ARLINGTON, Texas – Alex Presley was describing his first day with the Twins after Sunday’s 4-2 victory over the Rangers, was enjoying how much his three hits helped eliminate some of that Hello-My-Name-Is awkwardness with his teammates, when it was pointed out he had been given the don’t-steal sign before the fifth-inning pitch on which he was, yes, thrown out stealing.
“Oh — that was a no-go, wasn’t it?” Presley said, his eyes growing wide as he realized his mistake. “I shouldn’t have missed it. I don’t know how I missed it. I was thinking of going, and I suppose when you want to go, you don’t see what you should see.”
Or maybe, when you’re trying to memorize names and faces and signs and rules, not everything can go perfectly on your first day at a new job. Missed sign aside, the Twins saw what they hoped to out of Presley, who was acquired Saturday for Justin Morneau, and Josmil Pinto, whose own debut in a Twins uniform was equally encouraging.
The newest Twins combined for five hits, two runs and two RBI in their own private Opening Day, helping the Twins win a road series against a first-place team for the second time in 10 days.
“It’s exciting,” said Pinto, the 24-year-old Venezuelan catcher who doubled in the tying run with his first major league hit, then scored the go-ahead run when Doug Bernier followed with a well-placed pop-up for another double. “I think most of all the minor leagues — now I saw it’s the same baseball, but different level. You can’t do many mistakes because the other team get you.”
That’s true, and Sunday, it was the Twins making the Rangers pay. A throwing error by Jurickson Profar put Clete Thomas in position for Pinto to drive him in during the three-run fifth. And in the eighth, when Ian Kinsler made an ill-advised, off-balance throw that pulled Mitch Moreland off first base, Presley raced home with an insurance run.
That sort of hustle play kept coming up all day. The Twins, who basically had three leadoff hitters atop their batting order, collected a dozen hits, 10 of them singles, from eight players, and moved runners along on wild pitches, errors and a stolen base. The AL West-leading Rangers had seven hits and scored only on a pair of solo home runs, by Moreland and pinch hitter A.J. Pierzynski.
The manager had to admit he sort of liked the contrast. “It was a little different style we had out there. We had some speed, where we get to run around a little bit,” Ron Gardenhire said. “It was kind of fun to watch.”
Nobody enjoyed it more than starter Kevin Correia, whose own late-season resurgence, he said, can be traced to a willingness to throw strikes. “I got in a situation with a few starts where I was nibbling too much, and my pitch count was going up,” Correia said after limiting Texas to one run over seven innings, before departing due to cramps in his ribs because of the 100-degree swelter, leaving Jared Burton and Glen Perkins to finish up. “I was just trying to get back to throwing some strikes and getting some quick outs.”
He did it by keeping the ball down; Texas grounded into 14 outs in his seven innings, as Correia’s ERA since July 31 fell to 3.14. “I feel good. I usually pitch well at the ends of seasons,” he said. “I try to finish strong, and I feel good right now.”
As do the Twins about their new players.