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  • Game Recap: Twins 9, Royals 1


    Big Mike and the bullpen had a solid night, while Alex Kirilloff had the first huge game of his young career, homering twice and batting in four runs, to help the Twins win back-to-back games for the first time in over three weeks.

    Image courtesy of © Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

    Box Score

    Pineda: 5.0 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K

    Home Runs: Kirilloff 2 (2)

    Top 3 WPA: Pineda .185, Kirilloff .157, Arraez .058

    Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs):

     

    ccs-9583-0-99652900-1619839639.png

     

    Reaching base has been one of the greatest struggles for the Twins this season. Before the game, only seven AL teams had a lower team on-base percentage than Minnesota (.304). Also, the team’s walk rate (7.5%) ranked sixth-worst in the majors. However, the lineup looked like a completely different one during the first couple of innings.

     

    Six different Twins reached safely in the first two innings, including three walks. They were threatening early, as Byron Buxton and Nelson Cruz got two-out single and walk, respectively. Alex Kirilloff then, in a preview of what was coming, scorched the first pitch he saw, for a 106 mph exit velocity and .970 xBA inning-ending flyout.

     

    Royals starter Brady Singer still struggled in the second and he soon loaded the bases after facing four batters. Ben Rortvedt, making his major league debut, worked a nice eight-pitch at-bat to draw a walk and juice them up for Luis Arráez. He got hit by a pitch on the shoulder, putting the Twins on the board.

     

    Then, this happened:

     

    https://twitter.com/Nashwalker9/status/1388298021629202444

     

    Singer didn’t come back for the third and then things got interesting. Buxton and Cruz both drew walks against Royals reliever Tyler Zuber to open the third inning. Then Kirilloff destroyed a baseball, to go yard for the first time in his career!

     

    https://twitter.com/BallySportsNOR/status/1388302083909107712

     

    Michael Pineda couldn’t be happier.

     

    While the Twins lineup kept burning through the Royals pitching staff (including old friend Ervin Santana), Big Mike was putting together a nice start. He nearly had a perfect first time through the order, allowing only a bunt single to Andrew Benintendi after three innings, on 32 pitches.

     

    Things got a bit less smooth for him. It took Pineda more pitches (39) to pitch through the fourth and fifth innings than the previous three. Carlos Santana homered off of him in the fourth to put Kansas City on the board. Then, he got hit by a comebacker off Michael Taylor’s bat, which got him in the pitching arm. After a mound visit, he decided to continue pitching, and, in spite of giving up a walk, he managed to get the last out of the fifth.

     

    Fortunately, Pineda had some great defense behind him tonight. In that previous play, Jorge Polanco and Kirilloff played it out beautifully to retire Taylor. But one at-bat earlier, Buxton made this spectacular play, with only 35% catch probability:

     

    https://twitter.com/TwinsBrasil/status/1388309835012354049

     

    But that comebacker was probably the reason why Rocco Baldelli decided to pull Pineda off the game after five innings. It was, nonetheless, a solid start for him, finishing with only 71 pitches (42 strikes), while striking out five batters and walking just two. Also, Big Mike’s 28 sliders tonight produced a ridiculous 67% whiff.

     

    Before he was officially pulled, Kirilloff wanted to make sure he had enough run support to sustain the win. He took Santana deep in the bottom of the inning, for his second home run of the night, making it 5-1 Minnesota. This time, there was nothing Taylor could do to avoid it.

     

    https://twitter.com/Nashwalker9/status/1388316061125259265

     

    In need of some good outings, the Twins bullpen didn’t disappoint at all tonight. Tyler Duffey, Hansel Robles, and Jorge Alcalá combined for three hitless innings allowing only one walk. Meanwhile, the offense managed to add four more runs during the eighth inning, against struggling Wade Davis.

