I’m reminded of last year’s early-season set against the Los Angeles Dodgers; in similar meteorological conditions, a National League team went on the road, came to Minnesota, and started kicking butt. Of course, those were the Los Angeles Dodgers — these are the Washington Nationals, who entered this series sporting a 5-13 record, and have handled the Twins (and the weather) just fine.
While both teams have been playing in the same conditions, once again it seems as though the folks with home field advantage are the ones out of their element.
Seemingly every ground ball the Nationals are putting into play is finding space between infielders— Do-Hyoung Park (@dohyoungpark) April 22, 2023
Right from the jump, things were looking shaky. Pablo Lopez allowed the first four batters to reach, hitting one, walking another, and coughing up a pair of hits. The Nationals plated two in the first inning, while Lopez alternated between non-competitive, questionably-gripped pitches, and his usual stuff (recording three Ks in the first frame.)
On the flipside, National starter Chad Kuhl seemed to have similar issues. He walked two of his own in the home half, before generating a pair of strikeouts to keep Minnesota off the board. This became something of a theme throughout the game; while the Twins scored four, their best efforts either fell short or were sandwiched by more runs for Washington.
After more control issues plagued Lopez’s second inning — another HBP, another walk, and a passed ball to spice things up a bit — the Nationals had doubled their lead.
To break up the monotony of losing 4-0 to the Washington Nationals in thirty-degree weather, Buxton decided to warm up the truck.
Buck’s third bomb of the year would get the Twins on the board, but the gap they’d closed was immediately re-opened when a leadoff fourth-inning triple scored for the Nats. By this time, manager Rocco Baldelli figured he’d better cut his losses; Lopez was removed after the fourth inning, with eight hits and five earned runs on the ledger.
Despite a marginally better performance in terms of result, Kuhl exited the game even earlier. Tossing 96 pitches — only 49 for strikes — Kuhl and his four walks were taken out of the ballgame midway through the fourth.
While the Nationals pieced their afternoon together using four more pitchers, the Twins put Simeon Woods-Richardson out to pasture and said, “Channel your inner Brawny man, kid. You’re gonna be soaking it up today.” Richardson, to his credit, pitched 4.2 innings of relief, climbing up to 97 pitches (more than Kuhl or Lopez). To his discredit, he allowed another five earned on another seven hits, and kept the Twins out of the game even as the bats occasionally clawed back.
That clawing was done in the fifth (an RBI single from Carlos Correa) and seventh (a Trevor Larnach two-run double, following a three-run jolt from Washington on the visiting side of the stretch.) Four runs on nine hits would have won a few games with the Twins’ recent April pitching; not so today.
The Nationals tacked on another two in the ninth, and Brent Headrick got a little more major-league experience.
All told, the Nats locked up the series in a rather sluggish 3:09, leaving the Twins a bit pummeled after so many series broke the right way to open the season.
Minnesota’s beef with Washington ends tomorrow afternoon, and hopefully they can get the homestand back on track and save face with at least one win in this series — particularly before the presumably-more-challenging Yankees are back in the opposing batter’s box.
Hope to see you tomorrow afternoon, and thanks for joining us today!
DH Byron Buxton (1-for-4, R, RBI, BB, HR)
SS Carlos Correa (3-for-4, RBI, BB)
RP Simeon Woods-Richardson (Rocco said “Eat,” and the man ate)
SP Pablo Lopez (4 IP, 8 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 6 K)
RP Simeon Woods-Richardson (4.2 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 3 BB, 5 K ... he could only eat so much)