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#pounditFriday, June 14, 2024

Twins’ very risky strategy with Bobby Witt Jr. pays off

Bobby Witt Jr. batting against the Twins

Minnesota Twins manager Rocco Baldelli sure has some major guts.

The Twins faced a difficult decision at the end of Monday’s game against the Kansas City Royals. They were clinging to a 6-5 lead in the top of the ninth inning with two outs and runners on both second and third. Minnesota had entered the frame with a 6-1 lead. But reliever Cole Sands gave up a run on three hits before getting pulled for closer Jhoan Duran, who allowed three more runs (two inherited from Sands) to score.

Royals star shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. was next up to hit. With first base open, conventional wisdom suggested intentionally walking Witt and pitching to the next guy instead (No. 3 hitter Vinnie Pasquantino). But Baldelli decided to go rogue and let Duran pitch to Witt. The bold strategy paid off as Witt rolled over on the very first pitch for a game-ending groundout.

The 23-year-old Witt has been one of the very best hitters in baseball this season, batting .307 with nine home runs and 36 RBIs. With the Royals off to a surprising 34-21 start this season, Witt is up there among the early frontrunners for AL MVP.

But none of that fazed Baldelli, who may have been playing the odds there. The righty-hitting Witt is 1-for-5 in his career against Duran and might have presented a more preferable matchup for the righty Duran than the lefty-hitting Pasquantino. It was a low splitter there to Witt too, so the Twins probably weren’t going to give him anything good to hit anyway.

Whatever the reasoning though, the move paid off for Minnesota, and that is all that matters. But in an era where we sometimes see teams intentionally walk elite hitters with the bases loaded, few would have the stones to do what Baldelli did there.


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