Devin Smeltzer makes strong start vs. Cleveland but Twins lose 3-2 in 10 innings
MINNEAPOLIS — Devin Smeltzer did everything he could to make the Twins' Opening Day roster. The lefthander left his fourth and final spring start April 2 having not allowed a run all camp. But by the next day, he found himself back on the Class AAA staff instead.
Persevering through adversity, though, is nothing new for the 26-year-old. He survived childhood cancer and battled back from a herniated disc in his neck that disrupted his 2021 season. And in five games so far with the Saints this season, he has a 1-2 record with a 3.86 ERA.
So when the Twins realized they needed a spot starter with Dylan Bundy not yet ready to start after his bout with COVID-19, Smeltzer was the call to fill in on the injury-riddled rotation.
In his five innings Saturday at Target Field, he gave up just three hits and one run, but the Twins ultimately fell 3-2 in extra innings to Cleveland in front of an announced crowd of 22,939.
The 10th inning was the Twins' undoing, as they fell behind in the score and lost their manager. With Franmil Reyes starting on second, Andres Gimenez smacked what appeared to be a RBI double to right field. But as he rounded first, he ran right into Twins' first baseman Jose Miranda. The umpires let him advance to second base, which Rocco Baldelli vehemently disagreed with before being ejected.
Gimenez would then score on Myles Straw's base hit before the inning ended. Gio Urshela managed a base hit to score Gary Sanchez, the Twins' runner on second, in the bottom of that inning, but it wasn't enough to take the win. The Twins are now 19-15 while Cleveland is 16-16.
Before the late-game dramatics, though, Baldelli said pregame this is the best version of Smeltzer he's seen.
"It was only a matter of time before we saw him here,'" Baldelli said. "And here he is."
Smeltzer's toughest inning was the second, when he allowed Owen Miller leadoff double before his wild pitch sent Miller to third. Reyes then stopped up to smack an RBI single. But Smeltzer retired the next two batters to end the inning with minimal damage.
"His stuff's been very good. He came into camp, looked great, threw the ball great," Baldelli said. "I don't think his year to date could have gone much better as far as the way he prepared and came into camp and has pitched. So he's put himself in a real nice spot based on all the work he's done. You can tell he's put in a lot of work."
While the Twins loaded the bases twice, once in the third and again in the fifth, they couldn't manage any runs from those opportunities, with Max Kepler striking out and Urshela hitting into a double play. The Twins were also without star Byron Buxton, who took a scheduled off day. But the Twins did pull even with Cleveland in the fourth inning, from Urshela's solo home run to the bullpen.
Cleveland starter Shane Bieber went six innings, allowing seven hits and one run but also striking out seven.