     

    Aldrelton Simmons doubled to bring in Max Kepler and later scored himself when Rortvedt got his first career hit. Davis then loaded the bases before recording an out and two more runs came in. Rortvedt scored easily from third on a wild pitch and then Cruz hit a sac-fly to score Arráez, making it 9-1 Twins.

     

    Alcalá came back for the ninth and finished it up in seven pitches, pitching around a leadoff single and securing the win.

     

    Postgame Interview

     

    Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet

    Click here to see the bullpen usage over the past five days (link opens a Google Sheet).

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    Back to back dubs. You like to see that.

     

    Also the pen was lights out tonight, also something you like to see. If Rogers, Robles, Duffey, Alcala can be consistent, the pen will look much better than it has so far.

     

    tHeRe iS nO wAy kIrIlLoFf wIlL rEpLaCe rOsArIo

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    Kirilloff finally proves he can play with the big boys.  Fantastic to see our guy finally put together some great at bats.  I have no idea how he hit that home run on a bending breaking pitch.  Just a gorgeous swing!  I was down on him this spring but so, so happy to see him swinging well right now as we need his bat really bad.

     

    Great all around win for Twins again.  Let's keep this train rolling.

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    Bullpen problem solved: just win games by 7-10 runs.

    I know this is a joke, but if they can put together a weeklong stretch (they're already at 3 days) it goes a long way towards a reset.

     

    It blows my mind that in an era of 14 pitchers on a roster relievers still get outside of their best roles but that's where we are.

     

    Now let's get Colome into one of these blowouts (if we're going to bother rostering him any longer).

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    Was following on my MLB app and watching highlights all night - every notification was like a little gift. Rortvedt first MLB hit, Kiriloff first MLB homer(s), Buxton with diving catches, scoreless innings from the bullpen....what more could you want?

     

    Was reading Do-Hyoung Park this morning and he brought up an interesting point at the end of his article...if Kiriloff continues to play like this, things are awfully crowded:

     

    "With Miguel Sanó expected to come off the IL in the coming days, the Twins face an outfield crunch involving Kirilloff, Jake Cave, Max Kepler, Kyle Garlick, Buxton and Luis Arraez. The quality of Kirilloff’s contact might already have made it tough to option him off the roster....."

     

    Who's Alex putting on notice? You'd think Cave has the most to lose here. But if Sano continues to struggle, what's next for him?

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    Great game by the Twins! Hope they have these blow out more often to overcome any shortcomings. Happy that Kiriloff broke out, expecting him to sustain this. Also happy for Rortvedt that he got his 1st hit in his 1st game, that will make it lot easier for him.Almost feel sorry for Benintendi (not),getting rob of 2 hits (one possibly a HR) and when he did get on he was picked off.

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    Looks like keeping Baldelli out of the game as much as possible is the key to success. Lots of runs, and no pressure on the pen. 

    Can they do that every game?

     

    The easiest type of game to Manage is a game like this. You hit the nail on the head.

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    For those of you who didn’t see the game and rely on these recaps ... Buxton also robbed a guy of a home run last night.

    He’s good.

    He's not just good.   I watched that 2nd play and just thought it was a good  catch but no way was it going out.  Then I watched the replay several times and thought it was a great catch but still don't think it was going out.   I think he saved a double but it was closer that I first thought.    The first one I wonder if anyone else in the game or in history makes that catch from where he was.   Definitely a 5 star catch..

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    Two blowouts in a row!  Plus, Kirillof starting to look like a contributor on offense, Buxton continuing his MVP year, and Pineda looks like he's in a groove.  

     

    While these are the first signs of Twins' revival, let's put things in perspective.  This offense has shown they are capable of beating up on subpar pitching.  Allen was sent down after Wednesday's rout and yesterday, essentially they beat up on a poor KC bullpen after Allen removed.  Any team that gets 10 walks is well on their way to a decisive victory.  

