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  • Game Score: Twins 6, Rays 5


    Matthew Lenz

    The Twins had some clutch hitting today from an unlikely hero beating the best and hottest team in baseball 6-5. The victory improves the Twins record to 59-77 on the season as they avoided the three game sweep. Read about that and more in today's game recap!

    Image courtesy of © Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

    Box Score
    Griffin Jax: 4.2 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 3 K (55-percent strikes)
    Homeruns: none
    Top 3 WPA: Gordon (.364), Colomé (.194), Arraez (.171)
    Win Probability Chart (via Fangraphs)
     

    1940927849_chart(1).png.d473d8fff725e6797ac402fdb9499e48.pngJax 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.

      TUE WED THU FRI SAT SUN TOT
    Gibaut 0 24 0 0 47 0 71
    Minaya 24 11 0 0 21 0 56
    Garza Jr. 17 0 0 8 23 0 48
    Colomé 0 0 0 0 11 23 34
    Thielbar 26 0 0 0 0 28 54
    Alcalá 0 0 0 0 0 15 15
    Duffey 16 0 0 0 0 10 26
    Coulombe 0 10 0 0 0 0 10
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    Got to listen to some of the game and saw several innings while at a late lunch.

    heard the radio crew talking about whether or not to walk Cruz in the 5th.  Not saying it was or wasn’t the right decision, but if they had Jax MAY have gotten the next hitter and left with 5 innings and 2 runs.  So, yea, I see it as a solid start for the young man.

    Great games byGordon and Cave.  I am getting more comfortable with a middle infield in 2022 of Polo, Arraez and Gordon.  That would mean they would have nothing to fix in the lineup and can focus on a couple new starters and bullpen.  Also liked Alcala, who apparently has been good of late.

    Sounds like Arraez didn’t make a play early.  Although I didn’t see it, sounded on radio that he made a great play on a dribbler in the 9th.

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    He had trouble using his glove twice early on; as the commentator said on the last one, he learned to bare hand it and not use his glove.

    He hustles but is as erratic as Polanco was when he played short stop.

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    1 hour ago, big dog said:

    Does anyone see anything in Jax that leads you to believe he has a shot at being a starting pitcher? I was hopeful, but not optimistic, a few weeks ago. Now I'm neither.

    Albers, Gibault, Burrows...let's see what the kids can do. Move on.

    I was going to post something similar, but you nailed it.  The right ups are crazy except for one terrible inning, at least he made it to the fourth, he pitched good to one batter.  Come on.  He stunk and he has stunk.  This year he is not the answer.  I hope he learns, but let's not describe what he has done as anything but terrible.

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    17 minutes ago, tony&rodney said:

    One thing to admire right now is that the Twins are beginning to fight through at bats and innings better than earlier this summer. There are players fighting to be noticed and I appreciate the effort.

    I wasn't a big fan of signing Josh Donaldson but this last month I've really grown an appreciation for his effort, style, heads up play and determination. You sure wouldn't know the Twins are out of the race by watching him. Also, I've been watching the Cubs who traded away half their starting lineup and are playing a bunch of rookies who are letting it all hang out and playing some inspired baseball. Fun to watch.

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    2 hours ago, RpR said:

    He had trouble using his glove twice early on; as the commentator said on the last one, he learned to bare hand it and not use his glove.

    He hustles but is as erratic as Polanco was when he played short stop.

    Polanco has one of the worst error rates for a starter in baseball .974 at 2B. Arraez is average with a .992 at 2B this year and .991 last year. Arraez hasn't been nearly as sound at 3B, though.

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    Griffin Jax continues to improve in small increments. Looks like his ceiling will be a steady #3 or #4, able to keep his team in games through about 5 innings, 6 on a good day. 

    This is why it is going to be sooooo important for the Twins to get a look at some of their position players of the future. Call up Jose Miranda, puh-leeeze! He's the guy that takes Donaldson's place at 3rd, right? Fabulous, now let's find out how wobbly his glove is. Gots to know. Meanwhile, keep moving Gordon around the field. He may not be  a shining star, but the guy's a serious competitor beginning to show signs of clutch  hitting. 

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    The games of the last few weeks are such a good argument that there is talent on the Twins roster that only needs to be supplemented with one or two field players and a couple of three starting pitchers and a maybe only two relievers. It can happen, yes it can.

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    9 hours ago, bean5302 said:

    Polanco has one of the worst error rates for a starter in baseball .974 at 2B. Arraez is average with a .992 at 2B this year and .991 last year. Arraez hasn't been nearly as sound at 3B, though.

