Zack Littell was amped up. It was for good reason; he was making his MLB debut.
He put away Chicago White Sox second baseman Yoan Moncada on five pitches, the last of which was a four-seam fastball that checked in at 95.4 mph.
That ended up being Littell’s hardest pitch of the night. It also ended up being more or less the end of the positives.
Yolmer Sanchez followed with a double to left, and Jose Abreu gave Littell his “Welcome to the big leagues, kid” moment with a towering home run to the bullpen in left-center on the first pitch he saw.
It didn’t get better too quickly, either. Matt Davidson grounded to second, but Kevan Smith singled to right to score Tim Anderson, who had doubled off the fence in right and Adam Engel followed with a booming double to left-center which drove Smith home.
Charlie Tilson then grounded out to second, but after just one big-league inning, Littell was in a 4-0 hole, and that lead held up in a 6-3 win for the White Sox.
Littell recovered to hold the White Sox scoreless over the next two innings, but quickly ran into trouble in the fourth by issuing back-to-back walks, both of which came home to score after he was lifted for reliever Matt Magill.
The Twins made a bid to tie the game late — including getting the tying run to the plate in the ninth inning — but ultimately fell short.
Here’s what we saw from our vantage point:
Littell was not happy with the results, but still called it one of the most fun days of his life
“Obviously the results weren’t great, but it was one of the most fun days of my life,” Littell said. “I mean, I got to live out a dream. …The experience of it all was incredible.”
It was clear early that Littell was juiced up, as he hit 95 to the first batter he faced. After that, he was much more 89-92 mph as advertised, and he did manage to get a respectable eight swinging strikes on 86 pitches despite allowing six earned runs while getting just nine outs.
Like manager Paul Molitor noted, Littell possesses a fastball that can play up due to spin rate, as he averaged just 91.9 mph on his four-seamer but still managed to get seven of his eight whiffs on it (11.5 percent).
“Some of the things we had heard about he’s doing didn’t really surface tonight,” Molitor said. “Part of it is just part of the experience of being up here. He’ll learn; he’ll be better. It was good to see him get an opportunity at least.”
He’ll hop on the first plane to rejoin Rochester in the next few days, but it won’t be surprising to see him back up here at some point this season.
The offense struggled against Lucas Giolito, who really wasn’t very good
The Twins only pushed across two runs on six hits against Giolito, who threw just 56 of 95 pitches for strikes — including just five swinging strikes. Let’s put it this way — even after this terrific performance, his season ERA is a robust 7.08.
Molitor wasn’t ready to give much credit after the game, either.
“Yeah, (I) don’t want to attribute that to anything in particular,” Molitor said after the game. “We’re coming off a nice series over the weekend. We had an off day, but that’s part of the way you’ve got to just deal with whatever comes your way.”
Giolito was far from overpowering, not only with the swinging strikes but with just the one strikeout as well as two walks. He sat in the low-90s with his fastball — ticking up to 93-94 mph at times — but didn’t flash anything the Twins shouldn’t have been prepared for.
The honest-to-goodness truth is that this offense could really use a healthy Joe Mauer, and probably a ready-to-go Jorge Polanco as well.
The bullpen was absolutely lights out for the Twins all day
After Tyler Duffey and Fernando Rodney combined for three scoreless innings in the first game, Matt Magill, Trevor Hildenberger, Taylor Rogers and Zach Duke did the same for six innings in the nightcap.
Magill allowed Littell’s final two runners to come across on a Sanchez double, but otherwise, the buck stopped there as the quartet combined for six strikeouts, one walk and just three hits allowed.
Speaking of bullpens, hats off to Magill, who has quietly been absolutely terrific
He touched 97 mph with his four-seam fastball according to Brooks Baseball, and got a staggering 11 swinging strikes — 12 according to ESPN — on just 40 pitches. Regardless of if it’s 11 or 12, that’s more than Littell got in more than twice as many pitches.
Here are Magill’s season numbers, by the way:
- 1.31 ERA
- 17-3 K/BB ratio in 20.2 IP
- .213 BAA
Eduardo Escobar is blistering hot — again
He ripped a pair of doubles in this one and finished 3-for-4 with a pair of runs batted in. He’s now the MLB leader in doubles (23), and is hitting an insane .280/.330/.545. We talked about Polanco’s return, but the Twins might have to get a bit creative to get everyone in the lineup when that time comes.
“I think he knows where people try to work him,” Molitor said when Escobar’s name came up during his postgame press conference. “Things he’s more vulnerable to. He tries to make those adjustments. We talked about after the first game how he learns to shorten up when he needs to when the guy is trying to elevate velocity just so he can get to it. I just think he’s gotten a better idea of how to use what skill set he brings up to the plate.”
Max Kepler had a weird day
In the bottom of the eighth inning of game one — we forgot to mention it, sorry — Kepler came up with two outs and the bases empty. He fouled the ball off his leg and it dribbled out to White Sox reliever Luis Avilan, who threw it to first.
Kepler snapped his bat on the play besides, and while he prepared a new bat to continue his plate appearance, he was made aware that he was ruled out, ending the eighth inning.
Molitor came out to argue but to no avail. It didn’t come back to matter as the Twins won the first game by a 4-2 margin, but it was still just a strange play.
In the ninth inning of the second game, Abreu hit an infield single to third off former teammate Duke, then tried to take third on a Davidson single to right. Kepler came up firing, and nailed Abreu at third to end the inning.
Ehire Adrianza didn’t have much to show for it, but he blistered the ball in his last three at-bats
In the seventh, Adrianza hit a ground-rule double to left field. But with the Twins trailing 6-2, he somehow wandered far enough off second to be picked off — continuing his patter of questionable decision-making on the bases in recent weeks.
But in his previous at-bat he pounded a ball in a similar fashion to left for an out, and in the ninth, he lined out to center for the second out of the inning against White Sox reliever Joakim Soria.
His exit velocities on those three balls? Check them out (in chronological order):
- 92.8 mph
- 101.3 mph
- 99.1 mph
The first one might not get people too excited, but for a light-hitting utility infielder, that’s some legit pop.
- Molitor said after the game that Logan Morrison was unavailable for both ends of the doubleheader due to a back issue. “He’s just having a little issue with his back, so we’re going to just have to monitor and see what it turns into,” Molitor said. “I’m hoping it’s a short-term deal, but he wasn’t available today.”
- Here’s a quick update on former Twins outfielder Oswaldo Arcia, who is playing with the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters in the Japan Pacific League. Arcia is hitting .277/.352/.393 through 35 games with a 29-8 K/BB ratio. Former Twins reliever Michael Tonkin has a 2.08 ERA through 22 games (21.2 innings) with a 12-7 K/BB ratio with the Fighters as well.
- The Twins fell to 5-2 against the White Sox this season with the loss.
- Eddie Rosario (2-for-4) had his team-leading 22nd multi-hit game of the season, according to the game notes. Kepler (2-for-4) had his 12th multi-hit game of the year.
- Magill has thrown 15.1 innings since May 1 — third-most on the team behind Trevor Hildenberger (16) and Addison Reed (15.2).