But they battled back, scoring one run off of White Sox ace Lucas Giolito and tying up the game on a home run by Byron Buxton in the seventh inning. They threatened to take the lead in the eighth inning but left the bases loaded when Luis Arraez grounded out to second base.
That didn't stop the Twins from having faith. Byron Buxton came up to bat in the 10th inning to get a three-run homerun to walk it off!
SP: Chris Archer: 3 IP,3 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 2 K (61 pitches, 32 strikes (52.4%))
Home Runs: Byron Buxton 2 (6)
Top 3 WPA: Byron Buxton (.761), Jhoan Duran (.227), Max Kepler (.168)
Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs)
Trevor Larnach’s series versus the White Sox has been one of consistency. Since the game in Kansas City versus the Royals, Larnach has had a hit every game, responsible for two of the RBIs in the Saturday afternoon game giving the Twins a seven-run lead in the bottom of the fourth. He did not fare as well at the plate today, striking out twice (looking, once with the bases loaded, and once with runners on second and third) but still found a way to contribute.
As Archer struggled to maintain control in the third inning, with bases loaded, Andrew Vaughn singled a sharp line drive to Larnach in left-field, who threw a cannon home to Jose Godoy to end the inning.
Godoy Makes Twins Debut
Jose Godoy’s contract was added to the Twins’ roster yesterday and made his debut with the Twins today. The former Seattle Mariner had 40 at-bats last year ending the season with a .162 batting average. Ryan Jeffers was scratched from the line-up two hours before game time for a knee contusion and Gary Sanchez is still out with abdominal tightness.
Godoy saw five pitches in his first at-bat, striking out. Godoy’s first and second appearances he struck out, but rounded out his first game with the Twins being walked by Aaron Bummer, before being sent home off Byron Buxton game-tying two-run home run. Then he walked again in the 10th inning, coming around again on Buxton's game-winning home run.
His defense and chemistry with Archer was impressive to watch. The rookie catcher was able to frame pitches on a consistent basis and has good reaction time. Godoy showed his speed and agility as he ran to catch a foul off Grandal’s bat at the top of the third. Interference from the fence made for a hard catch, but Archer and Godoy got Grandal to swing at a high fast ball striking him out with the next pitch.
He did, however, commit a cardinal sin in the 8th inning. With the winning run on third base and one out, he squared to bunt but popped out to White Sox pitcher Kendall Graveman.
Postgame Postscript: We learned after the game that Jeffers took a ball off his knee earlier this series and had a left knee contusion and that Rocco really did not want to use him. That proved to be important as there was that opportunity in the 8th inning to pinch hit for Godoy in the bat in which he popped out on a bump. So the Twins entered today's game with three catchers on the active roster, but only one was truly active.
Bats Show Signs of Life
The Twins line-up was consistent over the series and through today battling rain and cold to keep their bats swinging, a nice change of pace from the earliest part of the season’s start. With the exception of a few players getting strikeouts early, by the 6th inning, at a minimum, almost every bat made contact with a pitch. Even Miguel Sano who was 0-for-8 through the series ended up getting a single into right field in the second inning.
Giolito Returns But Doesn’t Last Long
The Twins have been having trouble scoring runs, so the last thing they need is to face a preseason Cy Young Award candidate. Not only was today’s opposing pitcher, Lucas Giolito, a candidate, he opened the season as one of the favorites at 13-2 odds.
However, he was also making his first start after a stay on the 10-day injured list for an abdominal strain, and that rust showed a bit in the first inning. Giolito threw 26 pitches that inning, only half of which were strikes, and walked two Twins. But with the bases loaded, he escaped untarnished by striking out Trevor Larnach on two changeups and a fastball.
The story was similar in the third inning. This time, a walk, and a couple of singles loaded the bases, and the Twins cashed in a run on a sacrifice fly by Gio Urshela. But Giolito escaped further damage by fooling young left-handed hitters - this time both Larnach and Nick Gordon - with his changeup and fastballs away.
Still, he had already thrown 65 pitches through three innings, and due to his stint on the injured list, it was expected he would only throw 70-80 pitches in his second outing this year. Sure enough, after an efficient fourth inning, his day was over.
Nick Gordon played in his 12th game today, starting at shortstop as manager Rocco Baldelli gave Carlos Correa a day off. He entered today with a 694 OPS in 26 plate appearances. He will likely never show a lot of power, and a .261 batting average is nothing special, but he is getting on base almost 35% of the time.
