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  • Twins 1, Guardians 0: Devin Smeltzer Throws 6 Shutout Innings and the Bullpen Holds on


    Matt Braun

    You all thought there were going to lose, didn't you?

    Image courtesy of © Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports

    Box Score
    Starting Pitcher: Devin Smeltzer 6 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K
    Home Runs: Nick Gordon (2)
    Top 3 WPA: Devin Smeltzer (.359), Jhoan Duran (.188), Joe Smith (.094)
    Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs)

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    Devin Smeltzer faced off against seatbelt-enthusiast Zach Plesac in the final game of the series against the Cleveland Guardians. It was a beautiful day game; people around the country celebrated the 50th anniversary of Title IX, while Twins fans looked to celebrate a victory after pulling defeat from the jaws of victory on Monday and Tuesday.

     

     

    The first few innings breezed by before Nick Gordon blasted a hanging curveball deep into center field for his second homer of the season. 

    The opportunity for Gordon to play centerfield and start in the lineup existed in the vacuum left by Byron Buxton’s mysterious, nagging injury. The team’s caution is Gordon’s advantage; the extra playing time has allowed him and Gilberto Celestino to flex their usefulness until Buxton returns. 

    Smeltzer was the story on Thursday. The often-leaned on lefty came up clutch again, firing off 6 shutout innings with three strikeouts to stymy Cleveland’s bats. The Guardians were confounded all day, sending balls directly toward defenders without recourse; their BABIP against Smeltzer was a paltry .167. No one knows how he continues to do this, but few will dare be anything but grateful for the boost Smeltzer has given to the starting rotation in the absence of multiple starters.

    But this is a Twins game in 2022, and we know better than to get our hopes up after a great start; the bullpen must do their job, after all. Joe Smith started the 7th inning, and while he loaded the bases before netting out, he somehow wriggled out of the situation, and the team walked away unscathed. 

    Jhoan Duran had the 8th inning and was considerably less noisy in his work. He “hit” Amed Rosario in the hand with a fastball—Rosario’s hands would no longer exist if that were true—but had an otherwise clean inning. 

    Duran then entered the 9th inning, looking to end the game possibly. He obliterated Franmil Reyes before Rocco Baldelli halted the game and began a slow walk to the mound. It’s unclear what Baldelli said—us mere regulars don’t earn the privilege of knowing—but Caleb Thielbar then came bounding out of the bullpen to the sounds of exhausted boos anticipating the future.

    Andrés Giménez plopped a double into left field, of course, before Ernie Clement dribbled a ball 50 feet; Thielbar threw him out at 1st. Steven Kwan, the nuisance of the series, stepped up to the plate to pinch-hit. Thielbar peppered him with fastballs around the perimeter, daring the rookie to trust his strike zone instincts before blowing a fastball by him for strike three.

    After two barn-burners, Thursday's game was a tame palate cleanser. Both teams collected just five hits⁠—Carlos Correa had three of them for the Twins⁠—and pitchers issued just three walks on the day. If there was ever a dictionary definition of a getaway day-game, this would be it. Outside of Gordon's homer, the only extra-base hit for the Twins belonged to Gio Urshela, who earned credit for a "double" that Reyes brutally fumbled. Apparently the official scorer felt lenient on Thursday.

    What’s Next?

    The Twins will remain in Minnesota and host the Colorado Rockies on Friday, the first time Colorado has played at Target Field since 2017. Dylan Bundy is set to face off against Germán Márquez.

    Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet

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    Multiple times today I was bracing for the worst. Still can’t believe Joe Smith wiggled his way out of the 7th unscathed. 

    - Excellent start by Smeltzer. 6+ innings in 6 of his 8 starts. Keep it up!

    - Nice to be back tied for the division lead

    - Cleveland’s true colors will be showing soon. Good luck navigating through 7 double headers with a 13 pitcher staff. 

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    Terrible managing bailed out terrible managing today. Baldelli makes a bad move removing Smeltzer for Smith in the seventh, but Francona bailed him out by not pinch hitting Naylor and/or Kwan with Clement/Maile after Smith predictably pitched himself into a jam. And then Naylor doesn't bat in the ninth inning either...very head-scratching move, particularly when the last time Naylor swung a bat he hit a ball halfway to Anoka County. 

