MINNESOTA 6, TAMPA BAY 4 IN MINNESOTA
Date: Wednesday, June 26.
Batting stars: Nelson Cruz was 3-for-4 with a double and three RBIs. Eddie Rosario was 2-for-2. Luis Arraez was 2-for-3 with a walk and two runs.
Pitching star: Taylor Rogers retired all four men he faced.
Opposition stars: Austin Meadows was 2-for-3 with a walk. Kevin Kiermaier was 1-for-4 with a two-run homer, his ninth. Tommy Pham was 1-for-4 with a home run, his twelfth. Willy Adames was 1-for-4 with a home run, his ninth.
The game: The Twins opened the scoring in the first inning. Arraez led off with a walk. With one out, the Twins got singles from Cruz, Rosario, and C. J. Cron, plus a wild pitch, to take a 3-0 lead. It didn't stay 3-0 long, as Meadows walked to start the second and Kiermaier hit a one-out two-run homer to cut the lead to 3-2.
It stayed 3-2, with neither team doing a lot on offense, until the sixth, when Pham homered with one out to tie the score 3-3. Adames hit a one-out homer in the seventh to give the Rays their first lead at 4-3.
Then came the bottom of the seventh. Jason Castro got an infield single and Jake Cave reached on an error, putting men on first and second with none out. Jonathan Schoop failed to get a bunt down and struck out, but Arraez singled to load the bases. Jorge Polanco popped up for the second out, but there's no need to fear, Nelson Cruz is here. Cruz hit a bases-clearing double to give the Twins the lead at 6-4. Tampa Bay could get only a one-out single in the eighth after that.
WP: Trevor May (3-1). LP: Charlie Morton (8-2). S: Taylor Rogers (10).
Notes: Arraez started the game at third base in place of Miguel Sano. The starting outfield, from left to right, was Willians Astudillo-Rosario-Cave. Then, of course, Rosario was injured running the bases in the third inning. Sano came into the game at third base, with Arraez going to left field, Cave moving to center, and Astudillo moving to right. In the eighth, Max Kepler came into the game in center field, with Cave going to right, Astudillo moving back to left, and Arraez going to third base, with Sano coming out of the game.
Arraez was put into the leadoff spot, and apparently the pressure did not bother him. He is now batting .452. Polanco was 0-for-4 and is batting .321. Jake Odorizzi allowed three runs in 5.1 innings and has an ERA of 2.73. Ryne Harper retired both men he faced and has an ERA of 2.23. Rogers now has an ERA of 2.04.
Every member of the Twins starting outfield is now dealing with an injury. Kepler came in for defense--maybe he'll be well enough to play today. Maybe Byron Buxton can come off the disabled list. Maybe, against all odds, Rosario's injury isn't that bad and he can play. If not, though, they'd better have made a call to Rochester last night. An Astudillo-Rosario-Cave outfield was shaky enough. An Arraez-Cave-Astudillo outfield is simply untenable. The Twins were lucky that it didn't particularly hurt them last night, but that kind of luck is not going to hold.
Schoop tried to bunt in the seventh inning with men on first and second with the Twins down a run. I don't think a bunt is an obviously bad play there, but it is if you don't have a batter at the plate who can get the bunt down. Bunting, for a big league ballplayer, should not be that hard of a thing to do, but you need to learn how to do it properly. So, if you're going to ask players to bunt, you need to take the time to teach them to do it correctly and take the time to have them practice it regularly. Is bunting worth the time it takes to learn to do it right? That's a good question. But either have players who can bunt well or don't do it. Giving up an out to gain a base may be a questionable strategy, but giving up an out and not gaining anything is a strategy that has nothing going for it.
The Twins did not hit any home runs last night, a rare thing for this season but especially rare in a game that they won. In a way, though, it's a good thing. I have nothing against home runs, but it's good for a team to have more than one way it can win. My theory for some time has been that the more ways you have that you can win, the more likely it is that you will win. A team that can win in several ways has an advantage over a team that can only win one way. It's good to know the Twins can beat a good team without hitting home runs.
Record: The Twins are 52-27, first in the American League Central, 8.5 games ahead of Cleveland.
Projected record: We're still on track for 135-27!