It was a fairly nondescript, drizzly night at Target Field, as the Minnesota Twins matched their crosstown counterparts the Minnesota Wild in taking a 2-1 loss on Friday. And while it was much less crushing than it was for their green-and-red allies, it was the first loss at home this season for the Twins, who were stymied by righty Dylan Covey, who was making his first MLB start, and an army of White Sox relievers — each of which shut Minnesota down after the starter departed in the sixth.
Adalberto Mejia was solid for the Twins after a rough first start against the White Sox in Chicago, and gave his team five steady innings before giving way to a well-rested Ryan Pressly. Pressly carved up the White Sox in the sixth inning, but ran into trouble in the seventh before Craig Breslow came on to get the final out of the frame.
Pressly gave up an opposite field home run to Matt Davidson in the seventh; otherwise, the other two runs scored on the night came on RBI groundouts by Jason Castro in the second inning and Jose Abreu in the next half inning. It was kind of a snoozer in a game which was delayed at the start by 36 minutes due to a persistent rain that rolled into downtown Minneapolis.
The Twins went down without much of a whimper late, as Dan Jennings (1-0), Zach Putnam, Nate Jones and David Robertson (save, 2) combined for 3.2 innings of shutout relief with just one hit, one walk and three strikeouts.
The Twins will look to even the series at a game apiece on Saturday as Ervin Santana takes on Jose Quintana in an aces rematch from the weekend at Guaranteed Rate Field. First pitch is scheduled for 1:10 p.m.
Here’s what we saw from our vantage point:
Mejia was pretty good
After a rough start on the South Side to start the season, Mejia did a much better job. He only lasted five outs in Chicago and threw just 51 pitches, but did much better this time around, throwing 82 pitches (53 strikes) in five good innings to get his Target Field career underway. He fanned four batters, walked three and allowed just one earned run while scattering four hits.
I noted during the game — and after it — that I felt Mejia did a good job running his fastball velocity up and down at times, and that sentiment was echoed by Paul Molitor after the game. “That’s a thing he’s capable of,” Molitor said, more or less agreeing that the left-hander is savvy beyond his years in terms of how he sets guys up.
Mejia relied heavily on the four-seam fastball (42 pitches) on Friday night, which registered from 90-94 on the stadium gun — moving up and down like it was playing hopscotch — with Brooks Baseball getting readings as high as 95.2 mph on it. The two-seamer came in around 92-93 with regularity, and he mixed a good slider that got him four swinging strikes on 17 offerings. The slider was darting all over, reaching as high as 87.5 mph while at times reading as a “fastball” on the Target Field marquee for some reason.
Brian Dozier had a really solid night
Dozier was 2-for-3 with a walk and stole a base, and even poked an 0-2 double to right center that he tried to stretch into a triple but was called out. Replay later showed that there was a chance Dozier did pull back his right hand and reach his left one in ahead of Davidson’s tag, but there was no conclusive evidence of it and as a result the call stood.
Dozier also made an incredible diving play to his right to rob Todd Frazier of a hit in the top of the sixth inning as Pressly set the Sox down 1-2-3 in that frame.
So did Max Kepler, who absolutely smashed a double in the second inning and made an incredible defensive play
He was just 1-for-4 on the day, but he roped a double in the second inning and came around to score the team’s only run. The double was recorded in the vicinity of 110 mph exit velo — per the radio broadcast — which would rank among the hardest-hit balls for the Twins all season.
He also made a Five-Star defensive play per Statcast:
34 feet in 2.7 seconds?
— #Statcast (@statcast) April 15, 2017
Max Kepler's diving catch in right only had a 6 percent chance of being caught per Statcast. Covered 34 feet in 2.4 seconds. Five-star play
— Rhett Bollinger (@RhettBollinger) April 15, 2017
The offense got nothing going against Covey, who wasn’t particularly impressive
Covey scattered five hits and three walks over 5.1 innings, but struck out just one batter and only threw 50 of his 90 pitches for strikes. He did mix and match with six different pitches according to Brooks Baseball — four- and two-seam fastballs, cutter, curve, slider and changeup — but only got two swinging strikes total with only the slider grading out positively on the linear weights scale on the website.
Covey did come as advertised by Molitor in the pregame, though. He ran his fastball up in the mid-90s — 94.6 mph max on the two-seamer, 95.7 on the four — and did hit 93.7 mph on his cutter. He only threw one, though.
