MINNESOTA 5, CHICAGO 4 IN MINNESOTA
Date: Saturday, July 6.
Batting stars: Brian Harper was 3-for-4 with a three-run homer, his fourth. Kent Hrbek was 1-for-3 with a two-run homer (his eighth) and a walk.
Pitching stars: Carl Willis pitched three shutout innings of relief, giving up one hit and striking out one. Rick Aguilera pitched 1.1 scoreless innings, giving up one hit and striking out one.
Opposition stars: Frank Thomas was 2-for-4 with a home run (his fourteenth) and a double. Robin Ventura was 1-for-3 with a three-run homer (his sixth) and a walk. Ramon Garcia pitched 6.2 innings, giving up three runs on three hits and three walks and striking out two hits.
The game: There was really no threat to score (well, technically, every time someone comes to bat there's the threat of a score, but you know what I mean) until the fourth, when Thomas led off the inning with a home run. In the fifth, Craig Grebeck drew a one-out walk and Tim Raines drew a two-out walk, followed by Ventura's three-run homer, putting the White Sox up 4-0.
The Twins came back in the seventh. Randy Bush led off with a single, but was still on first with two out. Chili Davis then walked and Harper delivered a three-run homer, cutting the margin to 4-3. The homer was followed by a couple of two-out singles, but the Twins could not get even.
Not to worry. With two out in the eighth Kirby Puckett singled and Hrbek hit a two-run homer, putting the Twins ahead 5-4. Chicago did not go quietly, however. Dan Pasqua hit a two-out double in the eighth but was stranded at second. In the ninth Warren Newson hit a one-out single and stole second. A ground out and a fly out followed, and the Twins held on to win.
WP: Willis (3-2). LP: Scott Radinsky (2-3). S: Aguilera (22).
Notes: Pedro Munoz was in left, replacing Dan Gladden. Bush was in right, replacing Shane Mack. Chuck Knoblauch led off, with Bush batting second.
Tom Kelly again used a lot of his bench. Mack pinch-hit for Bush in the eighth and stayed in the game in left field, with Munoz moving to right. Al Newman pinch-hit for Mike Pagliarulo in the ninth and stayed in the game at third base. Jarvis Brown pinch-ran for Harper in the ninth, with Junior Ortiz coming in to catch.
Harper raised his average to .332. Puckett was 1-for-4 and was batting .315. Willis dropped his ERA to 2.95. Aguilera's ERA fell to 2.75.
Paul Abbott's second start did not go nearly as well as the first. He pitched 4.2 innings, giving up four runs on three hits and five walks and struck out two. Of course, two of the hits were home runs. I suppose you could argue that he did well other than the home runs, but that doesn't help a whole lot. He would go back to the bullpen after this start, making just one more start in 1991, on August 1.
Given how the Twins were flailing around to try to fill the back end of the rotation, it's a little surprising that they never gave Willis a start. He had started only two games in his major league career, both in 1984, so you can understand why they didn't. But he made thirteen relief appearances of three innings or more, seven of four innings or more, and one of five innings. He generally did quite well in those long relief appearances, although I suppose that's skewed because if he hadn't done well he wouldn't have been left in the game that long. I'm not saying he'd have been the solution to their starting pitching problems. I'm not even saying it was a mistake not to use him as a starter. I'm just saying that it might have been an option, and for whatever reason Kelly did not use it.
Texas defeated California 4-3, so the Twins did not increase their lead.
Record: The Twins were 47-35, in first place in the American League West, one game ahead of Texas.