Wetmore: 5 thoughts on Gibson, Pelfrey after doubleheader sweep
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MINNEAPOLIS - The Twins rallied late Thursday night to complete a sweep of a day-night doubleheader and earn another series victory. The offense has come from surprising places and at a surprising pace, but perhaps none more perplexing than Thursday night.
Their secret weapon? Walks and wild pitches.
The Twins walked eight times in the eighth inning of the night cap, a new franchise record. The way in which they overcame a two-run deficit practically had to be seen to be believed.
Here are 5 thoughts I had Thursday:
Feel free ask any questions or make any observations in the comments. If you have a unique baseball observation during a game, feel free to share it with me on Twitter (@DerekWetmore).
1. You could watch an awful lot of baseball and not see the an eighth inning like the one from Thursday night. Here's a brief sampling of the zaniness:
Josmil Pinto walked twice in the inning; the Twins sent eight batters to the plate before they got a hit, when Jason Kubel singled home two runs (off a lefty); that was their only hit of the inning, despite sending 12 men to the plate; Kubel and Eduardo Nunez were the only batters who did not draw a walk in the eighth; the first three runs each came home on separate wild pitches.
The unpredicability of events like that is one of the things that makes baseball great.
For more on the inning, here's a quick story.
2. Kyle Gibson is probably the Twins best pitcher right now. He pitched 8 shutout innings in the day game Thursday to lower his ERA to 0.93. That obviously is not sustainable, but his high groundball rate (57.9 percent) might be. He struck out four batters Thursday, compared with one walk. If you're the Twins, you might like to see him increase that a tick. But there's plenty of value in inducing a ton of weak contact, avoiding walks and allowing primarily groundballs.
I'll have a Gibson breakdown for the website tomorrow.
3. Aaron Hicks chose to hit right-handed against the righty knuckleballer R.A. Dickey. That's not atypical against knuckers. I think plenty of Twins fans would prefer if Hicks batted from the right side against every pitcher.
Last season, when Hicks was generally poor at the plate, he hit slightly better from the right side, albeit in a small sample size.
Aaron Hicks in 2013:
Batting R vs. LHP: .203/.273/.441 (66 plate appearances)
Batting L vs. RHP: .186/.250/.309 (244 plate appearances)
Batting left-handed in his first at bat of the second game, Hicks drove a single up the middle on what might be his hardest-hit ball while batting left-handed this season. In his second plate appearance of the second game, Hicks struck out swinging left-handed at a high fastball.
(He took a called third strike as a right-handed hitter in the sixth against a lefty and was lifted for pinch-hitter Trevor Plouffe in the eighth.)
Clearly, the Twins aren't going to base a decision of that magnitude on 50-some plate appearances this season. But it's something Twins fans are talking about and at some point it's fair to wonder if his right-handed hitting would improve if he stopped switch hitting.
4. Eduardo Nunez was added as the 26th player for the second game of Thursday's split doubleheader. Assistant GM Rob Antony said before the game that the Twins' plan was to return Nunez to Triple-A Rochester to get the roster back to 25. That move likely will be made before Friday's game.
A quick explanation of that rule: Teams are allowed to add an extra player for the second game of a doubleheader, which is a tweak to the rules this year. Previously, if the makeup game was the day after a postponement, teams were not allowed to add a player, to protect from geographical advantages. If one team's minor league affiliate was closer, they'd be at an unfair advantage because they could get an extra body to the park sooner. Now, teams are allowed to add the 26th man for the second game of a split doubleheader, because that allows each team ample time to bring in a player no matter where in the country they're playing.
It doesn't make sense to make a decision on a player based on one game, so I viewed it as extremely unlikely Nunez would impress enough to stick around after Thursday. Still, I wondered in the back of my mind if there was anything he could do to force the Twins' hand. Minnesota would have been able to send down somebody else (a pitcher?) to keep Nunez. I wonder if Pedro Florimon is on high alert. Whether or not Nunez is an upgrade remains to be seen, but I wouldn't be shocked if the Twins are asking that question internally.
Nunez went 1-for-3 with a walk and a sacrifice bunt (after failing to get it down twice, he bunted with two strikes). He made the plays you'd expect him to make in the field.
5. Mike Pelfrey has been bad this year and again couldn't find the plate Thursday night. He won't get mentioned much in coverage because of the wacky comeback in the second game of a doubleheader. That's fair, although it's reasonable to examine his shortcomings so far.
He left after 4 1/3 innings pitched, having given up 5 runs (4 earned) with 5 walks and a strikeout. Five walks is unacceptable if you're the Twins.
"I couldn't hit water if I fell out of a boat," Pelfrey said after his poor start. "It keeps happening over and over and over again, so I need to figure it out and I need to do it real fast."
"It's one thing to go out and get hit, it's another thing to go out and walk the world, which I've done. That's embarrassing."
Pelfrey had walked 7 batters in 10 1/3 innings entering his third start. So far, he hasn't shown any signs of being better in his second year removed from Tommy John surgery. As a reminder, the Twins gave him a two-year contract this winter. He clearly has time to make that look like a more sound investment but the early returns have been crummy.