This can’t have been the Minnesota Twins we watched tonight.
Sure, the pitching matched their tendency of quality starts, but the hitting...
...they actually got hits with the bases loaded.
More than one!
And one was extra bases!
Something is off.
What wasn’t off was Louie Varland, who zipped through seven shutout innings, allowing four hits and throwing just 86 pitches, only 20 of which were outside the strike zone and remained unswung at.
What wasn’t off was the efficiency of the pitching and the defense, which backed up Varland’s strong outing (16 of his 21 outs came on a batted ball) with strong gloves and throws.
(The bullpen started off off, as Jorge López lost the shutout on his first pitch, then went homer-walk-hit batter before being hooked, but that’s just expected at this point. Brock Stewart immediately doused the fire by striking out Yordan Alvarez, Alex Bregman, and Corey Julks, because he is Brock Stewart and that is what he do.)
And what wasn’t off — this is what seems strange — was their bases-loaded hitting.
In the third, two singles and a walk from the 7-8-9 batters filled the bags with no outs, a situation which Twins fans have come to dread. Edouard Julien struck out, but Donovan Solano lined a two-run single in his bid to shake off the bases-loaded stigma. There were then only two on, but Alex Kirilloff expressed his approval of Solano’s action by singling home a run of his own.
Two frames later, the Twins loaded the bases with two outs on a walk, single, and hit batter, bringing up Ryan Jeffers. Jeffers got two strikes against him before launching a ground-rule double to right-center, the Twins’ first extra-base hit with the bases loaded all season. (It only took 56 games, so mark down the next one for Game #112.)
Solano doubled in another pair in the sixth — only two on that time — and the seventh saw Willi Castro walk, steal second, and score one pitch later on a Michael A. Taylor hustle double.
The offense didn’t do much more, but it didn’t need to.
Also José De León was there.
SP Louie Varland: 7 IP, 0 R, 4 H, 1 BB, 5 K
RP Brock Stewart: 3 batters, 3 Ks
1B Donovan Solano: 2-4 (single & double), 4 RBI, one bases-loaded hit
C Ryan Jeffers: 2-4 (single & double), 2 RBI, first MIN bases-loaded XBH of 2023
3B Willi Castro: 2-4 (two singles), 3 R, 1 SB, some really nice defensive snags and throws
RP Jorge López: 0+ IP (4 batters): homer, homer, walk, plunking
2B Edouard Julien: 0-5, BB, 3 K, let a Jeremy Peña grounder go under his glove for an infield single
not hitting people with pitches: 5 combined HBP (both teams) and a few more near misses
Comment of the Game goes to James Fillmore for his initial strategy when the Twins first loaded the bases.