SEATTLE – Players get to play for six innings. Once the seventh inning starts and a game is close, managers take over. Their difference-making decisions can be debated seconds after they are made and rage on for days. Or years, based on the magnitude of the game.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire had his own personal debate in the seventh inning Monday night at Safeco Field in a game ther Twins eventually lost 2-0.
Kendrys Morales led off the seventh with a single to center field. Gardenhire had a three-man bench. Does he pinch hit for Morales, or wait?
"You get him on. Your decision is do you run [Chris Parmelee] for him or not?'' Gardenhire said. "I'm not sure if Parmelee would have scored on that ball or not. You're going to hit for your catcher. You have three guys on the bench. You have to use them the best you can.''
With eight outs to go, Gardenhire decided to wait.
One out later, Oswaldo Arcia cracked a ball between the center fielder and right fielder, and it rolled to the wall in one of the deepest areas of Safeco Field. Morales, who is not fast, pulled up at third on Arcia's double.
What would Parmelee, who is not a speedster but runs faster than Morales, have done? If it would have been the ninth inning, Gardenhire had the option of pinch running Eduardo Nunez, then using Parmelee as a defensive replacement. That would have depleted the Twins bench, because Kurt Suzuki was going to pinch hit for Eric Fryer sometime in the final three innings.
These are the decisions managers wrestle with.
The Twins still had runners on second and third with one out. Parmelee would have had a better chance than Morales of scoring from third on a fly ball or well-placed grounder. But Chris Colabello grounded out to third and Sam Fuld struck out to end the inning.
''We talked about it, and if [Morales] gets into scoring position then maybe you do it because it's a forced issue,'' Gardenhire said. "We hit a double, he doesn't score. Like I said, I don't know if Parmelee would have scored on that ball, but I'm frustrated because maybe he would have.
"We still had [runners on] second and third with the infield back in the middle, and we rolled over to third base. We need to get that run in, but I'm more mad at myself than anything else.''
Had Morales scored, the Twins would have tied the score 1-1, but righthander Kevin Correia gave up a solo homer to Michael Saunders in the bottom of the seventh for Seattle's second run. Fuld almost made a sensational catch by leaping at the wall, but the ball just sailed out of his reach as he crashed to the ground. Fuld has a sore back and hip, and he will be reevaluated on Tuesday.
Correia has been on a decent run of his own, posting a 2.43 ERA over his past six starts. But he's 2-4 as the Twins have struggled to score in that span. He wasn't super sharp on Monday; only 59 of his 102 pitches were strikes and he threw first-pitch strikes to only 16 of the 29 batters he faced. But he put up zeros most of the night.
Correia wasn't as sharp as Mariners righthander Hishashi Iwakuma on Monday. Iwakuma's pitches dipped, dived and dodged Twins bats for seven shutout innings. He gave up four hits with no walks while striking out 10. He has not given up an earned run in 36 2/3 innings against the Twins, a span of five starts. Iwakuma was getting the low strilke called, then he flustered Twins hitters as they chased an unhittable split-fingered fastball that dropped out of the strike zone. His curveball had bite, and his changeup flummoxed hitters all night.
Iwakuma became the second pitcher since 1914 to hold an opponent to no earned runs in his first five career starts against that team.
"He was throwing them all for strikes,'' Twins third baseman Trevor Plouffe said. "When he's got that working, it is hard to get rid of one of them. Obviously, you don't want to sit on his splitter, you want to hit his fastball. But he was locating that today and getting ahead with it.''
It was a game with little room for error. Correia made two of them, giving up homers to Mike Zunino in the second and Saunders in the seventh. And Gardenhire went home wondering if he erred late in the game as well.