    And removing Duran for Thielbar ... sheesh. That's a move that needs to backfire on Baldelli just to clearly show him how idiotic that is on its face. But, instead, he'll chalk it up as a managerial coup, and continue mismanaging this ballclub, whistling in the wind. One win today will translate into 3-4 losses in the future employing that philosophy. 

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    Joe Smith continues to pitch like Chase De Jong when the stakes are low, and like Joe Nathan when they're high.

    If we're not going to be able to use Duffey or Thornburg, even with the rest of the bullpen hanging on by a thread in terms of wear and tear, then maybe we should replace them with relievers we can use.

    Honestly, Thornburg would've been a good option for the 9th last night. He was fresh and he's had lots of MLB experience. Not an ideal closer by any stretch, but not a giveaway.

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    Good to see Smith get out of HIS jam.  He does not look like the same pitcher than he did earlier in the season.

    Good to see Gordon unleash one.

    Nice scoop at FB by Miranda on the Theilbar throw.

    I also was shocked to see Duran pulled in favor of Theilbar.  This time that strategy worked but 10 time out of 10 I would prefer to have Duran face even left-handed hitters then switch to Theilbar.

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    Twins overcame their manager who did his best to overmanage the team into a loss.

    Everyone is in agreement that the bullpen is terrible, yet plenty still would rather see a reliever(s) come in than stick with a guy who is cruising for one more inning. Smeltzer, 90 pitches, 3 hits and no walks in 6 innings. Yanked for Joe smith who has been average to bad for well over a month, and doubly so when he starts a clean inning.

    Then the 9th. Honestly if thielbar blew that, considering the situation (two blown leads late against the divisional opponent nearest to you in the standings), that’s a move that eventually gets people fired if you do it enough times. There didn’t seem to be a really good reason for it at all. 

    This doesn’t excuse the offense which continues to be terrible. Can’t manufacture runs, can’t even move guys over. Lead off double, strikeout, fly out, strikeout. 

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    1 hour ago, Alex Schieferdecker said:

    Joe Smith continues to pitch like Chase De Jong when the stakes are low, and like Joe Nathan when they're high.

    If we're not going to be able to use Duffey or Thornburg, even with the rest of the bullpen hanging on by a thread in terms of wear and tear, then maybe we should replace them with relievers we can use.

    Honestly, Thornburg would've been a good option for the 9th last night. He was fresh and he's had lots of MLB experience. Not an ideal closer by any stretch, but not a giveaway.

    (is that you Alex? I saw a De Jong reference and knew it seemed familiar. )

    Duffey should not be on the team if he wasn't used in this series. The jury is still out on Thornburg

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    1 hour ago, MplsFan said:

    So happy for Nick Gordon.

    Tyler Duffey continues to be a waste of a roster spot.

    Agree absolutely with both of your comments.  

    With MLB mandating a 13 pitcher max combined with the fact that our SPs (along with Baldelli's reluctance) seldomly navigate more than 6 innings----there is NO WAY Duffey can continue on this roster much longer.  Got to think Thornburg can serve as long relief option if a SP gets lit up early.  

    Time to DFA Duffey and fill his slot via a trade for a LH RP.  

    Okert (MIA), Puk (OAK) or Mantiply (AZ) would all be an upgrade over Thielbar as a 2nd LH option is needed as Moran hasnt (to this point) shown he can fill that role.

     

     

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    Home runs to straight away center field at Target Field are rare. Gordon hasn't shown a lot of pop, but the bat speed and raw power is greater than he gets credit for. Still doesn't take enough walks, but after today's game, he'll be sitting at a wRC+ around 95ish.

    Going to Thielbar was strange considering he just pitched last night.

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    Two straight days of the Buxton BS Show against our biggest divisional competition... at home.  Already appears to have been injured at least 3 times on a limited playing schedule.  It already appears that even 100 games is going to be far too much to ask.  And maybe in those <100 games he hits 30 HRs and all that, but what about the playoffs if the Twins make it?  Is he going to miss 2 games each series?  And clearly an off day means an OFF DAY and no chance at pinch hitting or running to help out in tight situations.  

