Tag Archives: Scott Erickson

1991 Rewind: Game One Hundred Thirty-three

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.

1991 Rewind: Game One Hundred Twenty-six

BALTIMORE 7, MINNESOTA 3 IN BALTIMORE

Date:  Sunday, August 25.

Batting stars:  Mike Pagliarulo was 2-for-4 with a double.  Greg Gagne was 2-for-4 with a stolen base, his tenth.

Pitching stars:  Terry Leach pitched 2.1 innings, giving up one run on two hits and striking out one.  Mark Guthrie pitched a scoreless inning, giving up a hit and two walks and striking out one.

Opposition stars:  Mike Mussina pitched eight innings, giving up three runs (two earned) on seven hits and four walks and striking out four.  Chito Martinez was 2-for-3 with a double, a walk, and two RBIs.  Leo Gomez was 2-for-4 with a double and two RBIs.  Joe Orsulak was 2-for-4 with a double.

The game:  It was scoreless through three, and Scott Erickson had given up just one hit, a single.  It fell apart in the fourth, though.  Orsulak led off with a single.  With one out, Glenn Davis singled and Randy Milligan walked, loading the bases.  Martinez singled in a run, Gomez doubled home two, and a sacrifice fly made it 4-0 Orioles.

The Twins came back with two in the fifth.  Pagliarulo led off with a double and scored on a pair of ground outs.  Dan Gladden then singled, stole second, and scored on a Gagne single to cut the lead to 4-2.  In the bottom of the fifth, however, Baltimore added three more.  Orsulak had a one-out double and Cal Ripken was intentionally walked.  A wild pitch advanced the runners.  With two out, Milligan hit a two-run double and Martinez followed with another double, making the score 7-2.

The Twins got one back in the fifth.  Kent Hrbek led off with a single, a ground out advanced him to second, and an error brought him home to cut the margin to 7-3.  That was as close as it got, though.  The Twins did not even get another threat going until the ninth.  Pagliarulo and Chuck Knoblauch led off with singles, but a double play followed.  Randy Bush walked, but Gene Larkin lined out to end the game.

WP:  Mussina (2-3).  LP:  Erickson (16-6).  S:  Todd Frohwirth (2).

Notes:  With Erickson pitching, Junior Ortiz caught in place of Brian Harper.  Al Newman was at second base in place of Knoblauch.

The Twins again made liberal use of the bench, using three pinch-hitters in the ninth inning.  Knoblauch batted for Ortiz, Bush batted for Gladden, and Larkin batted for Gagne.  Oddly, Newman and his .207 batting average (and .504 OPS) were not pinch-hit for.

Kirby Puckett was 0-for-4 to drop his average to .328.  Shane Mack was 0-for-4 and fell to .305.

Erickson continued to struggle.  He pitched well for three innings, but his line was 4.1 innings, six runs, six hits, two walks, and three strikeouts.  His ERA went up to 3.22.  Leach's ERA went to 2.78.

Frohwirth had an awesome year in 1991.  He started the year in AAA, not coming to the majors until late May, but once he got there he went 7-3, 1.87, 0.97 WHIP with three saves.  He had another good year in 1992 and was still fairly good in 1993, then he fell off a cliff.  In 1994, pitching for Boston, he went 0-3, 10.80, 2.14 WHIP.  He made only four more major league appearances, for California in 1996.  I suspect an injury was involved, but I don't remember and don't have time to check.

The White Sox lost to Cleveland 3-0 and Oakland lost to Milwaukee 8-2, so the Twins' lead remained the same.

Record:  The Twins were 75-51, in first place in the American League West, six games ahead of Chicago and Oakland.

1991 Rewind: Game One Hundred Sixteen

CALIFORNIA 9, MINNESOTA 1 IN MINNESOTA

Date:  Thursday, August 15.

Batting stars:  Dan Gladden was 2-for-4 with a stolen base, his ninth.  Chuck Knoblauch was 1-for-2 with two walks.

Pitching star:  Terry Leach pitched 3.2 innings, giving up one run on one hit.

