll be totally fine.

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Pagan is getting eaten alive. While you can look at his xFIP and say "oh, he's unlucky" the Statcast metrics do not look good.

EV = 91.4mph, bottom 2%
Hard hit = 49.1%, also bottom 2%
Barrel Rate = 13%, also very bad.
Walk rate is high

The worst part about it? Looks just like last year in a lot of ways.

 

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