Tuesday’s game was billed as one of the best pitching matchups of the season, as Joe Ryan took on Justin Verlander. Entering the contest, the pitchers had remarkably similar statistics on the year, while the Twins and Astros had identical 18-11 records.
The Astros made Joe Ryan work in the first inning. Despite this, he pitched around a walk of Alex Bregman to manage a scoreless frame. Justin Verlander, despite Gary Sanchez's scalding a line drive to left field, managed a hitless first inning of his own.
Ryan struggled in the top of the second, surrendering a leadoff hit before walking Kyle Tucker for his second free pass in as many innings. After a fly ball moved Yuli Gurriel to third, a Jeremy Pena groundout gave the Astros a 1-0 lead. Verlander, meanwhile, continued to cruise, retiring the side in order to sit at just 23 pitches after two hitless innings.
In the fourth inning, Ryan walked Kyle Tucker with one out. Tucker stole second and came around to score on a bloop single from Pena with two outs. Ryan struck out Martin Maldonado to end the fourth inning trailing 2-0. Ryan had poor command and did not look sharp on Tuesday. It’s perhaps a testament to him that he managed to keep the game close, despite walking four and throwing 83 pitches through four innings.
Verlander sat at just 43 pitches through four hitless innings. The Twins produced poor at-bats against the future Hall-of-Famer, but he also threw 81% strikes. A Jose Altuve bloop single and Joe Ryan’s fifth walk of the game led off the fifth inning for Houston. An Alex Bregman double increased the lead to 3-0 with runners of second and third and none out and ended Ryan’s night, undoubtedly his most disappointing outing of the season.
Danny Coulombe entered the game and managed to limit the damage to just one more run. The Twins entered the bottom of the fifth inning trailing 4-0. Verlander allowed his first base runner in the fifth inning when Jorge Polanco walked. Gio Urshela promptly grounded into a double play to immediately end any inkling of Twins resistance.
In the sixth inning, Coulombe exited the game, the latest in a litany of injured players. He was replaced by Jharel Cotton. The Astros tacked on another run, pushing the score to 5-0. Gilberto Celestino took the Twins' second walk of the game in the sixth inning but he was thrown out trying to take second base on an errant pitch from Verlander, who faced the minimum through six innings.
Jharel Cotton continued to pitch admirably for the Twins as he was asked to eat as many innings as possible to preserve the bullpen through the rest of the series. He pitched scoreless seventh and eight innings. Verlander finally lost his no-hit bid with one out in the eighth inning. Gio Urshela punched an opposite field single to give the Twins just their third base runner of the game. The crowd sounded their appreciation, both for Urshela, and Verlander's masterful performance. Tuesday's game was the second time this season the Twins were at risk of being no-hit by a future Hall of Fame pitcher. Royce Lewis grounded into a double play to erase the runner, and get Verlander through eight one-hit innings, striking out five.
The Twins managed to get two runners aboard in the bottom of the ninth, advancing a runner to second base for the first time in the game! Jose Miranda flew out to centerfield to complete the shutout for the Astros. the loss dropped the Twins to 18-12 on the season.
If nothing else, the Astros effortless swatting of the Twins on Tuesday emphasized the easy ride Minnesota has had with their recent schedule. A lineup without Buxton, Arraez, and Correa looked toothless. The Astros provided the first stern test for a severely undermanned Twins team. Verlander was brilliant. The Twins failed comprehensively.
Bullpen Usage Chart
On Wednesday, the Twins will continue their series against the Astros. Chris Archer will start for Minnesota while José Urquidy starts for Houston. The first pitch is at 6:40 CT
Postgame Interviews - Coming Soon