WASHINGTON – This is a city that adores history and loves commemorations. It’s not the sort of place that would ruin an occasion like Joe Mauer’s 100th home run, is it?
The Twins catcher reached triple digits in his career by lacing a line-drive home run to — where else? — left-center field on Saturday, and his teammates saluted the milepost by scratching out an 11th-inning run, helping the Twins win in the nation’s capital for the first time in 42 years, 4-3 over the Nationals.
Ryan Doumit, the Twins’ hottest hitter, lined a single to center off Washington righthander Craig Stammen, scoring Chris Herrmann with the go-ahead run, and Glen Perkins retired the Nationals in the bottom of the 11th for his 13th save as the Twins improved to 3-5 this year in extra innings, and evened their record at 2-2 on this six-game road trip.
“I had a couple of [earlier] opportunities, so it’s nice to get a little bit of redemption,” Doumit said after producing his 16th RBI in his past 11 games. “I’m sure both sides were thinking about the long day [doubleheader] tomorrow. You don’t want to tax that bullpen.”
Jayson Werth hit a cannon-shot of a homer in the third inning off Kevin Correia to give the Nationals a 2-0 lead, but the Twins responded with two in the fourth; three balls bounced off infielders’ gloves in the frame, though only Justin Morneau’s grounder past first baseman Adam LaRoche was an error. The following inning, Mauer broke the tie with his sixth home run of the season, and 100th of his 10-year career.
“It’s a big moment for anybody, 100 home runs. he crushed it,” Gardenhire said. “We know what he is. He’s a high-average hitter, a batting champion, and he can do that every once in a while.”
The Twins put runners in scoring position in the eighth, ninth and 10th innings, but they couldn’t get the RBI hit until Doumit broke through to score Herrmann, who opened the 11th with a walk.
The Twins used six pitchers, the Nationals eight. “The bullpen came in and did a nice job,” especially after a couple of breakdowns in Kansas City, Gardenhire said. “We made some big pitches when we had to.”
So did Correia, who showed signs of regaining the form that so encouraged the Twins in April. Saturday’s start was the seventh in a row in which Correia has given up three or more runs, but it probably shouldn’t have been.
Trying to protect a 3-2 lead in the seventh inning, Correia surrendered a leadoff single to Anthony Rendon, who was sacrificed to second. Kurt Suzuki then hit a soft chopper that shortstop Pedro Florimon charged, with enough time to get the second out.
Florimon, however, didn’t keep his glove down long enough, and the baseball glanced off the tip and rolled into left field. Correia surmised that late-afternoon shadows and the high bounce off home plate affected Florimon’s vision.
“He just missed the ball. Simple as we can say it, he just didn’t catch it,” Gardenhire said. “He’s got to at least put the glove on it,” to prevent Rendon from scoring.
Instead, Rendon, who had stopped at third, raced home with the tying run while three Twins ran after the ball, and Suzuki was credited with a double.
“I thought Correia threw the ball really good,” Gardenhire said. “… I feel bad for the guy, because he deserves better there.”