Pablo López has thrown a handful of gems since arriving in Minneapolis. Put Sunday’s masterful performance somewhere near the top of that list.
The Twins starting pitcher did everything in his power to lead the team to victory in eight dominant innings Sunday. But he had no offensive backing, and after his departure, the New York Mets tagged reliever Griffin Jax for a pair of runs, sending the Twins to a 2-0 loss in the series finale at Target Field.
Jax was greeted by Francisco Lindor, who doubled to lead off the ninth inning. The reliever hit the very next batter, Jeff McNeil, with a pitch, and after striking out Mets (65-77) all-star Pete Alonso, right fielder DJ Stewart broke the game open with a two-run double. The Twins (75-68) threatened in the bottom of the ninth, putting a pair of runners on base, but couldn’t convert on the opportunity.
That spoiled a game in which López was near his best.
“Even he, I’m sure, isn’t going to be celebrating it the way that it probably should be celebrated,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “It was just beyond dominant. Everything working: stuff, where he’s putting the ball, everything. He maintained all of that throughout the game.”
López began his start by allowing a hit to Brandon Nimmo. But hits would be hard to come by — for the Twins, too — on Sunday. That was one of just two hits López gave up in his effort.
The very next batter, Lindor, whiffed at a sweeper for strike three, marking López’s first strikeout of the day and 200th of the season. It’s the first time the Twins starter has reached the milestone in his career. He became just the ninth Twins pitcher to do so.
“I think for starters, when you think 200 innings, 200 strikeouts, that’s one of the main goals every starter has going into the season,” López said. “To be able to reach the strikeout mark, it means a lot.”
That milestone strikeout was just the beginning for López, who finished his day with a career-high 14 strikeouts, shattering a record (12) that he set earlier this year during a complete-game shutout. López finished with 25 swings-and-misses in the effort.
The starter soaked in the appreciation from fans, raising his fist to them as he walked off to a standing ovation following his eighth inning of work.
“He’s having really a hell of a year, is what he’s having,” Baldelli said. “And he’s at his best right now in September. That’s what you’d really like to see.”
But his dominance yielded him a no-decision as Twins hitters were silent against Mets starter Tylor Megill and a host of relievers. Megill worked five scoreless innings, and while the Twins drew six walks in the game — three were from Edouard Julien — and had four hits, they were unable to push a run of support across for López.
“It’s crazy how in a season, we make 32 or more starts and it’s only a handful of times where you feel like you’ve got a handle on a lot of your stuff,” López said. “So you have to embrace that. And just let stuff fall, let stuff happen. And obviously the outcome wasn’t what we wanted, but we won the series. If we always win two out of three, I think that would lead to something very good.”