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  • Twins 1, Athletics 0: Polanco and Pitching Give Twins Eighth Straight Home Win


    Sherry Cerny

    With the shortened season, injuries were a foregone conclusion. All 30 teams across MLB are feeling the sting of a shortened spring training, but players are starting to bounce back and make their comebacks. For the Twins, the fans couldn’t be more excited to see Sonny Gray making a start on Saturday, alongside the Minnesota Twins (nearly) homegrown line-up.

    Image courtesy of Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports

    Box Score
    SP: Sonny Gray 4 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 7 K (66 pitches, 42 strikes (63.6%))
    Home Runs: Jorge Polanco (3)
    Top 3 WPA: Jhoan Duran (.265), Sonny Gray (.205), Jorge Polanco (.159)
    Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs)

    image.png

    Welcome Back Sonny
    Sonny Gray has had a less than great start since coming to the Twins organization in a trade after the lockout. His much-anticipated acquisition meant some rounding out to the pitching rotation. Gray came from Cincinnati in March in exchange for right-handed pitching prospect Chase Petty, Gray brings a source of veteran leadership to the rotation and a player to watch, but he has been sidelined much of the early season. 

    He wasn’t nearly as stretched out as his teammates at the conclusion of spring training and ultimately ended up with a right hamstring injury early in the season. The discomfort was obvious on his face as he stepped back off the mound in the second inning and ultimately out of the rotation. 

    Gray has only pitched one game at Target Field, against Seattle. He missed the last 19 games. During his IL stint, the pitcher rehabbed his hamstring and made one rehab start for Low-A Fort Myers last weekend. He pitched three shutout innings with one hit allowed and five strikeouts. He hasn’t left the team except for that one rehab game. He’s been with them in Florida and Baltimore, so instead of taking the starting position in St. Paul today, he returned to the mound on Saturday. 

    In his first inning, he looked composed, loose, and settled in by the second batter, bouncing back from 3-0 count on Chad Pinder to strike him out. The outfield assisted in Gray getting through his first inning, giving him a quick 1-2-3 to his start back with the team.

    Gray continued to pinpoint his pitches and left the game with 66 pitches. The plan was for him to be around 65 pitches. Considering this is his first game back and throwing four shutout innings and allowing only one hit, this seemed to be like the time to pull him and let the bullpen take over. 

    The bullpen continued to keep the game right where Gray left it.

    Home Grown Lineup... until it wasn't
    For a short time, the line-up that complimented Sonny Gray’s return was a homegrown Twins farm system team. For all the years that the Twins fans have spent frustrated with the front office, this lineup is a product of patience and hard work. Players like Trevor Larnach, Jose Miranda and Royce Lewis who have all put up outstanding numbers in the minors only to come-up to the Twins and show why they deserve to be on the 40-man. 

    This was the original lineup. 

    Jayce Tingler who has stepped up for Rocco Baldelli who is currently quarantining in Baltimore, has done a good job steering the ship and making good lineup and in-game decisions. This is exactly what happened after the "home-grown lineup" was announced, Trevor Larnach was sidelined with lower body tightness. Gary Sanchez replaced him in the lineup. Hopefully, we will get a chance for that lineup again, but it was fun to see and awesome to know how much homegrown depth there is.. 

    Joining the crew on Friday was Alex Kirilloff. He didn't play on Friday night, but on Saturday, he batted eighth. Considering he had surgery that ended his 2021 season on that joint last July, there was some concern it would be more than just inflammation. This latest injury didn’t turn out to be anything structural. He started his rehab assignment with St. Paul on April 31st and played four games in St. Paul before being activated from the IL on Friday. 

    Polanco the under-rated All-Star
    Jorge Polanco has been flying under the radar and while carrying a batting average of .211, he has an eight-game hitting streak, and six of his last fourteen RBIs in two games alone (May 1st and May 3rd). 

    In his appearance against the Rays on May 1st, Polanco went 4-for-5 with two doubles and four RBI, rocketing the Twins to a 9-3 win. Among the stars of the Twins team, Polanco is potentially one of the better players on the team that doesn’t get talked about enough. He also doesn’t talk about himself. He is focused on being a team member and contributing to the game overall. He sets goals for himself that he doesn’t talk about, and even with solid defense and hitting, he still doesn’t reach all his goals. 

    In a previous press conference Manager, Rocco Baldelli talked about the significance that Polanco has on the field

    "He's such a solid contributor for us on the field," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. "He does everything almost kind of under the radar. Personality-wise, he's a wonderful human being, but he's a quiet guy, and that's just who he is. So we probably don't talk about him enough."

    And just as this writer was deep-diving into Polanco’s stats,  Polanco hit his third home run of the year, 451 feet according to Baseball Savant off of Kaprielian’s slider to center field to give the Twins a 1-0 lead in the sixth. 