Almost any evaluation of Gordon’s future and performance are tied to the wide range of expectations attached to him. If your expectations are tied to his selection in the first round of the 2014 draft, or of his family pedigree, you’re likely going to be disappointed. If, on the other hand, your expectations of him were set by his performance and health issues in AAA as recently as 2019, you might be delighted by his sudden progression as a valuable bench asset.
To both camps, I’d suggest it is time to take a look at him with fresh eyes. He’s a 26-year-old who is likely to never post a big OPS because he will likely never hit for power. But he gets on base, he is capable (though not outstanding) in several key defensive roles, and as a left-handed hitter, he is more likely to get a decent matchup versus right-handed pitchers. Plus, he’s an asset on the base paths.
All that makes him an ideal super-utility player, which is exactly the role he is fulfilling this year. If he can show that he can raise his batting average closer to .300, he might improve to the point where he could be a regular starter. Fortunately for him, his performance and usefulness should provide plenty of opportunities to show his development in the super-utility role.
After nearly a week without making an appearance, long reliever and promising prospect Josh Winder made an appearance when Chris Archer only lasted three innings. He gave up one run over four innings, striking out two and giving up three hits. Maybe most notably, after struggling with his control in his first appearance, he walked none and threw strikes in 42 of his 61 pitches.
Winder is working as the long reliever but is a starting pitching prospect long-term. We saw today what we have seen from him so far: he is a slider-first pitcher who turns to his fastball to keep hitters off-balance. It seems to be working well in a relief role, but it will be interesting to see how it plays when he has to face a lineup a second time. Certainly today that was in question, as he gave up a home run on his second time through the order.
But for the most part, we likely won’t see him face batters more than once in his current role with the Twins. We might get a better sense of that if he was starting in St. Paul, but he’s now fulfilling an important role with the major league club. Regardless, it’s nice to see another Twins pitching prospect having some success in the majors.
Postgame Postscript: We learned after the game that the plan was always for Archer to be limited to only 50-60 pitches, and he was told that after his last start in Kansas City. We also learned from Rocco that this decision was specific to Archer; they're not planning right now on similar planned short starts with the rest of the rotation. He also hinted that they wanted to do this now, when they still had a 28-man roster. It'll be interesting to see if Winder eventually does go down to St. Paul as part of the mandatory roster trimming that will happen next week, or whether he'll continue in this role in which he's having success.
Byron Buxton had a fantastic series, hitting every chance he got, and coming through whenever the team needed him. His 3-run home run came on a 3-1 count with runners on second and third base and one out. White Sox closer Liam Hendricks, in his second inning of work, pitched to Buxton in that situation rather than give him a free pass to first base and load the bases for Luis Arraez. It’s not clear that strategy would have fared any better, but they likely would choose a different path given another chance.
Postgame Postscript: As expected (and completely appropriate) postgame interviews centered entirely around Buxton doing godlike things. Baldelli called Buxton the best player in the world right now, and marveled at some of the things he did. But you might be surprised at what he wanted to breakdown: it was Buxton's first, game-tying home run in the 8th. Here it is, because he breaks down what we are seeing pretty nicely.
"He's facing a left-hander who as we saw earlier in the game, is one of the best left-handers in the game. Gets a ton of groundballs. He's a really hard guy to drive the ball in the air against. And he's a guy that normally pitches all the right-handers in, pound 'em in. And he decided to go away to Buck.
And it took a few pitches, but Buck identifies what's going on. Completely changes what he's trying to do at the plate. And lines a ball over the right field fence. I mean, there's nothing typical or everyday or normal about that. That's very, very special. And I don't want to stop talking about it, because it's so impressive. Even for people who watch this level of baseball everyday. To see what he's doing it's just awesome."
The Twins will enjoy an off day at home on Monday before starting a three-game series against the Detroit Tigers at Target Field. Pitching matchups for the series include:
- Tuesday 6:40: Chris Paddock (0-2, 5.00) vs LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (0-1, 5.27 ERA)
- Wednesday 6:40: Joe Ryan (2-1, 1.69 ERA) vs RHP Michael Pineda (1-0, 0.00 ERA)
- Thursday 12:10: Bailey Ober (1-1, 2.81 ERA) vs LHP Tarik Skubal (1-1, 2.30 ERA)
Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet