Right-hander Matt Shoemaker will make his Target Field debut as a member of the Minnesota Twins on Sunday afternoon as the American League Central leaders go for their third straight series victory to start the season against the Seattle Mariners in Minneapolis.
Minnesota took two of three at both Milwaukee and Detroit to open the season and then won Thursday’s home opener with Seattle, 10-2. But the Mariners evened the series with a 4-3 victory in 10 innings on Saturday afternoon with Mitch Haniger, who homered earlier, driving in the winning run with a sacrifice fly.
That dropped the Twins to 0-3 in extra-inning games this season. Minnesota is 5-0 in regulation contests.
“I think we’re going to be just fine,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said when asked if he was concerned with his team’s extra-inning woes. “When you end up in these extra-inning-type situations, it takes a big swing, it takes a play to be made or not made, and literally that becomes the difference in the game. The game we’re used to playing does change, and we have to adapt to that. … It comes down to making plays.
“I think we’re going to win a bunch of extra-inning games this year,” Baldelli added. “We have winning players. We have guys who know what they’re doing and will make it happen.”
Shoemaker (1-0, 1.50) signed a one-year, $2 million free-agent contract with Minnesota on Feb. 15 and is 4-5 with a 4.42 ERA in 15 career games and 13 starts against Seattle. He received plenty of support in his first start in a Twins uniform on Monday afternoon at Detroit as Nelson Cruz hit two homers and drove in five runs to highlight a 14-hit attack in a 15-6 victory. Shoemaker allowed just three hits and one run, a solo homer by Wilson Ramos, in six innings while striking out five.
Seattle will counter with right-hander Chris Flexen (1-0, 0.00), who pitched five shutout innings in his Mariners debut, a 4-0 victory over the visiting San Francisco Giants on April 3.
Flexen allowed just four hits and walked two while striking out six. It was the first major-league win since 2017 for the former New York Mets prospect, who revitalized his career last season with the Doosan Bears in the Korean Baseball Organization, where he went 8-4 with a 3.01 ERA. He signed a two-year, $4.75 million contract with the Mariners in December.
“He hasn’t pitched in this league for a while,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “It’s great to have him back. He’s really excited. He reinvented himself, so to speak, when he went to Korea. We like how it all turned out. It’s going to be a fun year.”
Flexen sharpened his curveball in Korea while losing 35 pounds. He went 3-11 with an 8.07 ERA in three seasons with the Mets and has never faced the Twins.
Flexen told reporters after the April 3 victory over the Giants that he couldn’t remember his last win with the Mets, which came on Aug. 23, 2017, at Citi Field over the Arizona Diamondbacks, 4-2. Dominic Smith homered and Michael Conforto went 2-for-4 with two RBIs for New York while Flexen allowed two runs on six hits over six innings while striking out five.
“To be honest, I can’t even tell you about my last big-league win,” Flexen said. “I don’t even remember it.”
That changed after getting the decision last weekend.
–Field Level Media