Evaluating the Minnesota Twins’ success with the opener strategy
By Matt Smith
Game 1, September 2: 4-18 loss against the Texas Rangers
|Gabriel Moya, L (3-1)||1||1||2||2||1||1||1|
Not exactly the prettiest pitching box score for the Twins’ first go ’round with an opener. But if you can get past some of the big numbers given up after Zack Littell‘s day ended, including 5 earned runs each from reliever Tyler Duffey and catcher Chris Gimenez, it’s really not all that bad. You of course would like to see a better start to the game from Gabriel Moya to start things off- 2 runs in 1 inning pitched isn’t great, and Zack Littell could have been better as well, no doubt. But, just 2 earned runs across 4 innings should be fairly manageable. Had Moya been able to pitch a clean first inning, then we’re looking at going into the 6th inning having given up 2 runs. Not bad.
Of course, none of that matters when the bullpen gives up 8 runs in the next 2 innings and Gimenez is forced to come in for the 9th, where he gives up another 5. But, while far from what the Twins were hoping for in their first experience using an opener, it also wasn’t nearly as bad as the final score indicated.
Game 2, September 4: 2-5 loss to the Houston Astros
|Trevor May, L (3-1)||1||5||4||4||0||0||1|
This time around, Trevor May acted as the opener with Kohl Stewart as the primary. While May struggled in his role, Stewart thrived. May got tagged for 5 hits and 4 runs in the first inning against the Astros’ potent lineup, which proved to be all the Astros would need to win the game, but Stewart then shut them down for 5 scoreless innings, scattering just 3 hits. The bottom line here is that the Twins ended with another loss, but Stewart’s first experience with a primary pitcher boded quite well for him and gave the Twins reason to continue the experiment. The Twins’ opener record remained winless, dropping to 0-2.
Game 3, September 11: 10-5 win against the New York Yankees
|Kohl Stewart, W (1-1)||3.1||2||3||3||5||0||0|
In the third rendition of the experiment, the Minnesota Twins used a third different opener, this time going with Tyler Duffey. He pitched 2 decent innings, giving up 2 hits and 1 run before giving way to Stewart. Kohl wasn’t as successful as his last go round, pitching 3.1 innings and giving up just 2 hits, but 5 walks and 3 runs. After a short appearance from May, relievers Taylor Rogers and Trevor Hildenberger then teamed up to shut down the Yankees for the rest of the game, giving the Twins a rare win against the pinstripes. The Twins’ results with an opener continued to be neither overly good nor overly bad, but they got their first win while utilizing an opener, moving to 1-2.
Game 4, September 13: 4-6 loss to the Kansas City Royals
|Alan Busenitz, BS (2), L (4-1)||0||3||3||3||0||0||2|
At last, an outing with no earned runs allowed by neither the opener nor the primary! The Minnesota Twins went back to Moya for the opener, who threw 2 hitless, scoreless innings before Stephen Gonsalves came in for his first time as a primary pitcher. Gonsalves put together one of his better outings of his short big league career to that point, giving up one unearned run in 3 hitless innings, albeit with 4 walks over that span as well. Unfortunately for the Twins, Alan Busenitz ruined the day by giving up 3 runs without recording an out after Gonsalves exited the game, and the bats were unable to push across enough runs to keep up. But for the first time, the Twins opener and primary pitchers combined for 0 earned runs, despite the Twins’ opener record falling to 1-3.