By Megan Ryan
The 19,005 announced fans at Target Field on Tuesday booed as Jovani Moran exited the bullpen to take the mound in the eighth inning.
To be fair to them, Joe Ryan was throwing a no-hitter against the Royals at that point. But to be fair to Twins manager Rocco Baldelli, Ryan already had thrown 106 pitches.
In the end, there was no no-no in store, as Moran allowed two walks, two hits and three runs in the ninth. Bobby Witt Jr. broke up the no-hitter with a one-out double. But the Twins still won 6-3.
The victory put the Twins (70-70) back at .500 after a crushing sweep at home to Cleveland over the weekend. Cleveland leads the American League Central by three games over the White Sox and five over the Twins, who have 22 games to play.
“I’m not going to feel happy. I wanted to help and be part of that no-hitter. But that’s part of the game,” Moran said. “Of course I’m going to get mad because I wanted to do my best and get that out, but it happens.”
It would have been the Twins’ sixth no-hitter in team history and the first involving more than one pitcher. The last Twins no-hitter belonged to Francisco Liriano in a 1-0 victory against the White Sox on May 3, 2011.
Ryan threw 68% strikes during his seven innings, striking out nine for the third time this season, two short of his career high.
The 26-year-old gave up two walks, and one was to his first batter of the night. But Ryan didn’t let that come back to haunt him, nabbing the next three outs.
The conversation between Ryan and Baldelli about heading back for the eighth inning was firm but not contentious. Ryan reminded Baldelli that while the most pitches he’s thrown in a MLB game is 110, he did once throw 156 at a lower level, plus his velocity hadn’t drooped. Baldelli reminded him the main priority is to keep one of the best starters healthy with the season fading and the playoffs on the line, especially since Ryan’s next start lines up at the American League Central-leading Guardians in a couple days.
“He goes, ‘I am upset, but I absolutely understand why I’m not going back out there next inning,’ ” Baldelli recounted. “He said, ‘I’ll be good.’ ”
Moran came in for the final two innings and had a one-two-three eighth with two strikeouts. He struck out his first batter in the ninth, too, but walked the next two hitters. Witt then banged an RBI double before Sebastian Rivero’s RBI single. Vinnie Pasquantino’s sacrifice fly was the final blow.
Ryan doesn’t usually watch the rest of the game from the dugout after he exits, but he did this time.
“I’m aware every time until they get a hit. Sometimes when they get a hit in the first inning, I’m like, ‘Oh, there goes a no-hitter.’ But [Tuesday] that didn’t happen, so it was later,” Ryan said. “… Sure, you want to finish that. … But I’m not mad, I guess. It’s just, it is what it is. It’s a hit. Get the next guy out. Would’ve been cool. But should’ve, could’ve, would’ve.”
Offensively, the Twins put up at least one hit in each of the first six innings and managed 11 total. And that turned into run support in the third, thanks to three consecutive hits from Gilberto Celestino, Luis Arraez and Carlos Correa. Correa’s was an RBI double that broke the deadlock. Jose Miranda also drove in a run on his single, though Correa was out at home by a wide margin.
Correa was again part of the scoring in the fifth inning after Arraez’s base hit. He smacked a two-run homer to put the Twins up 5-0. Gio Urshela followed suit in the sixth inning, delivering a leadoff homer to make it six runs to none.
As for the audience’s ire, Baldelli owned it.
“I have to stand up and sometimes raise my hand to be the guy that no one really wants to be. Truthfully, I don’t want to be that guy sometimes,” Baldelli said. “I want to go out there and watch Joe throw 140 pitches and finish the job and do everything that he wants to do.
“… I want what’s best for this team, and I want to go to the playoffs, and I want to win games in the playoffs. And that’s the priority for me right now.”