The decisive play in the Twins’ 3-2 loss to Boston on Friday night wasn’t a play at all. That’s what frustrates Ron Gardenhire.
“I would have liked to see [Aaron] Hicks come up clean and have a shot to throw [Dustin Pedroia] out,” the Twins manager said after Pedroia scored on Jonny Gomes’ 10th-inning sacrifice fly to shallow center, a play that wasn’t close because left fielder Oswaldo Arcia bumped Hicks as he wound up to throw. “I would have loved to see Hicksie not make contact and see what kind of throw [he’d make], because he’s got a cannon.”
It never happened, and Pedroia’s run handed the Twins their third loss in a row, mostly because Hicks isn’t the only one with a great arm. Boston’s Clay Buchholz has one, too, and he limited a light-hitting lineup missing its biggest weapon to four hits, one a two-run homer by Pedro Florimon. Three Red Sox relievers then retired all nine hitters they faced — the Twins didn’t have a baserunner after the fifth inning, actually.
“We knew coming in Buchholz was going to be tough, and he was,” said Gardenhire, whose lineup was missing Joe Mauer and his 14-game hitting streak, out for a night because of a sore back. “Tough night. Everybody they ran up there was throwing the ball pretty decent.”
Of course, so was Vance Worley, in what ranks as the most positive development of the night, by far. The Twins righthander said earlier this week that he had discovered a mechanical flaw in his delivery that was preventing his sinker from, well, sinking. He held the major leagues’ third-highest scoring offense in check, giving up only one unearned run over six innings in his best Target Field start yet.
It was a matter of “just pulling down on my glove as I release,” Worley said after lowering his ERA from 7.15 to 6.20. “I had good run on my sinker, had good two-plane [break], and my four-seamer was cutting good. Hopefully one of these days, I’ll get a warm day and I’ll start throwing the ball harder, too.”
Yeah, and someday he’ll stop giving up first-inning runs, right? At least this time, the damage was just one run, and that because of a Brian Dozier throwing error.
Worley wasn’t sharp, exactly, issuing three walks and letting at least one baserunner in each of his six innings. But all six hits he gave up were singles, only one runner reached third base after the first inning and three double-play ground balls helped snuff every rally Boston could mount.
“That’s how I pitch,” Worley said. “It’s taken me a lot longer than I wanted to, but I’m glad we got this figured out mechanically. It’s going to help me pitch the way I want to pitch, and it’s going to help the team a lot.”
Now the Twins just need to hit the way they want to hit. With Mauer out, the Twins had seven hitters in their lineup batting below .250, and five of them are at .211 or worse. When the lineup couldn’t produce as much as a baserunner in the late innings — a bases-loaded threat in the fifth, snuffed by a Josh Willingham strikeout and a Justin Morneau flyout, was the last chance they had all night — it put tremendous pressure on the bullpen.
Brian Duensing surrendered the tying run by giving up two hits and a walk in the seventh inning, and Josh Roenicke, who has been scored upon in four of his past five outings, loaded the bases with one out in the 10th, setting up Gomes’ sacrifice fly — and Hicks’ run-in with Arcia.
“Pedroia’s quick and a good baserunner, I understand that,” Gardenhire repeated. “But I would have liked to see that throw.”