They lead all of Major League Baseball in hits and runs. Batting average and on-base percentage as well. They rank second in terms of slugging percent and OPS, and they were the hardest team to beat all year round. The Houston Astros have been an offensive juggernaut all season and competed as the top team in the American League against the Twins on Thursday.
In this context, the start of rookie Griffin Jax at Minute Maid Park was all the more impressive.
Jax completed his foray against the AL leaders, eventually retiring 13 straight batters and taking his second career win in the Twins’ 5-3 win over the Astros in Houston.
« Everything he wanted to do, he did, » said manager Rocco Baldelli. « … It didn’t look like the Astros actually dialed in to him or felt comfortable in any of those at-bats. I think it was probably the way Griff did his pitches, and overall it was a hell of a trip in every way. ”
In the longest start of his young career, Jax crashed into the sixth inning and did a quick job the Astros (65-43). In the third inning it only took him eight pitches to give up the team. In the fourth, it took 11 balls to get three flyballs.
« (I was) just attacking every single batsman, progressing the counting, not really giving me a good chance to fall behind and groove them a fastball, » he said. « … I was just happy to be able to attack these guys from top to bottom. »
It was his third straight start that he gave up just one run – first four innings, then five innings, followed by 5 1/3 innings on Thursday – since joining his Debut in the big league has given up six runs.
Jax’s major league career began earlier this year with four outside of the bullpen appearances, but recently he’s settled into a routine where he has the opportunity to consistently show the Twins outside of the rotation, what he can.
« I think a lot of it is just comfort and getting used to the day-to-day life of Major League Baseball, » Jax said of his recent success. “When I’m up here I don’t really have the luxury of facing a younger lineup, or maybe a lineup that’s not that well put together or maintained, so I take it as a pretty big challenge every time I go out and I know that I’ll be playing against the best of the best and that only helps to build my confidence and the game just gets easier for me when I get out. »
Jax went in the sixth inning after making a solo home run to former twin Jason Castro and later a double to Chas McCormick. He gave up just one more hit throughout the game and was in the lead for most of his game after the Twins (45-63) scored four runs with five hits in the second inning. Outfielder Rob Refsnyder, who returned from an extended stint on the injured list on Thursday, started the rally with a hit in his first at-bat.
Miguel Sanó, Willians Astudillo and Trevor Larnach all followed with hits – Larnach is a double – and after a groundout from Andrelton Simmons, Jorge Polanco hit an infield single, scoring the fourth run of the inning.
Refsnyder, who had been absent from a left hamstring strain since mid-June, finished day 2 for 3, added a brace, scored a pair of runs, and walked twice more.
« Ref really came out like a fireball, » said Baldelli. « Every time we put him out there, he makes things happen. »
And on Thursday he let these things happen in support of Jax when the twins got the series opener from the best of the American League.
« He should be very happy with this outing because I know we are, » Baldelli said of Jax.
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