MINNEAPOLIS – The Minnesota Twins ensured they will be heading into the All-Star break with a series win over the Texas Rangers, thanks to a 7-4 victory on Saturday afternoon before 36,969 at Target Field.
BIG MIKE MAKES HIS PITCH
Michael Pineda pitched well for the Twins, even if it wasn’t always pretty. He went six innings, giving up a solo home run to Elvis Andrus in the sixth while striking out nine Rangers on 96 pitches. That was his most strikeouts since fanning 11 Tampa Bay Rays on April 10, 2017 in New York when Pineda was with the Yankees.
Pineda exited having surrendered one run and five hits with only one walk as he continues to look sharper following his return from Tommy John surgery. Pineda will be two years removed from that procedure on July 18. He did not pitch last season and spent it rehabbing as a member of the Twins’ organization.
“Really, it comes down to execution,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “Big Mike got good results early on when he executed and when he did what he set out to do. I think he’s doing that at even greater rate right now. He’s just going out there and executing well for long periods of time. For innings and innings at a time, he’s doing what he wants to do. With everyone, you don’t have all of your stuff working on every single night. He’s found ways to continue to pitch and pitch well even when he doesn’t have everything working, and today was a day he threw the ball exceptionally well from beginning to end. This was among his better starts.”
Trouble for Pineda came in the third inning.
Despite holding Texas scoreless, the Rangers were able to load the bases and force Pineda to labor through the frame. He ended up striking out Texas slugger Joey Gallo with the bases full and two outs to end the inning. It was the best chance Texas had to cut into the early 3-0 lead the Twins built, but Pineda was able to find his way out of it.
Pineda said he’s incorporating his changeup more than he did in the past and that’s been a key, especially since he knows opposing hitters are waiting for him to throw his slider.
“Everybody knows I always have good command and I throw a lot of strikes, but right now, I feel pretty good with my changeup,” he said. “Before, in my career, I wasn’t using a lot of changeups. Right now, I’m using more changeups and the changeup is working really well. So they help my slider because I threw pitches to both sides. I feel happy for that.”
Pineda has given up only one run per game in four of his past five starts.
“After you have surgery, it’s a long time for your recovery, and I’m trying to work so hard to be 100 percent and try to help my team,” Pineda said. “Right now, the last couple of games, I’m pitching really good games and helping my team win the games, so I’m happy for that. That’s what we want. We want that every five days, when I take the mound. I just give the opportunity for the team to win.”
WADE’S RETURN A BRIEF ONE
On Saturday morning the Twins had to put C.J. Cron on the disabled list because of a thumb injury that will keep him out a minimum of 10 days, if not longer. That move had a ripple effect through the roster including Miguel Sano playing only his 20th career game at first base. Taking Cron’s place on the 25-man roster was outfielder LaMonte Wade Jr.
But Wade, who was up a few weeks ago with the Twins for the first time, had to be removed from the game in the sixth inning after crashing into the left-center field fence trying to run down Andrus’ home run. He was later diagnosed with a dislocated right thumb.
“LaMonte is going to be placed on the IL and he’s going to be out for some time,” Baldelli said. “I don’t think we know at this point. It’s a dislocation in a spot where … I don’t think we’re talking about 10 days on the IL. I think we’re talking about letting this thing heal before we can actually say. But he gave up his body, he went after that ball and, obviously, it didn’t work out for him. Physically, he’s going to be hurting for a little while. But we appreciate the effort, it was a great effort and we’ll get him taken care of.”
Baldelli said Jake Cave would be recalled from Triple-A Rochester to replace Wade on the roster for Sunday’s game.
“When I jumped, I jumped up,” said Wade, whose thumb was in a splint after the game. “And as I was extending, I went right to the top of the rail, (my thumb on my glove hand) got stuck in there. I guess maybe when I pulled it out, maybe is when it happened. Maybe when I went in. I’m not quite sure, it happened so fast, but it’s dislocated.”
FOUR MAN OUTFIELD
On Saturday the Twins employed a defensive tactic not often used in baseball these days — the four-man outfield.
When Gallo stepped to the plate in the sixth inning following the home run by Andrus, the Twins countered with four outfielders for the at-bat. While Gallo ended up striking out, it was still a rarity in the game and certainly a fun quirk to see.
What made it even more interesting was it came on the batter after Wade was injured. Marwin Gonzalez was called upon to replace Wade in left field, but third baseman Luis Arraez, who has been used in left field of late as well, was trotting out toward that spot and it was clear Gonzalez was perplexed by where he was supposed to go.
“I thought for a second I was going to third instead of left field, but when I saw it was Gallo (coming to home plate), I figured out it was a four-man outfield,” Gonzalez said.
Baldelli acknowledged the initial confusion.
“With him going right in the game, we talked to all our guys before the game starts about the shift and the four-man outfield and how it will work,” Baldelli said. “I haven’t talked to him about it. He’s been in four-man outfields before. He’s very comfortable playing in it. It might have caught him by surprise. That’s our fault. … The way everything came together, it was probably an odd circumstance but something we can get ahead of next time.”
The Twins only hit one home run on Saturday against Texas, but that brought their season total to 166 home runs for the season. That means the Twins have hit as many home runs in 88 games this season as they did in 162 last season. And there’s one game left until the All-Star break.
AL CENTRAL UPDATE
The Twins hold a 6.5-game lead over Cleveland after both teams won on Saturday — the Indians beat the Reds 7-2. Throughout the course of the season, both teams have battled their fair share of injuries, but none more serious than Cleveland’s Carlos Carrasco.
Carrasco was put on the injured list on June 5 with an unspecified “blood condition” and it’s been revealed by Carrasco and the Indians that his blood condition is leukemia. In his 12 starts with the Indians prior to going on the IL, Carrasco was 4-6 with a 4.98 ERA.
Carrasco first told the news to CDN 37, and added that he expects to return to the team in late July.
— Minnesota Twins (@Twins) July 6, 2019