Like Jack Morris’ speech prior to last Sunday’s start compared to Saturday’s at Target Field, Kohl Stewart’s time on the mound was significantly shorter as he made his home debut six days removed from his big-league debut at Comerica Park last Sunday.
Morris was given free reign to speak at length as the Tigers retired his No. 47 jersey prior to Sunday’s series finale in Detroit, while he spoke for just a few minutes at Target Field Saturday evening as the Twins honored him for being the third St. Paul boy to make it to Cooperstown.
The other two — Twins manager Paul Molitor and former Twin Dave Winfield — flanked Morris as he gave his remarks with youth players from nearby clubs flanking the entire infield cutout, and the big screen later showed Morris sitting next to his father, World War II veteran Arvid Morris, in the stands to celebrate the occasion.
Stewart pitched into the fifth inning before hitting turbulence in his debut, but was all over the place on Saturday night. Ultimately, he got just eight outs and threw fewer strikes than balls on his way to an early shower with a 3-2 deficit.
The Twins managed to keep things even with a couple homers early, but Tyler Duffey allowed a three-run homer to Mikie Mahtook in the fifth inning, and while Minnesota made it interesting late, that ended up being the difference in a 7-5 loss on Saturday evening.
Here’s what we saw from our vantage point:
Win probability table
Stewart couldn’t locate within the strike zone
While Stewart had just two swinging strikes against the Tigers on Sunday, it wasn’t the swing-and-miss stuff that evaded the rookie righty on Saturday night. Instead, Stewart threw just 31 of his 65 pitches for strikes — including starting just six of the 16 batters he faced with a first-pitch strike.
Add that to four walks, and it’s a recipe for disaster.
Still, Stewart managed to navigate two scoreless innings before running into trouble in the third. With one out, Jim Adduci hit a ball back to the mound that Stewart — who would have needed to make a nice play to complete the motion — was unable to field clearly.
After back-to-back walks to Nicholas Castellanos and Niko Goodrum, Stewart got Victor Martinez to pop to short for the second out. But after getting ahead 0-2 on Mahtook, Stewart admitted that he tried to do too much, and yanked a 1-2 fastball that hit the Tigers left fielder and forced home a run.
“That pitch to Mahtook, that can’t happen,” Stewart said after the game. “That’s a miss by three feet with my best pitch. We’ll get back after it; we’ll get back on it in the bullpen and get the stuff done we need to get done. It’s just frustrating, you know?
“I had Mahtook 0-2 there, and could have gotten out of that inning — as bad as it was — if I execute that one pitch. You know what I mean? That’s the kind of shit that keeps you up at night.”
Ronny Rodriguez followed with a double to right field — scoring Castellanos and Goodrum to give the Tigers a 3-2 lead — and that signaled the end of the night for Stewart.
Stewart’s start was the shortest for the Twins since Aaron Slegers lasted just 1.1 innings back on July 10 against Kansas City.
“You just can’t fall behind guys like that, can’t walk guys,” Stewart said. “I’ve got to give my team a better chance to win. It was not acceptable.”
Molitor said in his postgame remarks that another start for Stewart was likely.
Tyler Austin’s run of success continued
Austin started the night 3-for-3, and finished 3-for-4 with a home run and a pair of singles. The massive power that led to Austin being a fairly well-regarded Yankees prospect — both MLB.com and Baseball America listed him as a top-100 prospect before the 2013 season — has been on display with the Twins, particularly against lefties, as he’s victimized the last two he’s faced.
Austin is now 7-for-19 with three homers since joining the Twins, and appears likely to keep siphoning a fair number of the DH at-bats even with Robbie Grossman likely to rejoin the team as early as Sunday afternoon.
Outside of Austin however, the rest of the bottom of the lineup was extremely quiet. The rest of the 5-9 batters — Austin hit eighth — combined to go 1-for-15 with four strikeouts.
