Preview: Twins vs. A’s
MINNEAPOLIS — Stephen Gonsalves’ major league debut didn’t go nearly the way he imagined it.
The young left-hander allowed four runs on six hits while needing 55 pitches to get through just 1 1/3 innings on Monday against the Chicago White Sox.
He’ll get another chance to show why he was considered the Minnesota Twins’ No. 5 prospect Saturday when he takes the mound again, this time against the Oakland Athletics at Target Field.
“As much as I think he’s got a pretty cool, calm demeanor, there was obviously an effect of being here for the first time in a major-league game, and not spring training,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said of Gonsalves’ nightmarish debut. “That’s not necessarily a bad thing or a knock, it’s just kind of the reality of it sinking in. You’re out there and you’ve got a lot of time to think and you look up and see your parents and your fiancée, in a big-league stadium.
“That’s my take on it, I think it affected him. The command issues that were hampering him a little bit earlier had been kind of cleaned up, and he had been doing really well with all his pitches, and last night, we didn’t see that.”
Gonsalves (0-1, 27.00 ERA) admitted that nerves were a factor in his first outing.
“It’s been my childhood dream to get here,” Gonsalves said. “The fact I can call myself a big-league pitcher is unbelievable. All the bullpen guys, I put a little stress on them. But they all came up to me and said it’s still a big deal.
“My whole first inning, the back leg was shaking. By the second inning, I was fine.”
He’ll need to be a little bit better than “fine” against the A’s. Oakland has been one of the hottest teams in baseball since the All-Star break and comes into Game 3 of this four-game set looking to gain ground on the AL West-leading Houston Astros.
The A’s had dropped two straight games — their first consecutive losses since late July — before snapping that slump behind Matt Chapman’s three-run homer Friday night.
Oakland goes into Saturday’s contest a game back of Houston in the divisional race but up four on Seattle for the second AL wild-card spot.
Mike Fiers (9-6, 3.21) has been a key part of the A’s surge, and he will start Saturday’s game. The veteran right-hander is 2-0 with a 1.47 ERA in three starts since he was acquired by Oakland and is coming off his best performance of the season. He held the Rangers to one hit over seven scoreless innings with eight strikeouts in a 9-0 victory on Monday.
He needed 46 pitches to get through his first two innings but cruised through his final five frames, tossing just 54.
“How he turned it around, throwing as many pitches as he did early on,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “It didn’t look like he had command of really anything, then he and (catcher Jonathan Lucroy) were discussing things on the bench and I think (Lucroy) pointed out he was a little offline, and all of a sudden it was a quick fix. It’s what batterymates will do for each other. After that, he was fantastic.”
Fiers is 5-1 with a 3.06 ERA in nine career appearances (eight starts) against Minnesota, but has not faced the Twins this season.