Opposition stars:  Mark Langston pitched seven shutout innings, giving up two hits and three walks and striking out three.  Shawn Abner was 2-for-4 with a home run (his second), two runs, and two RBIs.  Lance Parrish was 2-for-4 with a two-run homer, his fifteenth.  Wally Joyner was 2-for-5 with two doubles and two RBIs.  Luis Sojo was 1-for-4 with a home run, his second.

The game:  The Twins had men on first and second with none out in the first and did not score.  In the third, the Angels exploded for five runs.  With one out, Joyner doubled and Gary Gaetti singled him to third.  Dave Parker hit an RBI double, there was a run-scoring ground out, Abner had an RBI single, and Parrish hit a two-run homer,  making the score 5-0 California.

The Twins had men on first and second with two out in the third and did not score.  Abner homered in the fifth to make it 6-0.  In the sixth, Donnie Hill walked and Luis Polonia and Joyner hit back-to-back doubles to increase the lead to 8-0.  Sojo homered in the eighth to make it 9-0.

The Twins finally got on the board in the bottom of the eighth.  With two out, they got consecutive singles by GladdenKnoblauch, and Shane Mack, avoiding the shutout with a score of 9-1.

WP:  Langston (15-6).  LP:  Scott Erickson (15-5).  S:  None.

Notes:  Gene Larkin was at first base with Kent Hrbek on the bench.  With Erickson pitching, Junior Ortiz was behind the plate in place of Brian Harper.  Al Newman was at shortstop in place of Greg Gagne.

With the changes, Mack was in the third spot in the batting order, with Puckett batting fourth and Chili Davis fifth.

Erickson pitched just three innings, allowing five runs on seven hits and a walk.  His ERA went to 2.89.  It was his second consecutive bad start and third out of four.  His injury was clearly affecting him, but the Twins kept sending him out there.

Puckett was 0-for-4 and was batting .323.  Ortiz was 0-for-4 and was batting .194.  Denny Neagle allowed three runs in 2.1 innings to make his ERA 5.63.  Leach's ERA went down to 2.73.

I'm pretty sure that, when Mike Fetters came in to pitch the ninth for the Angels, John Gordon solemnly stated, "This is not a save situation."

1991 was probably Langston's best year.  He went 19-8, 3.00, 1.16 WHIP.  He finished sixth in Cy Young voting that year and probably should have been higher.  From 1987-1995 he was a consistently good pitcher, making the all-star team four times, but 1991 was the best.

The White Sox lost to Detroit 6-4, so the Twins maintained their lead.

Record:  The Twins were 68-48, in first place in the American League West, 1.5 games ahead of Chicago.

1991 Rewind: Game One Hundred Eleven

SEATTLE 8, MINNESOTA 0 IN SEATTLE

Date:  Saturday, August 10.

Batting stars:  Mike Pagliarulo was 3-for-4.  Randy Bush was 2-for-4 with a double.  Kirby Puckett was 2-for-4.

Pitching stars:  Carl Willis pitched five shutout innings, giving up four hits and two walks and striking out two.  Terry Leach pitched a perfect inning.

Opposition stars:  Erik Hanson pitched eight shutout innings, giving up eight hits and a walk and striking out four.  Ken Griffey was 3-for-5 with a stolen base, his tenth.  Dave Cochrane was 2-for-4 with a home run (his second), a double, two runs, and three RBIs.

The game:  The Twins put men on second and third with two out in the first inning but did not score.  It cost them, as the Mariners jumped out for five runs in the bottom of the first.  Edgar Martinez walked and moved to third on a pickoff error.  Harold Reynolds singled him home, Griffey singled, and Pete O'Brien had an RBI single.  A ground out scored the third run, Cochrane doubled home the fourth run, and Omar Vizquel singled home the fifth run.

The Twins got two on with none out in the sixth and loaded the bases with two out in the seventh, but there was no more scoring until the bottom of the seventh.  Paul Abbott, who had come into the game in the sixth, walked O'Brien, but he was erased on a double play.  Jay Buhner then walked and Cochrane hit a two-run homer to make the score 7-0.  Scott Bradley singled, and consecutive walks to Vizquel, Martinez, and Reynolds brought home an eighth run.  The Twins did not threaten after that.

WP:  Hanson (7-5).  LP:  Scott Erickson (15-4).  S:  None.

