Stephen Gonsalves gets first victory as Twins blitz Tigers 8-2

September 19, 2018

DETROIT Its a strategy that, regardless if you love it or hate it, is likely here to stay. And the Twins are having some success using it.

For the sixth time this month, the Twins opened a game with a reliever and had the starter renamed by the Twins as the primary pitcher follow him after one or two innings. The past two outings have gone swimmingly, including Wednesday during a 8-2 victory over the Tigers at Comerica Park.

While lefthander Stephen Gonsalves entered in the second inning and picked up the first major league win of his career, the Twins swept an opponent on the road for the first time since July 23-25 at Toronto. And its just their second winning road series since they took two of three at Cleveland in June.

They also virtually clinched second place in the American League Central, moving 10 games ahead of the third-place Tigers with 10 games remaining.

Robbie Grossman and Ehire Adrianza each had three hits for the Twins, who are off Thursday before beginning a three-game series in Oakland. Willians Austudillo drove in three runs.

Gabriel Moya started the game and was a little shaky, putting two on with one out in the first. With Alan Busenitz warming up, Moya got Mikie Mahtook to ground into an inning-ending double play. Moya leads the Twins in opening assignments with four, and the past three have been scoreless. As a parting gift, the Twins offense scored four runs on three hits in the second.

Gonsalves took over with a lead and facing the No. 5 hitter, Ronny Rodriguez. He limited Detroit to one hit over the next six innings in his most encouraging outing since being called up Aug. 19.

Before Wednesday, Gonsalves (1-2) pitched in five games as either the starter or the primary pitcher. His longest outing had been five innings in a loss to Oakland. He lowered his ERA from 9.39 to 6.75 on Wednesday.

The Twins sailed into the bottom of the ninth with a combined two-hit shutout from Moya, Gonsalves and Addison Reed, but Busenitz was tagged for two runs.

The Twins scored four times in the second inning, getting RBI singles from Tyler Austin and Adrianza and RBI groundouts from Gregorio Petit and Austudillo. Adrianza and Austudillo had doubles in a two-run fourth, and the Twins added two in the eighth on Austins sacrifice fly and Austudillos RBI single.

Detroit starter Spencer Turnbull took the loss, pitching four innings and giving up six earned runs.

The Twins are 3-3 in games using the OPP opener/primary pitcher strategy.

Twins openers have a 6.30 ERA. That goes against the premise of combating first inning ERA which, at a league average of 4.58 entering Wednesday, is the highest of any inning.

Twins manager Paul Molitor joked this week that Moya likes pitching the first inning because he can hang out in the clubhouse afterward, but added Moya looked more comfortable in the role the more hes been asked to do it.

In terms of a guy who really loves to pitch, you can see it in how he takes the mound and his antics, Molitor sad. I dont think hes overwhelmed by having to go out there and try to get you the first inning or two. Stuff wise he can get lefties and righties out, so thats why hes an appealing choice when we go that route.

But the primary pitchers posted a 2.93 ERA the first four times out. Kohl Stewart, who appeared Monday, and Gonsalves have each thrown six scoreless innings, lowering that mark to 1.98.

Indications are that the Twins will use this strategy next year, which will lead to more questions about how it affects player acquisitions.

And Molitor has not fully bought in to the scheme, er, strategy, yet.

It hasnt been enough [proof] for me, he said. Ive done more thinking about the logistics of it, when its right to just have a guy maybe only pitch one inning regardless if he goes 1-2-3 trying to get one inning instead of two innings depending on who youre looking at coming in and who he might face. But its kind of fluid in terms of making those decisions early in the game. You have to be ready for different scenarios the best you can.

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