Twins quieted in finale of Astros series
Minnesota managed just two hits on the day
When Jacob deGrom left the Mets this offseason, the big-market, big-spending team immediately rushed to replace him, signing Justin Verlander to a megadeal days later.
The Astros, in response, did not go out and sign an external replacement to replace the Cy Young Award winner this offseason, instead opting to fill their rotation internally.
They did so with Hunter Brown, their top pitching prospect, a Detroit native who grew up idolizing Verlander and who put on his best Verlander impression on Sunday. That is to say: shutting down the Twins, like his childhood hero has done so many times.
The rookie Brown limited the Twins to just a pair of hits on Sunday as the Astros staved off a sweep with a 5-1 win over the Twins in the series finale at Target Field.
“They were calling him, what, Baby Verlander last year or something?” catcher Ryan Jeffers said. “I think if he’s leaving his cutter a little bit more over the plate, it’s a little more hittable, but he did such a good job … getting it to where it needed to be and then using the curveball when he needed to use the curveball and keeping that in the right spot.”
He also averaged 96.4 miles per hour on his four-seamer, getting it all the way up to 98.2 in his seven-inning outing.
The only run the Twins (6-3) scored was unearned and came in the fourth inning when Byron Buxton ended up on second as a result of a single and an error and scored on a Donovan Solano double.
The other six innings? Nothing.
Brown retired the last nine hitters he faced in order, at that point pitching with a somewhat comfortable lead after Astros (4-6) teammate Chas McCormick got to Twins starter Tyler Mahle. Twice. Both times Mahle was one out away from escaping the inning with no damage. Twice, McCormick got to him instead.
In the second inning, McCormick deposited a slider on the outer edge of the plate just past the wall in right field. In the fifth, he shot a single up the middle past a diving Kyle Farmer into center field to bring home another pair of runs.
“It’s tough when I feel like I had good command of my stuff and threw some pretty good pitches to get beat,” Mahle said. “It’s tough on a day like this. But against a good team, you make mistakes, they’re going to get you.”
And on a day like Sunday, against Brown, there was little wiggle room for him.
“There’s a chance with the way (Mahle) pitched you can win that ballgame,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “We’ve just got to put some runs on the board.”
Still, there was some solace for the Twins to take in the fact that they took a series from the defending World Series champions, a team they lost six games to last season.
“Looking at how we played these past three days, we pitched the ball well, we hit the ball well, outside of today,” Jeffers said. “ …I think we did a really good job the past two days of exposing guys that are good pitchers and putting some good swings on balls when we needed to. I think today, (Brown) was really good.”
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