CHICAGO – Motivation comes in all varieties. Glen Perkins wanted to break his bad-luck streak and earn the save that eluded him a day earlier. Trevor Plouffe wanted to put a bad throw behind him and keep his hot start going. Ron Gardenhire wanted to avoid a sweep and establish a winning atmosphere. And Oswaldo Arcia?
“With the cold out there, he just wanted to get us the lead,” said Chris Colabello, acting as Arcia’s interpreter. “That way we could try to avoid extra innings.”
Whatever their incentive, the Twins rallied from behind three times on Thursday, the last coming when they were down to their final strike. But Plouffe delivered a clutch single, Arcia bashed a go-ahead triple, and Perkins protected the Twins’ first victory of the year, and the 999th of Gardenhire’s career, a crazy 10-9 win over the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field.
“That was a character win,” Colabello said after driving in a career-high six runs on a pair of doubles and a groundout.
“We needed that one,” Plouffe agreed after twice driving in two-out, two-strike runs. “Yesterday was a heartbreaker for us. ... To come back today and respond, that’s a good sign.”
There were plenty of signs, good, bad and so-so, on a wet and windy day in which the temperature never rose above 37 degrees. Phil Hughes mowed through the White Sox lineup twice with only a couple of hiccups in his Minnesota debut, then gave up three extra-base hits in the space of four batters to squander his big lead. Anthony Swarzak gave away the first lead he was trusted with since last Aug. 10, but Brian Duensing was sharp in his return from paternity leave. Josmil Pinto tied the score with the Twins’ first home run of the season, but Caleb Thielbar immediately surrendered a tiebreaking blast to Marcus Semien, who had been 0-for-13 in the series.
And all that back-and-forth was building up to a dramatic ninth inning, when both teams’ fortunes swung wildly on pitch after pitch. “It didn’t really seem like anyone wanted to win the game,” Perkins said.
Or maybe both wanted to win badly. With Semien’s homer providing newly appointed White Sox closer Matt Lindstrom a 9-8 lead, the Twins appeared doomed to a season-opening sweep, something Gardenhire dreaded. “You lose your first two — I mean, just start winning,” the longtime manager said after drawing one victory away from becoming the 60th to win 1,000 games. “I want this atmosphere to be a winning atmosphere. ... And our guys fought hard.”
With one out, Josh Willingham took a 3-2 slider for ball four, and the Twins had life. Colabello grounded out, moving pinch runner Jason Bartlett to second base. And with the few dozen fans who braved the cold standing and cheering, Plouffe, whose off-line throw to the plate in a critical situation helped cost the Twins Wednesday’s game, reached out for a high fastball and drilled it to right, driving Bartlett home with the tying run.
“I knew that I would have to fight that slider off, and if he threw the fastball, I could get to it,” Plouffe said after raising his batting average to .462. “And that’s what ended up happening.”
It also brought to the plate Arcia, whose 0-for-13 start to the season included a warning track fly ball that Chicago center fielder Adam Eaton crashed into the wall to catch. His head covered in a burglar’s facemask for warmth, Arcia jumped on Lindstrom’s 3-1 pitch and hit a nearly identical shot to straightaway center that Eaton raced after. This time, he couldn’t reach it, and when it bounced off the wall, he had a triple — and a game-winning RBI.
“That’s a good sign. He actually stayed on the ball,” Gardenhire said. “We’re more impressed that he drove two balls to center field, because he’s really been trying to jerk everything.”
Handed a lead for the second straight day, Perkins was nearly done in by some bad luck again, this time in the form of a popup that fell 1 foot inside the foul line. But with the tying run on third, Perkins retired Alexei Ramirez on a line drive and Paul Konerko on a grounder to, yep, Plouffe, who threw him out to end the game.
“You have to make those plays. I wasn’t concerned with yesterday,” he said. “I’m just glad we got the victory.”