Twins

Lynn, Three Relievers Combine for Seven-Hit Shutout of the Tigers

Mandatory Credit: Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Twins hung up a pair of threes on the Detroit Tigers in an otherwise nondescript night at Target Field on Tuesday. The Twins won 6-0, and have a chance to get within a game of .500 before heading out on a road trip that starts in Seattle on Friday.

Lance Lynn gave the Twins 6.2 scoreless innings, fanning four batters and walking just one — the final batter he faced on the night — as he threw 64 of his 100 pitches for strikes.

Box Score

Command has been the issue for Lynn so far this season, but in this one, he was the better starter in that respect. Tigers starter Matt Boyd walked four batters in as many innings before departing with a spasm in his oblique, giving way to a bullpen trio that allowed four more runs the rest of the way.

To this point, the Tigers have played over their heads. They sort of have the feeling of a team that can’t even keep up this pace, not unlike the teams of the late Gardenhire-era in Minneapolis.

Here’s what we saw from our vantage point:

First things first, here’s a look at the win probability graph

(image credit: Fangraphs)

The long and short of it is that the Twins were never in too much trouble in this one. Things dipped briefly when JaCoby Jones got an infield single in the fifth inning, but otherwise, the Twins were in command from wire-to-wire.

It may have been beyond overdue, but Lynn was really good

It’s been far, far more of an issue of command than velocity this season, and Reed combined both in probably his best outing of the season. Of course, it came against an undermanned Tigers offense — and that should absolutely be noted — but stepping stones shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand, and anything that can get Lynn headed back in the right direction should not be ignored.

Lynn was as high as 96.3 mph on his four-seamer, 95.4 on his two-seamer and 88.3 on his cutter. Those are his three fastballs, and 76 of his 100 pitches were two- or four-seamers, and 89 of his 100 were those two plus his cutters.

Lynn got a modest seven swinging strikes on the night — two each on the two- and four-seamers and the cutter, one on the changeup — but that’s not terribly far from his career rate, either. He just doesn’t have much swing-and-miss in his profile as he attacks hitters with the heat.

Not only were 64 percent of his pitches strikes, but Lynn threw 16 first-pitch strikes to 26 hitters, and was in cruise control until the very end — when things got a little dicey.

May 22, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Lance Lynn (31) delivers a pitch during the second inning against the Detroit Tigers at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

…he got by with some help from his friends…

After Nicholas Castellanos reached with one out in the first, Lynn got Victor Martinez to ground to a diving Brian Dozier, who flipped the ball to Ehire Adrianza for the force at second, while the throw back to first was in plenty of time for the inning-ending double play. 

Dozier also started another 4-6-3 double play off the bat of Martinez in the sixth, allowing Lynn to complete that inning with just four pitches after a long, long bottom of the fifth, which included Boyd leaving due to injury. There were a few other nice defensive plays throughout, but those are the ones that stood out the most.

…and also was not thrilled with how his night ended

Lynn hit Jones with a pitch with two outs in the sixth, then walked Jose Iglesias before his night was ended at exactly 100 pitches. Cameras captured him storming off the field and shouting obscenities, and it wasn’t much better in the dugout when he got in there and slammed his glove to the ground. 

If anyone expected Lynn to be OK with sporting an ERA of 6.34 nearly two months into the season, they weren’t paying attention.

“It felt good until the end,” Lynn said. “When you hit a guy and walk a guy, it puts a damper on what was a pretty good outing up until then. There’s still work to do. It’s not as good as it can be, but it’s a lot better than it’s been.”

The bullpen was — yet again — terrific for Molitor’s men

Ryan Pressly came in and got a big out with the team up by three runs and the tying run at the plate to wriggle out of the trouble Lynn created, and from there Zach Duke and Matt Magill each gave Molitor a clean inning with three strikeouts between them.

Even in a game with a lead that spread to six runs, it’s clear this bullpen has pieces up and down the line who can help them on any given night. The overall numbers might not be pretty right now, but as some guys return to the rotation, others get bumped to the bullpen and the overall competition heats up for spots, it’s only going to get better out there.

