Late offense backs up strong pitching in Twins win
The first six innings of this game were just about as quiet as could be, as Sonny Gray and Marco Gonzales locked horns in a pitching duel that featured only 5 total hits and one runner reaching scoring position for each team.
Gray gave way to Griffin Jax after the 5th, as this was his first start since returning from the injured list. Although Sonny’s pitch count was low and he was pitching well, Rocco Baldelli, true to character, stuck with the plan to give Gray five innings max. Jax, however, mowed down the 1-2-3 Seattle hitters in the 6th, and in the 7th, Marco Gonzalez ran into trouble.
After getting the first batter out, Gary Sanchez got a slump-beating bloop single and Luis Arraez walked on four pitches. With two runners on, it looked as if manager Scott Servais was going to make a call to the ‘pen, but instead ended up leaving Gonzales in. He was nearly rewarded, as Jose Miranda grounded weakly to third. However, it was just weak enough that he was able to beat the throw around the horn and spoil the near-double play. With runners on first and third, Servais pulled Gonzales, and ace reliever Paul Sewald entered to face Ryan Jeffers. Instead of folding under the pressure, Jeffers delivered, absolutely smoking a single off the left field wall and scoring Sanchez to give the Twins the lead.
In the bottom of the 7th, rather than giving Jax another inning after his dominant 6th, Joe Smith entered for the Twins. The lead-off hitter reached on a tough play in the hole that Carlos Correa nearly turned into an out, and then Smith walked Jesse Winker on 5 pitches. With two on and no out, it looked like Rocco might regret his decision to not give Jax a second inning; however, Smith induced an infield pop-up from the next hitter to ease the tension a bit. Next up, Luis Torrens hit a weak grounder down the third base line and Gio Urshela made the play of the game, bare-handing it and getting the second out by one step at first base. Rocco turned next to Caleb Thielbar, who got the pinch-hitter to fly out to right and strand runners on 2nd and 3rd.
Penn Murfee entered to pitch the 8th for the Mariners, and unfortunately for him, was on the business end of Carlos Correa earning his money. After a leadoff shift-beating single by Gilberto Celestino, Murfee got Buxton out, but then Correa battled down 0-2 and roped an RBI double into the left-field corner. Next up, Gio Urshela grounded out. With two out now, Gary walked, giving red-hot Luis Arraez a chance to bat against the righty Murfee. A wild pitch advanced Correa and Sanchez to 2nd and 3rd, and a classic Arraez seeing-eye single scored both. Old Friend Sergio Romo entered to close out the inning, but the damage was done.
Enter Jhoan Duran. The rookie reliever rung up the first batter on a (very questionable) called strike three before walking Adam Frazier. He quickly stomped out the little life the Mariners had gained on the walk by inducing a ground ball double play (1-6-3) on the very first pitch to Ty France.
In the 9th, Ryan Jeffers led off with a walk against new reliever Roenis Elias. Max Kepler promptly smashed a double off the right field wall, but Jeffers was held up at third (wisely). Celestino scored Jeffers on a ground ball out to tack on some more insurance. This prompted Rocco to sit down Emilio Pagan in the ‘pen in favor of Jharel Cotton.
Pagan wouldn’t be seated for long, as he got right back up after Cotton allowed the first two Mariners he faced to reach on a double and a walk. However, after a Kwik Trip to the Mound (TM), he was able to retire the next three batters in order and close out the game.
Sonny Gray: 5.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K
Griffin Jax: 1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K
Caleb Thielbar: 0.1 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 1 Massive Out
Ryan Jeffers: 2-3, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB
Luis Arraez: 1-3, 2 RBI, 1 BB
After much deliberation: NO DUDS TWINS WIN!!