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Pirates 7, Twins 4: Third Time Through

Lack of execution with RISP and another 6th inning blowup from Sonny Gray led to the loss.

Pittsburgh Pirates v Minnesota Twins Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

A day after the Twins were able to escape some tricky jams, the offense couldn’t quite pull off the miracle work this time around. And it followed a familiar script for Sonny Gray.

Gray was sailing along through the game until, and stop me if you’ve heard this before, he got to the third time through the order.

Let’s jump right to the 6th when the game became interesting. Sonny got Jack Suwinski to strikeout leading off the inning, but then the issues started. Liover Peguero hit a soft ground ball to third when Jorge Polanco made an errant throw to first. It was technically ruled as an infield single with the error allowing Peguero to advance, but a better throw would have gotten him out. While Polanco’s willingness to change positions has been critical to keeping Edouard Julien’s bat in the lineup, his defensive limitations have been pronounced.

A single and a walk filled the bases, and then Sonny got Bryan Reynolds, Pittsburgh’s best hitter, to strikeout swinging. But with two outs, Andrew McCutchen and Ke’Bryan Hayes both delivered clutch hits to put the Pirates up 3-2.

The Twins set up a prime chance to respond in the bottom half of the inning, loading the bases with no outs against starter Mitch Keller. However, Keller got Royce Lewis, Donovan Solano, and Joey Gallo (shocker) to all strikeout, ending the threat and giving the Twins their second NOBLETIGER of the year (which ironically occurred in another game I was covering).

Both teams were able to add another run in the 7th, leaving the Pirates up 4-3. Jordan Balazovic was on the mound for the Twins after getting them out of a jam in the 8th, but imploded in the 9th. In the inning, he allowed three hits, two walks, and three runs before mercifully being taken out of the game.

With the Pirates up 7-3, the Twins started to put a rally together in the final frame of the evening. Taylor, Julien, and Polanco all reached to start the inning and bring in a run, but Carlos Correa’s league-leading 24th GIDP essentially ended the threat.

This was a loss that perfectly demonstrated my frustration with the Twins’ lack of moves at the trade deadline. The offense has looked significantly better in the last few weeks, but the bullpen is still severely understaffed. The Twins staff is certainly well aware of Sonny’s struggles deep in the games, but when your choice is between that or medium-high leverage innings from Josh Winder, Jordan Balazovic, or Cole Sands, you have to let Gray try to work through things.

The same can be said for Balazovic’s struggles in the 9th. He shouldn’t be pitching in that situation at all, but Pagán, Thielbar, Jax, and Duran were all used in the previous game, and both Jax and Duran’s struggles in recent weeks could very well be chalked up to overuse. You can’t afford to use them in a game you’re trailing, even if it’s only by a single run. Another mid-level rental arm could have alleviated a lot of this team’s issues, especially considering that Brock Stewart looks less and less like he’s returning this season with each update the Twins give.

One loss to the Pirates isn’t the end of the world. The Twins still have a chance to win the series tomorrow, but with Dallas Keuchel on the mound, the offense will need to come out swinging.


Jorge Polanco: 2-3, BB, 2 RBI, SB (but a costly error)

Christian Vazquez: 2-4, 2 2B


Sonny Gray third time through the order

Jordan Balazovic: 1 IP, 3 H, 3 BB, 3 ER

Royce Lewis: 0-4, 3 K

Joey Gallo: existing in the lineup

Division Race:

The Guardians lost earlier today against Detroit, so the Twins still have a healthy 5 game lead on the division. Thankfully for the Twins, the Guardians have been playing some of their worst baseball at a time when they could have gained some serious ground. Now, they're significantly closer in the standings to the Tigers than the Twins.