MINNESOTA 5, CLEVELAND 3 IN CLEVELAND
Date: Sunday, September 14.
Batting stars: Doug Mientkiewicz was 2-for-4 with a home run (his eleventh), a stolen base (his fourth), and three RBIs. A. J. Pierzynski was 2-for-4 with two doubles.
Pitching stars: Eric Milton pitched five innings, giving up two runs on five hits and no walks and striking out two. Juan Rincon pitched a perfect inning and struck out one. LaTroy Hawkins struck out two in a scoreless inning, giving up one hit. Eddie Guardado struck out two in a perfect inning.
Opposition stars: Travis Hafner was 2-for-4 with a two-run homer (his twelfth) and a double. Jody Gerut was 2-for-4 with a home run, his twenty-second. Victor Martinez was 2-for-4. Cliff Lee struck out seven in seven innings, giving up three runs on five hits and a walk.
The game: Each team got a two-out double in the second, but neither team scored until the fourth, when each team did. In the top of the fifth Pierzynski doubled and scored on a two-out single by Michael Ryan. The Indians came back with two in the bottom of the inning, as Martinez singled and Hafner followed with a two-run homer. The Twins went up 3-2 in the sixth when Shannon Stewart singled and Mientkiewicz hit a two-run homer. Cleveland again came back in the bottom of the inning, with Gerut hitting a home run to tie it 3-3.
Back-to-back hit-by-pitches gave the Twins two on with none out in the eighth. A bunt moved the runners to second and third. A fielder's choice resulted in a man thrown out at the plate and men at first and third with two out, but Mientkiewicz came through with a single to put the Twins up 4-3. The Twins got an insurance run in the ninth when Corey Koskie singled, went to second on a ground out, and scored on Dustan Mohr's single. The Indians got only one hit in the last three innings and the game went to the Twins.
WP: Rincon (5-6). LP: Danys Baez (2-9). S: Guardado (36).
Notes: Michael Cuddyer was at third base in place of Koskie. Koskie came in for defense in the eighth. Stewart was in left with Ryan in right. Mohr was in center in place of Torii Hunter. Hunter came in to play center in the seventh, with Mohr moving to right and Ryan coming out of the game.
I wonder if Ryan was injured, possibly in a collision with Mohr. He was removed after the first out of the seventh inning, which is an odd time to make a defensive substitution. That first out is recorded, at b-r.com's play-by-play, as "Flyball: RF-CF (CF-RF)". I don't know what that means, exactly, but it certainly sounds odd. Ryan played the next day, so if he was injured it wasn't serious.
There was one other substitution. Jacque Jones pinch-hit for Luis Rivas in the eighth. Denny Hocking then pinch-ran for Jones and remained in the game at second base. I wouldn't have thought of Hocking being faster than Jones, although I wouldn't have thought of him as being much slower, either. Perhaps Jones was still dealing with a minor injury.
Ryan was 1-for-2 and was batting .407. Stewart was 1-for-4 and was batting .312. Mientkiewicz raised his average to .308. Pierzynski went up to .303. Jones was 0-for-1 and was batting .302.
This was Milton's first start of the season. He had missed the entire year up to this point with a knee injury, making just one start in Fort Myers prior to this game. Given that, he did very well in this game.
Hawkins lowered his ERA to 1.88. Guardado's ERA went down to 2.85.
It's interesting that, with only fourteen games remaining in a pennant race, Ron Gardenhire held out two of his starters and used a starting pitcher who had not pitched all season. But it worked.
The White Sox and Royals again both won, so the standings remained unchanged.
Record: The Twins were 80-69, tied for first in the American League Central with Chicago, 3.5 games ahead of third-place Kansas City.