Twins ride long ball, Rosario's blast in 8th past Tigers
Minneapolis — It wasn't an argument or any kind of philosophical impasse between the manager and his pitcher and catcher. Nobody is necessarily right or wrong in this case.
It was differing opinions on one pitch in the bottom of the eighth inning Sunday that ultimately decided the game. A four-seam fastball by reliever Alex Wilson, an 0-2 pitch high and inside, that Eddie Rosario blasted into the overhang in right field that pushed the Twins to a 5-4 win over the Tigers.
"No, I don't tip my cap to him," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "I know he swings up there. I've seen him do it on TV a thousand times. That's a mistake by us."
The best pitch, and the only true strike Rosario had in the at-bat was the first one, and he swung out of his shoes and missed it. The second pitch was a high fastball, up and in, and again Rosario swung and missed badly.
"We've got to bounce the ball right there in my opinion," Gardenhire said. "That's just second-guessing, but that's what he does. Those high balls, that's exactly what he loves. He loves to swing up there and we were kind of feeding him right there."
Wilson and catcher James McCann were on the same page with each other, which was the opposite of the page Gardenhire was on in that situation.
"I'd go right back to that pitch again," McCann said. "We gave him a pitch to hit on that first pitch and he took a huge swing at it and missed. We went up on the second pitch and he missed by a good amount.
"He's such a free-swinger, you go to bounce one and he might put the barrel on it and hit that out, too. We had success going up and in with him before. We throw that same pitch again the next time and it's a different outcome."
Wilson cursed his luck more than the pitch selection or location. By his count, that's three home runs he's allowed this year on pitches up and in off the plate, and all of them barely cleared the wall.
"I guess it's just my year for bad luck," he said. "I'd throw that same pitch again. With the two swings he had before, I still think it's the right pitch. It's just unfortunate what happened to it."
Wilson was trying use Rosario's aggression at the plate against him. He saw his eyes light up at the first pitch.
"I got him excited and I know he was looking for a ball in," Wilson said. "I knew he's a free-swinger. I was trying to go up and out of the strike zone and I did that. But he got just enough to get it out of the park.
"I didn't expect him to get to that pitch, much less do what he did with it."
Twins manager Paul Molitor didn't expect Rosario to club that pitch out, either.
"The odds were in his favor," Molitor told Twins reporters. "If you swing at that pitch often enough, you will hit it once in a while. I don't know if he was guessing neck-high fastball, but he guessed right."
The ball was flying out of Target Field the entire series, mostly off the Twins bats. They tied a franchise record by hitting 13 home runs (producing 19 runs) in the four-game series — including 834 feet worth of them in the fourth inning Sunday — taking three of the four games.
The counter to that was, the Twins walked Tigers hitters 22 times. Only seven of those walks scored.
"We had a lot of bad at-bats with runners in scoring position," Gardenhire said. "We didn't let them kill themselves. We swung out of the zone a little too much. That was the story for us, in my opinion."
The Tigers were 8-for-38 in the series with runners in scoring position; 0-for-2 in the top of the ninth on Sunday.
"We have to make better pitches to not give up that many home runs," McCann said. "But also need to cash in better when we get runners on base."
The Tigers had the tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position in the ninth. But sidearm reliever Trevor Hildenberger first got Nick Castellanos to ground out to first — advancing the runners to second and third with two outs.
Then he struck out Niko Goodrum to end the game.
The Tigers were forced into deploying a Johnny Whole-Staff strategy (bullpen game) thanks to injuries to starters Blaine Hardy (elbow tendinitis) and Artie Lewicki (elbow inflammation). They had intended to purchase starting pitcher Jacob Turner from Toledo, but he wasn’t eligible to come up (it hadn’t been 10 days since the Tigers re-assigned him).
"Our pitchers did what we hoped. They gave us an opportunity," Gardenhire said.
The heavy damage came off the second pitcher, right-hander Zac Reininger, who relieved starter Buck Farmer in the third.
He allowed two inherited runners to score in the third and then in the fourth, Max Kepler led off with a 404-foot home run to right-center. Two batters later, Jake Cave hit a ball into the fan section above the batter’s eye in dead center field. It left the bat smoking at 108 mph and traveled 430 feet.
Cave’s bomb was just the third ball hit into that section since it was built — the other two by Jung-Ho Park and Miguel Sano — and it put the Twins up 4-1.
"It sounds crazy, but you'd rather force them to hit it out of the ballpark than put a guy on base and give up a two-run homer," McCann said. "That's something that's preached from day one. Make them swing the bat and they did today.
"There have been a lot of 3-2 fastballs they haven't hit out of the ballpark. This time they did."