    Close Calls and a Marginal Lead
    Things started to heat up in the seventh inning as it looked like the Athletics were going to get into the action after a deep liner to center field that slid between Buxton and Nick Gordon, allowing Christian Bethancourt to get a double. The A’s momentum was brought to a screeching halt when Max Kepler stopped a fly ball by Brian McKinney to end the inning.

    In the bottom of the eighth, Royce Lewis got the second hit of his MLB career, a double off the wall in right-center. He was promptly picked off when a bunt was missed. Even with a challenge to New York, the call remained, and a frustrated Lewis returned to the dugout. Pitcher A.J. Puk had a tough time in the eighth, bobbling a ball hit back to him off of the bat of Gilberto Celestino who advanced to first and waited for a chance to advance, but to no avail. 

    Heading into the ninth, the Twins had no insurance runs and a marginal lead, but Jhoan Duran came back out to finish what he started in the eighth frame. It wasn't without stress though. Just like Friday's game, this game brought extra anxiety in the ninth as Duran walked a batter and then hit another. The last out seemed to take forever. As Ryan Jeffers framed strike two to Bethancourt, the Twins were looking at one remaining strike to complete the game. Bethancourt continued to foul-off balls prolonging the pain of the ninth before Duran threw him with a 100mph fastball to get him swinging to end the game!

    Sonny Gray and the bullpen pulled off a combined shutout and guarantee a series win. Can they come back tomorrow and complete the sweep? 

    Who is your favorite reliever in our Bullpen right now? Are you nervous about all the ninth inning bases loaded?

    What’s Next? 

    The Twins finish up the series tomorrow on Mother’s day against Oakland before Houston arrives at Target Field. Pitching matchups for the series include: 

    Sunday  1:10 central: Chris Paddack (1-2, 3.15 ERA) vs RHP Dalton Jefferies (1-4, 4.81 ERA) 

    Postgame Interviews

    Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet

      TUE WED THU FRI SAT TOT
                 
    Coulombe 0 26 0 0 12 38
    Thielbar 18 0 18 0 0 36
    Jax 0 0 15 0 19 34
    Duran 0 0 0 0 31 31
    Duffey 18 0 0 11 0 29
    Pagán 0 0 0 28 0 28
    Stashak 11 0 0 0 0 11
    Smith 0 0 0 6 0 6
    Sands 0 0 0 0 0 0

     

     

     

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    I've been waiting for Polanco to finally get his bat going and he picked a good time to do it. I'm looking forward for Polanco to start his challenge of the MVP along side Buxton and Correa. I was very happy that Gray pitched a very good & strong 4 innngs, looking forward to see Gray have a very successful season.

    Right now Smith is my favorite RP, because he's so dependable which is so needed. Duran and Pagan has given us some very nerve wracking games but they can develop into very good relievers especially Duran.

    Congratulations Lewis on his 1st extra base hit.

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    2 games. 3 runs. Two wins. Baseball is a fickle game, friends. Glad it's leaning our way more often lately. Go Twins.

    Oh, and I've had some truly bad Twins takes over the years, but my "why would anyone think Griffin Jax would make a good reliever" is shaping up to be one of the worst. Good for Captain Jax, I salute him. 

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    18 minutes ago, LastOnePicked said:

    2 games. 3 runs. Two wins. Baseball is a fickle game, friends. Glad it's leaning our way more often lately. Go Twins.

    Oh, and I've had some truly bad Twins takes over the years, but my "why would anyone think Griffin Jax would make a good reliever" is shaping up to be one of the worst. Good for Captain Jax, I salute him. 

    Your not alone in the camp as I (last year and earlier this year) cringed every time Jax was called upon with the game close.  The change I see in Jax is purely mental.  He's pitching with confidence/hitting his spots and attacking hitters. Keep it up Griffin!

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    It's not even 30 games into the season and this was the Twins' fourth 2-1 game and second 1-0 game this season. Yes, Twins are winning, but man is baseball duller than ever. I'm not sure I've watched a full game in three weeks. Very difficult to keep my attention with all the non-action (strikeouts, walks, launch-angle fly balls, etc) that's so highly valued in today's game, especially with things like the NHL playoffs a channel or two away. 

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    1 hour ago, LastOnePicked said:

    2 games. 3 runs. Two wins. Baseball is a fickle game, friends. Glad it's leaning our way more often lately. Go Twins.

    Oh, and I've had some truly bad Twins takes over the years, but my "why would anyone think Griffin Jax would make a good reliever" is shaping up to be one of the worst. Good for Captain Jax, I salute him. 

    You were not alone.  Before this year he didn't really have an out pitch.  He seemed to always end up in these long battles with batters and his pitch count would sore. 

    This year he really has that slider working and he is getting swings and misses when he sends it horizontally outside to righties.  I don't want to get too crazy high on him just yet but he has been looking pretty elite recently.  Sure could use another Taylor Rogers type arm in the pen and if can keep his current mojo I think he can be that good.