    I think though that Luis reaches fewer balls than Jorge does. Error counts don’t account for range.

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    @Matthew Lenz Great write-up as always. One tiny disagreement: what planet are we living on when giving up 4 earned runs in 4.2 innings is worthy of a "Jax bounces back" headline? I'd have gone with "Jax continues to struggle". Most of the comments here on Jax are spot on. I think we all respect the hell out of the guy and thank him for his service - but his overall body of work isn't inspiring.  @jimbo92107 I admire the optimism but I disagree. In my eyes he's clearly a depth piece, ceiling would be a Smeltzer type. Nothing wrong with running him out there if there's nobody else ready to audition, though.

    Happy Labor Day all. Hope you are enjoying a peaceful day off.

     

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    14 hours ago, roger said:

    heard the radio crew talking about whether or not to walk Cruz in the 5th.  Not saying it was or wasn’t the right decision, but if they had Jax MAY have gotten the next hitter and left with 5 innings and 2 runs.  So, yea, I see it as a solid start for the young man.

    The next hitter was Austin Meadows and Thielbar should have faced him whether Cruz walked or singled, which probably why they let Jax pitch to Nelson.

    Austin Meadows slash against RHP (Jax): 

    .256 .344 .548 .891

    Austin Meadows slash against LHP (Thielbar):

    .199 .277 .278 .556

    A huge problem with this season, I'd argue the biggest problem, is that the Twins pull the right levers but then the players go out there and vomit all over the baseball diamond. At the end of the day, the player is the one who has to perform. The loss of the lead is 100% on Caleb Thielbar for failing to get a same-sided hitter who is terrible against same-sided pitching out. And he not only didn't get Meadows out, he gave up a home run to a guy slugging freaking .278 against LHP. Inexcusable.

    EDIT: And I just realized Meadows' LHP splits there are INFLATED because they include his home run against Thielbar. After calculating minus the homer, his OPS against LHP entering that Thielbar appearance was a terrible .527 and that means his slugging percentage was probably about .260.

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    9 hours ago, LA VIkes Fan said:

    Guys, I think you're deluding yourselves on Jax. He doesn’t look like a MLB starter. No out pitch, not enough velocity or command. On the other hand, I could see him as a successful reliever, even a high leverage guy. That’s where he belongs. 

    I agree but there's very little lost in getting him starting innings right now. Converting him to a reliever in September means he'd get maybe 5-7 innings, tops, against MLB hitting. As a starter, he can face 3-4x as many hitters, which is probably what he needs most right now.

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    52 minutes ago, bighat said:

    @Matthew Lenz Great write-up as always. One tiny disagreement: what planet are we living on when giving up 4 earned runs in 4.2 innings is worthy of a "Jax bounces back" headline? I'd have gone with "Jax continues to struggle". Most of the comments here on Jax are spot on. I think we all respect the hell out of the guy and thank him for his service - but his overall body of work isn't inspiring.

    Watching the game it was a decent, though mostly uninspiring, start. The line looks worse than it should because Thielbar relieved Jax and promptly added a run to Jax's stat line by giving up a home run to a .500 OPS hitter (see my above post).

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    10 hours ago, LA VIkes Fan said:

    Guys, I think you're deluding yourselves on Jax. He doesn’t look like a MLB starter. No out pitch, not enough velocity or command. On the other hand, I could see him as a successful reliever, even a high leverage guy. That’s where he belongs. 

    I'm actually not all that optimistic about Jax as a reliever for reasons described above: no out pitch. I think his command is actually pretty good for a young pitcher, but he needs to be really on to be effective and I don't think he can do that at this point in his career. He either needs to tweak a pitch in his arsenal for increased effectiveness or add another pitch that he can command to be more than a spot starter/long reliever. This was only a "good" start in the context of his previous couple, and continues to show that his margin of error is really fine.

    I do agree that he should stay in the rotation through the end of the year: give him the innings. Let's see if a) this is who he is, b) if he can adjust, c) if he can improve. 

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    I know it is an often stated question here, but why the heck is Simmons still starting at SS? He won't (or shouldn't?) be here next year. Gordon looks like a passable utility player. He should be getting innings.

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    1 hour ago, USNMCPO said:

    I know it is an often stated question here, but why the heck is Simmons still starting at SS? He won't (or shouldn't?) be here next year. Gordon looks like a passable utility player. He should be getting innings.

    In spite of Gordon playing the majority of his time in the middle infield in the minors, the rumor is the Twins decided he can't play that position after he got to the majors.  Unfortunately, fans have bought into that, in spite of most of us never having seen him play that position.

