“I didn’t think my pitches would be so good, being a month and a half out of the big leagues,” Mejia said. “But I felt really good.”
Mejia, who had been on the disabled with a left biceps strain, was lifted after four batters in the fourth frame without recording an out. Mejia threw 57 pitches, including 39 strikes, and logged his third straight start shorter than five innings.
But this time around, it was less about the results and more about how Mejia looked on the mound. Minnesota manager Paul Molitor admitted afterward that he had no concern about trotting Mejia back out for his next turn, while the team remains in the thick of a postseason hunt.
The Twins’ lead for the second American League Wild Card spot fell to one game over the Angels, who beat the Rangers.
“I thought Mejia’s stuff was good. Some of the selection and location might have been off a bit,” Molitor said. “He had to pay the price for that.”
The first example of Mejia paying the price came against the second batter of the night. Mejia retired the leadoff batter on seven consecutive fastballs and turned to his heater on the first pitch to the next batter — Josh Donaldson.
Donaldson clobbered the chest-high fastball to left field that went a projected 447 feet, according to Statcast™. It was Donaldson’s second-longest home run of the season.
Mejia’s 93.5-mph fastball to Donaldson was measured at 3.71 feet off the ground, the highest pitch Donaldson has homered off of since the start of 2015. However, it was not Mejia’s intended placement of the pitch.
“I was surprised, because, first of all, I didn’t try to throw the pitch in that area,” Mejia said. “Second of all, he was able to get to it. So yeah, that surprised me.”
Following the blast, Mejia retired the next eight batters he faced before giving up a single to Donaldson. Mejia then surrendered three straight hits, which was enough for Molitor to turn to the bullpen. All four hits off Mejia in the fourth had an exit velocity of at least 102.7 mph, per Statcast™.
Still, that was attributed to Mejia’s location and selection rather than his velocity, which is why Molitor has complete confidence in his young hurler during the homestretch.
“I don’t have any qualms of him going back out there,” Molitor said.
Shane Jackson is a reporter for MLB.com based in Minneapolis. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.