Through two and a half innings, a pitchers’ duel seemed to be on the horizon: Sonny Gray had faced the minimum and Jhony Brito had sat down the first six Twins he faced. However, the latter righty couldn’t avoid another big inning against Minnesota, and Gray tossed seven scoreless frames against a lifeless New York offense in a 6-1 Twins victory.
This time, the rookie Brito at least made it two innings further and the Yankees stopped the bleeding before the deficit grew too large. In a messy bottom of the third, Brito allowed the first three Twins he faced—Christian Vázquez, Michael A. Taylor, and Max Kepler—to reach base. He then struck out Carlos Correa on three pitches before Jorge Polanco got the better of him in a six-pitch battle, singling home two runs. Next was Byron Buxton, who after four fouls and a ball—another six-pitch at bat—hit a line drive right at Brito, which the righty was able to knock down. He threw out Buxton at first, but Kepler was still able to score.
After walking the next batter, Trevor Larnach, on six pitches again, Brito’s night was over.
The rookie certainly looked sharper in this one than in his last outing against the Twins. Specifically, Brito was able to spot his bread-and-butter changeup off the plate or around the lower arm-side corner:
Compare this to Brito’s previous appearance against Minnesota, when he frequently missed over the plate:
At the same time, Brito’s inability to put hitters away on two strikes really cost him tonight. He had each of his last three batters on the ropes, down in the count 2-2, 0-2, and 2-2 respectively.
On the whole, Brito generated just six whiffs compared to a whopping 28 fouls. Thirty-five percent of all of Brito’s pitches were fouls, which is poised to be the highest single-game total for pitchers with at least 50 pitches in a game this year. On the season, this has been a trend: coming into today, 21 percent of all Brito offerings were fouled off, the 27th-highest mark among the 141 pitchers with at least 250 total pitches this year. He’s bound to climb that leaderboard after tonight.
Regardless, after Brito’s exit, the game turned into a revenge-tour shellacking, with the Twins getting major contributions from both of their ex-Yankees: Gray and Joey Gallo.
As noted at the top, Gray went seven shutout innings, allowing just three hits and two walks while striking out eight. If Brito couldn’t put hitters away, Gray was his polar opposite: the veteran notched more whiffs (18) than fouls (15) with 19 called strikes to boot (Brito had just eight, even though they had the same friendly umpire). Gray’s bevy of pitches — he mixed in six distinct offerings on the night — befuddled the scuffling Yankees’ offense all night long.
Gallo got to have his laugh when the Yankees called on Greg Weissert to finish out the third and keep the deficit at 3-0. But the lefty slugger took the rookie deep in the very next inning:
Gallo’s moonshot, 110.6 mph off the bat, traveled an estimated 432 feet, further than any homer he hit in pinstripes.
The Twins pushed another run across in the bottom of the sixth against Albert Abreu, who threw just 16 of his 32 pitches for strikes. After yielding a single to Taylor to start the inning, Abreu was able to get a fielder’s choice and a popout. But that’s when Polanco struck again, this time with a pop fly double down the left field line that Oswaldo Cabrera just missed:
Come the bottom of the eighth, and the Twins added another, their sixth run, in ugly fashion. Jimmy Cordero was on the mound at this point, and after a pair of quick outs, Kepler got on for the third time with a single. The next hitter, Carlos Correa, tripled on a flyball with an expected batting average of .210 due to a Franchy Cordero misplay, bringing Kepler home for the third time:
Aside from his fielding miscue, Cordero went 0-for-3 with three K’s before being lifted for Isiah Kiner-Falefa. The early-April sensation now has just one hit in his last 22 at bats.
The Yankees managed to avoid getting blanked for the first time this season with a ninth-inning rally. (A brief hope with the bases loaded in the eighth died when Anthony Rizzo struck out on three pitches.) A pair of walks sandwiched a DJ LeMahieu single, 108.3 mph off the bat as he continues to hit the ball hard, loading the bases with no one out. Oswaldo Cabrera grounded one to third and third baseman Jose Miranda mercifully opted to go the short way for the out, tagging the base. Aaron Hicks made the final out with a pair of men still on base, going down swinging and concluding his night 0-for-4. The former Twin couldn’t match the former Yankees’ performances.
Suffice it to say, the Yankees' road trip is off to a rough start. With the loss, the Bombers’ offense has been held to just one run in three of their last four contests and three or fewer in 9 of their last 11. They’ll face another tough opponent on the mound tomorrow in Joe Ryan, but Nestor Cortes just might be up to the challenge. First pitch is 7:40 pm Eastern.