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  • Twins 2, Guardians 3 (10 Innings): Strong Pitching is Not Enough as Twins Fall to Guardians


    Sherry Cerny

    The Twins faced the Cleveland Guardians and pitcher Shane Bieber for the first time this season. Bieber, was looking for a bounce back from his most-recent start. The Twins were looking to start another winning streak after only winning one of their last five games. But a slow-moving game, strong pitching, and stranded baserunners ended in the Guardians favor as the Twins lost in extra innings.

    Image courtesy of Jeffrey Becker USA Today

    Box Score
    SP: Dustin Smeltzer: 5 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 8 K (70 pitches, 50 strikes (71%))
    Home Runs:  Gio Urshela (2)
    Top 3 WPA: Devin Smeltzer (.133), Jhoan Duran (.128), Gary Sanchez (.102)

    Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs)

    image.png

    Makin’ Moves
    Following Thursday night's game, the Twins announced that they would be bringing up a pitcher to start Friday's game. The pitching staff has been run through and since Wednesday, the clubhouse has lost five pitchers (two starters and two relievers) with either ailment or injury leaving the bullpen to manage the past few games. 

    There was lots of inquiry and speculation, but several fans were elated to find out that Devin Smeltzer would be returning to Target Field to start against the Cleveland Guardians and Shane Bieber

    To make room for Smeltzer, first baseman Miguel Sano was sent to the 60-day Injured List (left knee, torn meniscus). Sano is not expected to make it back to the club until at least July, depending on how rehab goes. 

    Outfielder/first baseman Alex Kirilloff was optioned to St. Paul. Kirilloff has been struggling this season with his recurring wrist injury, and while he sounds optimistic on the recovery and return, his hitting for the season between IL-stints has been .172 over ten games (5-for-29) and only two runs scored. Kirilloff has one remaining option left after this transaction, the hope is that he will get more at-bats and a chance to enhance his swing as his wrist improves. 

    Smeltzer, who lost most of the 2021 season with elbow inflammation eventually was sidelined in June with a herniated disc in his neck.  Smeltzer has worked hard to get back into shape to get a chance again to start for the Twins. He had a fantastic spring training performance.

    Devin Smeltzer has thrown in five games and while he carries a 3.86 ERA the stat doesn't tell the whole story of how his discipline has changed. Smeltzer has seen a total of 88 batters, only allowing nine runs in 21 innings, and has struck out 18 of batters faced. 

    Smeltzer gained muscle and command since his last start with Minnesota, looked like his old self, maybe even better. Most of his major-league starts have been against Cleveland. The lefty had a quick first inning striking out one, Smeltzer was charged with just one run over five innings of work.

    The bullpen came in to relieve Smeltzer and continued to keep the score low, exercising every arm option they had at their disposal to keep the Guardians from adding a run.

    Battle of the Bats
    The Guardians did get on the board early in the second when Owen Miller scored on a Franmil Reyes single to center field, but Smeltzer held the Guardians to one run and only three hits in his five-inning start back with the Twins. 

    In the first three innings for the Twins, Bieber struck out four and worked inside to right-handed hitters making it nearly impossible to hit off of him. The bottom of the third, the Twins loaded the bases with Luis Arraez, Jorge Polanco, and Gary Sanchez, bringing up Max Kepler with two outs and a full count. Bieber threw a high cutter to strike out Kepler and leave the bases loaded. 

    In the fourth inning, the bats seemed to start waking up. It looked like it was going to turn around when Gio Urshela stepped into the batter's box and hit a home run to center field to get the Twins on the board and tie up the game. 

    The fifth inning was one of the more disappointing ones with bases loaded and nobody out, after just going through the same thing in the previous inning. Urshela, whose prior at-bat was a solo home run, hit a chopper that turned into a double play, followed by Arraez lining out to third, stranding three runners again. The Twins have a knack for leaving players stranded when in scoring position. 

    Royce Lewis attempted to help out the Twins in the sixth inning with two bunt attempts to bring home a run. The Twins lineup doesn’t bunt nearly as much as other teams and for players like Kepler who are constantly hitting into the shift, this writer thinks bunting would be a greater offensive weapon to assist the Twins to more than one-run wins, but clearly tonight it didn't work. The Twins organization doesn't bunt, and for some, laying out a bunt with Royce Lewis, the Twins number one prospect, seemed odd. 

    Bitter End
    The tenth inning started out with drama after The Twins and Guardians fought through five scoreless innings. Manager Rocco Baldelli got tossed for arguing with the umpires after Andres Gimenez was granted second base after colliding with Jose Miranda (called for interference rounding first base after a hit).

    To add to the already mounting stress, during all the excitement, the Guardians were able to bring home Ernie Clement, giving the Guardians a 2-1 advantage. As Jharel Cotton worked his way through the rotation, Myles Straw singled into right, scoring Gimenez before closing out the inning. 

