In what was perhaps his last start for the Twins, Michael Pineda pitched one of his best games of the season on Monday, leading the Twins to a 6-5 win against the Tigers.
Starting Pitcher: Pineda 6 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 6 K
Homeruns: Rooker (3), Donaldson (16)
Top 3 WPA: Thielbar .485, Kepler .265, Rooker .198
Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs)
With a bevy of scouts in attendance on Monday, Michael Pineda delivered. He proved he can be a solid stretch contributor for a contending team.
Pineda’s recent spate of injuries has obscured the inalienable truth, that, behind Nelson Cruz, he has been the best free-agent signing of Falvey era in Minnesota, and one of the Twins better free-agent starting pitching acquisitions ever. Pineda struck out the first four batters he faced, working his fastball up to 92 mph, throwing strikes with consistency, and mastering his slider and changeup to great effect.
Pineda’s outing was reminiscent of Pineda at his best for Minnesota; quick, efficient, and pounding the strike zone. Through the fifth inning, Pineda gave up three hits, just two singles after a leadoff double by Akil Baddoo. Taking the rubber for Detroit was one of their top prospects Matt Manning, who worked consistently with his mid 90s fastball and showed flashes of his tremendous hammer of a curveball.
Offense was hard to come by in the first half of the game. The Twins took the lead in the second inning. Mitch Garver barely missed a home run to right field, doubling home Josh Donaldson from first. Garver’s return to something like his 2019 form has been one of the least talked about positive stories for the Twins in a miserable 2021.
Garver came home to score the Twins’ second run in the bottom of the fourth, after getting on base by punching a double to left field. Miguel Sano ripped a single down the third-base line to score Garver, whose lack of sleep after the birth of his first child clearly isn’t impacting his approach at the plate.
Pineda’s lone egregious mistake came in the sixth inning, leaving a 91 mph fastball over the heart of the plate to Miguel Cabrera, who clubbed it into the flower beds in right field. Still, Pineda showed enough to convince watching scouts and teams he can contribute meaningfully down the stretch to contending teams in need of solid innings. He’ll likely be gone by Friday afternoon.
Brent Rooker restored the Twins lead in the bottom of the sixth inning, obliterating a hanging Matt Manning curveball 460 feet into the third deck in left field. Rooker has earned 200 MLB at-bats with his consistency in St. Paul, and the early returns are promising.
Manning was pulled after he walked Jorge Polanco, being replaced by Jose Cisnero. Josh Donaldson greeted Cisnero with a two-run blast to left-center field increasing the Twins lead to 5-2
Eric Haase pulled a run back for Detroit in the seventh inning, with a solo shot off Tyler Duffey, but The Doof quickly recovered to retire the side. Hansel Robles relieved Duffey in the eighth inning. He retired the side despite a walk to preserve the Twins lead at 5-3 heading to the bottom of the eighth. After an uneventful bottom of the eighth in which the Twins threatened but failed to score, Taylor Rogers entered to close the game for the Twins in the ninth.
Rogers outing began harmlessly, before he lost control of what appeared to be a breaking pitch to Jeimer Candelario which spun and looped puzzlingly away from the Detroit hitter, ending up nowhere near the strike zone. Rogers appeared to be in discomfort after the pitch, clutching and examining a finger on his pitching hand. Twins fans will hope Rogers merely cracked a nail or was suffering from a blister, anything more serious is a major cloud over one of the most appealing relief pitching options for Friday’s trade deadline. The Twins broadcast booth later reported that Rogers left the game with a left middle finger sprain. Next steps for Rogers and a timetable are to be determined.
Alexander Colomé relieved Rogers and did what he does, surrendering a single to Candelario before Robbie Grossman clubbed a two-ruin home run to right field to tie the game at 5-5. Gregory Soto walked the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth, but Willians Astudillo struck out swinging to send the game to extra innings.
Caleb Thielbar took the top of the tenth for the Twins. He made short work of the Tigers, retiring the side in order to give the Twins a golden opportunity to win the game in the bottom of the tenth. Kenta Maeda started on second base in the bottom of the tenth (the fourth pinch running appearance of his career). Soto managed a much cleaner tenth until Max Kepler dumped a single into right center field to score Maeda from second base and make the Twins 6-5 winners.