It was a very good night for the Twins on Wednesday. Expectations coming into the season were that the Twins offense could be very good. To this point in the season, the Twins offense has been pretty non-good. A 15-run game can help get things going for individuals and, we all hope, also for the offense and the team as a whole.
There were a lot of highlights in the game, and amazingly, there were even a couple important highlights for pitchers as well.
The one negative from this game was the performance of lefty Pedro Hernandez. The soft-tosser certainly has had his moments this season, but he was only able to get through two innings and he gave up six runs. It was especially disappointing, certainly, because the Twins offense gave him plenty of support.
However, in a night full of hitting highlights, the player of the game, in my mind, was Ryan Pressly. And, just to be thorough, we have to explain the back story. As you know, this year the Twins made Pressly their Rule 5 selection, taking him from the Boston Red Sox organization. He likely came to spring training with an outside shot at making the Twins bullpen. As some injuries and poor performances crept in, Pressly continued to get outs. Thinking long-term, the Twins kept him on their opening day roster and he has pitched pretty well in limited duty so far this season.
So, coming into a crazy game in the third inning in Fenway Park, a place he likely wanted to call home for the past several years, you can only imagine the thoughts and nerves running through his mind and body. In spite of this, he showed up and he performed. He gave the Twins exactly what they needed. That is, he pitched effectively. Even the most optimistic Twins fans could not have realistically hoped for four shutout innings from the rookie. That’s exactly what he did, giving up just two hits and two walks. In the end, Pressly was rewarded with the W, giving him the first win of his big league career.
The other pitching performance of note on Wednesday took place in Toledo, Ohio, where the Rochester Red Wings got a 3-0 win over the Toledo Mudhens. Why is this important? A night after these two teams went 16 innings and the Red Wings used nine pitchers, Kyle Gibson gave the team a complete game shutout. He yielded just four hits, walked two and struck out eight. He threw 114 pitches.
Why is this this important? The fact that Gibson is pitching on the same day as Hernandez, who has struggled his last couple of outings, may not be completely coincidental. Could it be possible that Gibson’s next start will be on Monday, not in the International League, but at Target Field against the White Sox? It is certainly not a given, but it is possible.
Gibson has had two poor starts in Rochester this year. He has had one OK start. He has had three good starts, and Wednesday’s start would likely be classified as great. He will continue to need to gain consistency, but both his pitch count and that he recorded a strikeout for the final out tell us that his arm is where it needs to be. Whether he debuts with the Twins next Monday or next month, it is very encouraging.
Red Wings play-by-play man Josh Whetzel tweeted
some interesting details about Gibson’s complete game shutout. “He induced 11 ground outs (2 for DPs), 2 infield pop ups, 1 infield line out and 3 outfield fly ball outs.”
It’s encouraging for Gibson for another reason. First, Sam Deduno has now made his first Red Wings start. Cole De Vries pitched on Sunday in a rehab start for Ft. Myers. He is scheduled to start for New Britain on Friday. Along with Liam Hendriks and PJ Walters, options are lining up to take a spot in the Twins rotation. (Do the Twins have too much pitching?)
Now to the hitting. Oswaldo Arcia enjoyed his final day as a 21-year-old by becoming the first Twins rookie to get four hits in a game since Joe Benson did in September of 2011 against Ubaldo Jimenez, Chris Perez and Cleveland. Arcia came into the game hitting .255 and ended the night at .300. The first hit came off of Red Sox starting Allan Webster. The next three hits came off of southpaw Felix Doubrant: two solid singles to left field and a big double off the wall.
The scouting reports on his offense have been accurate to this point in his career. He is quite aggressive and he wants to go up to bat swinging. I love watching that. That said, he doesn’t go outside the strike zone a lot either. As we saw in his 2-0 green light swing, he is not afraid to take a mammoth cut. We have already seen him launch two homers. I had always heard about his power to all fields. I watched him take a couple of rounds of batting practice two years ago and watched him hit long balls to left, center and right. But to see him stay down on pitches and hit them hard the other way is very encouraging, long term.
Arcia hitting left-handed pitching is also important. A year ago at this time, he was playing in Ft. Myers and struggling against southpaws. He moved up to AA New Britain in mid-June and at that point he suddenly was able to hit lefties. Was that a short-term, small sample? Or, was it a sign of notable improvement? It’s something to watch, but thus far, the results have been quite positive.
Two days ago, Ryan Doumit was hitting .158. After five hits in the last two games, he is now hitting .239 and looking like the hitter he was in 2012.
Trevor Plouffe had three hits on Wednesday and is now 8-21 (.381) over his last six games, beginning the streak with a couple of home runs in Cleveland. One year ago today, Plouffe was hitting .103, the low point of his season. Maybe it should be encouraging he’s hitting .244 so far this year.
Getting Plouffe and Doumit going will be very important in helping the Twins extend their lineup. Likewise, it was good to see Justin Morneau take some quality at-bats. He has kept his batting average in the .250 to .267 range, which is where it is after a 2-3 night. However, he has shown very little power while batting in the middle of the lineup. Looking ahead, I think the patience we have seen in recent games bodes well.
Pedro Florimon had a home run and a double in the second inning. His home run was a lined shot to right field while batting left handed. Later in the inning, he came up right-handed and hit a double off The Monster. Any offense from Florimon is welcomed.
I almost forgot… Joe Mauer had three hits, including two doubles. Sure, he had his little slump and saw his batting average drop to “just” .282. Now, over the past four games, he is 8-16 (.500) and has raised his average to .311. Of those eight hits, six were doubles. He has also walked five times in those four games. In other words, yes, he is pretty good.
It was a big night for the Twins, their offense, their bullpen and for one of their future pitchers. It is important to remember that it is just one night. In baseball consistency is often one of the most difficult things to find. However, there were some nice performances from hitters that will, we hope, find a way to continue heating up. There are also some nice trends to provide optimism. The older veterans are known commodities. The second-tier veterans are, perhaps, starting to take a step toward being more productive. And the hope is the young players can continue to improve and contribute.