    This is already looking like it's just not going to work and even the highly incentivized contract is still going to be a huge over payment and blow up in the Twins face.   

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    1 minute ago, KnoblauchWasFramed said:

    Two straight days of the Buxton BS Show against our biggest divisional competition... at home.  Already appears to have been injured at least 3 times on a limited playing schedule.  It already appears that even 100 games is going to be far too much to ask.  And maybe in those <100 games he hits 30 HRs and all that, but what about the playoffs if the Twins make it?  Is he going to miss 2 games each series?  And clearly an off day means an OFF DAY and no chance at pinch hitting or running to help out in tight situations.  

    This is already looking like it's just not going to work and even the highly incentivized contract is still going to be a huge over payment and blow up in the Twins face.   

    Pretty sure if we're in the playoffs all bets are off and Buxton plays.

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    1 hour ago, Monticore said:

    Correa has come up big in these games, I wish they could work something out.

    I wondered about Correa coming up big because it seems to me that he has gotten a lot of hits where they didn't matter much and made a lot of outs when hits would have been crucial. He's hit some homeruns and has an average over .300, but how much has he helped the team win?

    It may be out of favor with others, but I've always like the "Win Probability Added" at FanGraphs. Here's what the numbers say:

    image.png.005112b86dc8fea6208c5627061392c5.png

    This season his plate appearances have given the Twins 0.24 LESS expected wins, despite his nice statistics. He has not been a WPA machine since his first two years. That seems like a pretty expensive proposition for a mid-market team. I wonder if that is one reason why he didn't get the kind of long-term contract offers that he wanted/expected? 

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    This was a good - very good win. This series could have easily been a Twins sweep, but was almost a Guardians sweep. High drama for June. 

    The 2022 version of the Twins' inconsistencies can be frustrating, but I find this team really fun to follow and rather compelling. 

    The sky is not falling.

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    2 minutes ago, GNess said:

    This was a good - very good win. This series could have easily been a Twins sweep, but was almost a Guardians sweep. High drama for June. 

    The 2022 version of the Twins' inconsistencies can be frustrating, but I find this team really fun to follow and rather compelling. 

    The sky is not falling.

    Leaving the series in a relative divisional tie despite 2 bullpen implosions and being held to one run today is shaky but not as bad as a sweep. 

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    Good lord people are pessimistic.

    We're obviously a far from perfect team but, despite dealing with a rash of key injuries all season long, we're in first place nearly halfway into the season. Theres been some painful losses this year too but compared to just one year ago this season has been infinitely more fun and I see plenty of reasons for some optimism that we can squeeze into the playoffs and have another crack at snapping that horrendous streak.

     

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    I wasn't surprized by the win, I was expecting a sweep. Funny thing when the offense didn't show up ( CC 3 for 5 to no avail) we win the game. With unexpected heroes like Smith, wiggled out of a nail biter; Gordon, hitting his 2nd HR and Smeltzer pitching 6 scoreless innings. Of course  Duran pitched his usual  good game and Thielbar didn't blow the game but these 3 stuck out.

    Defense also played into the game. It's a relief to have Gordon & Celestino available to cover CF when Buck is resting. The gap is no longer that big which gives us an opportunity to win w/o Buck in CF. Smeltzer came into the game strong only pitching 4 innings his prior game. Again I'll state, if Smeltzer was brought up from the start, together with Winder and used extensively at long relief & spot relief our pitching situation would be so much better.

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    OK so I predicted a sweep for Cleveland and there were plenty of times in this game where it could have happened but baseball is so weird and unpredictable that of course with a one run lead the bullpen hung on when they couldn't hold three run leads in the last two games.  

    Bases loaded no outs with Smith struggling I thought for certain the game was lost there.  No way he could wriggle out of that without some damage and yet he did.  When Duran hit the batter in the 8th I thought he might unravel but he got the job done.  Get to the 9th Duran takes down homer man Franmil and I am thinking maybe game over and then I see Thielbar come in and I smile and say to myself they are going to give this one away. Sure enough a double to start things off and I was certain this game at least goes extra's unless he gives up a home run and the next thing you know the Twins come away with the win.  Even all my negativity could not sink the Twins today and yet the other two games I felt like they would win and they collapsed.  I think the baseball gods just like to toy with my emotions and make me look bad.

