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Twins 3, Tigers 2: Pitching, defense, and timely hitting is a simple recipe

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Kenta Maeda, Jorge Polanco, and the defense lead Twins to victory

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Detroit Tigers
Kenta Maeda notched his first win of 2021 with six strong innings against the Tigers.
Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

After beating the Tigers by nine runs on Monday, a one-run loss and a one-run win over the balance of the series was relatively anti-climatic. But a win is a win, and the Twins have now won two road series, lead the AL Central with a 4-2 record, and have the league’s second-best run differential.

Today, the Twins used the game’s oldest and simplest recipe: strong starting pitching, timely hitting, clutch defense, and a solid bullpen.

The Tigers opened the scoring with a soft single from former Twin Jonathan Schoop and a triple from former Twins farmhand Akil Baddoo (yes, him again). Heading into the fourth inning, the Twins only had two hits: a one-out single by Kyle Garlick in the first inning and a single from Andrelton Simmons that saw him erased at second base trying to stretch it into a double.

But Byron Buxton is the remedy for many ailments, and he led off the fifth inning by rocketing a double off the right field wall — another extra-base hit to the opposite field. Then, Miguel Sano executed a swinging bunt that advanced Buxton to third before Willians Astudillo knocked a sacrifice fly to right field.

The Tigers, however, came right back with a solo homer from former Twin Wilson Ramos (sensing a theme?), and the game was tied.

The sixth inning was something of a roller coaster. Jake Cave singled to start the inning, but Mitch Garver, in the leadoff spot for the first time this season, grounded into a double play and it seemed as though the Twins’ potential threat was short-circuited. Garlick, however had other ideas, lining a single to left field in an almost identical manner to his first-inning single. (Quick shoutout to the Twins front office and coaching staff for keeping Garlick on the roster to combat the team’s persisting struggles against both Matthew Boyd and left-handed pitchers in general.)

Nelson Cruz hit a ball hard off Willi Castro’s glove that caromed right to Jonathan Schoop, who threw the ball to first to (almost) end the inning. Cruz was called out, but upon review, it wasn’t all that close and the inning continued.

Jorge Polanco, who started the season 0-for-11 but has gotten his first three hits of the season in Detroit, stroked a double into the left-centerfield gap. Garlick scored easily, and Cruz chugged around third and scored, giving the Twins a 3-2 lead.

In the bottom of the inning, Castro led off with a single before Jake Cave dove and missed a sinking liner from Miguel Cabrera. Cave got up immediately and chased after the ball, firing the relay to Andrelton Simmons, who pivoted and threw an absolutely perfect strike to Garver to nab Castro at home.

After a Jeimer Candelario walk and a single by Nomar Mazara, Schoop hit a lazy fly ball to Garlick in right, and Garlick threw Cabrera out easily at home plate to preserve the one-run lead.

Each team had only one baserunner over the final three innings as Hansel Robles turned in a perfect 7th and Alex Colome pitched two frames while allowing only one hit and three strikeouts.

It was another modest offensive output from the Twins, but the pitching was phenomenal and the Twins’ defense and situational hitting was on point. The Twins return to Target Field with a 4-2 record and will get ready for the home opener on Thursday afternoon against Seattle.

Notes

  • Byron Buxton started and finished the game, which is great. But I swear that he favored his right leg as he slowed down crossing the bag in his second-inning groundout, and that after sliding into second base after his double, he waited for first-base coach Tommy Watkins to arrive to help pull him to his feet. Buxton, of course, sprinted to third on the next play and home on a sacrifice fly, but still. I recognize that I’m paranoid at this point, but I’m just reporting what I saw on the screen. Fingers crossed. Fingers. Always. Crossed.
  • I’m not suggesting that Kyle Garlick is the answer against left-handed starting pitching, but I’m not suggesting that he’s not, either. Great game from KG. Also, Max Kepler/Luis Arraez as pinch-hitters against righties should be scary to opposing bullpens.
  • Kenta Maeda is really good. In another somewhat inefficient outing — in comparison to Maeda’s usual standards, that is — he still went six innings with only two runs while posting six strikeouts and only one walk.
  • The bullpen usage has been interesting. With Robles pitching two consecutive days and Colome throwing two innings today, both could potentially be unavailable for the opener on Thursday. Then again, Friday is an off day, so who knows. Also, neither Taylor Rogers or Tyler Duffey were used Wednesday.
  • Anyone else notice that Dick Bremer needed to pile onto the fact that almost-41-year-old Nelson Cruz is significantly faster than almost-38-year-old Miguel Cabrera not only immediately following Cabrera’s out at home plate, but also after the commercial break? Fantastic. (“Our aging slugger is faster than your aging slugger” is the weirdest flex ever, especially since Cruz is on a completely different planet offensively than Cabrera at this stage.)
  • The former Twin thing is getting weird. The Tigers started Schoop, Baddoo, Ramos, and Robbie Grossman — almost half of Detroit’s starting lineup. No, Baddoo, never played above A-ball, but it counts.
  • With plenty of game action to come on Wednesday, the Twins are tied for MLB’s second-best run differential and have the second-best winning percentage n the American League. I’d say this has been a solid start to the season.

Studs

  • Kyle Garlick: 2-for-3, R, OF assist at home plate
  • Jorge Polanco: 1-for-4, 2 RBI
  • Nelson Cruz: 1-for-4, R, beat-out grounder, went first-to-home for go-ahead run
  • Pitching staff: 9 IP, 8 H, 2 ER, BB, 10 K

Duds

  • Mitch Garver: 0-for-4, 3 K
  • Miguel Sano: 0-for-4, 2 K

Roll Call!

# Commenter # Comments
1 Uncle Lincoln 5
2 Joel Hernandez 5
3 Mrmumph 5
4 doomsdayshark 2
5 CarlJ47 2
6 Matt Monitto 2
7 norff 1
8 SconnieInTC 1
9 gintzer 1
10 Deadric343 1
11 CG19 1