That the second homestand is in more danger of being snowed out than the first provides a significant and interesting storyline heading into this weekend.
But it’s not the first interesting one of the season. Let’s focus on the last road trip — specifically, the games on the east coast — as the Minnesota Twins went 2-3 in Philadelphia and New York.
Any 2-3 road trip is decent enough on the basis of how hard it is to win on the road, but to do so with wins over the Phillies and Mets — both very possible NL playoff teams this season — is a feather in the collective cap of the Fighting Baldellis in early-season action.
So while the foul taste of Wednesday’s not-so-nice 9-6 loss is still in the mouths of Twins fans, overall it was a positive experience.
Here’s what I saw:
Game 1 Observations (10-4 loss to Phillies)
Jake Odorizzi just never got it going in this one. He didn’t get out of the first inning, and while the bullpen more or less picked things up capably from there, he dug a 5-0 hole the Twins were never able to get out of.
Odorizzi told reporters after the game that he never got a good feel for the baseball, and in frigid and blustery conditions that’s not terribly surprising.
Meanwhile, the Twins offense got to Phillies starter Nick Pivetta for a pair of home runs but not much else, as relievers Adam Morgan, Hector Neris, Pat Neshek and David Robertson went on to combine for four innings of shutout relief with six strikeouts, no walks and just a pair of baserunners allowed.
Game 2 Observations (6-2 win over Phillies)
Three homers powered the Twins to the win, as the long ball became customary on the east coast when Minnesota found its way to victory. In this case, Kepler homered for the second day in a row while Eddie Rosario and Willians Astudillo also went deep, and Michael Pineda continued to look stellar in his return from both Tommy John and meniscus surgeries which cost him the 2018 season.
Pineda hadn’t won a game in nearly two years (June 30, 2017) but did so with five innings of two-run ball with five strikeouts and just one walk. Pineda showed better velocity in warmer weather this time around, after sitting in the low-90s against Cleveland by finding some 93s and 94s against the Phillies.
Byron Buxton continued his stellar star as well, crushing a single and walking to push his season batting line to .313/.389/.500.
Two of the three earned runs the Twins scored against Jake Arrieta came on homers, and the team jumped Seranthony Dominguez late with Rosario’s homer to make a 3-2 nailbiter a comfortable 6-2 win in the end.
Twins batters struck out just once — against five walks — in this game, as the Phillies combined for just nine swinging strikes on the entire afternoon.
Game 3 Observations (2-1 loss to Phillies)
Jose Berrios was terrific in this one, but it was just one pitch — and not even really a mistake — to Rhys Hoskins that separated winning from losing. The powerful first baseman hit a wall-scraping homer in the sixth inning and the Twins couldn’t get any offense against Zach Eflin after Kepler homered for the third game in a row — this time, to open the game.
Eflin effectively mixed a mid-90s fastball with a slider in the high 80s to keep the Twins off-balance all day. In fact, he threw more sliders (40) than any other pitch, with six of his 11 swinging strikes on the day coming on the pitch.
This also wound up being the only game on the road trip that saw Nelson Cruz get a plate appearance, as he struck out to end the game against Neris.
Again, it was Neris, Robertson and Morgan shutting down the Twins after Eflin gave the Phillies seven very strong innings. May, Rogers and Harper combined for two innings of scoreless relief after Berrios, who tossed six innings with seven strikeouts in the losing effort.
Game 4 Observations (14-8 win over Mets)
The Twins went Bombs over Baghdad in the opening game against the Mets, popping six homers — two apiece from Jonathan Schoop and Mitch Garver and singles from Rosario and Polanco — against New York ace Jacob deGrom and friends in a blowout win.
Twins fans got an up-close look at Pete Alonso, who hit a pair of homers, as well. Alonso is one of the most impressive rookie hitters in either league, and finished the game with a season line of .385/.429/.923.
Buxton popped a couple of doubles, including an absolute laser shot into the left-field corner, as he continued his sizzling start. Marwin Gonzalez, who is off to a bit of a slow start, was the only Twins starter not to pick up a hit in the team’s 18-hit barrage, but he did get on base via a walk.
Chase De Jong was called up to take the roster spot of Tyler Austin — who was DFA’d and subsequently traded to the Giants — but he struggled badly to get out of the ninth inning, allowing four earned runs and six baserunners. He was optioned back to Rochester for lefty Andrew Vasquez the next day.
Game 5 Observations (9-6 loss to Mets)
Vasquez wound up being a key player for the Twins in Wednesday’s loss, but for all the wrong reasons as the Twins allowed seven straight batters to reach in the fifth inning. In fact, it was more like nine in a row reached, but the Twins were given a brief reprieve before all hell broke loose.
Odorizzi was cruising through four innings but hit the skids in the fifth. After former Twins catcher Wilson Ramos grounded out to start the inning, the Mets went single, walk and walk to load the bases. Odorizzi started pitcher Noah Syndergaard with a wild pitch to the backstop with the bases loaded, but the ball caromed back to Astudillo, who threw to Odorizzi at the plate, who ultimately fired to third base to tag out McNeil and — at least for the moment — appear to give the Twins a chance of leaving the inning with a 1-0 lead.
Instead, Odorizzi unraveled further, walking Syndergaard to re-load the bases. The entered Vasquez, who threw back-to-back balls before drilling Brandon Nimmo between the numbers on his back to force in the tying run.
Vasquez followed with walks to Alonso and Robinson Cano before Trevor Hildenberger entered, and in continuing the theme, walked Michael Conforto and gave up a bleeding up-the-middle single to Ramos — who started this mess — before getting McNeil to strike out and finish a disastrous inning for him, as well.
So if you’re scoring at home, here’s how the power rankings for that inning go:
- Anyone who walked
101. Any Twin who pitched
It wasn’t a good night, folks.
- Friday’s game against the Detroit Tigers has been postponed due to the weather. It will be made up in a doubleheader on May 11. See TwinsBaseball.com for more details.
- The Twins are eighth in MLB in average exit velocity (90.2 mph) and fifth in average launch angle (14.9 degrees).
- Minnesota is sixth in MLB in batting average (.274), 11th in OBP (.339) and fourth in slugging (.484) through 10 team games.
- Only five teams have struck out less frequently than this year’s Twins (20.2 percent).