Pablo López stellar in return but Twins fall to Marlins
A four-run eighth inning, capped by designated hitter Jorge Soler’s second home run of the game, sent the Twins to a 5-2 loss
MIAMI — Against his former teammates, in his former home, with one of his childhood heroes, former star Twins pitcher Johan Santana, looking on, Pablo López put on a show that was well worth the price of admission.
For seven innings Wednesday, López stymied his old friends, capping his second pitching outing of the season with a trio of swinging strikeouts. Problem for the Twins was his good friend Jesús Luzardo. The Miami Marlins’ starting pitcher, was just as tough on Twins hitters and when the game turned over to the bullpens, the Marlins capitalized.
A four-run eighth inning, capped by designated hitter Jorge Soler’s second home run of the game, sent the Twins to a 5-2 loss in the series finale at loanDepot Park on Wednesday afternoon.
The Marlins (3-4) collected four hits in the inning — two off Griffin Jax and another two off Caleb Thielbar, who entered and allowed a single to put the Marlins ahead and the home run to Soler.
“He’s been exceptional for us for a very long time,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said of Thielbar. “… I think if he makes good, not even great pitches, just good, solid pitches the way he normally does, we’re going to get through the inning perfectly fine, but Pablo López putting us in that spot is really the highlight of the day for us. Tough to have a highlight when you lose, but he threw the ball really well.”
That he did.
Leaning heavily on his new sweeper and his four-seam fastball, which averaged 95.9 miles per hour, up a couple of ticks from last year, and less on his signature changeup, López worked through the Marlins lineup with few issues.
López racked up 15 whiffs in his outing, including nine with the sweeper.
“(There were) mixed feelings here and there but obviously once I put the new uniform on, I know it’s business,” López said. “… After the homer, it’s just like, ‘OK, I need to settle down. It’s go time.’ ”
That homer came in the first inning — also Soler — right after Lopez picked off his first runner who was trying to steal second, the difference between a one-run and two-run deficit at the time. He would nab another baserunner later in the game, too.
Besides Soler, just one runner reached second base against Lopez. After a pair of starts, López has given up just one run in 12 1/3 innings, a 0.73 earned-run average.
“He’s pitching just like a top-of-the-rotation pitcher does,” Baldelli said.
But on Wednesday, so did Luzardo.
The Twins (4-2) managed just one run off him in his seven innings of work, while striking out 10 times. They scratched together just five hits off him, one for extra bases. The only run he allowed came after Ryan Jeffers doubled and Trevor Larnach drove him in, tying the score at the time.
“There were some serious shadows” on the field, Baldelli said. “… They were able to do more, so that’s a credit to them, but their pitcher is certainly tough. We have to string together more, better at-bats. When you can’t see the ball especially well, you end up being more aggressive, I think, and it didn’t help us. We ended up expanding too much.”
It was a second consecutive slow day at the plate for the Twins, who faced Miami’s dominant starter Sandy Alcantara a day earlier and did not score a run off him. The loss sends the Twins back to Minnesota 4-2 on their season-opening road trip, spoiling López’s homecoming.
“(There’s) a lot of good memories in this ballpark, but I’m looking forward to going to Target field and getting it going,” López said.
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