Twins

Grossman, Kepler Power Twins to Second Straight Win over Boston

Mandatory Credit: Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

For the second night in a row, a Minnesota Twins starter was solid, if a bit spotty with their command.

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For the first time in what feels like forever, Eddie Rosario and Eduardo Escobar weren’t the offense’s primary heroes as the Twins topped the Boston Red Sox 4-1 at Target Field Wednesday night in front of an announced crowd of more than 33,000 fans.

The win pushed Minnesota’s record to 33-37, the first time it has been within four games of .500 since being 26-30 on June 5.

Lance Lynn and David Price were both decent, but unspectacular in their efforts, while a pair of new faces emerged for a Twins offense that had been heavily reliant on two other faces for far too long.

Here’s what we saw from our vantage point:

This series has followed a similar pattern

In the first two games of the series, the Twins have taken down formidable pitching foes in Chris Sale and after Wednesday night, Mr. Price. The same was true of the Cleveland series, where the Twins beat Corey Kluber in game one and Carlos Carrasco in game two.

However, the Twins fell short to Shane Bieber with the chance to complete a road sweep on Sunday afternoon. They’ll try to nail down a sweep against the Red Sox on Thursday when they send Kyle Gibson to the mound to face Rick Porcello.

Gibson has been markedly worse at home this season — 4.78 ERA, 1.49 WHIP at home against marks of 2.00 and 0.91 in the road — but his last two starts at home have been solid:

  • June 3 (CLE): 5.2 IP, 2 H, 2 R/2 ER, 7 K’s, 2 BB
  • June 9 (LAA): 7.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R/2 ER, 5 K’s, 2 BB

Over his last five starts, Gibson has a 2.20 ERA in 32.2 innings with 26 strikeouts and 10 walks, while opposing batters have hit .183/.246/.313 against him.

Jun 20, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Twins left fielder Eddie Rosario (20) center fielder Ryan LaMarre (24) and right fielder Max Kepler (26) react after defeating the Boston Red Sox at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Like Jose Berrios before him, Lynn navigated some traffic on the bases

After going six strong innings before struggling a bit in the seventh last time out against the Tigers, Lynn had to gut out five innings on 97 pitches this time around. He only fanned two batters and walked five, but managed to keep the damage under control — just one run, and it was unearned — by allowing just three hits on the night.

It’s not the kind of effort the notoriously hard-on-himself Lynn will appreciate, but it was his seventh straight outing of allowing three or fewer earned runs, as he’s lowered his season ERA from 7.34 to 4.64 over that time frame.

According to Brooks Baseball, this was a pretty classic Lynn start from pretty much all angles. Eighty-two of his 97 pitches were four- and two-seam fastballs, and he threw in 10 more cutters for just five non-fastball pitches on the night (two changeups, three curves).

Lynn was as high as 96.6 mph on his four-seam fastball and 95.8 on the two-seamer, with five of his nine swinging strikes coming on the four (13.2 percent swinging strike rate). Three came from the two-seamer (6.8 percent) and one came from the cutter as well (10 percent).

As a reminder, the general rule of thumb is about 10 percent for league average, with fastballs typically under that mark and breaking/offspeed stuff higher.

Lynn allowed baserunners in all five innings, and pitched in and out of danger all night long before handing it over to his bullpen — who picked up the slack immensely. More on that later.

The Red Sox lost a Price start for the first time since May 3 at Texas

That’s a span of seven starts. Price was jumped by a Robbie Grossman home run to lead the game, but the Red Sox answered with a run of their own — their sole one of the night — in the next half inning when Logan Morrison was dinged for an error on a throw to first base.

The Twins bounced back to throw out Brock Holt at the plate, and Lynn managed to navigate choppy waters to end the second. 

Price gave up a two-run home run in the fourth inning to Max Kepler in the fourth inning, which provided the final cushion of victory for the Twins.

The Boston offense has provided some runs for Price over that hot stretch, but he did some of the legwork as well. Since getting roughed up by the Texas Rangers on May 3, Price’s seven-start stretch looked like this:

  • 2.64 ERA
  • .205/.272/.314 line against
  • 47-14 K/BB ratio (44.1 IP)
  • three home runs allowed

Price has hinted a bit at arm fatigue in recent days, but even with the two home runs allowed he was still solid. He only fanned three Twins batters, but got 11 swinging strikes — four on his four-seam and changeup, two on the cutter and one on the two-seamer — and he was 93-95 mph with his fastballs all night long.

Jun 20, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Twins relief pitcher Fernando Rodney (56) and catcher Mitch Garver (23) react after defeating the Boston Red Sox at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Kepler was the hero in this one

The homer off Price in the fourth again underscores the massive improvement he’s made against left-handed pitching this season, but it wasn’t just the offense that stood out for Kepler.

In the eighth inning with Trevor Hildenberger on the mound, J.D. Martinez hit a line drive that Kepler made a terrific catch on. First it was ruled a trap, but after a brief review, it was overturned and Hildenberger managed to pitch a 1-2-3 inning while facing Xander Bogaerts, Martinez and Mitch Moreland — batters 3-4-5 in a vaunted Red Sox offense.

Jun 20, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Twins right fielder Max Kepler (26) runs the bases after hitting a two-run home run during the fourth inning against the Boston Red Sox at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The homer was Kepler’s only hit of the night, and he’s still hitting only a so-so .226/.316/.414 on the season, but there are some under-the-radar markers that suggest he’s on the path to breaking out, as I wrote on Tuesday night right here.

The Twins bullpen was flawless

And really, this has been true far more often than most people might give credit for. But when manager Paul Molitor is able to line his guys up, it typically brings results. Taylor Rogers threw a perfect sixth inning with a pair of strikeouts, and over the combined four innings from Rogers, Addison Reed, Hildenberger and Fernando Rodney, the quartet allowed just one hit with three strikeouts and nary a walk.’

The Martinez-Hildenberger duel for the second night in a row was an interesting one, not only because it ended with a diving grab by Kepler, but that the pitcher went after Martinez with a slider, sinker, sinker and a four-seam fastball.

The night before, the sequence was changeup, slider, changeup and finally, another changeup. He said after the game that he knew he’d have to change it up against Martinez the next time he faced him; little did he know it’d only be about 24 hours later.

Is Brian Dozier coming out of his funk?

Dozier stole a page out of Eduardo Escobar’s book by hitting a pair of doubles, and while the overall season line hasn’t been pretty — .221/.299/.395 — the Twins are still desperately hoping for a bounce back from their star second baseman. It’s not unpredecented, either.

Jun 20, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Twins second baseman Brian Dozier (2) steals third base during the eighth inning against the Boston Red Sox at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Since the move out of the leadoff spot, Dozier is still just 2-for-12, but it has coincided with the Twins winning four of those five games with an offense that just feels more fluid from top to bottom.

Baseball’s a funny game. We’ll see how long the alignment sticks, but with Joe Mauer back in the lineup, it just has the look of a deeper lineup that’s closer to meeting preseason expectations.

Notes

  • The Twins are 11-6 over their last 17 games at Target Field and 19-17 all season at home.
  • The Twins guaranteed a win in a series against the Red Sox at home for the first time since May 25-27, 2015 with the victory.
  • Rodney is perfect (13-for-13) in save opportunities since May 1.
  • Rosario’s game was his 28th multi-hit contest of the year — fourth in the AL and most on the Twins.

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