Like a cold car engine that just won’t start, the Minnesota Twins offense sputtered and whined, but couldn’t quite turn over against Justin Verlander and the defending champion Houston Astros. Verlander, the former Detroit Tigers ace, struck out nine and only gave up four hits in seven innings, and two runs off the Twins bullpen were enough for the Astros to win 2-0 on a chilly April night.
Both teams left eight men on base, and had ample opportunity to extend their leads. Lance Lynn labored in his second start, but did not relinquish a run to Houston’s powerful offense.
“Lance didn’t have his great command, but he sure battled and got through five,” said Paul Molitor. “We extended him a little bit.”
“I look at it as 105 pitches in five innings,” said Lynn, who struck out nine and walked four. “That’s not good enough in my opinion. The strikeouts are good, the walks are too many. Too many pitches, not enough innings.”
Not only was he disappointed in his start against Houston on Monday, but he is upset with the way the year started for him after giving up five runs, including a grand slam, in his first start against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
“It feels miserable,” he said. I feel like I’ve gotten off to the worst start I’ve ever got off to in the big leagues. It needs to change real quick. Good thing is there’s a lot of season left so I’ll be all right.”
Lynn wasn’t the only player upset with his performance against Houston. Eddie Rosario went 0-for-4 as the cleanup hitter, leaving seven on base — including a double-play grounder in the eighth inning with the bases loaded.
“I know what he throws, I know he throws changeups. I want to hit changeups,” said Rosario, who faced Chris Devenski in the eighth. “I want to try to hit it in the middle. Sometimes it happens. I want to try to hit it over. It’s baseball.”
“Offensively he’s aggressive,” said Molitor. “He’s going to swing. I knew that situation and was hoping they’d throw him a strike because I had a feeling he’d be swinging. He expanded a little bit and they got the double play.”
Rosario was also charged with a fielding error in the sixth inning, allowing the first Astros run to score. J.D. Davis hit a hard liner to left, which bounced hard directly in front of him as he charged towards it.
“Those are hard to read,” said Rosario. “I tried to catch the ball.”
Not only did it land in front of him, but he did not recover well to field it. Davis was credited with a single and an RBI, while Rosario received a two-base error. He also didn’t field an RBI double off Marwin Gonzalez’s bat in the eighth.
“The sinking line drive, I don’t think he had much of a chance and didn’t recover on it particularly well,” said Molitor. “And then the ball that Gonzalez hit, he didn’t seem like he tracked it very well. He didn’t get back there and I’m not sure he would’ve caught it but that ball ends up hitting off the wall.”
Those two runs were enough to win it. Taylor Rogers gave up the first one and was tagged with the loss. Addison Reed gave up the second one.
Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton both had long strikes that could have changed the course of the game — Sano in the eighth before singling to load the bases for Rosario, Buxton as the last hitter in the ninth.
“He got it out there fair enough, but he’s been hooking some balls and that one had a lot of hook spin on it. I thought it was foul,” said Molitor. “He put a good swing on that one, just a little too quick.”
Buxton went 0-for-4, but said he’s feeling good at the plate and eventually things will start to turn around for him and the team.
“I feel like I’ve been in a pretty good spot all year. Comfortability is there. Confidence is there,” said Buxton. “It’s just not falling our way yet. But like I said, that’s baseball. Eventually, things are going to start falling our way and we’re gonna be able to push across a lot more runs.”
The battery isn’t dead. Eventually, the car engine will turn over — even in this bitter cold.