Joe Mauer homered for the second game/at-bat in a row
On a night where three Hall of Famers from St. Paul were honored, how fitting was it that Mauer started things with his first career leadoff homer to get things rolling for the Twins?
“That was pretty good,” said Molitor of his fellow St. Paul native. “It was a nice beginning for him to homer in back-to-back at-bats. (He) really had just a tremendous night. Even the last at-bat, where he put together a really good fight and drove one out to the track. Yeah, it was good.
“We got off to a decent start offensively, a missed opportunity in the first inning when you have a chance to increase the margin there a little bit. And we missed that, and it cost us a little bit at the end. But Joe’s night was outstanding.”
The home run marked the second time that Mauer had homered in consecutive at-bats — July 24, 2009 against the Angels — and was the third leadoff home run by the Twins this year.
Grossman’s blast in Boston on June 20 was the most recent one. Mauer is now three hits away from tying Rod Carew for the second-most knocks in team history.
Lack of sustained offense hurt the Twins against Ryan Carpenter
The Twins popped Carpenter for three home runs — one in each of the first three innings — but they were all solo shots as the rookie managed to skate through 5.1 innings relatively unscathed. Those were the only three earned runs he allowed, and despite the fact that he allowed eight hits, the Twins were unable to cash in baserunners when needed to really let things snowball on him.
The first inning was the one that probably hurt the most, as the Twins had Carpenter on the ropes right away. After Mauer homered, Eddie Rosario singled into right-center and Jorge Polanco followed with a double to deep right over the head of Castellanos.
After Miguel Sano struck out swinging, Logan Forsythe and Max Kepler followed with line drives that the Tigers were able to track down at third base and in right field to end the threat.
Duffey’s struggles were actually fairly innocuous
The final line on Duffey reads 2.1 innings and three earned runs, pushing his season ERA to 6.35, but in all honesty, it was more fluky than anything.
Duffey took over for Stewart in the third and got the final out to strand runners at second and third, and worked around a two-out double to pitch a clean fourth inning. In the fifth, Duffey hit former teammate Niko Goodrum with a 1-2 fastball, and then Victor Martinez reached when Mauer’s throw to second didn’t quite get there in time to record the out.
That gave the Tigers runners on first and second with nobody out, and Mahtook crushed the fifth pitch he saw from Duffey — an 82 mph, 2-2 knucklecurve — into the lower bowl in left to give the Tigers a 6-3 lead.
Sure, Duffey may have committed a cardinal sin by hitting Goodrum while up in the count, but it just goes to show how quickly things can snowball in this game, and how a player can do an otherwise terrific job, only to see it all washed away with one swing.
“Well, he got the first guy and that was big,” Molitor said. “Two outs, we needed an out. And then a couple things happened there that obviously, not trying to throw a breaking ball where he threw it. Had him set up for it, just didn’t get it where he needed to. Three-run homers hurt.”
The Tigers returned the favor on the Twins from Friday night
It’s not particularly noteworthy, but the Tigers won with seven runs on just six hits on Saturday, while the Twins scored five runs on 11 hits. On Friday night, the Twins won 5-4 despite being outhit by the Tigers, 10-5.
The Twins optioned outfielder Johnny Field back to Triple-A Rochester following the game, and will make a corresponding move in advance of Sunday’s game. The smart money is on Grossman (hamstring) being activated off the disabled list.
- The loss snapped a seven-game winning streak at Target Field for the Twins.
- Mauer’s home run moved him
- The Twins have hit 10 home runs over their past three games.
- The announced attendance of 31,904 was the fourth-highest mark at Target Field this season.
- Jorge Polanco’s error in the eighth — his sixth in 41 games — allowed the final run to score when the ball went into the Twins dugout.
- The Twins (58-64) squandered a chance to get back to four games under .500 for the first time since
- The Tigers designated reliever Zach McAllister for assignment following Saturday’s game, and will purchase the contract of Jacob Turner in time for Sunday’s start against Jake Odorizzi.