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Twins 6, Royals 4: Score early, score late, pitch just well enough, you win (and get sent down)

Devin Smeltzer pitches goodly pre-demotion, and young Miranda has a crucial bat moment to take this series opener.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Kansas City Royals
Smeltzer’s unusual “shovel pass” delivery is most effective when he’s ten feet from the pitching rubber.
Peter Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

If you’re not confused enough about who makes up the Twins’ starting staff, Devin Smeltzer is very effective in his second game of the year. (Update from postgame press conference — Smeltzer was effective enough to be demoted to AAA, making room for Bailey Ober.)

Meanwhile, a struggling rookie has his biggest MLB hit yet, and a veteran reliever struggles his way to a sloppy save. (Guess who?) Inning-by-inning notes:

1: Royals starter Daniel Lynch comes into this game walking 3.9 per 9 innings; he proves that all stats are True by walking Buxton to start things off. Both Carlos Correa and Kyle Garlick get ahead and get singles, before Polanco flies out to Blanco, which confuses my radio ears for a second. (Dairon Blanco, a fielding guy in this half-inning.) Gary Sanchez does not get ahead, but crushes an 0-2 mistake pitch double anyways; Gio Urshela gets a sac fly.

Probably the Twins would have scored 100 runs here, but they are cursed by Cory Provus who jinxes everything after Lynch’s 32nd pitch, saying “no matter what, he’s not long for this game.” Lynch pops out Max Kepler immediately afterwards, and will throw a complete game for sure.

Devin Smeltzer gets baBIPped a little with singles, as you’d expect from someone who tops out at 88 MPH, but manages to work around two out with nobody on to allow only one sac-fly by Mega-Prospect Bobby Witt, Jr. (A poorly-gloved ball by Jose Miranda does no harm.) Twins 3-1

2: Another rough start to this inning for Lynch; singles by Miranda and Celestino (stage name for a Renaissance Faire palm reader if ever I heard one). After a Buxton lineout and Correa walk, Garlick notches this game’s third sac fly (let’s have one every half-inning!)

No more sac flies. Radio mentions how fast Dairon Blanco is, which is proof (were any needed) that he is not blood kin of former Twins backup catcher Henry Blanco. Urshela bobbles a Blanco grounder but throws him out nonetheless, so HE’S NOT ALL THAT FAST, Twins 4-1

3: No more 0-2 magic for Sanchez, giving Lynch his first strikeout. Kepler reaches on a two-out error by 3B Emmanuel Rivera, who accordingly COULD be related to former Twins backup catcher Rene Rivera (but isn’t). Lynch is at 76 pitches, so the complete game is still alive, kinda.

After Smeltzer walks leadoff Dickensian name Whit Merrifield, Polanco makes a decent play by tagging Whit and quickly firing to first for the DP. This is the ONLY thing “DP” has and ever could stand for, you bad, bad people.

4: Buxton also gets on via error (this by former Mega-Prospect Witt Jr., now trade bait). Unrelated, but the ChiSox have continued their terrible fielding ways after gifting the Twins at least two wins in their first 3-game series. Lynch is replaced by Joel Payamps, causing our Brandon Brooks to mention “Oh, god, they’re gonna bring in a Joel.” I have no idea what this refers to.

MJ Melendez (that’s an “L,” not an “N,” he’s not related to horrible killers) whomps a one-out triple off the right-field wall, which doesn’t faze Smeltzer any; he induces a soft grounder from the once-mighty, oft-injured Carlos Santana that Melendez can’t score on, then gets a grounder from Rivera. Smeltzer is at 59 pitches with 0 zilch nada strikeouts; talk about baBIPping.

5: Joel quiets the Twins and ruins the gamethread, because JOELS ALWAYS DO.

How fast is too fast? Blanco kinda-sorta gets a one-out triple, but while sliding into second he overshoots the bag a little and Polanco tags his hand as it comes off the base. (Shouldn’t that be scored a double plus a baserunning out? Whatever, I don’t make the rules. Yet.) It’s Blanco’s first MLB hit, so he gets to keep the ball anyways. Polanco should sign it for him.

6: Celestino has the first Twins hit off Joel. He’s thrown out soon after trying to steal, increasing Minnesota’s Bases Stolen/Steals Allowed percentage to JUPITER AND BEYOND THE INFINITE.

Smeltzer is lifted after one out for Griffin Jax, USAF, to face the rightly Witt Jr. Junior walks and steals, elevating his prospect status back to “franchise savior.” Jax gets Minnesota’s first two strikeouts of the game.

7: Finally, no more Joel! But another Griffin, first name Foster, pitching. He matches Jax in the Bullpen Battle Of Mythological Creatures, going 1-2-3. Wiki says griffins “were known for guarding treasures and priceless possessions,” so this is appropriate for middle relievers.

Tyler Duffey time, hold on to yer ... and there it goes, Santana homering like he used to. Rivera singles. After a flyout, Duffey gives up a double down the right-field line to pinch-hitter Kyle Isbel (who? I’m assuming Royals fans know who).

Here comes Jhoan Duran, early. Rivera on third, Isbel on second, one down. Merrifield lines out to Buxton, Rivera scores. Duran does his 101 thing on Merrifield, but this doesn’t leave Minnesota with much in the way of reliable relievers past Joe Smith. Jax shoulda pitched more! Fire Rocky! Twins 4-3

8: Provus notes, correctly, that the Twins have exactly one base hit (Celestino) since the second inning. They do have some walks, and get two more with two outs here against hard-throwing Dylan Coleman.

Jose Miranda up to bat. Struggling mightily. Baldelli elects not to pinch-hit. And Miranda doubles, scoring two!

Rehire Rocky!

Duran keeps being The Chauffeur on highway 101. Twins 6-3

9: Matt Peacock keeps the Twins' bats as quiet as the audiences for an NBC streaming service.

Time for His Dark Materials, Emilio Pagan. Prepare your goat’s head soup, chant “doo doo doo doo doo” and hope he’s not a heartbreaker.

Quickly, Pagan goes groundout, Rivera dong, groundout, single to right, single to left.

Up comes Benintendi. He’s a lefty. Pagan is not a lefty. Caleb Theilbar is a lefty. Pagan pitches. Ball 1, Ball 2, Ball 3. Called strike, foul. Called strike 3! Oh, Pagan, you’ve done it again! Twims wim!

Your studs of the game are Smeltzer (he who smeltz it dealtz it) and Miranda for the big insurance RBIs, right before Trevor Larnach comes back and probably pushes Miranda to AAA. No duds, Twins win!

COTG (radio): Tie between Gladden continuing to misname Cleveland’s current team, and his saying “the Royals believe Merrifield can just float around the outfield.” Fits his Dickensian name perfectly; Merrifield is a hovering spectre, come to warn the Royals that they will be visited by three ghosts of George Brett past. “I wear the pine tar I forged in life!”

COTG (gamethread): Definitely wayback for including this link about old comic-book character headwear and hence educating us all about what a “whoopie cap” is.

Catch tomorrow’s game at 6:10 when Joe Ryan and Brad Keller will be the starters (unless it’s Ober), and add your own thoughts then about fictional headwear.