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    Great double for Lewis in the eighth.  Pitcher said “Come hit it” and he did.  Great belt.  Then the catcher picked him off at second.

    “Welcome to the big leagues, rook.  These guys are good.”

    Polanco got the shift good.  His homer in the sixth came courtesy of an extra strike.  No shift . . . his popout is an easy catch for 3B in foul territory to end the inning.  Nope.  A shot to the limestone restaurant in center and 1-0 Twins win.

    Oakland invented the shift.  What a delicious irony of Billy Beany baseball.

    Go Twins.

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    And just as Lanarch was coming on......."lower body tightness" ......... smells a little like the infamous and mysterious "bilateral leg weakness" that I never heard anybody have since. Hope it is minor.

    But then, when in a world that treats tweets and twitting as news, what can one really know?

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    58 minutes ago, Yawn Gardenhose said:

    It's not even 30 games into the season and this was the Twins' fourth 2-1 game and second 1-0 game this season. Yes, Twins are winning, but man is baseball duller than ever. I'm not sure I've watched a full game in three weeks. Very difficult to keep my attention with all the non-action (strikeouts, walks, launch-angle fly balls, etc) that's so highly valued in today's game, especially with things like the NHL playoffs a channel or two away. 

    It's possible, maybe likely, that it's your attention span that is the issue, not the game. 

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    16 minutes ago, TC-D.MajorBaseballFan said:

    Oakland invented the shift.  What a delicious irony of Billy Beany baseball.

     

    If that's the case, how do you explain that teams were shifting the second baseman to the left side of the infield for Killebrew before there was even a team in Oakland?

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    17 minutes ago, TC-D.MajorBaseballFan said:

    Great double for Lewis in the eighth.  Pitcher said “Come hit it” and he did.  Great belt.  Then the catcher picked him off at second.

    “Welcome to the big leagues, rook.  These guys are good.”

     

    Bingo. Sometimes the only way to learn is to learn the hard way.

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    1 hour ago, Yawn Gardenhose said:

    It's not even 30 games into the season and this was the Twins' fourth 2-1 game and second 1-0 game this season. Yes, Twins are winning, but man is baseball duller than ever. I'm not sure I've watched a full game in three weeks. Very difficult to keep my attention with all the non-action (strikeouts, walks, launch-angle fly balls, etc) that's so highly valued in today's game, especially with things like the NHL playoffs a channel or two away. 

    That's OK. Not everyone is meant to appreciate the nuances of baseball. I went to a fight one night and a hockey game broke out.  Go Canes.

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    Duran should be given save opportunities until he proves that he can’t do it. Preferably the one inning variety. Yes he put two on in the 9th but he struck out 5 and walked 1 (and one HBP). Took 32 pitches to get through 2 innings. Pagan’s last 4 outings pitch count (all one inning or less): 34, 23, 27, 28

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    33 minutes ago, Schmoeman5 said:

    I could be mistaken, but I'm pretty sure the St. Louis Cardinals 1st employed the shift specifically against Ted Williams and the Red Sox in the 1946 World Series

    The Williams Shift was first used against Phiilies slugger Cy Williams in the 1920s.  https://www.mlb.com/news/ted-williams-faced-defensive-shifts-in-1940s-c191605204

    MI0002443630.jpg?partner=allrovi.com&f=1

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    1 hour ago, The Mad King said:

    From the looks of your Bullpen chart, Paddock better go pretty deep tomorrow. Wouldn't be a surprise if another move is made to get another fresh arm tomorrow. 

    And no, Duran 9th was not nearly as nerve wracking as Pagans was last night!

    Thielbar, Duffey, Smith, Stashak and Pagán could all go tomorrow. Also, I’m wondering how likely the game is to be played. 

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    31 minutes ago, Dman said:

    Gotta say I wasn't a huge Sonny Gray fan but the way he can get the ball to go horizontal and end up in the zone was very impressive.  Honestly if he stays healthy he could be a big difference maker.

    Sonny Gray...chasin' the clouds away.

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    1 hour ago, Aggies7 said:

    Duran should be given save opportunities until he proves that he can’t do it. Preferably the one inning variety. Yes he put two on in the 9th but he struck out 5 and walked 1 (and one HBP). Took 32 pitches to get through 2 innings. Pagan’s last 4 outings pitch count (all one inning or less): 34, 23, 27, 28

    Let's also not forget that Duran hit 103... and more than once :) 

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    13 minutes ago, TNTwinsFan said:

    Can anyone share how Lewis has looked at SS these past couple of games?

    He’s 2-7 at the plate in his first two games in the MLB.

    I haven’t been watching the games on TV, so I wouldn’t know how he’s looked in the field.

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    7 hours ago, Nine of twelve said:

    It's possible, maybe likely, that it's your attention span that is the issue, not the game. 

    Have you been watching? It's incredibly boring baseball. Like watching paint dry. B-O-O-O-O-O-R-I-N-G.

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