CHICAGO — Lance Lynn said it best when asked about the heat, as the Minnesota Twins and Chicago Cubs played in day No. 3 with temps soaring toward 100 degrees.
“I wasn’t out there long enough to know, truthfully,” Lynn said flatly when asked about the conditions. Lynn recorded just five outs, but was thoroughly roughed up as he allowed seven earned runs with five hits and three walks.
He also didn’t cover first base on an Ian Happ grounder to Logan Morrison at first base, and just overall didn’t exude much in the way of presence on the mound before hitting the showers.
Paul Molitor said a few words to Lynn as he departed, but the righty didn’t hear them, as he was fuming over pitching poorly.
“No,” Lynn said when asked if he remembered what Molitor said, or even heard it. “I was too busy kicking myself in the butt for a bad outing.”
“I think he wanted to stay in the game,” Molitor said. “He didn’t say that. I was just reading body language. He was close to 50 pitches in the second inning. (In that instance), the risk is high. I think he probably could have maybe tried to go a little farther.
“We don’t want to go out the bullpen in the second inning given the shape of it, but we had to do it.”
Despite the poor outing from Lynn, the Twins staged a strong comeback late, ultimately falling 11-10 to wrap up a three-game sweep ahead of a series against Milwaukee starting on Monday night.
Here’s what we saw from our vantage point:
Win probability table
Lynn was a mess
He had plenty of velocity — he hit 96.5 mph in the first inning — but tailed off a bit in the second inning as the pitch count mounted. Lynn finished with 45 pitches in the second inning, and left after the following sequence:
- Schwarber singled to left
- Contreras struck out swinging
- Russell walked
- Lester homered to center
- Happ reached on infield single
- Heyward grounded out to shortstop
- Zobrist walked
- Rizzo doubled to short left
- Baez doubled to left
The big one here is the homer by Lester, who absolutely tattooed a baseball to the bleachers in left-center after getting good wood on a foul ball one pitch earlier.
The failure to cover the base came four pitches — one batter — later with Happ, so it’s possible, if not altogether likely, that Lynn was still sulking over giving the homer up to the opposing pitcher.
“I wasn’t happy,” a terse Lynn said of the Lester homer.
“That was on me right there,” Lynn said of not covering first on the Happ single.
The relievers weren’t perfect, but they did enough to keep the Twins in the game
Matt Magill was the first arm out of the chute, and he allowed a pair of earned runs in 2.1 innings, pushing his season ERA to 3.34. He’s been dependable as a long man — and he’s out of options — so it seems like his role is fairly well established to this point in the season.
Taylor Rogers came on for two innings, and allowed a solo homer to Happ to start his first inning of work and a sac fly by David Bote — who entered when Russell was injured in a collision down the left-field line on an Eduardo Escobar fly ball.
The real pick-’em-up came from Ryan Pressly, who worked two scoreless innings and managed to hold the Cubs at bay in the eighth to keep it a one-run game. After Javier Baez doubled down the left-field line — and was narrowly safe due to a trick slide when Rosario came up firing — Pressly uncorked a wild pitch to send him to third base with nobody out.
Pressly then bore down, getting Kyle Schwarber to hit a sizzling grounder — with the infield in — that Morrison picked cleanly and tagged the bag on. Willson Contreras struck out swinging, and then Molitor had Pressly intentionally walk Bote to face Cubs closer Brandon Morrow, who had to bail out his team after a rough eighth inning let the Twins back in the game.
Morrow didn’t have a prayer against Pressly, striking out on three pitches.
After a dominant June, Lester was only decent in his July debut
Lester had allowed no more than five hits in any start in June, but surpassed that mark on a Willians Astudillo single in the third inning in this one. Lester had a 1.13 ERA, .477 OPS against and 20-10 K/BB ratio in 32 June innings was chased with no outs in the sixth after walking Robbie Grossman to lead off the inning.
It wasn’t necessarily about Lester being ineffective — the Cubs had a seven-run lead at the time — but he had thrown 100 pitches to record just 15 outs, with five strikeouts, three walks and four runs (two earned) on nine hits.
Lester sat around 89-90 mph all day long, and got just seven swinging strikes total.
The Twins really got to Dillon Maples to get back into the game
Maples, who was called up when former Twins lefty Brian Duensing went on the disabled list with left shoulder fatigue, came in to pitch the eighth inning. The Twins didn’t let him get far, as he recorded just two outs while allowing five earned runs on just four hits.
After Morrison singled to center to drive home Escobar, Astudillo stepped up and hit his first MLB triple. It was a dying quail down the right-field line that Jason Heyward couldn’t track down, and it scored both Brian Dozier and Morrison to bring the deficit to three runs.
Then Mitch Garver took one of the best at-bats of the day, working the count full before fouling off a slider. On pitch seven — all sliders — Garver locked in, drilling a homer to left that seemed to invite the clouds to open up. The Twins were within one run, and for a few brief moments, it began pouring as Cubs manager Joe Maddon was forced to get his closer into a game that had been a laugher for the better part of two-plus hours.
“He battled,” Molitor said of Garver. “Maples came in. He’s got a good arm, a little bit erratic. It looked like he got a slider that kind of spun and after he’d seen a couple, including one off the end of the bat … yeah, it gave us that last jolt of life that now we’re a swing away, especially on a day where the ball was flying the way it was.”
Jake Cave and Garver were the offensive stars in this one…
Cave rapped a solo homer to center to open the scoring in the second, as the Twins took the lead for the third straight game.
And again, that lead was short-lived.
But Cave went 3-for-5 and also added a double against Lester, and pushed his season line to .256/.293/.538 in the process. Combined, he and Garver went 6-for-10 and drove in half the team’s 10 runs in the loss.
Garver has started to heat up a bit of late, going 5-for-9 in the series to push his season line to a modest .262/.329/.376.
…but on the whole, the Twins offense was as good as it has been in quite some time
It seems hard to justify, but the Twins scored 25 runs — and just happened to allow 35 — in the three-game sweep at Wrigley Field. Things won’t get much, if any, easier as they head to Miller Park. The Brewers are up by a half-game on the Cubs in the NL Central, and boast one of the finest bullpens in the game.
If you’re coming to Milwaukee, say hey! Zone Coverage will be there for the first two games of the series.
- The Twins will activate Jorge Polanco from the restricted list prior to Monday’s game. They will have to make at least one roster move — including a 40-man switch to reinstate Polanco there — and the expectation is that move, along with potentially some others, will come later Sunday night or possibly Monday morning.