Baseball can be a strange game.
The Twins came into Friday night’s matchup with the Cleveland Indians reeling, having lost six of their last nine games, including two of three against both the Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers — teams expected to dwell in the cellar of the American League Central this year.
Throw in the fact that they were opening a road series against the division-leading Indians — who were up six games on the third-place Twins coming in — with perennial Cy Young candidate Corey Kluber on the mound and an offense that had struggled to score runs for quite some time, and it wasn’t a recipe for success.
So naturally, they jumped Kluber for four earned runs in five-plus innings on the way to a 6-3 win at Progressive Field.
Here’s what we saw from our vantage point:
Win probability graphic
Kyle Gibson wasn’t overwhelming, but was more than capable
He allowed just three hits over seven innings, which allowed him to sidestep allowing four walks along the way. He also had just three strikeouts and only eight swinging strikes among his 103 pitches, but it was more than enough against a Cleveland offense that got almost nothing from the top of its order.
On the plus side, Gibson started 16 of the 28 batters he faced with first-pitch strikes, and spread out his swinging strikes among four pitches: three from the slider (14.3 percent whiff rate), three from the four-seam fastball (8.3 percent), one from the sinker (3.3 percent) and one from the changeup (10 percent).
Gibson was also throwing gas, as his fastball got as high as 97.1 mph according to Brooks Baseball.
The top of the Cleveland offense was downright inept
Jose Ramirez — the No. 3 hitter — was the only batter 1-5 who had a hit for the Indians, as the quintet combined to go just 1-for-18 with three strikeouts and three walks.
Neither team was particularly good with runners in scoring position — Twins were 0-for-4, Indians were 1-for-5 — but with just 13 total hits in the game, it was more the paucity of true scoring chances than anything else.
Kluber seemed downright human
The Twins very clearly employed an ambush technique against him, and that’s not the worst idea. Kluber has a deep and diverse repertoire, and the further he gets into a count, the more he can dive into his bag of tricks to get hitters out, either via grounders or strikeouts.
So take a look at the impact plate appearances for the Twins:
- Rosario homer – pitch one
- Morrison run-scoring grounder – pitch two
- Dozier homer – pitch two
- Escobar single – pitch two
In fact, the only really deep count Kluber got into was with Logan Morrison, who singled on the eighth pitch he saw in the sixth inning to send the righty to the showers.
Something to keep an eye on — the ball Morrison singled on was a four-seam fastball at just 87 mph. Only one pitch in the plate appearance touched 90, and that was the first one. Kluber’s average fastball was 92.8 mph and his average sinker was even faster than that, so it’s unclear what was going on.
It wasn’t pitch count, as he was lifted with just 65 pitches.
Eddie Rosario is a bad man
Rosario went 2-for-4 with a homer and double — both against Kluber — and is now hitting an absurd .313/.350/.565 for the season. If it weren’t for him and Eduardo Escobar (.291/.342/.561), it’s hard to know where the Twins offense would be.
Rosario is 16th in fWAR — WAR via Fangraphs — among position players at 2.6. His total fWAR last year was 2.5.
Brian Dozier provided some big help out of the No. 5 spot in the order
Dozier’s homer gave the Twins a 4-0 lead in the fourth inning, and those three runs wound up being necessary in a 6-3 win. Dozier came in mired in an 0-for-19 funk, and since April 22 — when his OPS was over .900 — had been hitting .199/.286/.344 over a stretch of 210 plate appearances, or roughly one-third of a full season.
Wherever the Twins are headed this year will hinge largely on Dozier, so they’re clearly hoping he’s on the upswing.
Taylor Rogers really, really struggled
After getting Jason Kipnis to fly to left to open the inning, Rogers gave up a homer to right-center to Yan Gomes — the only Indians player with multiple hits on the day. Brandon Guyer followed with a grounder to third.
With two outs, Roggers couldn’t bear down and get the final out. Rajai Davis reached on an infield single behind the second base bag and Erik Gonzalez hit a double to deep right over Max Kepler’s head.
Fernando Rodney came in to nail down save, but it’s concerning that Rogers was unable to handle a five-run lead. His role has been a bit in flux all season, but it’s clear he’s one of the low men in the bullpen right now.
- Even despite their recent struggles, the Twins have been roughly average offensively this month. They’ve hit a collective .233/.305/.432 — good for a 99 wRC+ mark which ranks 13th among the 30 MLB teams.
- The Twins are 10th in MLB in ERA in June (3.41), and rank 15th in strikeout rate (8.6 K/9), with the sixth-lowest walk rate (2.7 BB/9).
- Escobar (1.1) and Rosario (1.0) are fifth and ninth in fWAR in the month of June.
- Jose Berrios is tied for sixth among MLB pitchers in fWAR in June (0.7).
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