DETROIT -- Much like his journey from being a top Draft pick to making it to the big leagues, Kohl Stewart's Major League debut Sunday afternoon was a mixed bag of positives and negatives. Stewart threw 4 1/3 innings against the Tigers at Comerica Park and was charged with the
DETROIT -- Much like his journey from being a top Draft pick to making it to the big leagues, Kohl Stewart's Major League debut Sunday afternoon was a mixed bag of positives and negatives. Stewart threw 4 1/3 innings against the Tigers at Comerica Park and was charged with the loss in a 4-2 game.
"I was really nervous leading up to the game," Stewart said. "When the game got started, I was fine. It felt like it was another start, and that's how I tried to treat it. It was obviously a blast. You're only gonna do that once for the first time. I was having a lot of fun."
Stewart, the fourth overall pick by the Twins in the 2013 Draft, looked every part the Major League pitcher for most of his outing. He became the second Twins pitcher this season to throw at least four scoreless innings in his debut, joining Fernando Romero, who threw 5 2/3 scoreless innings on May 2 against the Blue Jays.
Of course, that means Stewart's demise came all at once. After getting the leadoff hitter out in the fifth inning, Stewart gave up four straight singles and a walk, giving the Tigers a 2-1 lead. Perhaps the most stressful at-bat in that stretch was a 10-pitch battle with Jose Iglesias with one out and runners on first and second. Iglesias fouled off six pitches before hitting an infield single to Ehire Adrianza at third base. Instead of taking the forceout at third, Adrianza threw to first, but Iglesias beat it out.
"That was a really good battle," Stewart said. "Me and [catcher Mitch] Garver were thinking about what route to go there, and he just wasn't squaring up my sinker. He was fouling it off into his foot. He's either gonna swing and miss there, or he's gonna hit a ground ball to third or short. Ten-pitch at-bat, we probably threw seven or eight sinkers. Maybe we can go back, hindsight is 20-20, and maybe we can throw a different pitch there. I was confident in that pitch against that particular hitter. He wasn't really getting to it. He wasn't really squaring it up."
Stewart walked the next batter to force in a run and was pulled in favor of Taylor Rogers, who gave up a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded to make it 3-1. That run was charged to Stewart.
Stewart made some adjustments this season in the Minors, including decreasing his fastball usage and switching from a two-seam grip to a one-seam grip. He threw that pitch 41 times and got two swinging strikes. Stewart had his best groundout-to-flyout ratio in the Minors this season and continued that Sunday with eight groundouts and no flyouts.
Stewart said he could tell that Tigers hitters knew he was probably going with the one-seamer, which is effectively a sinker.
"I think I need to do a better job going offspeed," Stewart said. "I have two offspeed offerings that I need to use at a higher clip than I did today."
Manager Paul Molitor liked what he saw from Stewart for his first time out and said the 23-year-old will likely make another start for the Twins.
"It wasn't like they were hitting it all over the park," Molitor said. "They were hitting it in some good spots. Some holes opened up when they had baserunners. … For the first time out, you've got to be pleased."
The Twins held a lead in the second inning after Garver hit a triple to deep center. The ball bounced off the glove of a tumbling JaCoby Jones. Johnny Field then lined a sacrifice fly to left field.
Trailing 3-1 in the eighth, Max Kepler got a first-pitch fastball from Tigers reliever Joe Jimenez and drove it a projected 427 feet, according to Statcast™, to right field to cut the deficit to one run, but the Twins didn't threaten after that.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The ground ball from Iglesias that Adrianza fielded in the fifth inning had the potential to at least become the second out of the inning. Running from second, Victor Reyes froze before reaching Adrianza, though Adrianza didn't appear to give him a look. With the throw then being late to first, Stewart continued to work with one out.
Said Molitor: "Maybe he thought he got too far in front of the bag, or maybe he thought the runner ran behind him. Maybe he lost track of where he was at. Given the speed of the hitter and everything like that, that was his best chance."
Said Stewart: "That stuff is gonna happen. Their guy ran hard down the line and he beat it out. Not everything is gonna go your way, and it's my job, after that stuff happens, to get a swing-and-miss or punch a guy out."
With a two-out single in the eighth inning off Jimenez, John Forsythe extended his career-high hitting streak to 10 games. The Twins acquired Forsythe at the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline from the Dodgers as part of the James Dozier trade. In 11 games with the Twins, Forsythe is 15-for-37 (.405), with five multi-hit games.
After an off-day Monday, the Twins host the Pirates for a two-game set, starting with a 7:10 p.m. CT first pitch Tuesday. Jake Odorizzi (4-7, 4.50 ERA) will be on the mound for the Twins. Odorizzi has a career 3.21 ERA in Interleague games. The Pirates will be throwing Jameson Taillon (9-8, 3.63), whose last start marked his second complete game this season.
Tyler Fenwick is a reporter for MLB.com based in Detroit.