     

    But except for the last two games, every time Twin bats have erupted for one game, they have reverted to their prior listless offense the next game.  Today's matchup against arguably KC's best pitcher, Duffy, will provide a very good test of whether this turnaround is for real.  Yes, its early, but the Twins have to step up and sweep the frontrunners to close the gap to 4 games.  Winning 2 of 3 hardly moves the needle.  Rocco didn't help matters much by throwing in Duffey and Robles in a game they were ahead by 4 runs after 5.  Will this bullpen usage affect our chances in the next 2 games?  Time will tell.

     

    The last 2 games were fun but the Twins have dug themselves a hole that only a 5-6 game win streak will dig them out of.  Hate to be a Debby Downer here, but this team(and manager) have to demonstrate they have the internal fortitude to more consistently produce in run-scoring opportunities,  hold a lead, and come-from-behind.  This mental toughness has been sadly lacking so far.

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    Being isolated in Maine, I don't get many opportunities to watch Twins games. Last night was an exception. Rortvedt looked good behind the plate and held his own batting. Buxton was phenomenal. And Kirilloff hit the ball hard in each at bat. The first at bat was a home run anywhere in the park except straight away center. And his last at bat was a line drive out to the second baseman who was playing about 160 feet from home plate. Very impressive at bats. And then the Twins successfully execute a hit-and-run. When's the last time that was done? And the bullpen looked great. Maybe I'm a good luck charm?

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    "Reaching base has been one of the greatest struggles for the Twins this season. Before the game, only seven AL teams had a lower team on-base percentage than Minnesota (.304)"  

     

    So we are struggling to get on base but still in the top half of the American league?  I love how you can use the same numbers but as you change the words things look different.  You could have had a more positive spin on it saying, Twins are in the top half the American league for on base percentage, but instead you said only seven are below them. 

     

    That aside, Kiriloff had two outs that were hit hard, but Donaldson hit some of the hardest balls you will ever see hit for outs.  The offense and defense looked to be clicking yesterday.  Lets hope we can have a stable lineup for a good winning stretch soon.  

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    Was following on my MLB app and watching highlights all night - every notification was like a little gift. Rortvedt first MLB hit, Kiriloff first MLB homer(s), Buxton with diving catches, scoreless innings from the bullpen....what more could you want?

     

    Was reading Do-Hyoung Park this morning and he brought up an interesting point at the end of his article...if Kiriloff continues to play like this, things are awfully crowded:

     

    "With Miguel Sanó expected to come off the IL in the coming days, the Twins face an outfield crunch involving Kirilloff, Jake Cave, Max Kepler, Kyle Garlick, Buxton and Luis Arraez. The quality of Kirilloff’s contact might already have made it tough to option him off the roster....."

     

    Who's Alex putting on notice? You'd think Cave has the most to lose here. But if Sano continues to struggle, what's next for him?

     

    IMO Sano needs to have a LLLLLOOOOOOOOONNNNNNNGGGGGGG rehab assignment before he returns.

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    Was a pleasant surprise seeing Rortvedt get the call yesterday.

     

    So glad he got his first hit and a walk, correct? And was he involved in the team scoring in both of those at bats? Also saw that Bientendi got either picked off or was thrown out stealing. Did Rortvedt throw him out? I know he has a reputation for being very good defensively with a great arm, would love to see it carry over to MLB.

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    Can't really blame Rocco for pulling Big Mike after 5 with him getting a knock on the arm. Too bad, he was really pitching well, with only 1 mistake to Santana. Otherwise he was really rolling and looked set to cruise through 7.

     

    Kirilloff showed exactly what we were hoping for from him; he didn't miss the first one by much, either! What, about 8 feet from three dingers? His approach at the plate is great, he's stinging the ball, nice to see him get the results. Amusing to see him try not to crack a smile after that first one, but you could tell he was excited by how fast he ran up on Cruz, lol.

