The Twins lost to the Giants on Monday night, and it was equal parts confusing and disconcerting.
Let’s start with something that was both: Baily Ober’s top of the first inning. Ober, who came into the game with an ERA of 1.78, gave up four runs to the Giants’ first four batters. San Francisco went walk, walk, double, home run, and Ober ultimately threw 31 pitches before recording an out. It was uncharacteristic, to say the least, and the Twins never recovered.
Now to the straight-up weird. The Giants used opener John Brebbia to start the game. He struck out two of the Twins’ first three batters. Edouard Julien was due up to lead off the second inning as the fourth batter in the Twins’ lineup, but Twins manager Rocco Baldelli opted to pinch-hit Donovan Solano for Julien.
Solano got a hit, but the decision was still a surprise, to say the least. I can’t say that I know the stats on this, but there cannot have been many times in MLB history that there has been a pinch-hitter for a player’s first at-bat when no injuries were involved. With that, Baldelli burned one of his bench moves.
With the Twins still down 4-0 in the bottom of the third inning, Kyle Garlick came in to pinch-hit for Alex Kirilloff. Kirilloff had struck out to lead off the bottom of the first in his only at-bat.
Not much else happened for the balance of the game — other than 16 strikeouts and only four hits by the Twins. The Giants only mustered three additional hits after their big start to the game. Garlick swatted a leadoff home run in the bottom of the eighth and the Twins brought the tying run to the plate in Kyle Farmer later in the inning with only one out, but Farmer and Willi Castro both struck out to end the threat.
Ryan Jeffers and his .748 OPS pinch-hit for Joey Gallo to lead off the ninth inning against lefty Scott Alexander. Jeffers was hit by a pitch, but Michael A. Taylor quickly bounced into a 4-6-3 double-play to effectively end the threat.
- One can’t help but think that Giants manager Gabe Kapler got exactly what he wanted out of the Twins with his pitching moves. Starting with an opener caused the Twins to shuffle their lineup, and Baldelli apparently did not anticipate a lefty coming in next. That led to two early pinch-hitting moves, meaning that Julien and Kirilloff combined for just one at-bat.
- In the ninth, the Giants didn’t use closer Camilo Doval, instead opting for the lefty Alexander to force Baldelli’s hand and pinch-hit for Gallo with the light-hitting Jeffers.
- A.J. Pierzynski, announcing on FS1, was not impressed with Baldelli’s moves. Hilariously, Solano singled in the first as A.J. was complaining and Garlick homered in the eighth as A.J. was saying that Baldelli surely wished he had lefties at his disposal.
- The Twins bullpen did a nice job, allowing only four baserunners over the final four innings.
- I’ll say it again: 16 strikeouts for Twins batters. Only four hits and four walks, and two extra-base hits.
- Can I say ... nobody? Carlos Correa was 2-for-4 but had an error in the eighth and struck out in a big spot in the eighth after Garlick’s home run.
- Baily Ober; 5 IP, 4 ER, 3 H, 3 BB, 2 K. Ober may have settled down and turned in a competitive performance (important, clearly), but his non-competitive first four batters was a disaster.
- Michael A. Taylor: 0-for-4, 3 K, GIDP in the ninth
- Willi Castro: 0-for-4, 4 K