Notes:  Dan Gladden got the day off.  Shane Mack was in left, with Randy Bush in right.  Chuck Knoblauch batted leadoff, with Bush second.  Junior Ortiz was behind the plate in place of Brian Harper.  Al Newman was at short in place of Greg Gagne.

With a blowout game, the Twins made some substitutions in the eighth.  Gene Larkin replaced Puckett and went to first base.  Harper replaced Kent Hrbek and went to left field.  Scott Leius replaced Mack and went to center field.

Puckett was batting .327.

Willis lowered his ERA to 1.88.  Leach's ERA went to 2.85.

The Twins stranded nine runners and went 1-for-7 with men in scoring position.

Erickson surrendered five runs on five hits and two walks in two-thirds of an inning.  His ERA went from 2.36 to 2.65.  He clearly was still hurting, but did not miss a start, even though he would not have a good one again until September.  This game was his worst of the season by game scores.  I guess I don't really understand how game scores work.  He got a 20 for this, which is obviously not good, but he got a 22 for a game on June 29 when he allowed seven runs on eleven hits in 6.1 innings.  It seems to me that, while neither start was good, this one was a lot worse than that one, and yet they're pretty much even according to game scores.

This was one of eight career home runs for Cochrane.  He played for the White Sox in 1986 and was with the Mariners from 1989-1992.  He had 218 career games and 562 plate appearances, batting .235/.294/.333.  As John Gordon would say, he played around, playing 54 games of outfield, 53 games of third base, 43 games behind the plate, 39 games at shortstop, 19 games of first base, and five games of second base.  In today's era of small benches, he'd have been more valuable.  Even at that time, he'd have had a long career if he could've hit a little more.

Over his first fifty-six starts, from 1988-1990, Erik Hanson was really good.  He went 29-17, 3.22, 1.16 WHIP with 322 strikeouts in 391 innings.  He threw 236 innings in 1990, many more than he had thrown previously.  Whether that made the difference or not, he was not the same pitcher after that.  He had a couple of decent years after that, but he was never the kind of dominant pitcher he had been.  He's apparently also a fine golfer, qualifying for the U. S. Senior Open in 2015.

The White Sox defeated Baltimore 6-4, cutting the Twins' lead in half.

Record:  The Twins were 66-45, in first place in the American League West, one game ahead of Chicago.

1991 Rewind: Game Seventy-five

CHICAGO 8, MINNESOTA 4 IN MINNESOTA

Date:  Saturday, June 29.

Batting stars:  Kirby Puckett was 2-for-4 with a two-run homer (his tenth) and a double.  Chili Davis was 2-for-4 with a home run, his nineteenth.  Kent Hrbek was 1-for-4 with a home run, his seventh.

Pitching star:  Terry Leach pitched a scoreless inning, giving up two hits.

Opposition stars:  Dan Pasqua was 4-for-5 with a home run (his seventh), a triple, and three RBIs.  Ozzie Guillen was 3-for-4 with a stolen base (his thirteenth) and two RBIs.  Robin Ventura was 2-for-3 with a double and two walks.  Lance Johnson was 2-for-4 with a double and two runs.  Tim Raines was 2-for-5 with a double, two runs, and two RBIs.  Greg Hibbard pitched a complete game, giving up four runs on seven hits and a walk and striking out one.

The game:  The White Sox opened the game with singles by Raines, Ventura, and Frank Thomas, taking a 1-0 lead.  A strikeout and a double play prevented further damage, and the Twins bounced back in the bottom of the first.  Chuck Knoblauch singled, Puckett hit a two-run homer, and Davis homered, putting the Twins up 3-1.

It stayed 3-1 until the fourth, when Pasqua led off with a homer to make it 3-2.  It stayed 3-2 until the seventh, when Chicago exploded for five runs.  Singles by Matt Merullo and Johnson started the inning.  With one out, Guillen had an RBI single to tie it and Raines' two-run double put the White Sox ahead.  Ventura was intentionally walked, and with two out Pasqua hit a two-run triple, giving Chicago a 7-3 lead.

