Pineda anchoring Twins' rotation down stretch

August 28th, 2019

CHICAGO -- As Jose Berríos battles through mechanical issues and Jake Odorizzi takes a step back in the second half, is taking his game to another level.

Pineda’s transformation after the All-Star break has given the Twins’ rotation a lift as the rest of its members endure some late-season woes.

Minnesota’s de facto ace impressed again in a 3-1 win over the White Sox on Tuesday night at Guaranteed Rate Field. The Twins' lead in the American League Central remains at 3 1/2 with 32 games remaining.

“Big Mike was great. Big Mike and our entire bullpen came up really big for us today,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “No one folded at any point, just continued to go up there and get outs, and it started with Mike."

"He stayed down below the zone, was working at the knees and below, and stayed there,” White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. “I thought he mixed his pitches well. He did what he needed to do."

Pineda’s ability to minimize big innings and not allow games to get out of hand has been a big part of his recent success. The right-hander held the White Sox hitless over his first three innings before Chicago notched its first hit on a Tim Anderson solo shot in the fourth.

It was the only mistake he would make in five innings as he held Chicago to just the one run on four hits over his five innings, striking out eight batters and walking one en route to his third consecutive win. He threw 60 of his 89 pitches for strikes, getting 12 swinging strikes.

“I felt pretty good today. Everything is working good [right now],” Pineda said. “My secondary pitches have a lot of movement.”

It’s the sixth time this season Pineda has struck out eight or more batters, and he is now 5-1 with a 3.04 ERA in his last eight starts. A pair of homers by Marwin Gonzalez and Jonathan Schoop would be more than enough with Pineda on the mound. The two solo shots extended the Twins’ franchise single-season record total to 255 home runs on the year.

With the race in the AL Central remaining close, Pineda has put the rotation on his back. His second-half dominance is not only a welcomed sight for the Twins, but is also much needed.

“We've leaned on Mike. You see his name come around in the rotation and you really start looking forward to it,” Baldelli said. “It feels like you know what you're going to get when he's out there. He's a strike-thrower. No matter what's going to happen, he's generally never going to beat himself.

“The further and further we've gotten away from when he had his surgeries and all the rehab, the more and more we've seen the real Mike Pineda that we've known and watched for a very long time.”

Gonzalez leaves game; considered day to day

The Twins’ needed a big swing from Gonzalez to get things going in the first inning, but that swing, as well as a few others, took their toll on the utility man.

“I started feeling it during batting practice today and didn’t want to get out of the lineup, but I think it was getting a little worse during the game,” Gonzalez said. “So I got out just to make sure it doesn’t get worse and try to get back out as soon as possible."

Gonzalez left the game in the top of the eighth inning with an abdominal/right oblique injury. He’s considered day to day.

“Marwin’s doing pretty well. The tests came back as showing, I don’t know if it’s the best way to describe it, but something probably small,” Baldelli said. “Not something that we would consider major but something that we’re going to have to look after and get checked out.”