The Twins weren’t the only sleepy offense
Usually it’s a good night for the other team when Abreu (0-for-4, RBI) doesn’t do much, but the Twins offense was just stuck in neutral all night. As was the White Sox offense, as the teams were a combined 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position. Castro was the only player with more than one empty trip to the plate in those situations, as the Twins were 0-for-6 and the White Sox 0-for-4. The teams combined for only 13 hits in 62 at-bats on the night — a combined .210 batting average, if that were a thing.
Kintzler starts his own double play to end T9. Teams are combined 0 for 10 w/RISP.
— Mike Berardino (@MikeBerardino) April 15, 2017
Avisail Garcia — of the Garcia trio in Chicago’s outfield — is off to some kind of start
He’s up to a nine-game hitting streak to start the season for the White Sox, and is hitting a stellar .457/.500/.629 in the process. In a lot of ways, he’s still the same old Avi, though. He went 2-for-4 with a pair of singles, but still saw only 11 pitches in the process. He’s a tried-and-true hacker with limited plate discipline, so any sort of breakout potential is pretty severely muted. He’s not terribly different than former White Sox outfielder Dayan Viciedo offensively.
9-game hitting streak to begin 2017 for Avisaíl García#WhiteSox
— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) April 15, 2017
David Robertson must really, really love Target Field
I don’t put too much stock in how a guy pitches in a building — especially with how bad the Twins have been during his career — but take a peek at his numbers at Target Field:
Robertson has made 18 appearances at Target Field.
— Mike Berardino (@MikeBerardino) April 15, 2017
That’s pretty darn impressive.
The usage of Ryan Pressly in the sixth inning was really, really smart
I lauded it in the moment, but I thought it made a ton of sense for Pressly to come in during the sixth inning. He was lined up to face the middle of the order, and he carved them up with a pair of strikeouts and the great Dozier play. The stadium gun had Pressly as high as 97 mph on his fastball and 92 mph on his slider. That’s incredible.
Really great usage of Pressly here.
It's only the sixth, but it's Abreu, Frazier and A. Garcia due up — meat of White Sox order.
— Brandon Warne (@Brandon_Warne) April 15, 2017
I think it makes sense to use your “setup” man in that inning because the next time that part of the lineup comes up, it might be the ninth inning. You can’t win the game in the sixth inning — but you sure can lose it. Now Pressly went on to give up some very hard contact in the seventh and ultimately took the loss, but the process behind it made sense.
It isn’t always the same in all cases, though. For the White Sox, it made sense to bring in their set-up man Nate Jones in the eighth inning, just like a traditional, by-the-book manager might. Jones faced hitters 2-3-4-5, and it made perfect sense for him to be in there. I actually think Jones could close for the White Sox at some point this season. He has the stuff — high-90s heat and a great slider — and it makes sense for the White Sox to trade Robertson at some point.
A rebuilding club doesn’t need a high-priced closer.
Notes and Quotes
- The loss evened the season series at two games apiece, and snapped a five-game winning streak at Target Field for the Twins dating back to last season.
- The win was Chicago’s third in a row.
- Davidson homered for the second straight game. He took Indians starter Josh Tomlin deep in Thursday night’s first inning at Progressive Field as part of a five-run outburst to start the game.
- Covey wasn’t the only White Sox player making their MLB debut; Willy Garcia doubled in his first major-league at-bat, but was thrown out trying to stretch it into a triple on a nice relay from Byron Buxton to Jorge Polanco to Sano.
- Both teams had a runner thrown out at third base, as Dozier was also thrown out and a review was unable to provide a conclusive angle that he was safe in the bottom of the fifth inning.
- Polanco had his fourth multi-hit game of the season. He’s hitting a terrific .294/.351/.471 so far this season.
- Sano walked twice, and is now up to 10 walks in the first 10 games of the season. He’s hitting .290/.463/.742.
- Mejia on how he felt in his second start of the season: “I felt better. I felt more confident. I left the past in the past and prepared better for this start.”
- Mejia on if his stuff was as good Friday as it was in Spring Training: “I think so. I thought I threw very similar to what I did in Spring Training. I think the important thing was I was more confident and trusting all my pitches tonight as opposed to that first start.”
- Mejia on if all the foul balls (27 fouls) frustrated him: “Not really. That’s part of their job, to go out there and hit. My job is pitching, so it’s part of the deal. I have to do a better job of concentrating and throwing strikes.”