    Urshela, who had two RBIs tonight, helped the Twins in their shot in the tenth inning as he was able to beat out an infield single and bring home Gary Sanchez who was posted on second base as the extra-innings runner.. Where there was a spark of hope, it was quickly put out as the tying run was on base was left stranded once again when Nick Gordon struck out to end the game. 

    While it wasn't the way fans or the Twins wanted to end the game, it was intense and exciting and the Twins still have a chance to take the series before heading out on the road. 

    What’s Next? 
    The Twins finish out their series with the Guardians tomorrow at 1:10pm before heading out to Oakland for a three game series followed by a stop by Kansas City to play the Royals. 

    Pitching matchup tomorrow: 

    • Sunday  1:10 pm CST: Joe Ryan (3-2, 2.56 ERA) vs RHP Tristan McKenzie (2-2, 2.76 ERA) 

    Postgame Interviews 

    Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet

      TUE WED THU FRI SAT TOT
                 
    Cotton 58 0 0 0 17 75
    Jax 0 0 0 50 0 50
    Stashak 0 0 46 0 0 46
    Thielbar 3 0 23 0 15 41
    Duffey 0 0 33 0 5 38
    Cano 0 0 36 0 0 36
    Pagán 0 0 0 22 9 31
    Duran 0 0 0 10 12 22
    Smith 0 0 0 4 15 19
     

     

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    10 minutes ago, mnfireman said:

    So in a tight, extra innings game, only Contreras was available off the bench? Too many pitchers on the roster if only one guy is available off the bench and pitchers can go 3 or 4 days between appearances. 

    Yep.  And to repeat what’s being said on Twitter a lot: why in God’s name was Buxton unavailable to pinch hit at all.  So weird- the playoffs are not a given so why do they act like they need to keep everyone healthy for it?

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    First, I think we’re better without early season Sano. Also, I’m really worried about Krilloff and Im not confident he will ever be back to normal with his wrist.
     

    Im also not confident on Smeltzer being back in the rotation. He’s a Triple A guy until something drastic occurs. 

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    2 hours ago, JimPohlad1 said:

    First, I think we’re better without early season Sano. Also, I’m really worried about Krilloff and Im not confident he will ever be back to normal with his wrist.
     

    Im also not confident on Smeltzer being back in the rotation. He’s a Triple A guy until something drastic occurs. 

    Smeltzer got the job done tonight?

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    Regarding Buxton, the prevailing wisdom seems to be "he can't get hurt if we don't play him". Either that or "we won't have to worry about the incentives in his contract if he's on the bench". He could've been the difference maker in this game, and needs to be out there everyday until he tells Rocco he can't go or needs a break.

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    Baldelli is a stiff for a manager and needs to go.  He's turning Buxton into a stiff.  Buxton had played 3 days in a row.  OMG I hope he's not too worn out.  You see nothing, absolutely nothing, will get in Baldellis system.  A scheduled day off after all the days off he's had?  How utterly ridiculous!  Then he won't even use him as a punch hitter.  Why is the bat to heavy for him?  Maybe he will get a splinter if he swings a bat.  He wouldn't use him because you don't mess with Baldellis system.  What a joke.  Buxton has already missed 12 of 34 games this year.  He doesn't need a day of rest after 3 days of "work".  And why does the stiff of a manager do it at home?  People pay good money to watch the Twins.  Many of them come to watch Buxton.  If he has to "rest" him for doing nothing at least do it on the road.    He has very poor in game management and lineups are strange.  Why for example do you take a player who the previous day went 2-4 and then sit him the next day even though its the same right/ lefty matchup.  Why was Lewis bunting not once but twice trying to bring the runner in from third.  Is Lewis a great bunter?  He may be a great player but not bunter.  He had only bunted once in his pro career.  That was in 2018.  Very odd decision by a very odd manager.  He manages like he doesn't care if they win or lose, as long as his system is in place.  Baldelli will cost this team any chance of a post season.  Baldelli has got to go.

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    Following up on Whitey, yes, the loss reflects on some intrinsic weaknesses in Rocco's game-time strategies, including:

    1. The Twins lineup is badly depleted now with injuries to Correa, Larnach, and Sano - to name 3.  So why is their best hitter remaining, BB, kept out of the lineup, including even PH?  Just inexplicable in a close game with one of the 2 major competitors in the Div.  This is on Rocco and perhaps the FO if they are, indeed, calling the shots.  Quit babying our best player!  Games count now just as much as in Sept.