    Nice win for the Twins.  Glad they got the W for Smeltzer.  Where would this team be without him?  If you would have told me Smeltzer would be one of our best starters this year I would have rolled my eyes and laughed at you and yet here we are with the baseball gods sticking it to me again.  At least this time in a good way. 

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    Ha! Not only did I think we would lose, I assumed we had for three hours. (Went into work enforced info blackout right after Thielbar gave up the double in the 9th. Speculating fairly seriously that he MUST have pictures of Rocco doing something bad, because he was brought in to face, yeah, a lefty, but a lefty who hits .320 against lefties.

    Gotta assume he either has totally lost faith in Duffey and Thornburg (who hasn't pitched all week), or he is saving them for the Rockies game tomorrow. (Remember back to Monday when our bullpen was all rested?)

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    Rocco and FO; If you're not going to use Duffy, release him. If Buxton is going to sit out two out of three games, put him on the IL. Bring up a fresh arm from the minors for the bull pen and a rookie hitter that at the least can be used as a pinch hitter. This is no time to be carrying dead weight.

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    1 hour ago, PDX Twin said:

    I wondered about Correa coming up big because it seems to me that he has gotten a lot of hits where they didn't matter much and made a lot of outs when hits would have been crucial. He's hit some homeruns and has an average over .300, but how much has he helped the team win?

    It may be out of favor with others, but I've always like the "Win Probability Added" at FanGraphs. Here's what the numbers say:

    image.png.005112b86dc8fea6208c5627061392c5.png

    This season his plate appearances have given the Twins 0.24 LESS expected wins, despite his nice statistics. He has not been a WPA machine since his first two years. That seems like a pretty expensive proposition for a mid-market team. I wonder if that is one reason why he didn't get the kind of long-term contract offers that he wanted/expected? 

    Just another misleading statistic like WPA, OAA, UZR, WAR, OPS+ (slanted heavily toward power hitters and against Arraez), launch speed (Arraez’s probably low but hitting ~.350). Correa and Arraez are the only 2 holding the offense together. I think this recent phenomenon of these very questionable SABR type statistics is quite unfortunate. All of the defensive statistics are meaningless and almost always misleading if you compare to Scouts, managers, broadcasters - people that deeply understand baseball - takes.

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    Just because some of Rocco's decisions pan out doesn't mean they're good. We seem to be be winning in spite of him. Having said that, he has a limited range of weapons to employ, and that's on the front office.

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    Based on runs scored during this series (Cle 17, Min 16) the outcome we had (Cle 2, Min 1) is the most likely one. It's not a throwaway saying that it's not just whom you play, it's when you play them. The Twins flattened the White Sox earlier this year when we were the team on a roll and they were struggling. Considering the roles were more or less reversed here, disappointing though it was, the Twins held their own against a team on a roll. Let's hope we can build from that.

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    2 hours ago, KnoblauchWasFramed said:

    Two straight days of the Buxton BS Show against our biggest divisional competition... at home.  Already appears to have been injured at least 3 times on a limited playing schedule.  It already appears that even 100 games is going to be far too much to ask.  And maybe in those <100 games he hits 30 HRs and all that, but what about the playoffs if the Twins make it?  Is he going to miss 2 games each series?  And clearly an off day means an OFF DAY and no chance at pinch hitting or running to help out in tight situations.  

    This is already looking like it's just not going to work and even the highly incentivized contract is still going to be a huge over payment and blow up in the Twins face.   

    Quote

    Byron Buxton is out of the Twins' starting lineup on Thursday due to knee discomfort.

    Buxton also sat out Wednesday and will miss consecutive games for the first time since early May. "If Buck could swing and run, he would have played yesterday, and he would play today," manager Rocco Baldelli told reporters Thursday morning. "But those are things that at the moment he's not able to do." It sounds like a day-to-day type of situation. For now, he is expected to avoid the injured list.

    It's not an "off day", his knee injury has flared up (he had ice on it yesterday so I assume it was swelling up) and it's not a "planned day off" thing, he's actually unable to play. Hence why Rocco told us that the plan was for him to play both games, but he couldn't.

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