Somewhere, Lou Gehrig was smiling.
On a day the Twins and Yankees paid pregame tribute to the Iron Horse, when the bases bore his likeness and patches on both team’s uniforms reminded everyone of Gehrig’s lasting impact, it took an extraordinary play by, fittingly, another Yankees first baseman to beat the Twins 6-5 at Target Field.
Mark Teixeira took one step to his right and hurled himself to the ground to glove a sure base hit Friday, then scrambled to one knee to throw out Eduardo Escobar, ending the eighth inning, stranding Oswaldo Arcia at third and preserving New York’s precarious one-run lead.
Iron Horse, meet Gold Glove.
“Esco hit the living fire out of the ball,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of the shortstop’s two-hop smash that Teixeira somehow short-hopped while horizontal. “It should have been a tie ballgame, and [Teixeira] made a big play.”
It looked like Escobar’s hard grounder would be the big play, the clutch hit that has so regularly eluded the Twins lately. It would have completed an impressive comeback from a 6-1 deficit that starter Kyle Gibson put the Twins in after just an inning and a half. It might have been the jolt to Minnesota’s offense that Gardenhire has been searching for.
Instead, the manager was left to mutter once more about missed chances, which have basically defined the Twins over this slump, nine losses in 11 games. “We had it out there — one hit away,” Gardenhire said. “Just put one more out there. … But they made a couple really, really big-time plays, and that was one of them.”
Of course, a far easier blueprint for victory, one that doesn’t rely on big comebacks and clutch hits, is the shutdown-starter genre, one that Gibson personified just a couple of weeks ago. The second-year righthander reeled off 22 scoreless innings in a row, gave up fewer hits per outing than fingers necessary to hold his bottom-drops-out sinker.
But from the moment that streak ended in Anaheim, Gibson has been a batting-practice pitcher.
“They just jumped on him and never let him breathe,” Gardenhire said after Gibson gave up three runs in the first, three more in the second, and knocked off early after surrendering almost as many extra-base hits [five] as he recorded outs [six]. “… He was just misfiring. And every time he made a bad pitch, they made him pay for it.”
He paid with an ERA that has jumped by nearly a full run, from 3.25 to 4.17, in just three games — two of them lasting but two innings apiece. It’s also the fourth time this season that he’s allowed six or more runs.
The Twins struck back, though, with solo home runs by Brian Dozier and Chris Colabello, who broke an 0-for-23 streak with a home run with his first swing in the majors since May 23. Three third-inning hits, including an Arcia triple, scored two more. The Twins added a fifth run on a Colabello grounder in the eighth, and had Arcia on third with two outs, when Teixeira ruined the comeback. And a last-gasp rally in the ninth, with Kurt Suzuki on second, ended when Chris Parmelee was called out on a borderline strike.
“It hurts,” Gibson said, “that I’m not giving our guys a chance.”