It appeared early in Monday’s game that the Pittsburgh Pirates, despite a 2-7 start, were going to stifle the Twins with stingy pitching and exit with a 4-0 win.
But in the bottom of the sixth, the Twins scored four runs to tie the game, and then Nelson Cruz ended it in the bottom of the ninth with a walk-off single to score Jorge Polanco from third base for a 5-4 win.
Pirates starter Derek Holland was pretty sharp until it all fell apart in the sixth. He walked two batters in the inning, gave up a single to Cruz and a double to Max Kepler, then was spelled by reliever, Miguel Del Pozo. Del Pozo couldn’t get an out in the inning, plus he walked three more batters and added a wild pitch to score Kepler from third base.
The Twins are now 8-2, the second best record in all of baseball. The Chicago Cubs are tied with the Twins at 8-2, while the New York Yankees are at the top at 8-1.
Jose Berrios gets the ball Tuesday.
-It’s a good thing that Kepler and Cruz are hitting, and to a lesser degree Marwin Gonzalez and Jorge Polanco, because without them the Twins likely wouldn’t be playing all that well. Despite decent starting pitching and a strong bullpen, the Twins have some dead spots in the lineup. Luis Arraez is hitting. 226, Ehire Adrianza .200, Jake Cave .176, Mitch Garver .143, Miguel Sano .115 and Byron Buxton, no stranger to cold starts, is hitting a miserly .067. It was at least good to see Buxton show some patience at the plate on Monday and earn a free pass to first base.
-Meanwhile, Kepler went 3-for-4 on Monday, including a double, and he drove in two and scored a run. Cruz went 3-for-5 and also drove in two runs and scored a run. Cruz is hitting .359, while Kepler’s average has crept back up to .270.
-Aussie lefty Lewis Thorpe went four innings on Monday. He allowed three runs, all earned, on six hits with four walks and three strikeouts. The bullpen allowed one run the rest of the way. The win went to closer Taylor Rogers.
-Twins pitcher Rich Hill is also headed to the disabled list with shoulder fatigue. He joins pitchers Homer Bailey and Jake Odorizzi.
-Don’t look now but the Miami Marlins continue to lead the NL East with a winning percentage of .667. But here’s the problem: The Marlins have played only three games because of the novel coronavirus and are 2-1. The Atlanta Braves, who are one game behind the Fish, have played 11 games and are 7-4 with a winning percentage of .636.
Miami’s lead won’t last.
Baseball in 2020 is not only going to be won on the field, it’s also going to be won by those teams who take the novel coronavirus seriously and adhere to the appropriate protocols. I say this because the Twins are not only winning games, they also appear to be doing the right thing not to contract or spread the virus. During the walk-off celebration on Monday, usually a time when players huddle around the hero of the night to slap him on the back or douse him with water, the Twins did just the opposite. They still celebrated, but at a distance.