    2. Rocco's ineptness is even more apparent in his bullpen usage last nite.  He blew thru our arguably 5 best relievers now, to leave Cotton the last arm remaining for extra innings.  Are Thielbar(15 pitches), Duffey(5), Smith(15), Pagan(9), and Duran(12) so fragile that they couldn't go longer?  With a runner on second to start extra innings, you want your best(and in the Twin's case, only) flamethrower for that inning.  I can see using Duran for the 9th with a save opportunity, but not a tie game.  Giving Duffey or Thielbar an extra inning would have allowed that, but alas we get Cotton - and the loss.

    I know there are those on TD will accuse the writer of second guessing but Rocco's mismanagment of the pen last night is not a fluke.  We have seen it consistently during his stewardship.  He babies his players to the point of absurdity.  Not that he is the only one to blame.  It was obvious to most of us this team badly needed a second closer alternative this offseason - and that was before trading Rogers!!  We got a good pickup in Smith but that was it.  While Duran has emerged as a potential closer, Rocco(and maybe the FO) are too risk averse to hand him the job, preferring instead to use the closer by committee.  With the current quality of RPs, can we still afford to gamble in every tight game.  Annoint Duran the closer and see how that goes.  There is no one else on the roster who is even close.

    With a now winnable Central Division Title possible, does anyone still think Rocco has the smarts to steer this team to playoff territory?  To this observer, the clear answer is NO.  Replace him with a more demanding, experienced guy with a modicum of baseball savvy.

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    I haven't been nearly as negative about Baldelli as many people, BUT......

    I wonder what players like Cal Ripken, Joe Morgan, Ernie Banks, etc. would think about being told to take a day off after just a few days of playing.  When I was still young enough to be playing sports (hockey, softball, and golf until my mid-70s), I always felt that the more I played, the better I played.  I would hate coming to Target Field every day just to be told to ride the pines once or twice a week.  IMHO, the "scheduled" day off philosophy is something that sort of sounds like a good idea but really isn't.  If a player feels like he should sit, he should be professional enough to tell the manager.

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    Have to agree that Rocco may have cost the Twins another W with his pen management. I don't understand how the FO can continue going along with the mistakes he makes. I also agree about his lineups. I've said before that I have quit going to games because I won't spend that much money when the last 4 times I've gone the best players are sitting or in the case of Buxton one time DHing. 

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    Smeltzer & co. kept us in the game. He should have been called up from the start of season to help out in long relief. From ST Smeltzer shown he's ready this season, forget about the time he struggled.

    I was impressed that w/o our main SS & CF in the line-up we still competed. Other years we'd get clobbered

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    We've seen this movie before: Twins don't hit, lose ballgame. Bieber just another great pitcher who this team can't touch I guess. Wonder what they're going to do in the playoffs against good teams' 1-2-3 starters in the first round?

    So Buxton sits 3x a week now even if he's healthy?

    Nice to see Smeltzer step up.

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    3 hours ago, mikelink45 said:

    He certainly should have been able to swing the bat.  Is he injured again?  I am confused.  

    It is confusing, yes. But I think Buxton is injured. He seemed very defensive about his earlier hip soreness, and I think they're taking it very slow. His pre-game hitting regimen seems pretty involved, and it helps him ramp up. When Buxton has an off day, he has an off day. Full stop. A quick jump into the lineup won't work for his health.

    I can see fans not liking, not agreeing with, or not understanding that approach, but I don't think Buxton will ever play more than 90 games a season. I think his contract is even structured to reflect this, He's had a career's worth of injuries, and those injuries are literally the only reason he's still a Minnesota Twin. I think we all have to accept that at this point.

    On the plus side, we have a great chance of winning in those 90 games. On the negative side, we're going to have games like this - where he could possibly have been the difference maker and wasn't available.

    As for me? It's May. We had Smeltzer going against Bieber with no Correa. I think this one was pre-tagged for an L, and I'm glad we were able to make it close. Let's move on. 

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    3 hours ago, Whitey333 said:

    Baldelli is a stiff for a manager and needs to go.  He's turning Buxton into a stiff.  Buxton had played 3 days in a row.  OMG I hope he's not too worn out.  You see nothing, absolutely nothing, will get in Baldellis system.  A scheduled day off after all the days off he's had?  How utterly ridiculous!  Then he won't even use him as a punch hitter.  Why is the bat to heavy for him?  Maybe he will get a splinter if he swings a bat.  He wouldn't use him because you don't mess with Baldellis system.  What a joke.  Buxton has already missed 12 of 34 games this year.  He doesn't need a day of rest after 3 days of "work".  And why does the stiff of a manager do it at home?  People pay good money to watch the Twins.  Many of them come to watch Buxton.  If he has to "rest" him for doing nothing at least do it on the road.    He has very poor in game management and lineups are strange.  Why for example do you take a player who the previous day went 2-4 and then sit him the next day even though its the same right/ lefty matchup.  Why was Lewis bunting not once but twice trying to bring the runner in from third.  Is Lewis a great bunter?  He may be a great player but not bunter.  He had only bunted once in his pro career.  That was in 2018.  Very odd decision by a very odd manager.  He manages like he doesn't care if they win or lose, as long as his system is in place.  Baldelli will cost this team any chance of a post season.  Baldelli has got to go.

