Happ: 7 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 K
Home Runs: Buxton (8), Donaldson (2), Polanco (1), Astudillo (2), Garver 2 (4)
Top 3 WPA: Buxton .137, Polanco .095, Happ .089
Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs):
The Twins home run derby
Entering Wednesday’s ballgame, the Twins lineup had produced just 10 first inning runs in 22 ballgames, which was tied for 21st in Major League Baseball. That trend of first inning futility did not carry over into this game, as the Twins had already scored four runs just four batters into the ballgame. It all got started with this Byron Buxton opposite field home run.
Josh Donaldson followed that up with a blast of his own in the very next at-bat. This one, however, was a no-doubter off the bat with an exit velocity of 106.3 MPH and carried 423 feet to left.
Then, after a Nelson Cruz walk, it was Jorge Polanco’s turn to join the home run bigrade. Like Donaldson’s home run, Polanco’s home run also left the bat at 106.3 MPH, but this one traveled 426 feet to left-center field, giving the Twins a quick four run lead.
The Twins early scoring did not stop in the first. In the top of the second, the Twins added a couple more runs to further extend their lead. Alex Kirilloff got things started with a one out single, and then advanced to second on a wild pitch during Byron Buxton’s at-bat that ended with a ground ball between second base and short, that turned into a double thanks to Buxton’s speed and hustle out of the box.
Unfortunately, Kirilloff was unable to score after he misread the groundball and went back to second, before advancing to third. That would be a moot point two batters later, when Nelson Cruz delivered this two-run single.
In the third, it was Willians Astudillo’s turn to join the party, after he hit the Twins fourth home run of the game.
Not to be left out, Mitch Garver went deep in the fifth, giving the Twins an 8 to 1 lead on their fifth home run of the ballgame.
A couple innings later, it was Garver again, this time a two-run shot to get the Twins
to double-digits on their sixth home run of the game.
J.A. Happ builds off great start last time out
After a gem of a start last Firday, where J.A. Happ didn’t give up a hit until the 8th inning, he came back out Wednesday and gave the Twins another strong outing, giving up just two runs across seven innings of work. He did give up a number of deep flyballs, but with the exception of a Amed Rosario home run, they all came up short as warning track flyballs.
A lot of Twins fans grumbled at the J.A. Happ signing when it happened this winter, but four starts in and it appears to be a great move for starting rotation depth. In total, Happ now has a 1.96 ERA in 23 innings of work and has yet to give up more than two runs in any of his starts.
Byron Buxton’s career day
Prior to today, Bryon Buxton had only ever had just one four-hit game, which came back in 2017 in Toronto when Buxton blasted three home runs on the way to a Twins 7-2 win. Today, Buxton recorded his first ever five-hit game, and came up just a triple shy of the cycle. We already mentioned the solo shot to leadoff the ballgame. On a couple of his hits later in the game, it was Buxton’s wheels, not his power that was on display.
When all was said and done, Buxton had collected 10 total bases along with a stolen base on his way to earning the YouTube Player of the Game honors. Can we just give Buxton the MVP award already?
Dobnak throws two shutout innings
Thanks to the offensive explosion, the Twins did not need to rely on the bullpen to close out the game late, something the Twins have been unable to do at all this year. Instead, it gave Rocco Baldelli the flexibility to turn to Randy Dobnak, who produced his best outing of the season, giving up just a single to go along with three strikeouts in two shutout innings of work.
Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet
Click here to see the bullpen usage over the past five days (link opens a Google Sheet).