[Open to all] 5 numbers on my mind as Twins end losing streak with walk-off win over Red Sox

A 5-game losing streak feels really long for a team with sky-high expectations

As always, I’ll have more of a full column for 5 Thoughts supporting members on Monday. Given that the Twins ended a losing streak and some nerves were/are fraying, I thought I’d put a couple of notes down on paper.

-Before we start, I’ll ask you to tune in this and every Sunday from 10am-noon on WCCO radio to catch me on “Twins Today.” Lining up some more fun guests for this week! We’ll take callers for the final 30 minutes or so, and I encourage you to call in if that sort of thing interests you.

-Lastly, if you’d like to support my work I’ll ask you to please consider a membership. It costs less than a dollar per week, and members get the time-sensitive access to the full 5 Thoughts column, plus comments, archives, and the ongoing invitation to email me back just to chat. Two members took me up on that this week and this could be you!

By the numbers – 5 notable numbers from the day the Twins ended their 5-game losing streak.

0 – runs allowed by Michael Pineda in 7 innings against the Red Sox.

Thursday’s outing was the latest in a string of evidence that through it all, Big Mike has been almost silently reliable for the Twins. That outing was the 11th consecutive start in which he’s allowed 3 or fewer earned runs, always giving a high-powered offense a chance to give him some run support and win a game.

88 – number of pitches that Rocco Baldelli allowed Pineda to throw before hooking him.

Pineda came off the mound after a successful top half of the 7th inning and TV cameras showed him having a little chat with Baldelli. Both men appeared calm and after the discussion, Pineda nodded his head and offered a fist bump to the manager.

Some onlookers screamed at their television sets, others typed words in all caps on Twitter. Some may have thought that all they really could do was grab the popcorn and see what would happen next.

What happened next, of course, was that things got hairy for the Twins and their bullpen. Reliever Hansel Robles and Taylor Rogers gave up the lead, and a sound strategy rooted in preferred matchups, preservation, and great late-inning relievers blew up in the team’s face.

Like Kevin Cash’s decision to pull Blake Snell from the World Series game of his life, rather than let his ace face Mookie Betts a third time, the decision to pull Big Mike backfired in a big way. Unlike that infamous call from one of Baldelli’s mentors, there will not be prolonged gripes for months following Rocco’s decision – nor will the starter in question publish a personal essay about how betrayed he felt by the decision. At least I don’t think so, anyway.

Pineda had allowed only 3 Red Sox base runners in his 7 innings, and he sure seemed in control of things following a fly out and a double play to erase one of those three base runners and end his final frame. Add the 6 strikeouts and 1.00 ERA, and you’re looking at a real nice start to the year for Pineda.

In any case, it was Robles who began the 8th inning, and he too has shown encouraging signs this season. His first pitch of the afternoon hit the leadoff man, Christian Arroyo, who then took off and stole second base. Robles walked Hunter Renfroe on four pitches. Robles got the next two hitters but then fell behind Marwin Gonzalez and eventually walked him, too.

Enter, Taylor Rogers to get the lefty Alex Verdugo. Boston manager Alex Cora left him in rather than pinch-hitting for a right-handed bat with a better chance, statistically, against the Twins’ bullpen standout. Cora must not have been exaggerating when he said that he likes his bunch.

Ten pitches later, Verdugo was standing on second base, three teammates had scored, and the young outfielder rewarded his manager’s confidence. Tie ballgame.

And it would have been a great story for Boston except for the pesky matter of having to watch Max Kepler walk it off in the home half of the 9th inning. I guess the Twins had seen enough of that extra-inning business for a little while.

9 – length of Boston’s winning streak entering play Thursday.

They appear to be a solid team that nobody liked. The preseason PECOTA projections did like Boston almost as much as the far trendier AL East picks of Toronto and Tampa Bay. (And more than the White Sox and A’s, too.) Anyway, my point is just that the 2021 Red Sox are no pushovers.

That’s not to suggest that the Twins played good baseball early this series – they made mistakes and left runners on base and things usually didn’t go their way through 3 games of the 4-game set. It’s surprising, for example, anytime you sweep/get swept in a doubleheader. But for me it was doubly so with Kenta Maeda and José Berríos pitching for them in the two games – surely they had to be thinking “Sweep” heading into the day, and by the end of it, they were thinking, “How did we get swept?”

The focus now must shift to winning a series against the Angels. One series at a time, as I always* say.

*Sometimes.

6/18/2019 – The last time that the Twins beat the Red Sox on a walk-off hit from Max Kepler to plate Luis Arraez.

(It seemed like it had been a while!) I’m not sure who will get the game ball but Kepler will get the photos. It’s Arraez who deserves some pub.

Arraez drove in 2 more runs Thursday afternoon, had 4 more hits and played multiple positions. I think he’s looked pretty good at third base while filling in for Josh Donaldson. That fact surprises me a little even though I’ve liked Arraez as a player – in a short period of time here he already seems to be a better third baseman than he was a second baseman. He also appears happy to go to the outfield even though I wouldn’t consider it his most comfortable position. Great strike zone control, great ability to make contact, has poked one out already this year, probably about an average runner, and is representing himself well at multiple positions already in this young season. That’s a good baseball player.

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