CLEVELAND – There’s no sense, a Mississippi sage said Friday night, in the Twins “getting our hair in a wad.”
Brian Dozier insists that’s what they say back home in Tupelo when events conspire to disappoint, when it’s too late to change the outcome. And that’s why he will just move on from a 7-6 loss to the Indians, a 10-inning letdown that might have been a buoying victory had any number of realities been altered just a bit.
Chief among them, of course, is the way Jason Kipnis’ sharp ground ball bounced in and out of Dozier’s glove in the eighth inning, a half-second bobble that prevented him from starting a double play and instead enabled Mike Aviles to score the tying run, the first scored against the Twins bullpen in nearly a week.
“It would have been a tough double play to turn, but I felt like I made a good pitch there,” said Jared Burton, who had surrendered only one run all season. “You’ve just got to stick to your stuff and ride it out.”
More good advice, the sort that he could give to Casey Fien, too. The righthander set down the heart of Cleveland’s order in the ninth, even striking out two of baseball’s hottest hitters, Carlos Santana and Ryan Raburn. But a ground-ball single by Aviles in the 10th turned into disaster when, after a sacrifice, No. 9 hitter Drew Stubbs came up looking for more.
Stubbs already had been in the middle of every Cleveland rally, singling once and doubling twice, and this time, Fien gave him a pitch that was a little too high and over the plate. Stubbs smashed it to the wall in left-center, scoring Aviles, lifting the Indians to .500 (13-13) and dropping the Twins below it (12-13).
“We had an opportunity to get one more big hit,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We just didn’t come up with one, and finally they did.”
There were plenty of big hits before the 10th, certainly, although one of the biggest was also the softest. Kipnis, who also had a two-run triple off starter Pedro Hernandez, shocked the Twins with a daring two-out bunt that scored Yan Gomes from third in the sixth inning, a run that ended up being critical.
Kipnis might not have been so bold, Gardenhire said, if third baseman Trevor Plouffe hadn’t been playing deep at third base.
“It was a hell of a bunt, down towards the line and soft. But Plouffe has got to be in there,” Gardenhire said. “I talked to Trevor about that — he’s got to be in. You can’t let him bunt there.”
Nor can Hernandez, who put at least one runner on base in each of his 5⅓ so-so innings, allow himself to get rattled by a balk, then groove a cut fastball to AL home run leader Mark Reynolds. The pitch predictably traveled 429 feet, the Indians estimated, high into the left-center bleachers.
Plouffe and Chris Parmelee also homered, and both were unusual. Plouffe’s landed in the right-field seats, the first of his 37 career home runs hit to the opposite field. Parmelee’s home run was big for its moment.
Ryan Doumit had just defeated the Indians’ severe shift on him by grounding an RBI single to where the shortstop would normally be stationed, and the Indians pulled ace righthander Justin Masterson. Parmelee greeted hard-throwing reliever Cody Allen with a high fly ball that appeared catchable at first, but it didn’t stop carrying until it reached the seats.
Justin Morneau also had a memorable night, driving home the Twins’ first run with a sacrifice fly, his 800th career RBI.
But none of it mattered when the Twins bullpen, unscored upon for 11 consecutive innings, finally gave up a lead, and then the game.
“We got it to [Burton], a couple of bloops fell in on him, and they end up tying the ballgame,” Gardenhire shrugged, his hair definitely not in a wad. “That hasn’t happened to us all year.”