The weak-hitting lineup the Twins have featured in recent days came to a quick end on Saturday, the team scoring 11 runs on 13 hits, including five home runs, two of them off Alex Kirilloff’s bat.
The Twins scored a run in the first inning, four in the third, two in the fifth, one in the seventh and three more in the eighth to cruise to an 11-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs. The Twins go for the series win on Sunday.
Joey Gallo, Jorge Polanco and Carlos Correa homered in the game, but the day really belonged to Kirilloff, who homered twice and doubled to drive in two runs. He also scored three times.
The Twins’ offense has been up and down this season, but that has not been the case with starting pitching, which has been consistently good since opening day.
And once again Joe Ryan was nearly flawless, pitching shutout baseball for six innings with a walk and 10 strikeouts. He is now 6-1 with a 2.16 ERA. Ryan has to be an early favorite to make the All-Star team, and if he continues to pitch this way into the second half of the season, he also has a good chance to win 20 games.
Louie Varland gets the ball Sunday.
Extra innings …
-I was excited to see Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach back in the lineup on Saturday. Larnach was called up again because Max Kepler is going to spend 10 days on the injured list with a hamstring problem. Larnach could’t match Kirilloff’s performance, but he did have a hit, a hit that went over the head of fellow Oregon State alum and Cub Nick Madrigal. Now is the time to make yourself indispensable to the team, Trevor.
-Twins TV play-by-play guy Dick Bremer mentioned an interesting stat during the game, saying the Twins, as a result of new rules that govern pitcher and batter times, now lead the league in fastest games played, if I heard him correctly.
Given the state of the Twins’ starting rotation, I would say they have adjusted quite well to the new rules, and to some degree it makes sense because I think in general pitchers want to work more quickly on the mound.
For Twins hitters, however, this just might be the thing contributing to the team’s low batting average and lack of runs. No longer can hitters step in and out of the batter’s box to give them more time between pitches or to slow the pitcher down. They have eight seconds to step in and get ready for that pitch. Even a veteran ballplayer like Correa can get tripped up by the new rules. On Saturday, he struck out on a batter-timer violation.
-In an otherwise great win, there was one small area of concern — the bullpen. Jovani Moran allowed a run late in the game and Cole Sands walked five batters in two innings and yet emerged from the game unscathed. Sands threw 55 pitches, but only 27 of them landed for strikes.