Alex Verdugo didn't have a chance. In fact, it’s hard to envision anyone, whether it be Aaron Judge, MVP frontrunner Paul Goldschmidt or the reincarnation of Babe Ruth, succeeding against a pitch this downright disgusting, a glitch in the matrix that should have us all fearing the robot apocalypse.
Coming off an embarrassing last-place finish in the AL Central, the Twins have rebounded in impressive fashion this year, trailing the division-leading Guardians by 1.5 games with only a month to go in the regular season. Minnesota’s unlikely resurgence can be at least partially attributed to the team’s bullpen, including menacing rookie Jhoan Duran. The 6’5” Dominican has been an absolute force of nature, allowing all of one earned run since the All-Star break (0.61 ERA over 15 second-half appearances).
While the “off-speed” label may be a tad misleading (though not as potent and with more movement than a four-seamer, most would classify a splitter as a fastball, or at least fastball adjacent), this is still a hurricane of a pitch, a darting, 100-mph death sentence sure to haunt Verdugo for the rest of time.
Fifteen or even 10 years ago, the existence of such a pitcher would have been unthinkable, but now every team has one, a late-inning mercenary who makes painting the corners with triple-digit cheese seem as effortless as ordering a milkshake and waffle fries from the Chick-fil-A drive-thru. You know the sport has undergone a frightening evolution when Duran, who had a fastball clocked at 103.4 mph Monday night (Xander Bogaerts miraculously fouled it off), isn’t even the Twins’ closer, usually serving in a setup capacity in the seventh and eighth innings.
Duran only needed 14 pitches to retire the Red Sox’s 2-4 hitters (Verdugo, Bogaerts and Rafael Devers), suggesting he’ll be available again Tuesday at Target Field, where the Twins are hosting a six-game homestand that began with a weekend sweep of San Francisco.