The record is still lousy, the worst in baseball, but a decent number of Twins fans keep showing up at Target Field, an announced 23,584 Saturday night. They seem to enjoy rooting for rookies.
James Beresford received a standing ovation for recording the first hit of his career; Max Kepler earned a loud roar for a game-saving diving catch; and Miguel Sano — not a rookie, but still only 23 — drew a burst of applause for hitting a 400-foot home run into the Cleveland bullpen.
But when the youngsters needed help finishing off the AL Central-leading Indians, it was the veterans who came through. Brian Dozier lined a two-out single in the 12th inning, moved to second on a balk by Joe Colon and scored when Joe Mauer dropped a full-count line drive into right-center, earning the Twins a 2-1 victory.
“If you can win a close game at home against a good team,” manager Paul Molitor said, “you’ve got to feel pretty good about that.”
There was a lot to feel good about, particularly the performance by the beleaguered Twins pitching staff. Hector Santiago allowed the first batter he faced to score, but then not another during his seven innings, and a corps of six relievers combined for five more scoreless innings. The Twins needed it all, since their offense amounted to Sano’s second-inning homer and a half-dozen singles.
Molitor and his team seemed to feel best of all, though, about Beresford, the 27-year-old Australian third baseman who experienced a night he will never forget. Or was it a night he will never remember?
“I don’t really remember anything after I hit the ball,” he joked about his seventh-inning single, which set off a loud salute from fans and hollering in his dugout. “Next thing I know, it’s the next inning.”
Beresford, the Twins-record 49th player used this season, was first signed in 2005, and he has accumulated a whopping 4,383 minor league plate appearances, plus an equal number of friends in the Twins farm system. So his big-league debut was a big occasion for the home team, and his first hit — on a 1-2 pitch from Indians rookie Shawn Armstrong — set off a celebration.
“It got me going a little bit. You saw the reaction of our dugout. The fans that continue to come out kind of know the story and they responded,” Molitor said. “It means a lot to a lot of people when a guy gets rewarded. Jimmy, you can see how much it means to him to be out there and contributing.”
After Beresford was bunted to second, the Indians intentionally walked Dozier and change pitchers. While they did, Dozier came over to share the moment with his longtime friend.
“He gave me a little hug. He said he was getting a little emotional, and when he said that, I was getting emotional. It was like ‘The Notebook’ all over again,” Beresford joked of the tear-jerking movie. “I’ve been with Doz for the last seven or eight years. We’ve grown up, come up together, so to be able to share it with a guy like him means even more.”
That rally fizzled, but Dozier started a two-out rally in the 12th with a solid single to left-center. Once he was on second due to the balk, Mauer battled through a long at-bat against Colon.
“[Colon] didn’t give in,” Molitor said. “He went to his offspeed pitches, including 3-2, but he left that one over and Joe was able to pull it into the gap,” ending the game, making a first-time winner of J.T. Chargois — another rookie — and setting off a brief celebration in the clubhouse, where Beresford was presented with the ball.
“Tonight,” he said, “makes the last 10 years all worth it.”