For seven innings on Easter Sunday, things couldn’t have gone much better for the Twins. The weather was perfect, their starter was dealing and the only run scored in the game came on a serendipitous inside the park home run.
The eighth innings provided some clouds — metaphorically, of course — but the rain didn’t start to fall until the 10th. For the second time in three games, Ryan Pressly (0-2) allowed a go-ahead, opposite-field home run late which proved pivotal in a Twins loss. On Friday night, the long ball came courtesy of Matt Davidson. On Sunday afternoon, Avisail Garcia prolonged his hot streak to start the season with his fourth hit of the day.
Hector Santiago started on the mound for the Twins and was brilliant. He tossed seven shutout innings with six strikeouts, no walks and just six hits allowed as 69 of his 95 pitches went for strikes. Matt Belisle relieved him and got into trouble as he hit Jose Abreu with a pitch and gave up a booming single to right-center that Danny Santana — a defensive replacement, more on that in a bit — managed to keep from being an extra-base hit. Abreu eventually scored on a sacrifice fly to medium-deep center, as Byron Buxton’s throw sailed up the line after he caught it across his body a bit. Belisle rebounded to get pinch-hitter Cody Asche to line out to third, but the game was tied.
The game was tied because James Shields was pretty solid in his own right. Shields tossed six strong innings, scattering five hits with five strikeouts and three walks before giving way to former Twins reliever Anthony Swarzak. The only blip on the radar for Shields was an inside the park home run off the bat of Brian Dozier, though the play was very nearly a great catch in left-center field by Jacob May, with the ball glancing off his glove and rolling toward the bullpen door in deep center.
— Cut4 (@Cut4) April 17, 2017
The relay also wasn’t perfect, as a good throw almost certainly would have nailed Dozier at the plate. Shields did battle his command just a bit — 57 strikes in 97 pitches, 12-of-26 first-pitch strikes and three walks — but he had good enough stuff (11 swinging strikes) to prolong his solid start to the season. Through three games, Shields has a 1.62 ERA, as he’s allowed a single earned run — each on a solo home run — through 16.2 innings pitched.
Brian Dozier went home-to-home in 15.41 seconds. It's the 10th fastest inside-the-park in the Statcast Era dating back to 2015.
— Rhett Bollinger (@RhettBollinger) April 16, 2017
In the eighth inning that signaled the beginning of the end for the Twins, there were some interesting tactical decisions. With Robbie Grossman (1-for-2, walk) starting the game in right field and Max Kepler DH’ing, manager Paul Molitor opted to bring in Santana as a defensive replacement in the eighth, despite the fact that Grossman’s spot was due up second in the next half inning.
The potentially dubious decision paid immediate dividends as Santana played the carom off the wall in right well to hold Garcia to a single and keep Abreu — the potential tying run — at third, but the benefit was short-lived as Asche drove home Abreu just two pitches later.
The decision was exacerbated when Joe Mauer singled to left to open the eighth inning. Santana bunted foul, pulled back a bunt attempt on a called strike and ultimately struck out swinging on the fourth pitch of the plate appearance. The Twins ultimately came up empty in the inning as Jason Castro struck out swinging and Jorge Polanco ground to first unassisted to end the inning. Santana’s presence could have again proven dubious in the 10th inning, as Mauer grounded to second base to end the game with Santana on deck to somehow bat a second time after entering the game as a defensive replacement.
That probably doesn’t happen too often.
Pressly’s second bumpy outing in a row didn’t have the time to develop like his last one did. On Friday night, Pressly was untouchable in his first inning of work before the White Sox got to him in the second. The Sox waited all of two pitches to get to Pressly this time around, as Leury Garcia doubled to deep right on a ball Santana may have been able to play better. Tyler Saladino followed with a sacrifice bunt to move Garcia to third, and that left the Twins and Molitor with a choice.
With two open bases and the go-ahead run on third, the Twins opted to pitch to Abreu. Abreu is clearly the most complete hitter on the White Sox roster, but is hitting just .186/.239/.209 amidst some early-season struggles. Pressly bore down and struck him out swinging on an outside slider on the seventh pitch of the at-bat after Abreu fouled off some tough pitches. With two outs, the Twins again rolled the dice and opted to pitch to Avisail Garcia, whose fourth hit of the game landed 376 feet from home plate to give the White Sox a 3-1 lead.
After that, it was all academic, as David Robertson (save, 3) pitched a perfect ninth with a pair of strikeouts to give the White Sox a 2-1 series win.
- Dozier’s inside the park home run was the 52nd in Twins history and the first since Buxton’s on Oct. 2, 2016.
- The loss dropped the Twins to 3-3 against the White Sox this season. They’ll play them next on May 9-11 in Chicago.
- Twins starting pitchers have allowed one earned run over their last three starts (0.43 ERA) per the postgame notes.
- Polanco had his fifth multi-hit game of the season.
- This marked the Twins’ first extra-inning game of the season. The Twins were 6-10 in extras in 2016.
- Both the Twins and Minnesota Wild lost by 3-1 margins on Sunday.
- The Twins wrapped the series with seven wins on the season. They only won seven games in the entire month of April last season.
- The next series pits the Twins against the Indians for four games. The only starter the Twins are projected to miss in the Indians rotation is Carlos Carrasco, who took the loss against the Tigers and Matt Boyd on Sunday. Carrasco went 6.2 innings, allowing two runs with five walks and five strikeouts.