CLEVELAND 8, MINNESOTA 4 IN MINNESOTA
Date: Wednesday, September 4.
Batting stars: Kirby Puckett was 2-for-4 with a double. Chili Davis was 2-for-4. Dan Gladden was 2-for-5. Kent Hrbek was 1-for-4 with a three-run homer, his sixteenth.
Pitching stars: Allan Anderson pitched two shutout innings, giving up two hits and striking out one. Mark Guthrie struck out three in a scoreless inning, giving up one hit.
Opposition stars: Alex Cole was 4-for-5 with a double. Albert Belle was 2-for-5 with a home run (his twenty-fifth), a double, and five RBIs. Willie Blair pitched eight innings, giving up three runs on eight hits and one walk and striking out one.
The game: With one out in the first Chuck Knoblauch and Puckett singled and Hrbek followed with a three-run homer to put the Twins ahead 3-0. That was as good as it got for them. In the third, a walk, an error, and a bunt single loaded the bases for the Indians with none out. A force out followed, but Carlos Baerga was hit by a pitch to force in a run and Belle followed with a bases-clearing double to give Cleveland a 4-3 lead.
The Indians added a run in the fourth when Jim Thome led off with a single, went to third on a pair of productive outs, and scored on Cole's single. In the fifth Baerga led off with a single and Belle hit a two-run homer to make the score 7-3. In the seventh, singles by Jose Gonzalez, Carlos Martinez, and Thome brought home another run to make it 8-3.
Meanwhile, the Twins did not get a man past first base in innings two through seven. Puckett hit a two-out double in the eighth. The Twins tried to get back into it in the ninth. Singles by Davis and Brian Harper and a walk to Shane Mack loaded the bases with none out. Mike Pagliarulo then hit into a double play, scoring a run but pretty much taking the Twins out of the inning.
WP: Blair (2-2). LP: David West (4-4). S: Shawn Hillegas (7).
Notes: The Twins used their standard lineup. Paul Sorrento pinch-hit for Greg Gagne in the seventh. Al Newman then went in to play shortstop. Gene Larkin pinch-hit for Newman in the ninth.
Puckett raised his average to .331. Harper was 1-for-4 and was batting .320. Mack was 0-for-2 with two walks and was batting .308.
West started for the Twins. He pitched well for two innings. His line was 2.1 innings, four runs (three earned), two hits, two walks, and two strikeouts. It seems like a pretty quick hook--again, the sequence in the third was walk, error, bunt single, ground out, hit batsman, double. Only one hard-hit ball, although obviously the walk and the hit batsman weren't helpful. Still, with a big lead in the division, Tom Kelly might have given West more of a chance to work out of trouble. As it happened, the Twins burned through five relievers, including Carl Willis and Terry Leach, in a game they didn't win anyway.
Willis allowed two runs in one inning to raise his ERA to 2.29. Leach gave up a run in one inning to make his ERA 2.88.
Tom Edens gave up a run in 1.2 innings to raise his ERA to 7.20.
People have forgotten what an awesome hitter Albert Belle was. He had a reputation for being a jerk, and he way have been, but the jerk could hit. 1991 was his first season as a regular, and it was the first of ten consecutive seasons in which he hit twenty-three or more home runs. He had eight consecutive seasons in which he hit thirty homers or more, and in three of them he hit forty-eight or more. He had an OPS of over 1.000 four times and an OPS of over .900 two more times. Injuries forced him to retire in 2000, after his age-thirty-three season, but his career numbers were .295/.369/.564 with 381 home runs in basically ten seasons. Whatever else he may have been, Albert Belle was a great batter.
This was the last save of Shawn Hillegas' career. He had ten total, seven of them in 1991. Steve Olin is listed as the closer, but he had just seventeen saves, and Hillegas and Dave Otto each had seven. He was not a particularly good pitcher: in 181 major league games (62 starts) he was 24-38, 4.61, 1.47 WHIP. He was substantially better as a reliever, although not a star or anything: 9-12, 3.77, 1.37 WHIP. Given his lack of success as a starter, I don't know why teams kept giving him starts rather than putting him in the bullpen, but they did. There was obviously something about him that convinced teams he could be a successful starting pitcher, even though the stats provide no evidence to back it up.
Chicago defeated Kansas City 4-1 and Oakland lost to Milwaukee 2-0, so the White Sox moved back into second place.
Record: The Twins were 80-54, in first place in the American League West, eight games ahead of Chicago.
In the East, Toronto took a three game lead over Detroit.