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Stewart shows improvement as Twins top A's

Rosario has big game with arm, bat; Kepler hits 18th home run
August 23, 2018

MINNEAPOLIS -- It wasn't quite enough to get his first Major League win, but rookie Kohl Stewart turned in his best outing yet against the red-hot A's, while the offense and bullpen picked up the slack.Stewart, making his third career start, fell one out short of picking up the win,

MINNEAPOLIS -- It wasn't quite enough to get his first Major League win, but rookie Kohl Stewart turned in his best outing yet against the red-hot A's, while the offense and bullpen picked up the slack.
Stewart, making his third career start, fell one out short of picking up the win, allowing three runs in 4 2/3 innings, but it was still enough in a 6-4 victory over the A's on Thursday night at Target Field. Stewart gave up seven hits and walked two, but his stuff was much better than his other two outings -- with his fastball consistently hitting 94 mph -- en route to a career-high six strikeouts. Of his 11 swinging strikes, nine came on fastballs and two came on curves.
"I thought Stewart was a tick better," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "I thought the sinker was playing well. The strike-throwing needs a little improvement. Put himself in some tough spots. But overall, it was a little bit better than the first couple."
Stewart found himself in an early hole, surrendering two runs in the second, including a solo homer to Khris Davis, who leads the Majors with 39 blasts. Matt Olson followed with a double and scored on an RBI groundout from Stephen Piscotty after a wild pitch.
"The second inning kind of got away from me there," Stewart said. "They took advantage of a few mistakes there, but I was happy that I could settle down and get myself out of those innings."
The Twins rallied back against right-hander Trevor Cahill, scoring twice in the third and three more times in the fourth. Eddie Rosario, who had an all-around impressive night, plated the first run in the second on an RBI single before stealing second and scoring on an RBI single from Jorge Polanco.

Minnesota took the lead for good in the fourth with catcher Mitch Garver delivering a pinch-hit, two-run double after Bobby Wilson departed with a sprained right ankle. Joe Mauer scored Garver with an RBI single that moved him into a tie with Rod Carew on Minnesota's all-time hit list.
"After a double play, we got a couple of big two-out hits from Rosie and Polanco and unfortunately after Bobby came out with that sprained ankle, Mitch got up there and got a nice two-run double," Molitor said. "That was big."
Stewart ran into trouble in the fifth, surrendering a leadoff double to Matt Chapman, who advanced on a grounder and scored on Stewart's second wild pitch of the night. After a two-out hit by Olson on Stewart's 98th pitch, reliever Alan Busenitz came on in relief. Busenitz walked Piscotty and allowed a single to Marcus Semien, but was helped by an outfield assist from Rosario to get Olson at the plate to end the inning.
"Obviously in the fifth, I want to go deeper, but you have to earn those innings," Stewart said. "Too high of a pitch count, getting behind too often against some really good hitters."

Busenitz responded with a scoreless sixth, while fellow relievers Trevor May, Taylor Rogers, Matt Magill and Trevor Hildenberger combined to allow one run the rest of the way and preserve the win. Magill escaped a jam with two runners on in the eighth despite falling behind pinch-hitter Chad Pinder, 3-0, while Hildenberger picked up his fourth save despite serving up a solo homer to Jed Lowrie in the ninth.
They were helped by an insurance run on a solo shot from Max Kepler in the ninth off Blake Treinen, who entered with a 0.87 ERA in 63 innings and hadn't surrendered a homer in 59 innings, dating back to April 6.

"Kep, he was all over that cutter and gave us a little insurance run," Molitor said. "And the bullpen did a great job. We've talked about how it's kind of the mystery 'pen. You don't really know when you're going to pitch."
Wilson suffered a right ankle sprain while attempting to back up first base on a grounder to short with one out in the fourth and initially remained in the game, only to be removed in the bottom of the inning with Garver pinch-hitting for him. Garver came through with a two-run double into the left-center field gap to give the Twins the lead. Wilson said he stepped on a bat, which caused him to trip. He's expected to be placed on the 10-day disabled list, with Willians Astudillo his likely replacement.
"I don't think I've ever done that," Wilson said of stepping on a bat. "I saw Jorge diving and kind of peeked my head that way and then next thing I remember, I was on the ground. Not the way you want to get hurt, I know that. Just kind of one of those freak accidents."
With his RBI single in the fourth, Mauer tied Carew for second on Minnesota's all-time hit list with 2,085. Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett holds the franchise record with 2,304 hits.

"Spreading 'em out -- increase the drama," Molitor said with a laugh. "But it was a timely hit tonight. You hear about it any time a player climbs an organizational ladder and you get near the top of the list where the names are highly recognizable and Hall of Fame-type players, and I'm sure Joe someday will look back -- maybe not today -- but that's pretty good. We'll look forward to the next one."
Rosario's arm helped the Twins get out of a jam in the fifth, when Semien singled to left with two outs and Olson tried to score from second. Rosario made a great throw to Garver, who was able to tag out Olson to end the inning. The A's challenged the call, but it was quickly confirmed by replay, giving Rosario his ninth outfield assist of the season, which is one off the Major League lead. Rosario's throw home was 100.6 mph, per Statcast™, making it his hardest-thrown assist ever tracked by Statcast™ and the second-hardest this year, behind Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr.s 103.4-mph assist on June 19.

"I really didn't think we were going to have a chance with two strikes and the guy getting a good jump off second," Molitor said. "But Mitch did his best he could to kind of decoy. I'm not sure if it affected the slide or anything. Rosie, little bit high, but at least it was on-line. That's a huge out in that situation." More >>
"Missing bats is a good thing. It's never a bad thing when you miss bats. I threw a lot of four-seamers tonight and my four-seamers were really good. Going away to righties, we thought there were some zones we could pick and go up in the zone just based on some things we knew. So it was good and honestly, my four-seamer was better than my sinker." -- Stewart
Right-hander Jake Odorizzi (5-7, 4.55 ERA) will start in the second game of the series against the A's on Friday at 7:10 p.m. CT. Odorizzi allowed four runs in five innings in his last start on Sunday against the Tigers and has a 4.55 ERA since the All-Star break. Lefty Sean Manaea (11-9, 3.70) starts for Oakland.

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.