Jax Bounces Back After Two Abysmal Starts
Jax entered today giving up 15 earned runs in his last two starts combined, and was able to have a passable start given his recent struggles. From the start, Jax was benefiting from some near misses starting with the leadoff batter hitting a deep fly ball into the right field corner, another deep flyball to start the second inning, and then a ball off of the bat of Yandy Diaz that had an xBA of .690 to end the second. Regardless, he was able to get through the first two innings unscathed although that would be a sign of things to come for the end of his day. The luck of the near misses through the first two innings were balanced out by three different batted balls, two off the glove of Luis Arraez and one off of Nick Gordon, that would have undoubtedly made for shorter innings and less damage against Jax. Although none of these balls were considered errors, they were plays that gloves of Donaldson and Polanco would likely have vacuumed up for outs. Luckily, the Twins bullpen was most fresh after pitching just one inning on Friday, as Jax only lasted 4 ⅔ innings when the Rays started making consistent hard contact off of the rookie right hander.
Coming into today, Jax had given up nine home runs and 11 walks in 27 innings in the month of August. As previously mentioned, there were some close calls today but outside of the homerun to Brandon Lowe he kept the ball in the ballpark and made the Rays earn their bases only giving up one walk. Even on the homerun to Lowe, Glen Perkins had some interesting insight as to how Lowe pulled a low and away breaking ball 365 feet.
Clutch Two-Out Rallies Lift the Twins to Victory
Luis Arraez started off the game for the Twins getting robbed of a line drive single by Wander Franco in what would foreshadow Luis Patiño’s day against the slumping Twins offense. After a quick first inning, the Twins would score three two-out runs with hitters six thru nine all reaching base, including Willians Astudillo’s first walk since drawing back-to-back walks on June 16th.
The Twins would tack on a fourth run in the third inning after aggressive baserunning by Josh Donaldson creating a balk to get to second and taking third on a ball in the dirt. The headsy baserunning would pay off after a bloop two-out single by Jake Cave allowed Donaldson to score easily, giving the Twins a 4-0 lead. The Twins put together another threat in the fourth after an Arraez single and a Buxton double that would have been a run-scoring triple had it stayed in the ballpark. Alas, it was ruled a ground-rule double (bounced off the foul pole and back into play) and the next batter, Jorge Polanco, would hit a line drive to Wander Franco who flipped it to third to double off Arraez.
After getting 1-2-3 innings in the fifth and sixth, the bottom of the line up would come through again with Nick Gordon tying the game at five runs apiece with another two-out RBI hit.
And that wouldn't even be the end of Nick Gordon's career day. After more aggressive baserunning by Donaldson and with one out in the ninth and runners on 1st and 3rd, Gordon punched a single up the middle to give the Twins the 6-5 lead and ultimately the win. If you were paying attention closely, you realized that five of the six Twins runs were scored with two-outs and Nick Gordon was responsible for half of the runs scored today.
Bullpen Usage Chart
The Twins made the right call in pulling Griffin Jax but, in what seems like the “Twins Way” this year, the inherited runner was allowed to score when Caleb Thielbar immediately gave up a two-run homerun to Austin Meadows. Thielbar finished the fifth but wasn’t able to finish the sixth after a lead off walk and a comebacker fielder's choice, and was relieved by righty Jorge Alcala. After a first pitch swinging strike by Mike Zunino, he got the backstop to ground into an inning ending double play and would get through the seventh only allowing a double to Franco. Tyler Duffey came on in the eighth and pitched a 1-2-3 thanks to Ryan Jeffers gunning down a would-be base stealer before handing over the save opportunity to Alex Colomé in the ninth. As usual, Colomé would make things very interesting in the ninth but ultimately earned the saved after a 23 pitch inning.