It’s sunny and very, very warm as the Twins begin the second part of their home-and-home series with the Padres. The Twins split the first half of the series on Aug. 1-2 with Jhoulys Chacin outdueling Jose Berrios in the first game and Ervin Santana beating Luis Perdomo in the second game.
This time, it’ll be the red-hot Kyle Gibson (5.19 ERA, 4.86 FIP in 135.1 innings) getting ready to take on left-hander Travis Wood (6.00 ERA, 5.29 FIP in 81 innings between Kansas City and San Diego).
More on that in a bit.
There was a new face in the Twins clubhouse before the game, as left-handed reliever Gabriel Moya has joined the team after a strong stretch run with the Southern League co-champion Chattanooga Lookouts.
To make room for Moya on the 40-man roster, the Twins designated infielder Engelb Vielma for assignment.
Moya was very excited in the clubhouse, and smiled when the name Jeff Bajenaru was brought up. “Oh yeah, he’s been my pitching coach for three years in the minors,” Moya said. It was Bajenaru who tweeted that on Monday that Moya called him crying to tell him he was headed to Target Field.
Gabriel Moya called me crying to tell me he just got called up to the big leagues. 1 of best phone calls I've ever gotten. So happy for him! pic.twitter.com/Ei8ZTOf1rm
— Jeff Bajenaru (@jeffbajenaru) September 11, 2017
Bajenaru pitched in the big leagues briefly with the Chicago White Sox and Arizona Diamondbacks, and most recently coached Moya at High-A Visalia in 2016.
Moya has been incredible from wire-to-wire this season between Jackson in the Diamondbacks organization and with the Lookouts, posting a 0.77 ERA with 87 strikeouts and 15 walks in 58.1 innings (13.4 K/9, 2.3 BB/9). He allowed just 4.6 hits per nine this season — or roughly a hit every other inning — and had a three-month stretch where he didn’t allow a single earned run.
Ironically, that stretch began after he allowed two earned runs to the Lookouts on May 1, and ended when he allowed an earned run to the Generals — the team he left when he was traded for catcher John Ryan Murphy — on Aug. 4.
“He’s not a left-on-left specialist so much,” manager Paul Molitor said, before suggesting with a laugh that the team would look for a way to get him in the action, but also noting he has a 14-man bullpen with expanded rosters.
Moya held opposing left-handed hitters to a .648 OPS this season; for righties, it was just .334.
Despite the overwhelming numbers that Molitor said jump off the page, Moya doesn’t possess overwhelming stuff. His fastball sits in the low-90s and he has a pretty good changeup.
Scouting site 2080Baseball has a really good blurb on him:
“Quick Hit: Not an overly physical kid, Moya does have some strength to his medium-sized frame and manages to get very good swing and miss despite just average velocity. The arm works very well, and he has excellent body control throughout the delivery that helps him get out front on a consistent basis. The changeup is his best pitch, with a chance to be plus with hard bottom that plays up due to the small crossfire and easy arm action. The fastball is pretty straight and in the low 90s, but it is sneaky quick and gets on hitters.
He handled both righties and lefties and showed very well in his first full season above rookie ball. Historically, he has done a great job keeping the ball on the ground, but saw the fly ball rate spike a bit once he moved to High A. But he only gave up two bombs in 44 2/3 innings in the homer-happy Cal League and the low hit totals (5.4 H/9 in 2016 across Class A and High A ball) remained consistent. Expect him to head to Double-A in 2017 and if he repeats his success there, could be ticketed for Phoenix later in the summer of 2018 with eyes on him being a solid sixth-to-seventh inning contributor.”
Here’s how the Twins line up against Wood:
— Brandon Warne (@Brandon_Warne) September 12, 2017
Here’s how the Padres will counter:
Padres lineup for tonight. I'll be holding down this beat for the next two days. pic.twitter.com/vvf8XYLzuM
— Shane Jackson (@SJacksonMLB) September 12, 2017
Gibson has been terrific since late July, when he moved to more of the center of the pitching rubber. He told Zone Coverage that it allows him to keep his breaking stuff in the hitting zone longer — especially on pitches that are just outside of the zone for swing-and-miss purposes — but it also gives his sinker more vertical movement than horizontal.
Horizontal movement is typically the death knell for sinkerballers.
He’s also used his four-seamer more for a different look, and it’s kept guys off-balance to some degree. Gibson said that he made the move on the rubber following his July 16 start against the Astros, and his numbers since are terrific:
- 3.19 ERA
- 38-11 K/BB ratio (48 IP)
- .276/.325/.357 line against
- 11 percent swinging-strike rate
“Whatever he’s got going, I just want to see him finish the year out as strongly as he can,” Molitor said with a wry smile. “He’s had some ups and downs along the way. He’s had some seasons where he’s been pretty good — innings pitched and gives you a chance to win the majority of the games — but we all know he’s had to endure some setbacks along the way, including demotions. But he’s responded to pitch his best baseball here late in the year, which shows a lot about his character. He’s got a chance to run it out there a few more times here until we get to the end of the month, and hopefully he has a good finish.”
The numbers on Wood are certainly not good, but since we don’t know a ton about him, we enlisted the help of Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune to get the lowdown on the lefty:
Molitor said he got daily progress updates on Miguel Sano while the team was on the road, and that the slugger did some hitting on the field early prior to Tuesday’s game. “Some days included more hitting,” Molitor said of Sano’s progress during the trip. “Other days included him trying to get out there and run around the field a bit. It was good to see him take some BP today early on; he looked good swinging the bat.”
Molitor said that Sano would back off from running on Tuesday in advance of seeing team Dr. John Steubs to get a progress update on his healing that evening, but he may get back into running again on Wednesday. “It’s one of those things where we have to make sure first of all there’s no risk in trying to push him along here,” Molitor said. “We’ll try to get some clearance on that before the game starts (when he sees the doctor).”
Molitor declined to offer a timeline, but that he’s most concerned with getting Sano’s bat back — not necessarily his glove at third base. With a bit of a rotating door at the designated hitter spot and the capable play of Eduardo Escobar as a fill-in at third base, that makes some sense.
Notes and Quotes
- The Twins went 3-4 on their most recent road trip. The team averaged 4.6 runs per game, while the team ERA was 6.41 (6.44 from starters, 6.35 from relievers).
- The Twins are 35-37 at home this season and 39-32 on the road.
- In Interleague play, the Twins have an 11-7 record this season. These are the final interleague games of the year.
- On this day in Twins history in 1986, Tom Kelly replaced Ray Miller as manager. Kelly went on to win a franchise-record 1,140 games before retiring following the 2001 season.
- James Rowson, who is still away from the club to tend to matters at home in Tampa, Fla., turns 41 today.
- The Twins released their 2018 schedule on Tuesday, including opening on the road in Baltimore — like 2015 — with the home opener coming on April 5 against the Mariners. There’ll be 20 Interleague games, including a trip to Wrigley Field on June 29-July 1. The Twins also highlighted in the release that the schedule will feature 43 home games between Memorial Day and Labor Day, with at least 12 home games in every month of the season except for May (11).
- Here’s the full schedule, as tweeted by PR man Dustin Morse:
— Dustin Morse (@morsecode) September 12, 2017
- The Twins are also having a Big Sexy Night on Friday night at Target Field. The limited edition ticket package — available here — includes a Big Sexy t-shirt:
— Minnesota Twins (@Twins) September 9, 2017
- Molitor on being energized coming to the park with so much at stake: “It makes it fun. It’s rather remarkable how much of a difference you can go through in just a year’s period. I think the guys are excited about having the chance to come out here and play these games that are meaningful. It’s good to be home. We left a couple on the table on the trip there. You want to get greedy when you can and finish off those series’ when you get off to good starts, but it didn’t happen. You turn the page. These guys got a chance to get a day away from the ballpark, which is always good — especially in September. I’m looking forward to watching Gibby pitch the ball tonight. Hopefully he keeps it going and we find a way to get the homestand off to a good start.”
- Molitor on the offense succeeding in spite of Sano being out: “You have to give credit to the guys who’ve been playing really good offensive baseball. The timing was fortunate for us that when we lost arguably our most dangerous player, we’ve been able to find guys to fill some of those middle-of-the-lineup roles and we’ve gotten balance from top-to-bottom. We’ve had upticks from a lot of guys over the past 5-to-6 weeks. It’s what you look for, when you’re playing games and you still have a chance to win, that guys’ games get elevated somewhat down the stretch. I think a lot of guys have stepped up in that regard.”