    I still contend the Twins simply believed Gordon was not ready this year, so they signed a rental.  Later, they were forced to call him up, but now he's blocked from playing his natural position.  I think the reality of the situation is a lot less dramatic than the rumors.  Being how unique the 2020 season was, I can 100% buy into the Twins wanting to give Gordon a bit more time.

    I have no clue why Simmons is still playing, nor do I see why he is still on this team.  Note I don't expect Gordon to be a star infielder, but I agree that he deserves a shot.  He's done a hell of a lot of work for it.  If the Twins don't want to crown him the next SS, fine, but as Baldelli said, "Experience is important."  Give him reps at the position.  Let's see what he can do.  I find it hard to believe he could be any worse than Polanco was at SS.  If memory serves, Polanco was only put at SS because he was blocked at 2B.  At some point, the Twins have to stop the madness and stop playing people out of position.

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    26 minutes ago, Dodecahedron said:

    In spite of Gordon playing the majority of his time in the middle infield in the minors, the rumor is the Twins decided he can't play that position after he got to the majors.  Unfortunately, fans have bought into that, in spite of most of us never having seen him play that position.

    I still contend the Twins simply believed Gordon was not ready this year, so they signed a rental.  Later, they were forced to call him up, but now he's blocked from playing his natural position.  I think the reality of the situation is a lot less dramatic than the rumors.  Being how unique the 2020 season was, I can 100% buy into the Twins wanting to give Gordon a bit more time.

    I have no clue why Simmons is still playing, nor do I see why he is still on this team.  Note I don't expect Gordon to be a star infielder, but I agree that he deserves a shot.  He's done a hell of a lot of work for it.  If the Twins don't want to crown him the next SS, fine, but as Baldelli said, "Experience is important."  Give him reps at the position.  Let's see what he can do.  I find it hard to believe he could be any worse than Polanco was at SS.  If memory serves, Polanco was only put at SS because he was blocked at 2B.  At some point, the Twins have to stop the madness and stop playing people out of position.

    I watched him a couple of times when Rochester visited Pawtucket. At SS he had a knack for making the two tough plays he was given look difficult.  Perhaps he has improved in the past two years.  I'm no scout, and if you mistrust the opinion of professionals who have seen him more frequently and more recently, maybe you'll find my amateur POV persuasive.

    If the Twins don't think he has improved, I won't demand to see him at SS again with my own eyes.  IMO Gordon at SS *is* out of position.

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    1 hour ago, USNMCPO said:

    I know it is an often stated question here, but why the heck is Simmons still starting at SS? He won't (or shouldn't?) be here next year. Gordon looks like a passable utility player. He should be getting innings.

    How about Kepler?  He seems to fly under the radar.  The guy has a .210 batting average with only 41 RBIs for the whole season.  I have heard he has a team friendly contract but a guy with a .210 batting average should be looked at for being replaced

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    I agree and Kepler. He is a 4th OF or a left-handed half of a platoon With a younger player breaking in. He does provide defensive  value so he’s worth having, but not starting every day, and definitely not batting in one of the first six spots in the order. I think he plays because we don’t really have anybody else given the struggles of Rooker and Larnach Both at the plate and in the field. I would frankly like them to bring up Miranda and give him a shot in the outfield. He has played there some in AAA. The other guy is Mark Contreras, but he is another left-handed hitter. The issue is we just don’t have anyone to replace him right now. We should definitely be looking for an upgrade in the off-season.

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    6 hours ago, ashbury said:

     IMO Gordon at SS *is* out of position.

    If it is true that the Twins moved Gordon for a good reason, then it's good that the Twins are starting to "stop the madness," at least with one person.  Although, it would have potentially been a better story if they had moved Gordon elsewhere earlier in his minor league career.

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    On 9/6/2021 at 7:17 AM, bighat said:

    @Matthew Lenz Great write-up as always. One tiny disagreement: what planet are we living on when giving up 4 earned runs in 4.2 innings is worthy of a "Jax bounces back" headline? I'd have gone with "Jax continues to struggle". Most of the comments here on Jax are spot on. I think we all respect the hell out of the guy and thank him for his service - but his overall body of work isn't inspiring.  @jimbo92107 I admire the optimism but I disagree. In my eyes he's clearly a depth piece, ceiling would be a Smeltzer type. Nothing wrong with running him out there if there's nobody else ready to audition, though.

    Happy Labor Day all. Hope you are enjoying a peaceful day off.

     

    @BigHat you're right, I gave Jax a little too much credit...although was comparing it to 15 ER in his previous two starts which was a low bar! Thanks for the read and the kind words!

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