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):
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:
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!
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:
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.
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.
Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet
Click here to see the bullpen usage over the past five days (link opens a Google Sheet).