The Astros avoided getting swept out of Minneapolis in a quick (but not necessarily tidy) Easter Sunday matinee by riding seven dominant innings from starter Hunter Brown and scratching across five two-out runs against Tyler Mahle and the Twins’ bullpen.
Mahle and Brown traded zeroes in the first by coaxing double plays that erased one-out baserunners. The second inning was three up and three down on both sides and this one was through two complete innings just 18 minutes after the first pitch.
The Astros broke through on the scoreboard in an eventful top of the third. Houston left fielder Corey Julks reached with a lead-off single but was erased with one out trying to steal second base on a great throw from Ryan Jeffers. The caught stealing was Jeffers third of the season already, in just his third start behind the plate, after having just seven caught stealings in 56 games last year.
The Astros started things up again with two outs. Second baseman Mauricio Dubón reached with a two-out single and turned the lineup over to leadoff man Chas McCormick. Mahle started McCormick with a fastball for a ball, then threw three straight of his new slider, all up in the zone. McCormick took one for a strike, swung through the second, and then sent the third just into the limestone overhang in right field for a two-run home run. Houston 2, Twins 0
CHAS! CHAS! CHAS! pic.twitter.com/xHw3Bj0ede— Houston Astros (@astros) April 9, 2023
After a quiet bottom of the third and top of the fourth, the Twins clawed a run back with a two-out run of their own. Byron Buxton led off the inning with an infield single and reached second base when Alex Bregman unwisely threw the ball away on the play. Trevor Larnach and José Miranda struck out swinging, setting the stage for Donovan Solano to slash a Brown slider just inside the right field line and into the corner for a double that scored Buxton. Houston 2, Twins 1
#MNTwins | #MLB pic.twitter.com/7IPy5sCB5V— Bally Sports North (@BallySportsNOR) April 9, 2023
Mahle was unable to get the important shutdown inning in the fifth and the Astros expanded their lead to three runs. Shortstop Jeremy Peña led off with a single to which Mahle responded with back-to-back strikeouts. Dubón grounded a double to right field that pushed Peña to third and brought up McCormick with two outs again. On Mahle’s fourth pitch of the plate appearance, McCormick broke his bat to roll one through the middle just past a diving Kyle Farmer (who playing shortstop today as Carlos Correa got his first off day of the season) and scored two. Houston 4, Twins 1
Leadoff hitter Chas McCormick. pic.twitter.com/wovloLW8dK— Houston Astros (@astros) April 9, 2023
The Twins stranded a runner in their half of the fifth and Mahle worked a scoreless sixth facing the middle of Houston’s order for a third time. Mahle’s final line was 6 IP, 8H, 4 ER, 1 BB, and 6K on 90 pitches. He threw 35 of his new sliders in this one, the most he’s thrown in a start since July of 2021. He was also charged with the first pitch clock violation against a Minnesota pitcher this season.
Per Statcast, the two-out, run-scoring hits he allowed to McCormick had expected batting averages of .180 (the homer) and .390 (the roller). While it will go down as the worst outing by a Twins starting pitcher so far this season, it was still a pretty decent effort that was only a couple of pitches away from being very good.
#MNTwins starters have thrown 5+ innings in each of the season's first nine games for the first time since 2005.— Aaron Gleeman (@AaronGleeman) April 9, 2023
Twins' rotation back then: Johan Santana, Brad Radke, Carlos Silva, Kyle Lohse, Joe Mays
The Twins went in order in the bottom of the 6th and Jorge Alcalá worked around a two-out single for a scoreless top of the seventh. The bottom of the seventh was again quiet as the Twins went down in order for the second inning in a row to close out Brown’s day. He allowed just two hits and a walk while punching out seven over seven innings with his 97 pitches.
Things livened up in a very eventful top of the eighth that saw Houston tack on an insurance run through a strange sequence of events. Alcalá, perhaps showing fatigue in a second inning of work, walked Bregman and Yordan Alvarez to start the inning. Long-time (and now former) White Sox first baseman José Abreu then hit a cue shot off the end of his bat that spun from foul territory back into fair territory right over the first base bag, making a tricky chance that was misplayed by Solano to load the bases with no out.
Check out the spin on José Abreu's grounder. Wicked. #MNTwins https://t.co/xYMlunLhqx— DanHayesMLB (@DanHayesMLB) April 9, 2023
With the infield drawn in, Kyle Tucker grounded to Nick Gordon (playing second base) and Gordon fired home to Jeffers for the force out. Jeffers relayed back toward first base trying for a double play and hit Tucker in the back with the throw. Tucker, though, was called out for interference for running inside the baseline and was subsequently ejected for arguing the call.
With Alcalá now at 45 pitches in relief, Rocco Baldelli called on Emilio Pagán to end the rally, but he allowed a two-out double just inside the left-field line to Peña that scored Alvarez. Houston 5, Twins 1
Minnesota stranded a one-out walk in their half of the 8th and Pagán kept Houston off the board in the top of the 9th. Ryan Pressly closed it out in a non-save chance with a three up, three down ninth inning. Final: Houston 5, Twins 1
You can see from the win probability chart that this one lacked much in the way of tension or drama. Houston got control early and Brown and his bullpen teammates didn’t give the Twins much chance to mount a comeback, holding them hitless after the fourth inning.
- Not Today
- Bats: 2-27, 10K, 3BB, 1-6 RISP
- Rocco Baldelli / Pete Maki for letting Jorge Alcalá throw 45 pitches
- Twins (Maeda) vs. White Sox (Cease), 1:10p tomorrow