MINNESOTA 9, CLEVELAND 3 IN MINNESOTA
Date: Monday, September 2.
Batting stars: Chuck Knoblauch was 2-for-3 with a walk. Kirby Puckett was 2-for-4 with a double, two runs, and two RBIs. Kent Hrbek was 2-for-4 with two runs. Shane Mack was 1-for-3 with a grand slam, his seventeenth home run.
Pitching stars: Scott Erickson struck out seven in seven shutout innings, giving up six hits and two walks. He threw 119 pitches. Rick Aguilera pitched two perfect innings.
Opposition stars: Mike Aldrete was 2-for-3 with a walk. Albert Belle was 2-for-4 with a double. Alex Cole was 2-for-4 with a walk.
The game: Despite the final score, it was a pitchers' duel for six innings. The Indians had a couple of mild threats, getting a two-out double from Carlos Baerga in the first and putting men on first and second with one out in the third. The Twins did not get a hit until the fourth. Knoblauch led off with a single and went to third with none out on a pickoff error, but he was thrown out trying to score on a ground ball to short (one assumes it was the contact play). Cleveland put men on first and second with one out in the fifth and had men on first and third with one out in the sixth, but the latter threat went away when Carlos Martinez was thrown out at home on the back end of a second-and-home double steal. So the game remained scoreless in the sixth.
The Twins broke through in the seventh. Randy Bush led off with a walk. Jarvis Brown pinch-ran and scored from first on Puckett's double. Hrbek followed with an RBI single. A pair of productive outs moved Hrbek to third and he scored on an error. Junior Ortiz delivered an RBI double to put the Twins up 4-0.
The Indians came right back in the eighth. Steve Bedrosian came in to pitch and walked Baerga. Belle doubled, and RBI singles by Martinez and Aldrete made it 4-2. Aguilera came on and got Jeff Manto to hit into a double play, but a run scored to make it 4-3.
Undaunted, the Twins put it away in the bottom of the eighth. Knoblauch led off with a single and Chili Davis walked. Puckett delivered an RBI single. Hrbek laid down a bunt single, loading the bases. Mack then hit a grand slam, making the score 9-3 and effectively ending the game. Not literally, of course--Cleveland still batted in the ninth, but they went down in order.
WP: Erickson (17-6). LP: Eric King (5-9). S: Aguilera (37).
Notes: Mack was in left field, with Dan Gladden getting the day off. Gene Larkin was in right. Once again Ortiz caught Erickson, with Brian Harper on the bench. Randy Bush was at DH in place of Davis. Knoblauch led off, with Bush batting second.
Again, we had plenty of bench players used. Brown pinch-ran for Bush in the seventh. Davis pinch-hit for Brown in the eighth. Al Newman then pinch-ran for Davis in the eighth. Gladden pinch-ran for Larkin in the seventh and stayed in the game in left field, with Mack moving to right. Paul Sorrento pinch-hit for Greg Gagne in the eighth. Scott Leius went into the game at shortstop in the ninth.
Puckett raised his average to .330. Mack raised his average to .310. Mike Pagliarulo was 0-for-4 and was batting .300. Erickson lowered his ERA to 3.08.
Tom Kelly allowing Erickson to throw seven innings and 114 pitches is at least questionable. Yes, he was pitching well, and yes, it was a scoreless game until the seventh. But he was obviously still hurting, this was the first good game he'd pitched in a month, and the Twins were in first place by eight games. Plus, TK gave Gladden and Davis the day off, so he clearly did not consider this a must-win game. It seems to me a lower pitch-limit would have been indicated, even though such things were not as common back then.
Using three pinch-runners in a game is certainly unusual. Even back then the only way you could do it is with September call-ups, and with the new limit on September call-ups it may never happen again. I think if I ran a team, I'd have a couple of pitchers practiced up so they could be used as pinch-runners when necessary. It used to not be uncommon to use pitchers as pinch-runners--there's no real reason you couldn't do it today. Yes, there's a chance someone could get hurt, but there's also a chance someone could get hurt running in the outfield before the game. To me, with today's shorter benches, it makes perfect sense.
Oakland did not play, but the White Sox defeated Kansas City 5-1, so the two teams were once again tied for second place.
Record: The Twins were 80-53, in first place in the American League West, 8.5 games ahead of Chicago and Oakland.
Toronto continued to lead Detroit by 2.5 games in the East.