Making a big-league debut is already nerve-wracking enough.
Then add in a half-hour rain delay and slippery conditions, and Stephen Gonsalves was up against some pretty strong odds when he took the mound at Target Field for the first time in his life.
It didn’t go well, as the 24-year-old lefty allowed four earned runs while getting just four outs on the way to an 8-5 loss for the Minnesota Twins on Monday night.
Pitch economy was a big factor for Gonsalves, who threw 55 pitches and got three of his four outs via the strikeout. Mixed within the strikeouts was plenty of hard contact, a little bad luck and a game the rookie admitted sped up on him a little bit.
On the other side, Chicago White Sox righty Lucas Giolito put together a minimalist’s quality start, with only a Jake Cave home run to really show for significant damage to the former top prospect who lowered his ERA to 6.08 in the process.
Cave and Max Kepler both homered to give the Twins multiple homers for the fifth straight game to cap the homestand, but for the second time in that stretch, the power wasn’t enough to keep the lights on and bring home a win.
Here’s what we saw from our vantage point:
Win probability table
Gonsalves was great in the first inning, but unraveled quickly
After Tim Anderson opened the game with a line drive to right field and Leury Garcia followed it with a single, Gonsalves got the first strikeout of his MLB career by freezing Jose Abreu with a fastball on the inside corner.
After former Twins farmhand Daniel Palka followed that up with a single to right-center, Gonsalves came back with a swinging strikeout of Avisail Garcia on an 82 mph changeup that was up in the zone.
The second inning soured on Gonsalves quickly, as Nicky Delmonico opened the frame with a booming triple to right-center on the third pitch he saw. Matt Davidson singled him home, and Yolmer Sanchez followed with a walk. Catcher Kevan Smith was hit by a pitch, and Anderson followed it up with an RBI single to right.
In all, the first five White Sox batters in the inning reached — and seven of the eight Gonsalves saw reached before he departed — and by the time manager Paul Molitor came to get the ball from the lefty, the White Sox were up 4-0 and had the bases loaded.
Fortunately, Alan Busenitz came in and put out the fire by fanning Avisail Garcia and getting a comeback from Delmonico, but that inning put the Twins behind the 8-ball and made it an uphill climb the rest of the night for an offense that was held at bay by Giolito.
Still, the overall experience was special to Gonsalves, even if the result was not as he desired.
“It is something I’ll never feel again,” he said.” I was very excited to get out there. That first inning couldn’t have gone any better. Then the second inning, the game kind of sped up on me, and (I) got hit around a little bit. A couple unlucky balls found holes. (I) kept pitching and battled but it wasn’t working out for me.”
Gonsalves said he felt the rain delay may have actually benefitted his nerves, which were pretty strong earlier in the day. He said he ordered steak and eggs for breakfast, but barely ate any of it because his stomach was turning.
But once he got into the clubhouse, some of that anxiety subsided.
“Honestly, I think it might have helped me a little bit,” Gonsalves said of the rain delay. “Let the adrenaline die down. I was about to get on the mound. I think I threw about two pitches, then they told me to settle down. Sat down, talked with Garver and Garv (Alston) and just settled in, made me feel, you know, safe.”
Gonsalves had a large family contingent in town to see him pitch, including both of his grandmas.
Molitor agreed that the game sped up on Gonsalves, and he sensed it.
“It’s understandable,” Molitor said. “It’s kind of amazing when you think about how much baseball you’ve played, and played at these dimensions. The mound doesn’t change, but you get out there in a different environment, a big stadium and people, and expectations and realization of a dream. It can affect people, no matter what your demeanor or makeup is. It’s something that everyone is going to respond to a little bit differently.
“I’m sure he’s going to learn from it. I have a lot of confidence in that. We’ll move forward. That’s what I told him. He came in and I’m sure he was a little bit upset with himself, but that’s how you learn. That’s hopefully how you get better.”
Molitor didn’t see any reason that Gonsalves wouldn’t get a chance to make his next scheduled start, which would come this weekend against the Oakland A’s.
Cave is a destroyer of baseballs
There hasn’t been much of a silver lining to how the season has gone for Byron Buxton, but one thing that his absence has done is allowed the Twins to get a longer look at Cave, who has shown he’s a pretty good defensive outfielder in the corners, and he has big-time power when he connects.
He didn’t quite pound the ball to Catch like he did on Sunday, but the berm in center is a nice consolation prize:
Cave is hitting .276/.313/.480 on the season — good for a wRC+ of 107. Not bad for a guy the Yankees couldn’t find a spot for, huh?
The Twins did not get much done against Giolito
Outside of Cave’s two-run homer in the fourth inning, the only other run the Twins scratched across came on a Tyler Austin double in the second inning — which scored Cave, as luck would have it.
Austin is hitting .370 since joining the Twins at the trade deadline.
Giolito lasted six innings and allowed three earned runs, and ran up six strikeouts against two walks while throwing 111 pitches. Giolito had 11 swinging strikes on the evening, with four coming on the slider, three on the change, two on his two-seamer and one apiece on the curve and four-seam fastball.
Giolito’s fastball touched 95 at times, and he really relied on it heavily. Sixty-seven of the 111 pitches he threw were a fastball of some type.
Kepler had a great night offensively
Kepler’s had a down season in terms of not exactly taking the next step offensively — though his progress against lefties has been noteworthy — but more nights like Monday will help him move in the right direction.
Kepler started in center, and roped a single off the right-center fence and added a home run into the bullpen in the ninth inning against White Sox flamethrower Thyago Vieira.
The 2-for-4 night pushed Kepler’s season line to .236/.326/.439 — good for a 105 wRC+ that is 10 points above his career mark entering Monday’s game.
“It was good to see,” Molitor said of Kepler’s big night. “I’d love to see a little bit of a run by Max. He can get hot and put some hits together, extra-base hits with power. The ball off the wall was scalded and then the homer, he doesn’t go that way too often in terms of home run potential to the left side of the field, but that one was driven off a high-velocity fastball, so that was good to see.”
Oliver Drake has been a bit of a revelation so far
Sure, he’s pitched with five MLB teams this season, but you can look at that two ways: 1. He can’t seem to hold down a job and 2. Teams must still see something in him to keep giving him chances.
Well so far, his stop with the Twins has been a good one. Through 8.1 innings with the Twins, he’s been downright nasty:
- 0 ER
- 11-3 K/BB ratio
- 1 hit allowed
“(He’s had) a lot of good outings,” Molitor said. “(We’re) happy to see the command of three pitches. Curve ball is used a little more sparingly. The split has been working and he’s got a nice angle on the fastball. He’s had multiple good outings for us here as of late.”
Drake threw two shutout innings with four strikeouts, and in the process lowered his season ERA to 5.48.
- The beginning of the game was delayed 33 minutes due to rain, which persisted throughout the evening.
- White Sox center fielder Leury Garcia left the game in the bottom of the fourth with a left hamstring strain. He will be re-evaluated Tuesday in Chicago. He was replaced by Adam Engel.
- White Sox manager Rick Renteria was hospitalized for lightheadedness on Monday, and will be kept overnight for observation. Joe McEwing managed in his absence.
- The Twins fell to 28-26 against the AL Central this season and 7-6 against the White Sox, including 3-3 against them at Target Field.