    Thanks for the data on Lewis' bunting experience.  Would hope that he gets more work on it because even the best players may need to do so once in awhile.  Such a disappointing game.  Now need to get Ryan back on track today.

    Understand those going to games and not seeing Buxton being disappointed.  Have a feeling that he is battling one or more injuries and didn't have a problem giving him a night off. 

    Comments by the tv crew about the pen having only one leftie.  Why isn't Moran back up?  Or does he have to be down for X days and isn't past that requirement?

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    3 hours ago, LastOnePicked said:

    It is confusing, yes. But I think Buxton is injured. He seemed very defensive about his earlier hip soreness, and I think they're taking it very slow. His pre-game hitting regimen seems pretty involved, and it helps him ramp up. When Buxton has an off day, he has an off day. Full stop. A quick jump into the lineup won't work for his health.

    I can see fans not liking, not agreeing with, or not understanding that approach, but I don't think Buxton will ever play more than 90 games a season. I think his contract is even structured to reflect this, He's had a career's worth of injuries, and those injuries are literally the only reason he's still a Minnesota Twin. I think we all have to accept that at this point.

    On the plus side, we have a great chance of winning in those 90 games. On the negative side, we're going to have games like this - where he could possibly have been the difference maker and wasn't available.

    As for me? It's May. We had Smeltzer going against Bieber with no Correa. I think this one was pre-tagged for an L, and I'm glad we were able to make it close. Let's move on. 

    "As for me? It's May. We had Smeltzer going against Bieber with no Correa. I think this one was pre-tagged for an L, and I'm glad we were able to make it close. Let's move on."   

    Wow.  Just.  Wow.  So because the game looked tough ON PAPER let's not try all that hard and just mail it in for all of the 23,000 suckers who made the mistake of paying money for a game that Rocco deemed unwinnable ON PAPER.  If that's the acceptable though process the fans allow the Twins to have why stop with benching Buxton?  Maybe let Sanchez try his luck out in Left Field since he played there a few times in Little League?  Maybe Jeffers can come out of the bullpen for the 7th inning?  

    Maybe if the future the Twins can set up a promotion where games that pre-tagged as tough ON PAPER tickets can be 50% off.  Next time the Yankees or Dodgers or Astros come into town the Twins will allow you to come out and watch a wasted game, but.... you'll only pay $15 to do it!!!  

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    3 hours ago, TheLeviathan said:

    So wait....people are complaining that we used our best bullpen arms first and kept the other team from scoring as long as possible?

    Cant Speak Nathan Fillion GIF

    Serious?  Is that what you took from the comments??

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    2 minutes ago, KnoblauchWasFramed said:

    Serious?  Is that what you took from the comments??

    Since that was what was said....yes.  Of course he burned through our best arms early to preserve a tie game.  As he should.

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    1 hour ago, KnoblauchWasFramed said:

    Wow.  Just.  Wow.  So because the game looked tough ON PAPER let's not try all that hard and just mail it in for all of the 23,000 suckers who made the mistake of paying money for a game that Rocco deemed unwinnable ON PAPER. 

    Slow your roll there, partner.

    My GUESS was that Rocco was trying to be strategic about where/when to use Buxton. Rocco's own comments seemed to refute this, indicating that Buxton's knee soreness made him a non-option for yesterday.

    So there we all have it. No need to dial this up into the code-red outrage zone where dogs and cats live together and Jeffers comes out of the pen as a set-up man - the world's got plenty of that nonsense already. 😀

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    4 hours ago, Epravens said:

    Just curious. Why?

    224–183 

    He is a unique type character in the sports world personality wise and I appreciate individuals. 

    He has an interesting backstory as a player, a little tragic and at one time was quite the player. I'm sure this gives him the gravitas and perspective players can relate to.

    He comes from a good organization.

    Pisano.

    I like the new structure of the Twins front office and Rocco fits in well with it.

    I don't like to complain all the time.

    It's not all roses Eprav, his taste in music. Phish? C'mon man.

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    3 hours ago, wabene said:

    224–183 

    He is a unique type character in the sports world personality wise and I appreciate individuals. 

    He has an interesting backstory as a player, a little tragic and at one time was quite the player. I'm sure this gives him the gravitas and perspective players can relate to.

    He comes from a good organization.

    Pisano.

    I like the new structure of the Twins front office and Rocco fits in well with it.

    I don't like to complain all the time.

    It's not all roses Eprav, his taste in music. Phish? C'mon man.

    Thank you for your response. Differing opinions make the world go 'round.

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