The Minnesota Twins appear to have done well for themselves in the Nelson Cruz trade.
Believe it or not, there is plenty to talk about from this game.
Nolan Joe Ryan turned in another mostly dominant performance. Max Kepler had three extra-base hits, including two home runs, Byron Buxton added a pinch-hit double, and the Twins’ bullpen mostly pitched well.
Ryan came into the game having thrown perfect innings in 12 of the 16 full frames he’s thrown as a Twin. On Wednesday at Wrigley Field, he turned in another three perfect innings, including striking out the side in the first, fourth, and fifth innings.
The Twins struck first on the offensive side of the ball with a two-out single from Josh Donaldson followed by a Max Kepler home run.
After striking out the side in the fist on his deceptive fastball, Ryan gave up a walk, double, and single in the bottom of the second to allow the Cubs to tie the game. But he escaped further damage with a 5-4-3 double play.
Kepler hit another dinger in the top of the fourth, putting the Twins back in front. Ryan made sure it stayed that way, striking out seven consecutive batters from the final out of the third through the fifth inning. Per the Twins broadcast on Bally Sports North, Ryan is the first pitcher in Twins/Senators franchise history with 11 strikeouts in five innings.
The Twins added a run in the sixth inning after a two-out double from Kepler and a brutal error from second baseman Matt Duffy on a groundball from Miguel Sano.
Minnesota threatened again in the seventh inning. After an Andrelton Simmons single, Byron Buxton pinch-hit in the pitcher’s spot and blooped a humpback liner into left-center. Simmons scampered to third base, and with the Cubs’ attention ever-so-slightly diverted, Buxton accelerated into second with a double. But Luis Arraez and Jake Cave each struck out, and that was the end of the threat.
There were some ninth-inning high-jinx for the Twins offense as well. Nick Gordon doubled and Ryan Jeffers walked before Gordon swiped third base and Jeffers stayed glued to first. A couple of pitches later, someone missed a sign and Jeffers was hung out to dry trying to steal second. But Gordon scored anyway on a sacrifice fly from Simmons, and the Twins led by a 5-2 margin.
After three near-perfect innings from the bullpen, Alex Colomé gave up a leadoff double to the Cubs’ Frank Schwindel in the bottom of the ninth. After striking out Patrick Wisdom, Ian Happ knocked an RBI single to left. Duffy walked, putting the go-ahead run at the plate.
Inexplicably, the Twins failed to pay attention to the baserunners and allowed a double-steal with no throw, meaning that the Cubs now had the tying run on second base. But pinch-hitter Willson Contreras bounced to third base, and while Donaldson’s throw sailed slightly wide of the bag at first, Sano grabbed the errant throw and brought the tag down on Contreras’s hand just before he crossed the base.
Happ scored on the play but Duffy stayed on second base, which turned out to be important after Nico Hoerner reached on an infield single to deep short, giving the Cubs runners on the corners with two outs. But Colomé struck out Trayce Thompson to seal the win, and the Twins earned a two-game sweep of the Cubbies.
- Ryan used a well-placed fastball to rack up strikeouts early. Later in the game, he relied on an even better-placed breaking ball to strike out the final five Cubs he faced on called third strikes. He continues to look really, really good.
- The Twins left Polanco and Buxton on the bench to start this one and managed to win. Fun times.
- It was good to see Kepler have a nice game. That’s six hits in nine at-bats and 13 total bases in the two-game series in Chicago. Feels like it’s been awhile since he’s strung together that many strong at-bats.
- The bullpen was a great bridge from Ryan to Colomé. Juan Minaya, Tyler Duffey, and Jorge Alcala combined to throw three scoreless innings with one hit, no walks, and five strikeouts.
- Joe Ryan: 5 IP, 2 ER, 3 H, BB, 11 K
- Non-Colomé Bullpen: 3 IP, 0 R, H, 0 BB, 5 K
- Max Kepler: 3-for-4, 2 HR, 3 R, 3 RBI
- Ah, what the heck. I’m a big softie. Nobody. Twins win! Twins win!