It was pretty much over at that point.  Hrbek homered in the seventh to cut the lead to 7-4, but the White Sox got the run back in the eighth when Johnson doubled and scored on a Guillen single.  After the Hrbek homer the Twins got only one baserunner, a Davis single in the ninth.

WP:  Hibbard (6-6).  LP:  Scott Erickson (12-3).  S:  None.

Notes:  Shane Mack was in left replacing Dan Gladden.  Pedro Munoz was in right.  With Erickson pitching, Junior Ortiz was behind the plate in place of Brian Harper.

Puckett raised his average to .322.  Erickson pitched 6.1 innings, allowing seven runs on eleven hits and two walks and striking out one.  His ERA went up to 1.83.  Leach lowered his ERA to 3.16.

Erickson pitched well for six innings.  He would not pitch again, however, until July 15 and was not really the same pitcher the rest of the season.  He obviously could not be expected to keep up the pace of a 1.39 ERA, which he had going into this game, but it seems logical to think overuse played a part in his pitching.  He was twenty-three years old in 1991 and this was his sixteenth start.  He pitched 122.2 innings, never pitching fewer than six and only three times pitching fewer than seven.  He threw a hundred pitches or more eleven times, more than 110 seven times, one hundred twenty or more three times, and over 130 once (134).  Erickson would go on to have some good years in his career, but he was never the dominant pitcher he was for the first half of 1991.  Maybe he'd have gotten hurt at some point anyway, or maybe he wouldn't have remained dominant, but one has to wonder what his career might have looked like if the Twins had taken batter care of him.

Greg Hibbard was a solid major league starter for five seasons.  He came up with the White Sox in 1989 at age twenty-four and had his best season in 1990, when he went 14-9, 3.16, 1.22 WHIP.  He was with the White Sox through 1992, but they left him unprotected in the expansion draft and he was chosen by Florida.  They immediately traded him to the Cubs, for whom he pitched in 1993.  He became a free agent after the season and signed with Seattle in 1994.  He immediately began to have shoulder problems, tried to pitch through it with awful results, and was done after the 1994 season.  He has been a minor league pitching coach since 1999, most recently for the Frisco RoughRiders in the Rangers organization.  For his career he was 57-50, 4.05, 1.35 WHIP in 990 innings.  Not a superstar, but in his good years he was someone you'd be happy to have to fill out your rotation.

Their hot streak ended, the Twins had now lost four in a row, all at home, and their best pitcher was now injured.  Was their hot month just an illusion?  We'll see.

Record:  The Twins were 44-31, in first place in the American League West, two games ahead of California.

1991 Rewind: Game Seventy

MINNESOTA 5, NEW YORK 0 IN NEW YORK

Date:  Monday, June 24.

Batting stars:  Shane Mack was 2-for-4 with a two-run homer (his seventh), a double, and two runs.  Kirby Puckett was 2-for-4 with a home run (his ninth) and two runs.

Pitching star:  Scott Erickson pitched a complete game shutout, giving up two hits and a walk and striking out six.

Opposition star:  Jeff Johnson pitched eight innings, giving up three runs on four hits and a walk and striking out none.

The game:  Through five innings there were only two hits, both by the Yankees.  They put a man on third base in the second, as Matt Nokes doubled and went to third on a wild pitch, but Alvaro Espinoza grounded out to end the inning.  Meanwhile, the first fifteen Twins batters were retired.

Junior Ortiz gave the Twins their first baserunner with a leadoff walk in the sixth.  He was bunted to second, and with two out Dan Gladden got the Twins' first hit, an RBI triple that made it 1-0 Minnesota.  In the seventh, Puckett led off with a home run, followed by Mack's double and a Pedro Munoz RBI single to give the Twins a 3-0 lead.  In the ninth, PUckett had a one-out single and Mack hit a two-run homer to make it 5-0.

The Yankees did not get a hit after Nokes' second-inning double.  Their other hit was a single by Don Mattingly in the first.  Their only baserunner after the second was Kevin Maas, who walked leading off the seventh and did not get past first base.

WP:  Erickson (12-2).  LP:  Johnson (1-3).  S:  None.

Notes:  Gene Larkin was at first base, as Hrbek remained out.  With Erickson pitching, Ortiz was catching.  Munoz was the DH in place of Chili Davis.  Mack batted in the fourth spot.

Puckett raised his average to .328.  Erickson's ERA went down to 1.39.

Erickson was an incredible pitcher to this point of the season.  12-2, 1.39 ERA, 1.07 WHIP in 116.1 innings.  He would not sustain that, of course, and it was not reasonable to think he could.  In fact, he would never have a half-season like that again.  As we've said before, Tom Kelly rode him pretty hard for a twenty-three year old in his first full season, and he eventually had to pay the price for that.  But for the first half of 1991, he was the best there was.

This was the fourth start of Jeff Johnson's major league career.  He would appear in parts of three major league seasons, all with the Yankees.  He made twenty-three starts in 1991 and went 6-11, 5.95, 1.49 WHIP.  That was as good as it would get for him--he would appear in thirteen games (eight starts) in 1992 and make two more starts in 1993, and his numbers got worse each season.  For his career, he was 8-16, 6.52, 1.63 WHIP.  He had good seasons in AAA at that time--4-0, 2.61, 1.34 WHIP in 10 starts in 1991 and 2-1, 2.17, 1.02 WHIP in 11 starts in 1992.  I don't know why he had so few decisions in that many starts.  I also don't know why he could not translate his AAA success into major league success, but he clearly couldn't.  I wish the Yankees had more pitchers like that these days.  Jeff Johnson has been a minor league pitching coach for several seasons.

Record:  The Twins were 43-27, in first place in the American League West, 3.5 games ahead of Oakland.

 

1991 Rewind: Game Fifty-five

MINNESOTA 2, CLEVELAND 1 IN MINNESOTA

Date:  Saturday, June 8.

Batting stars:  Kirby Puckett was 1-for-2 with two walks.  Dan Gladden was 1-for-3 with a double and a walk.

Pitching star:  Scott Erickson pitched 8.2 innings, giving up one run on nine hits and two walks and striking out seven.  He threw 115 pitches.

Opposition stars:  Alex Cole was 3-for-4 with a walk.  Chris James was 2-for-4 with a double.  Charles Nagy pitched 6.2 innings, giving up two runs on six hits and five walks and striking out four.

The game:  The Twins put men on first and second in the first, but a strikeout and a ground out ended the inning.  Gladden led off with a double in the third but could not get past third base.  Mark Lewis led off with a double in the sixth but also could not get past third base.

The Twins finally got on the board in the sixth.  With one out, Puckett singled, Kent Hrbek walked, and Chili Davis delivered an RBI double to give the Twins a 1-0 lead.  They added another run in the seventh.  Gladden drew a one-out walk and went to second on a ground out.  Puckett was intentionally walked, but Hrbek came through with a single to make the score 2-0.

The Indians rallied in the ninth.  Erickson retired the first two batters, but James singled, Jerry Browne singled, and Turner Ward drove home a run with a single to cut the lead to 2-1.  Rick Aguilera came in and walked Cole to load the bases, but Lewis flied to right to end the game.

WP:  Scott Erickson (9-2).  LP:  Nagy (2-6).  S:  Aguilera (15).

Notes:  Gene Larkin was the right fielder, replacing Shane Mack.  Mack came in for defense in the ninth inning.  With Erickson pitching, Lenny Webster was the catcher rather than Brian Harper.

Puckett raised his average to .326.  Greg Gagne was 1-for-4 and was batting .308.  Davis was 1-for-4 and was batting .303.  Erickson's ERA went to 1.53.  Aguilera lowered his ERA to 2.22.

In twelve starts so far, Erickson had not pitched fewer than 6.1 innings or thrown fewer than 84 pitches in a game.  He also had only one game score below fifty.

Nagy was in the second year of his career.  This was his twelfth start, too, and Cleveland was 3-9 in his starts.  It wasn't his fault--in the nine losses, the Indians scored a total of seventeen runs.  Twice they were shut out.  In one of the victories they scored two runs and in another they scored one.  It's hard to get wins with that kind of run support.

Jesse Orosco pitched in both yesterday's game and in this one.  He was already a veteran, in the twelfth year of his career at age thirty-four.  He would, of course, pitch twelve more years, including appearing in eight games with the Twins in 2003.

