Reusse: Twins get a dose of reality with Astros’ visit to Target Field
The Twins decided to declare one attendance for Thursday’s activity at Target Field, which started with the final six innings of Wednesday night’s suspended tilt with Houston and concluded with the scheduled afternoon game.
Wednesday was “Star Wars” night, a catchy promotion shared by not more than 90% of the pro baseball teams in North America.
Putting the tickets sold for that game along with Thursday’s led to the Twins announcing a modest attendance of 16,918 for their 17th home date.
Heading into this tricky twinbill, the Twins’ home average was 17,832, a number that was 23rd among 30 big-league teams.
The immediate response to this low ranking would be to cite the horrible weather that afflicted Minnesota in April, when a dozen of those dates occurred.
There was also a suspicion that a pandemic, followed by a last-place season, followed by a 3 ½-month owners lockout lasting into March, could have combined to cause season-ticket sales to crater.
Not so, say the Twins, stating they have sold a full-season equivalent of 11,000 tickets.
Which means, this subpar attendance is a solid victory at the walk-up window for bad weather and public malaise over the Twins being in first place in the AL Central since April 24.
The Twins reached that point with a three-game sweep over the then-careening White Sox. This was followed by three straight at home over Detroit, a 4-3 road trip, and then last weekend’s three-game home sweep of Oakland.
That put the Target Field winning streak at nine, tying the Twins’ best in the splendid downtown ballyard.
The victories over Oakland were accomplished by scoring two, one and four runs. That can work against a team with a .200 batting average, as had the A’s.
There was a thought it might not work starting Tuesday against Houston. There was also hope the Astros, defending American League champs, extra talented with both young and veteran excellence, would not be a complete mismatch for the Twins.
Reality 3, Hope 0.
Tuesday: The Astros made it to the World Series last season without Justin Verlander. The Hall of Famer-to-be had blown out his right elbow in the opener in the 2020 mini-season and underwent Tommy John surgery.
Verlander is now back at 39, pitching with fewer strikeouts but very well, and he carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning against the Twins, who wound up with three singles in a 5-0 loss.
Wednesday: Chris Archer had the worst of his six short starts with the Twins — three innings, five runs allowed. He has pitched 22⅓ innings; 11 outs per start. Attempts to brand this as a promising comeback for the 33-year-old have been sizably exaggerated.
The Twins were down 5-1 and Yennier Cano was about to make his big-league debut in the top of the fourth. A violent rainstorm was arriving and the game was stopped, then suspended until noon Thursday.
Thursday (suspended game): Cano debuted with two scoreless innings, then gave up a home run to Kyle Tucker leading off the sixth. He left with a couple of runners on in favor of Cody Stashak and, without a garbage can to be heard anywhere, what an Astros slaughter it became. Utility player Nick Gordon managed to keep the final at 11-3 by pitching a scoreless ninth for the Twins.
Thursday (scheduled game): Rookie Josh Winder had been outstanding in two previous starts, particularly last weekend vs. the A’s (six innings, three hits, one unearned run, no walks, eight strikeouts).
As pointed out earlier, there’s a difference between the A’s and the Astros. Winder only made it through 3⅓ innings, with four runs, three earned and a mighty two-run blast to center by Yordan Alvarez.
Luis Garcia, a righthander who is not going to like the pitch clock in 2023, mesmerized the Twins with his sloth and went five shutout innings with nine strikeouts.
This final was again 5-0 for Houston. A real, honest-to-Dusty Baker ballclub had come to town for three games and it was a mismatch from Verlander’s first pitch to reliever Rafael Montero’s last.
Then again…we’ve seen worse for our athletes during Houston’s current run of tremendous baseball.
Five years ago, with a young Carlos Correa on their side with two home runs and seven knocked in, the Astros came here at the end of May and beat up the Twins 40-14 in three games.
Note to 2022 Twins season-ticket holders: Don’t start putting away that playoff deposit just yet.