Tyler Mahle: 6 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 6 K
Home Runs: Gilberto Celestino (1), Gio Urshela (11)
Top 3 WPA: Tyler Mahle (.332), Gilberto Celestino (.196), Gio Urshela (.096)
Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs)
When the Twins acquired Tyler Mahle at the deadline, they likely envisioned him in a situation like this: working as the stopper in a crucial game down the stretch. He did not disappoint. The freshly-minted Twin commanded the ball with precision, striking out six batters over six shutout innings, with a handful of baserunners scattered around. Unlike his outing against Toronto, when the Blue Jays jumped on him late, Mahle fought back against the third-time-through-the-order frenzy and walked off the mound with a spotless ERA. Sure, maybe throwing six scoreless innings against an Angels lineup missing the golden boy isn’t as impressive as when John F. Kennedy negotiated the Russians out of world destruction, but it does have to count for something.
There are few guarantees in baseball; the sport thrives on chaotic, slimly un-random outcomes that provide the game intrigue—in what other sporting event can Kirk Nieuwenhuis hit three homers in a game? But there are some laws. Patrick Sandoval does not give up homers, and Gilberto Celestino does not hit them. Sandoval—the one of the lesser panda variety—had allowed just four balls to leave the park in 95 innings this season. Celestino—rumored to be incapable of pulling the ball with any authority—has yet to hit one this season. The outfielder owns two career homers—this author observed one in person—but power is not his forte. It is an impossibility that Celestino could hit a home run off Sandoval.
Anyways, the scoring started when Celestino hit a homer off Sandoval.
The game trudged on; the Twins occasionally threatened to score more, placing runners in ideal positions before failing to knock them in. A guy would walk; another one would leave him stranded on the bases, and the cycle repeated with dull consistency as the offense sputtered and whined. Sandy León found an occupied glove when steaming home. Gio Urshela broke through the stalemate with a solo homer in the 6th inning.
Urshela’s bat proved to be sorely needed, as his hits directly led to three of the Twins’ runs on Friday. It wasn’t the only active run engine, however; Jose Miranda doubled to right-center field in the 8th inning and trotted home after Luis Arraez poked a single beyond Jared Walsh’s grasp.
The new Twins bullpen triumvirate demonstrated their power; Michael Fulmer pitched a clean, scoreless 7th inning, carrying the shutout for at least one more frame. Jhoan Duran—still as hilariously dominant as always—melted a few faces for a clean 8th inning, setting the stage for the grand finale: Jorge López. López allowed a hit but found the time to catch Jo Adell window-shopping; Walsh grounded out to end the game.
Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet