The leaky bullpen made another appearance in Kansas City on Thursday night, but a timely pickoff of the game’s fastest runner helped Twins steal a win, stave off a sweep and avoid their historic 103rd loss in a 7-6 win at Kauffman Stadium.
A two-out pinch-hit single from Salvador Perez in the ninth off closer Brandon Kintzler turned a 7-4 lead into a dicey 7-6 advantage, and perpetual motion machine Terrance Gore pinch ran for him. But instead of worrying about Paulo Orlando at the plate, Kintzler promptly picked Gore off, and with help from the replay review sealed the win for the Twins to close out the series.
At least for one night, the Twins managed to avoid their 103rd loss of the season, which would set a new team record.
Here’s what we saw from our vantage point:
The game ended on a pickoff
After Perez singled, manager Ned Yost sent out his secret weapon in the form of Gore to run for him as he represented the tying run. Gore has 19 career steals and had been caught just once, and somewhat remarkably has zero career MLB hits.
Kintzler threw over to Kennys Vargas twice, with the second throw being the decisive one. Gore was originally called safe, but a replay review of 75 seconds confirmed what Kintzler told reporters he already knew — Gore was out. After the game, Kintzler told reporters he couldn’t remember ever ending a game on a pickoff. “I knew I had him,” Kintzler said. “But you just never know what the replay is going to say. I’ve never ended the game on a pickoff. Maybe as a kid.”
The numbers might seem to say otherwise, but Kyle Gibson was kind of nasty
The difference between Gibson the No. 3 starter and Gibson the No. 5 is getting swings and misses, and those came in grand fashion on Thursday against the Royals. Gibson pounded the strike zone — 103 pitches, 70 strikes — for the most part, even even when he missed to start 1-0 he was able to come back with a strike right afterward. Gibson got 16 swinging strikes against the Royals on Thursday according to Brooks Baseball, and 17 according to Baseball Reference and ESPN. Regardless, no matter how you slice it, that’s a. super elite and b. the best mark he’s put together this season. Nine of the 25 sliders Gibson threw resulted in swinging strikes — an incredible 36 percent whiff rate — and he showed pretty solid velocity, reaching 94.5 mph with his four-seam fastball and 93.7 with his sinker.
Also, this happened when he tried to field a bunt down the third base line. Don’t ask:
Big Kennys rides again
Vargas throttled a first-pitch two-seamer to dead center from Duffy in the sixth inning for his 10th home run of the season. Vargas went for broke on the swing, and it clearly paid off as he hit his fifth home run of the season from the right side. He’s been clearly better as a right-handed hitter with the Twins this year (1.411/.691 OPS split), but he should still be playing every day down the stretch. He’s hitting a robust .250/.354/.543 with the Twins this season.
Byron Buxton had another really, really solid night
Buxton’s speed was on display with a double and a triple, but he also took an all-important walk and didn’t strike out as he continues to evolve as a hitter. He’s up to .222/.277/.410 as a hitter this season, and he’s hit .286/.343/.615 in 26 games this month. You can call that a small sample size and you wouldn’t be wrong, but this is the longest stretch in which Buxton has looked solid at the plate. He’s by no means out of the woods, but perhaps those labeling him as a “bust” were a bit — or maybe A LOT — premature? It’s almost like baseball is really hard.
The Twins pushed Danny Duffy around a little bit
Duffy was justifiably in the Cy Young discussion earlier in September, but finished with a whimper as he carried a 5.50 ERA and .872 OPS against in 36 innings this month. The Twins played a part in that — at least this time around — as they got some retribution for him pushing them around earlier in the month. Back on Sept. 7 at Target Field, Duffy fanned 10 and walked none in taking a no-decision. He allowed just two earned runs on that day, but his bullpen couldn’t hold it as Buxton homered off Kelvin Herrera late to help give the Twins the win. Duffy lasted 6.1 innings this time around and allowed four earned runs, but 10 of the 28 batters he faced reached base (a .357 OBP, essentially), and he had just three strikeouts this time around. Things started with an epic 11-pitch walk from Jorge Polanco, as the Twins made it clear they at least weren’t going to be bullied this time around. Duffy had just seven swinging strikes in 96 pitches — his lowest mark in over a month.
Stuck in a 1-for-30 slump, Dozier took a seat for the first time since May 24. That day in late May was the second day of a Molitor-imposed benching to get Dozier moving back in the right direction, and from that point forward until Thursday’s day off, he did this: .293/.358/.628 batting line, 38 home runs, 72 extra-base hits and 16 stolen bases in just 113 games. That’s a 162-game pace for 55 home runs, 105 extra-base hits, 23 steals (and just caught three times). You may never see another extended run like this from a Twins player in your life.
Up Next: RHP Tyler Duffey vs. LHP Carlos Rodon – 7:10 p.m. Friday, U.S. Cellular Field
- Thursday’s win was the eighth of the month for the Twins (8-18), and helped avoid matching April’s season-low seven wins (7-17).
- Thursday’s win was the first time the Twins had scored more than three runs since Sept. 15 in a 5-1 win over the Tigers at Comerica Park.
- Vargas’ home run means the Twins have 10 players with at least 10 home runs for the first time in franchise history.
- The Twins need four home runs over the weekend to reach 200 for just the third time in franchise history (225 in 1963, 221 in 1964).