This was the Twins' seventh consecutive win.  Again, the streak was driven by pitching--the Twins had scored just 27 runs (less than four per game) but had allowed just fourteen (two per game).  They continued to move up in the standings, as you'll see below.

Record:  The Twins were 30-25, in third place in the American League West, three games behind Oakland.  They were 1.5 games behind second-place California and a half game ahead of fourth-place Seattle.

1991 Rewind: Game Forty

TEXAS 10, MINNESOTA 6 IN MINNESOTA (11 INNINGS)

Date:  Thursday, May 23.

Batting stars:  Kirby Puckett was 6-for-7 with a triple and two runs.  Kent Hrbek was 3-for-5.  Chili Davis was 2-for-6 with two doubles and a walk.  Shane Mack was 2-for-7 with two doubles.

Pitching star:  Terry Leach pitched 2.1 scoreless innings, giving up no hits and no walks and striking out two.

Opposition stars:  Ruben Sierra was 4-for-6 with a home run (his eighth), a double, two runs, and five RBIs.  Kevin Reimer was 2-for-4 with a double.  Jack Daugherty was 2-for-5.  Juan Gonzalez was 2-for-5 with a home run (his fifth), a double, and four RBIs.  Mike Jeffcoat struck out three in 2.1 scoreless innings, giving up four hits.

The game:  Each team threatened in the first only to have a caught stealing help take them out of the inning.  In the second, Reimer led off with a single and Gonzalez followed with a home run to put the Rangers up 2-0.  The Twins got one back in the bottom of the inning with four consecutive walks, but a double play kept them from adding more.  They tied it 2-2 in the third, however, when Puckett singled, Chili Davis walked, and Pedro Munoz delivered an RBI single.

Texas took the lead in the fifth when Jeff Huson reached on an error, went to third on Daugherty's single, and scored on a sacrifice fly.  The Twins tied it again in the bottom of the fifth on singles by Scott Leius and Junior Ortiz and an RBI double by Al Newman.

The Twins loaded the bases with one out in the sixth but did not score.  The Rangers made them pay for it in the seventh.  With two out, Rafael Palmeiro singled and Sierra hit a two-run homer to give Texas a 5-3 advantage.  But the Twins again tied it in the bottom of the seventh.  Greg Gagne was hit by a pitch with one out.  With two down, Puckett got a single-plus-error, with Gagne scoring and Puckett going to second.  Davis then doubled him home to make the score 5-5.

Puckett tripled with two out in the bottom of the ninth but did not score.  Davis led off the tenth with a double but did not score.

Texas broke it open in the eleventh.  Geno Petralli led off with a double and Huson walked.  Daugherty bunted them to second and third, Palmeiro was intentionally walked, and Sierra delivered a bases-clearing double.  With two out, Gary Pettis walked and Gonzalez hit a two-run double to make the score 10-5.  The Twins got one back in the bottom of the eleventh but never got the tying run farther than the on-deck circle.

WP:  Jeff Russell (1-0).  LP:  Steve Bedrosian (2-2).  S:  None.

Notes:  Shane Mack was in left field, replacing Dan Gladden (day game).  Gladden was used as a pinch-hitter in the tenth inning and remained in the game in left, with Mack moving to right.  He pinch-hit for Munoz, who started the game in right field.

Newman was at second base in place of Chuck Knoblauch.  Knoblauch entered the game in the seventh when Randy Bush pinch-hit for Scott Leius, who had pinch-hit for Mike Pagliarulo in the fifth.  Knoblauch went to second, with Newman moving to third.

Scott Erickson was the Twins' starter, which meant that Junior Ortiz was behind the plate.

With his big day, Puckett raised his average from .316 to .340.  He missed joining a very small number of players to go 7-for-7 when he flied out to center in the fourth inning.

Munoz was 1-for-4 with a walk and was batting .313.

Erickson pitched seven innings, giving up five runs (four earned) on ten hits and a walk and striking out four.  His ERA was 1.82.  Leach lowered his ERA to 2.08.

Bush went 0-for-1 and was batting .176.  Leius was 1-for-1 to go  up to .184.