     

    Congrats to Ben Rortvedt, a player I've always liked and have been rooting hard for. A little surprised to see him miss that foul pop-up, because he's so sound defensively, but I'm guessing a little unfamiliarity with the park got him. It'll be interesting to see if he can hit enough in MLB. I hope he can, because the defense will play and he's a nice platoon partner for Garver/Jeffers. He had a very nice first game: a walk, a hit, scored a run, knocked in a run and caught a very nice game behind the plate. Hope this is a sign of good things to come!

     

    Glad to see Alcala got through 2 innings to wrap this up; he's been a bit HR-happy so far, but otherwise everything else looks good with him and I wouldn'r mind seeing him get some higher leverage usage. but if this is how he's going to go, it's nice to see him take care of two innings easily and save the rest of the 'pen a bit.

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    Was following on my MLB app and watching highlights all night - every notification was like a little gift. Rortvedt first MLB hit, Kiriloff first MLB homer(s), Buxton with diving catches, scoreless innings from the bullpen....what more could you want?

     

    Was reading Do-Hyoung Park this morning and he brought up an interesting point at the end of his article...if Kiriloff continues to play like this, things are awfully crowded:

     

    "With Miguel Sanó expected to come off the IL in the coming days, the Twins face an outfield crunch involving Kirilloff, Jake Cave, Max Kepler, Kyle Garlick, Buxton and Luis Arraez. The quality of Kirilloff’s contact might already have made it tough to option him off the roster....."

     

    Who's Alex putting on notice? You'd think Cave has the most to lose here. But if Sano continues to struggle, what's next for him?

     

    I think a lot depends how they feel about Arraez in left.

     

    Polanco has been hitting better, but I think it adds pressure on Polanco, Kepler, and Sano, probably in that order.

     

    (But this is baseball...somebody else will soon go the IL and we'll be complaining about a AAAA utility guy getting the call-up soon enough.)

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    I agree, todays game will be more meaningful considering they will be facing Danny Duffy. Singer and company still held these guys to 7 hits. Granted there were some hard hit balls for outs but that is par for the course. The 10 walks had more to do with the 9 runs scored than anything, minus Kirolloff's 2 homers, but the flip side is the Twins weren't swinging at a lot of bad pitches if they got 10 walks. The only way you will get something good to hit is if you DON'T swing at bad pitches. I agree with the usage of Duffey, Robles and Alcala. Duff and Robles should be able to pitch again today only going 1 inning and Alcala should be available again tomorrow if needed. When Colome gets used again will be the interesting thing to watch for. Has Rocco learned his lesson yet or will he make the same mistake for the umpteeth time?

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    "Reaching base has been one of the greatest struggles for the Twins this season. Before the game, only seven AL teams had a lower team on-base percentage than Minnesota (.304)"  

     

    So we are struggling to get on base but still in the top half of the American league?  I love how you can use the same numbers but as you change the words things look different.  You could have had a more positive spin on it saying, Twins are in the top half the American league for on base percentage, but instead you said only seven are below them. 

     

    That aside, Kiriloff had two outs that were hit hard, but Donaldson hit some of the hardest balls you will ever see hit for outs.  The offense and defense looked to be clicking yesterday.  Lets hope we can have a stable lineup for a good winning stretch soon.  

    That's a misleading stat, since "7 below" puts us in 8th place in the AL in OBP since there's only 15 teams. So they're average, not "top half".

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    I think a lot depends how they feel about Arraez in left.

     

    Polanco has been hitting better, but I think it adds pressure on Polanco, Kepler, and Sano, probably in that order.

     

    (But this is baseball...somebody else will soon go the IL and we'll be complaining about a AAAA utility guy getting the call-up soon enough.)

     

    Polanco has batted .300 over his past 7 games, including a HR and an SB. He was hitless his first week which skews his stats but he's coming out of his slump.

     

    Kepler, conversely, has had one good game and that was the first game of the year. Sano hasn't really done anything, aside from showing he can walk (which does count for something).
     

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