Mahle’s Sterner Stuff helps get the job done in Big Win

For most people, there is no place like home. New Minnesota Twins starter Tyler Mahle may not agree. Fifteen times this year, opposing batters have taken Mahle out for dinner. Just three of those times have come when he suited up in the visiting locker room.

Pete Maki, the Twins’ pitching coach, should remind Mahle that the “home” in home run isn’t related to the stadium. He isn’t obliged to serve meatballs. Someone, please, pass along the memo.

Mahle was both good and bad in his debut, but overall I was very impressed by him. Watching a pitcher live is always different than perusing their metrics. While metrics are instructive, a player is more than facts, figures and exit velocities. All earned runs are not created equal.

Tyler Mahle had an up and down but overall successful Minnesota Twins debut.

Three homers and four earned may sound bad, but against the Toronto Blue Jays’ treacherous lineup it is an understandable outcome. How he surrendered the runs was interesting as well, because in his first start for the Twins, Mahle’s metrics and performance were in harmony.

Tyler’s four-seam fastball is a run value darling, and as is just as impressive in action. The other offerings were…hit and miss (pun intended). Early on, his splitter was working, while his slider and cutter did just enough to keep hitters set up to die by fastball. Working quickly and efficiently, the Jays were mostly flummoxed through five.

Things got hairy for both Mahle and the Twins in the sixth. Three bad-awful-no-good-horrible sliders got smacked, and suddenly the once smooth waters that he was sailing along in got quite choppy.

This is the reason a holistic approach is so necessary for performances like Tyler’s Friday night outing. If you just look at the box score, it will appear to be a sub-par day. ERA wise it isn’t great, and he didn’t strike out a ton of batters, but that wouldn’t be the full story though. The mental fortitude shown was really something.

Over the last two years, I’ve watched what feels like a thousand Twins pitchers flounder in tough spots; crumbling under the weight of their mistakes. Shoulders slumping, begging for the hook. You could see them giving up on themselves and the team oftentimes doing the same. Anything to escape. All while Rocco Baldelli watched them drown.

Well, this time Baldelli made the right call, giving Tyler Mahle the chance to succeed. He gave him the opportunity to build confidence and set the bullpen up to go seven, eight, nine and get a win. And Oh my lanta! It worked perfectly, until… Jorge Lopez blew the save. That’s not Rocco’s fault though, so credit where credit is due. Good job goofball.

Mahle is made of sterner stuff I suppose. Forged in a park inhospitable to pitching, Great American Ballpark is second, only to Coors Field in its unfriendliness to pitchers. It’s were ERAs go to die. Mahle is used to seeing the ball race over the outfield wall, so he wasn’t so easily cowed.

Gathering himself, he refocused and escaped. He maintained the lead and gave himself and his new Minnesota Twins teammates a chance at a win. Jorge Lopez’s blown save cost Tyler Mahle that win, but I don’t think he cared.

In the postgame presser, Mahle said he was just excited to play in a game that mattered. The SOB might be the reinforcements the Twins needed and more, as he can take the ball every five days and be counted on not to completely implode. That may be enough for a push to the playoffs. If we as Minnesota Twins fans are lucky, maybe his toughness is contagious.

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