A couple of extras from a much-needed win for the Twins:
Not a bad night for Jake Cave. After going 0-for-7 with five strikeouts in Milwaukee, the 25-year-old center fielder responded by helping the Twins beat Baltimore, 5-2, with his play in the field, at the plate and on the bases.
Cave’s flashiest moment came in the fourth inning, when Chris Davis hit a one-out blast just to the right side of straightaway center. It appeared certain to bounce off the wall for a double — but not to Cave.
“I knew I had a good bead on it, and I knew that [right fielder Max] Kepler was definitely going to back me up if it went off the wall,” Cave said. “So I took a chance. I timed it right. Didn’t really think too much about it — you kind of just got to go get it.”
Cave leaped and caught the ball a few feet above him, just inches from the wall. It was a defensive gem worthy of Byron Buxton, and it earned a round of applause from his starting pitcher, Aaron Slegers.
But it was far from Cave’s only contribution. Cave also doubled twice as part of a couple of rallies, and singled and walked. It was the rookie’s third three-hit game of his career, weirdly remarkable since he hasn’t had a mere two-hit game yet.
And on the bases, Cave’s alertness allowed him to score when Baltimore pitcher Andrew Cashner’s throw to first base on Bobby Wilson’s grounder got past Davis. The ball eventually rolled into the dugout, so Cave would have been awarded home anyway, but he had long since committed to scoring.
“I’m happy I could contribute to helping Slegers get his first win,” Cave said. “It was big pressure for him, and I’m glad I could help. Whether it was with the bat or the glove, it was fun both ways.”
It wasn’t easy removing Slegers from the game, Twins manager Paul Molitor said, after he had cruised so easily through six innings. But he just thought it was time.
“We talked a little bit about trying to extend him, but you get 18 outs from a guy, with three hits and one run, it was a good note to [end on],” Molitor said after limiting Slegers to just 72 pitches. “Turn it over to the bullpen and see if we could hold on.”
Only seven times this season had a Twins starter thrown so few pitches, and none of them earned a win — or even lasted more than four innings. So it was a remarkable outing.
“He had a good night, mixed in enough changeups and sliders to keep them guessing a little bit,” Molitor said. “I know he’s been working on things, always trying to find ways to improve his repertoire, if you will. Working on that little one-seam fastball, which he seemed to get a lot of really good results, as far as getting in on the righties and getting some grounders from the lefties.”
But Molitor detected some changes as the game went on.
“They were getting a little bit better swings in the fifth and sixth [innings]. And the slider was starting to change shape just a little bit,” Molitor explained. “With a two-run lead, it can evaporate quickly. I’m sure he was disappointed, but sometimes you make tough decisions to protect those young guys when they’ve had good outings. [You want to] make sure they feel good when they come out of the game.”
Slegers was a little surprised, but wasn’t complaining afterward. “I want to stay in until the manager shakes my hand. I was ready to go out,” Slegers said. “Obviously I was disappointed. But I understand his decision, and the bullpen, I have full confidence. It was fun to watch” Trevor Hildenberger, Addison Reed and Fernando Rodney finish off the win.