On the coldest night in Nationals history, the Twins starter pitched well, the Twins hitters were patient, but some late bad luck lost your favorite team the game.
Tyler Mahle and Nationals starter Trevor Williams took advantage of the cold weather to mostly shut down either offense (didn’t I basically type that two weeks ago? Why is it colder now than then?) The Twins had the slim lead, until aforementioned bad luck struck (in the form of a shift that failed). It almost smelled like there’d be a terrific late rally, until there wasn’t.
1: Right before first pitch, Gladden and Provus have one of those Longtime Companion moments. Gladden: “My partner, all bundled up, Cory Provus.” Provus: “Well, the window’s open.” Gladden: “Why not?” Provus: “It’s always open. If it’s 37, it’s open, if it’s 97, it’s open.”
2: Welcome back, Jorge Polanco! He grounds the Twins’ first hit up the middle. Then Jose Miranda lines into the Twins’ first GIDP. If this game’s going to be boring, it’s best to be fast in this weather. Few hits or walks is fast.
3: Victor Robles gets the Nationals’ first hit and nothing else happens.
Gallo’s Pole sighting! Joey swats an 0-1 pitch to right. It goes out. Then Ryan Jeffers hits one deep into the gap that RF Lane Thomas probably could have caught, but he lost some steps checking where CF Robles was. (This is why outfielders yell “I got it” or “yo la tengo” or something similar; communicate!) Michael A. Taylor bunts Jeffers to third. Max Kepler flies out to very short right, but Thomas’s throw is up the line and Jeffers scores.
Not the best inning for Thomas, it happens sometimes. Twins 2-0
4: Nothing of interest occurs, which is fine when you’re leading (although it’d be nice to see Byron Buxton getting hits, not striking out is an improvement).
So, random observation time: video game “The Show” gets high points for showing a very diverse fanbase in terms of skin color. Yet not age, for some reason. Nobody ever has grey hair. It’s possible programmers aren’t aware anyone above 35 exists.
5: The Nats get their second hit, and again, can’t advance the runner. What contact they are making is very soft. Mahle is either dealing, the Nationals don’t have a great offense, or it’s cold out. PICK ONE THERE IS NO VENN DIAGRAM
Gallo takes a one-out walk... the first walk for either side. TV shows a graphic of hard-hit percentage leaders in MLB this season and Gallo is more than 10 points above the #2 guy. He’s swinging well. Unfortunately, few others are, and all three outs are of the swinging variety.
6: Mahle is still rolling, but he’s at 86 pitches. Keep him in, Rocco! Gladden summons Hrbek to the box to ask if radio personnel can get free Bloody Marys from Hrbek’s restaurant on Sundays. (These ones.) “Anytime,” Hrbek responds. Gladden seems pleased. They talk about this being perfect duck-hunting weather. Brrrr!
Max Kepler and Carlos Correa continue batting .171 and .197, respectively, although hey, Buxton double! Trevor Larnach hits a hard fly ball, but unfortunately it’s right at Robles. Oh, well.
7: With one out, Joey Meneses whomps a Mahle fastball over the wall. Rocco, you fool! Caleb Thielbar comes in and does what he does best (with some assistance from home ump Brian O’Nora).
It’s a bullpen battle, with veteran righty Erasmo Ramirez in for Washington. Polanco leads off with a hard grounder that 2B Luis Garcia snags and makes a nifty jump throw to get Jorge (it looked even cooler wearing the face/neck warmer). Miranda hits a rocket single next, Gallo walks (again), but Jeffers provides the GIDP. Twins 2-1
8: Off we go with Capt. Griffin Jax, USAF. He gets the first two guys easily, but then CJ Abrams grounds a double to left (that a non-shifted infield would have gotten easily, and a non-shifted outfield would have held to a single). Per Provus, that’s the first hit to a lefty Jax has allowed all year. Thomas (who gave the Twins one run) gets his back, with a single to left that Larnach fields and dumbly tries throwing home, missing everything and allowing Thomas to reach second. (Larnach had zero chance of getting the runner at the plate.) Keibert Ruiz knocks Thomas in. Candelario strikes out on Jax’s 31st pitch, but that shift and Larnach’s throw really hurt. Twins went down in flames, there...
In is alliterative reliever Hunter Harvey. Nick Gordon pinch-hits for Taylor and takes strike 3 called, since that’s what late pinch-hitters should do. Max Kepler misses a homer to right by about three inches, then strikes out. Correa takes strike 3 called, since that’s what slumping guys do. Generals 3-2
9: Rocco’s magical arm barn produces ex-Baltimore hurler Jorge Lopez (Baltimore being pretty close to Washington by train, after all). He completely drops a perfect toss by Gallo to let Luis Garcia reach, yet cleans up his own mess nicely.
Nationals closer Kyle Finnegan very much looks like a California beach bro (he’s from Detroit, actually). Buxton singles! On a ten-pitch AB! Larnach walks! Polanco lines out, and Buxton smartly avoids getting doubled off.
Oh, and on the next pitch, MIranda GIDP. Twins lose.
I really dislike typing Studs/Duds, because I feel like I already did, but a determined commenter requested them so here you go. Studs: Mahle, Gallo, Polanco’s health, Buxton’s improved hitting. Duds: unlucky shift, Larnach’s dumb throw, Miranda’s GIDPs.
COTG goes to Blake Donlon for answering my question about how helmets are made, and have an embossed “M” or “W” on the front: “Modern helmets are made of composite fibers, basically an ultra-hard plastic. They’re easy to mass-produce and very easy to make patterns and different shapes. I’m an engineering major in college, in my manufacturing class we learned a little about how these kinds of plastic things are produced. My best guess is they use a mold casing and pour melted plastic into the mold. It’s super quick to dry as well. You could probably crank out 100 of them in a day.”
Also, comment shout to our own Hayden A, who's graduating from college! Well done, sir. And to think that when I started here, he hadn't even been born yet. NONE OF YOU HAD.
Tomorrow’s game is at 1:10, and features recently-reupped Pablo López against someone named Chad Kuhl. It’ll be warmer! (Not by much.)