Blake Snell belonged to an exclusive club as he took the mound Tuesday, and he paid the price for it. Snell is one of eight big-league pitchers who has ever struck out Willians Astudillo, a fact that the Twins’ utility entertainer remembered well.
“Last year, I faced him twice, and he struck me out,” Astudillo said after an eventful night in the Twins’ 9-4 victory over the Rays. “So after that, I said he won’t strike me out again.”
He didn’t, and now Snell belongs to a different club, one that’s becoming less exclusive all the time: Cy Young winners who have been beaten by the Twins. Snell allowed 11 hits, recorded only 10 outs, and became the fifth Cy Young winner, including both of last year’s awardees, to absorb a loss against Minnesota’s explosive offense.
Eddie Rosario, on the eve of All-Star Election Day, made his case with four hits in five at-bats, while Astudillo, an All-Star in the hearts of Target Field’s fan base, collected three more and the Twins scored seven times off Snell.
“Tip my hat — he’s a great pitcher, one of the best in the league,” Astudillo said after smacking a run-scoring single and a leadoff double in his two at-bats against Tampa Bay’s embattled ace. “[But] here we were again today, and we won the game.”
They did, with plenty of contributions from La Tortuga. He saw eight pitches in four at-bats, and smacked three of them for hits. He also nearly ran through a wall to catch a foul ball, managing to hold on to it as he bounced off the padding and to the ground.
“Just a classic Tortuga,” Twins pitcher Kyle Gibson said appreciatively.
The defense was particularly entertaining, given that Astudillo is a catcher who had only started two previous games in right field.
“He makes the plays, though,” pointed out Twins manager Rocco Baldelli, whose team is missing Byron Buxton and Marwin Gonzalez to play the outfield, and lost Max Kepler in this one after being hit on the right elbow by a pitch. “He goes out there, he’s having fun, and once again we’ve got another highlight to throw up on the big screen.”
He wasn’t the only one to produce highlights.
Rosario stretched a single into a hustle double in the second inning, and scored when Astudillo blistered Snell’s first pitch to him up the middle for an infield single. Then Rosario proceeded to collect singles in three of the next four innings, two of them driving in runs.
Jonathan Schoop homered, his 17th ever against the Rays, and Mitch Garver did too. And Gibson held the Rays scoreless for five innings on only one hit as the Twins built an eight-run lead. Shortstop Willy Adames broke the spell to lead off the sixth inning, sailing a 1-1 fastball into the bullpens for his eighth home run, and the Rays added three more, on four straight hits, in the seventh. But Gibson earned his eighth win of the season.
Snell, meanwhile, was finished early for the second straight start, just the latest former Cy Young winner to be belted around by the Twins this season. Corey Kluber, Jake Arrieta, Jacob deGrom and Verlander have already suffered that fate this season.