Last time, the Twins rolled into town with an 0-6 record and left Chicago still winless three days later.
This time around, the Twins came in undefeated, and remain so after the opener.
The Twins played terrific outfield defense, the White Sox botched a few plays, and that made the difference, more or less.
The Sox could have opened it up in the first inning if it weren’t for Byron Buxton. They collected three hits and a stolen base off Phil Hughes, but only one run crossed the plate because Buxton made a pair of long-distance-running catches on the warning track in center. Later in the game, Max Kepler ended the fifth with a tremendous dive to rob Tim Anderson of an RBI double or better. Finally, Eddie Rosario took potential extra bases away from Todd Frazier with a rather routine leaping catch against the left-field wall.
The White Sox, on the other hand, allowed the Twins to tie the game with a pair of mistakes in the top of the fourth. First, Derek Holland compounded his own problems. He allowed a leadoff double to Robbie Grossman before coming back to strike out Buxton. However, a pickoff attempt at second ended up in center field, which gave Grossman third base. Avisail Garcia made those 90 feet count when he dropped a shallow flyball for his second error in as many games. What shouldn’t have even been a sac fly ended up knotting the game at 1.
The blame for the second run rests squarely on Holland, as he couldn’t put away Miguel Sano after getting ahead 1-2. He missed his ninth pitch by a full plate — Geovany Soto set up inside, Holland missed outside, and Sano lined it to right center to score Grossman from first and give the Twins a lead they didn’t relinquish.
Holland had a second run charged to his tab in the seventh. He walked Eduardo Escobar to start the inning, and Nate Jones gave up a double to the confusingly tough Chris Gimenez over third base. A fan grabbed the ball in play, and the umpires awarded Escobar home instead of third base, giving them a key insurance run.
Hughes made better pitches as the game moved along, although Frazier took him off the hook a couple times. Frazier popped up a center-cut 89 mph fastball in the first inning, then did the same with a changeup that floated comfortably within the zone.
Look at the location of the two pitches Todd Frazier has popped up tonight. They’re the green ones. pic.twitter.com/j1m8aChI8c— Write Sox (@WriteSox) April 8, 2017
The wind allowed Rosario to make that leaping grab on the warning track against Frazier in the sixth, so maybe the conditions would’ve made it difficult for Frazier to leave the park even if he connected on the earlier mistakes. But then Frazier struck out looking on a 3-2 outer-half fastball to start the ninth, and he’s 0-for-12 in the young season.
Rick Renteria painted himself into a corner, too. He made a short-sighted decision to sub Jacob May for Leury Garcia in center with the Sox trailing 3-1 in the top of the ninth. Sure enough, Garcia’s spot in the order came to the plate after Avisail Garcia and Soto drew two-out walks. That led him into choosing between one of two bad decisions — letting May hit for himself, or using somebody like Matt Davidson or Yolmer Sanchez and flirting with a catastrophically awful outfield alignment if the game got to the 10th.
May hit for himself, and he grounded out to second on the first pitch ... after two walks. That’s a rookie mistake, and one a rookie might make if he’s hitless on the season and doesn’t want to be up against the ropes in a big situation.
The good news? Holland’s debut was encouraging. He gave up the three runs (two earned) on four hits and a walk while striking out five. His fastball sat at 92, touching 94, and he used his slider effectively, both as a backdoor and down-and-in offering. He picked on Buxton when he needed to, and also worked out of another jam with a timely grounder for a 6-4-3 double play.
Melky Cabrera also continued his torrid start to the season with another two-hit game. The top four hitters had five of the team’s seven hits.