By game scores, this was Erickson's worst game of the season up to this point.  He would not have a worse one until the end of June.  After that, however, he had several worse, especially as he struggled through a miserable August.  He was able to right the ship in September, though.

Record:  The Twins were 19-21, in sixth place in the American League West, 4.5 games behind Texas.  They were 1.5 games behind fifth-place Chicago.  They had lost four in a row (the last two in extra innings) and six of their last eight.

1991 Rewind: Game Twenty-six

MINNESOTA 9, BOSTON 3 IN BOSTON

Date:  Tuesday, May 7.

Batting stars:  Chili Davis was 3-for-4 with two doubles, a walk, and three RBIs.  Greg Gagne was 2-for-4 with a double, a walk, a stolen base (his second), and two runs.  Dan Gladden was 2-for-4 with a walk and two runs.  Kirby Puckett was 2-for-5.  Shane Mack was 1-for-2 with a three-run homer, his second.

Pitching star:  Scott Erickson pitched a complete game, giving up three runs (two earned) on seven hits and two walks and struck out five.  He threw 120 pitches.

Opposition stars:  Ellis Burks was 2-for-3 with a walk.  Carlos Quintana was 2-for-4.  Tom Brunansky was 1-for-3 with a walk and a three-run homer, his fifth.

The game:  It was close most of the way.  The Twins started the game with singles by GladdenChuck Knoblauch, and Puckett to take a 1-0 lead, but could do no more.  The Red Sox got two singles in the bottom of the first but still sent only three men to the plate, losing one runner on a caught stealing and the other on a double play.

Neither team did much after that until the fifth.  Mike Pagliarulo opened the inning with a single and Gagne followed with a double.  Gladden drew a walk, loading the bases with none out.  Knoblauch hit a sacrifice fly and Davis doubled, giving the Twins a 3-0 lead.  It went to 6-0 in the seventh, when Puckett got a one-out single, Davis followed with another single, and Mack delivered a pinch-hit three-run homer.  The Twins added three more in the eighth, again with one out.  Gagne walked, Gladden and pinch-hitter Al Newman singled, and Davis doubled.

Boston did manage to get on the board in the ninth.  Ellis Burks singled, Jack Clark reached on an error, and with one out ex-Twin Brunansky hit a three-run homer.

WP:  Erickson (4-2).  LP:  Greg Harris (1-3).  S:  None.

Notes:  Randy Bush started in right field, with Mack pinch-hitting for him in the seventh and remaining in the game in right.  Ortiz was at catcher with Erickson on the mound.  Gene Larkin was at first base in place of Kent Hrbek.  Carmelo Castillo pinch-hit for him in the ninth and Brian Harper finished the game at first base.

Gagne raised his average to .338.  Davis was batting .325.  Knoblauch and Puckett were each batting .316.  Erickson's ERA was 1.65.

Scott Leius pinch-hit for Pagliarulo in the eighth and went 0-for-2.  He was batting .185.  Mack raised his average to .190.

There's no way that, today, Erickson would've been allowed to throw 120 pitches in a game that the Twins were winning 9-0 going to the ninth.  It really didn't make a whole lot of sense then, either.  But he had a shutout going, and that's just the way things were done at the time.  I doubt if anyone really thought about it much.

As you probably know, playing a position other than catcher was nothing new for Brian Harper.  Early in his career, he was blocked by people like Tony Pena, Lance Parrish, and Terry Steinbach, and so--in John Gordon's phrase--he played around.  He played 114 games in the outfield and a handful of games at third as well as first.  It wasn't until he got to the Twins in 1988, where the incumbent backstop was Tim Laudner, that he actually got a shot at the catching job.  When he did, he made the most of it.  In his six seasons with the Twins, he batted over .300 four times and was over .290 the other two times.  He didn't get a regular job in the majors until he was twenty-nine--had he gotten started earlier, he might have had an even better career.  As it was, he played in parts of sixteen seasons, had well over three thousand plate appearances, and put up a line of .295/.329/.419.  That's a pretty respectable career.

After that 2-9 start, the Twins finally got back to .500.  Would they stay there?  We'll find out tomorrow!

Record:  The Twins were 13-13, tied for fifth with California in the American League West, 3.5 games behind Oakland.  Only one game separated the second through sixth place teams.