MINNESOTA 2, BOSTON 1 IN BOSTON
Date: Thursday, September 5.
Batting stars: Willians Astudillo was 1-for-1. Miguel Sano was 0-for-1 with three walks. Mitch Garver was 0-for-1 with three walks.
Pitching stars: Martin Perez pitched six innings, giving up one run on two hits and two walks and striking out one. Trevor May pitched a perfect inning and struck out one. Tyler Duffey struck out two in a perfect inning.
Opposition stars: Mookie Betts was 2-for-4 with a home run (his twenty-sixth) and a double. Nathan Eovaldi pitched five innings, giving up one run on one hit and four walks and striking out three.
The game: Neither team even threatened until the fourth, when Betts led off the inning with a home run to give the Red Sox a 1-0 lead. The Twins got the run back in the fifth, although it wasn't easy. They opened the inning with three walks, loading the bases with one out. Then they did what the Twins usually do with the bases loaded. A double play scored a run and a line out ended the inning. Still, at least it was tied 1-1.
Boston threatened in the sixth when Betts got a two-out double and Xander Bogaerts walked, and a pickoff error moved them to second and third, but a ground out ended the inning. In the seventh, a pair of one-out walks and a two-out walk again loaded the bases for the Twins. Astudillo pinch-hit a single to bring home the go-ahead run. They missed a chance for more when Max Kepler struck out, but it was a 2-1 lead for the good guys.
It stayed there, but it wasn't easy. The Twins missed another chance in the ninth, when a two-out walk and and an error put men on first and second. In the bottom of the ninth, Bogaerts got a one-out single. A force out made the runner Rafael Devers with two out. J. D. Martinez then doubled off the Green Monster. Devers tried to score from first, but was cut down on a perfect throw by Eddie Rosario to end the game.
WP: Perez (10-6). LP: Andrew Cashner (11-8). S: Taylor Rogers (24).
Notes: Byron Buxton remained out of the lineup, although he pinch-ran and stayed in the game for defense. Jake Cave was in center and Kepler in right, a reversal of the way the Twins have been playing. I don't know if Kepler's health had anything to do with that. Luis Arraez was at shortstop in place of Jorge Polanco.
Arraez was 1-for-3 with a walk and is batting .343. Nelson Cruz was 0-for-4 and is batting .305. Duffey has an ERA of 2.59. Sergio Romo gave up one hit and no runs in a third of an inning and has an ERA of 3.00. Rogers gave up one hit and no runs in two-thirds of an inning and has an ERA of 2.49.
Perez is probably the last Twins starter one would expect to be in an old-fashioned pitchers' duel. And he did it in an old-fashioned way, getting only one strikeout, but giving up only two hits. I don't know if he got a lot of soft contact or if his defense made some good plays or some of both. It's not the recommended way to go about it these days, but it worked.
Was Polanco unavailable for some reason? I mean, it's one thing to give him a night off--Rocco has actually been very good about keeping everyone rested, and I don't have a problem with that. But I don't know why, when the Twins had a late lead, you wouldn't play Polanco at short and Arraez at second, rather than leaving Arraez at short and playing Astudillo at second. They could've gone with Ehire Adrianza at second as well, but the game log indicated that perhaps he was unavailable. Much as I have faith in A-Stud to be able to do everything that it's humanly possible to do on a baseball field, and perhaps something that are not humanly possible as well, the defensive arrangement they went to late in the game is not the defensive arrangement I'd have preferred. Still, they won the game.
I was unable to watch any of the game and just turned on the radio to hear the last two batters. Given that the play at the plate ended the game, I kept expecting to hear that Boston was asking for a review, just because there'd be nothing to lose. When I saw the play, though, I understood why they didn't. There was simply nothing to review. Rosario made a beautiful throw and Devers was as out as it's possible for a baserunner to be. It was a tremendous way to end a tremendous game.
I wonder sometimes if the Twins might have a better chance to score with two out and nobody on than they do with the bases loaded. I'm sure that's not literally true, but it sure seems like it is.
So the Twins go into a weekend series with a 6.5 game lead on second-place Cleveland. Even if the Twins lose all three, they're still up by 3.5 games with three weeks to play, which isn't a bad place to be at all. If they just win one, they're up 5.5, which is an even better place to be. If they'd win the series, or even sweep, the Indians would start focusing on winning the wild card. ubelmann used to tell us that it's not really a "must win" game unless a loss eliminates you, and there's truth in that. In baseball, as in life, nothing is certain until it actually happens. Still, I'd much rather be in Minnesota's position than in Cleveland's position right now.
Record: The Twins are 87-53, in first place in the American League Central, 6.5 games ahead of Cleveland.
Projected record: We're still on track for 109-53!