SEATTLE — The Twins have rare back-to-back day games in two different cities, with tomorrow’s afternoon matinee in Oakland. But before heading to the airport, here are a handful of extras from Safeco Field:
Brian Dozier has felt a lot worse. Once in Double-A, he was even hit in the face.
But the Taijuan Walker pitch that ricocheted off his helmet Sunday still made a big impression. “It was scary,” Dozier said. “But you just dust yourself off.”
He did, and a few pitches later, he even stole second base. But when the ball glanced off his hat, everyone in Safeco Field winced.
“I turned my head, and it grazed my helmet, but not too bad,” Dozier said.
Manager Paul Molitor was relieved that the blow did no damage. “A lot of times you can tell a little bit by the ricochet, and the fact the ball caromed the way it did, I heard a lot of helmet,” he said. “It was more glancing, no blood, no flesh removed, so he was good to go.”
In fact, Dozier said something to Molitor and athletic trainer Dave Pruemer and laughed. Dozier wouldn’t reveal what he said, but Molitor wasn’t surprised.
“He laughs when he strikes out too sometimes,” Molitor said, “so you’re never sure what you’re going to get there.”
Molitor said before the game that Ricky Nolasco, even more than most pitchers, needs to command his fastball in order to succeed. On Sunday, he did.
“Fastball command is crucial for anybody, but for me, with the breaking balls that I have, it just makes them a lot better,” Nolasco said after allowing three hits over six innings and a picking up his second victory. “I threw more fastballs today because I had the command going.”
He threw more pitches than he would have liked, and left at least one inning earlier than he hoped, mostly because the Mariners were so good at extending at-bats. Nolasco once retired the side in order, but needed 21 pitches to do it because all three hitters saw at least six pitches.
“I would have liked to been a little more efficient, but those guys have been doing that. They battle every at-bat and make starters throw pitches,” he said.
Well, Robbie Cano didn’t, at least not in the first inning. After Nolasco retired the first two hitters on just six pitches, he expected a battle with Cano, the veteran all-star. Instead, Cano raked the first pitch, and lined it into the first row of seats in right, his 15th homer of the year.
“I wasn’t expecting him to swing,” Nolsasco said. “He jumped me. But that’s what good hitters do.”
The Twins provided Nolasco five runs to work with, but the offense might not have mattered if Nolasco had pitched the way he had throughout May (his ERA for the month was 8.14 coming in). But Nolasco left with a 5-2 lead after six innings, having allowed only Cano’s homer, a double by Kyle Seager that turned into a run on a Nolasco wild pitch, and a single by Cano in the third. That was the last hit he allowed.
“He’s one of those guys that has a little trouble settling into a rhythm, but when he starts to get a feel, the outs can come quickly,” Molitor said. “
Taijaun Walker has faced the Twins twice. Last season, he pitched a complete-game one-hitter in Target Field, the only blow keeping him from a no-hitter being a Miguel Sano home run. On Sunday, Sano got him again, and the Twins scored five runs while knocking him out in the fifth inning.
Joe Mauer said it’s just a coincidence that he hit homers in three consecutive games here, but it’s no coincidence that they all few out to the opposite field.
“This series, Seattle was really working me away,” Mauer said of his streak, his first three-gamer since his MVP season of 2009. “I didn’t see a whole lot in, so I was lucky to take advantage of that on a couple of pitches.”