It was all about the doubles for the Twins offense

Five of the team’s seven hits went for doubles, with Ehire Adrianza and Dozier each poking two apiece and Max Kepler adding one as well. 

Dozier was interfered with on a play

In the fifth inning, Iglesias came up to bat after Jones reached on an infield single. The ball was hit directly into the path of a converging Dozier, but contact was made between him and Jones. Apparently base umpire Quinn Wolcott didn’t see it — as Dozier relayed to the media afterward — but Molitor raced out to plead his case to no avail. The Twins still got the trail runner out, though that was reviewed by Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire as well.

Molitor intimated after the game that if both calls had gone against his team — not only no obstruction, but the out overturned at first — it might not have been pretty from a fallout standpoint between him and the officials.

The contact play with Logan Morrison didn’t make any sense

In the bottom of the fifth with the game in a scoreless tie, Mitch Garver opened the inning with a walk, and moved to second when Morrison did the same. Boyd then left due to injury, and with righty Warwick Saupold coming on, Molitor made a switch, bringing in Kepler to face the righthy.

Kepler lifed a foul ball to third, but Adrianza followed it up with a booming double to right, scoring Garver and putting Morrison on third with the Twins up, 1-0. Byron Buxton came to the plate, and with the contact play on, chopped a ball to third where Niko Goodrum threw home for an easy out.

My primary contention here was that a team should make the defense make the long(er) throw — to first — with the fastest runner in the game on a chopper as opposed to easily lobbing the ball home, where Morrison was out by 15 feet.

Maybe it’s oversimplified, but the net gain is runners still on second and third. Then there’s the potential Buxton beats the play out, or any number of other things that could have happened.

Instead, Buxton attempted to steal second, and came across to score when Dozier stroked a double to right. It all worked out, but I just didn’t understand the process there.

May 22, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Detroit Tigers catcher James McCann (34) tags out Minnesota Twins first baseman Logan Morrison (99) at home plate during the fifth inning at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The Twins won despite no production from the middle of the order

Batters 2-3-4-5 — Grossman, Eddie Rosario, Eduardo Escobar and Garver — were a combined 0-for-14 with a pair of walks on the night. Meanwhile, Adrianza reached all three times he batted, Kepler added his double and Buxton got in on the action with one of just two singles for the team on the night.

We’ve said it before and we will again — get this lineup clicking all at once and it could be scary. Health will be an important factor there, too.

The Twins only struck out four times — all by reliever Buck Farmer

It just seemed strange that all four strikeouts came in just 25 percent of the innings thrown by Tigers pitching on the night.

Farmer is a hard-throwing lefty — as high as 96.6 on the gun Tuesday night — and he relied heavily on four-seamers, changeups and sliders in this outing. Of his five swinging strikes, three came on the four-seamer.

It was an unusual night for the 27-year-old righty, as he allowed three earned runs and four hits, but also added the strikeouts to push his season line to a 5.56 ERA (3.74 FIP), 10.7 K/9 and 5.6 BB/9. With a few more grounders and just a few less walks, he might be something interesting in a pen that looks pretty barren to this casual observer.

It happened — again

When Boyd looked like he was having some physical issues, pitching coach Chris Bosio — who with sunglasses on looks like Gardenhire five years ago — came out to check on his lefty. Target Field again erupted into a chorus of cheers, not realizing they were rooting for the wrong guy.

To be fair, even USA Today mislabeled the photograph:

May 22, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Detroit Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire (15) walks out to the mound during the fifth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

It was no less confusing when Gardenhire came out of the dugout to get Boyd 30 seconds later. Twins fans….c’mon.

Notes

  • The Twins improved to 11-11 at home with the win, and moved ahead of Detroit (20-28) in the win column on the season (21-23).
  • The Twins need a win on Wednesday to secure a winning homestand (4-4).
  • Despite the wide gap in scoring, both teams had seven hits. The Twins committed the game’s only error.

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