Three extras from the Twins’ walk-off, 12-inning win, which tied the season series 9-9 with one game remaining:
Max Kepler has had a couple of ill-advised and costly adventures when diving for a baseball, but he picked the perfect time to try it again on Saturday. With two outs and the go-ahead run on second base in the ninth inning, Rajai Davis sliced a medium-depth fly ball just inside the right-field foul line.
“When the ball was hit, I thought it was going to be catchable,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said, “but it was kind of dying out there.”
Kepler simply accelerated and, as he reached the foul line, slid on his stomach as he caught the ball just above the grass.
“He’s shown the ability to give us good range. His defense has been solid for the most part, but that’s a big play,” Molitor said. “Third out, save a run, it gives you life coming off the field.”
Hector Santiago has now pitched two excellent games against the Indians, and has no victories to show for it. He pitched seven scoreless innings in an eventual 1-0 loss two weeks ago in Cleveland, and on Saturday, allowed one run over seven innings but left with the game tied.
Not that anyone is complaining.
“The good news is, his thumb feels great, so he’s kind of put that behind him,” Molitor said. “He pitched well.”
It didn’t look so good at first; Santiago allowed three hits and a walk in the first inning, but somehow managed to allow only one run, and he walked three batters in the second. The reason, both Santiago and Molitor said, seemed to be the extra days off he got this week; it had been a week since he last pitched.
“I’m a guy who likes to go every five days,” Santiago said, and his command showed some rust.
“It just took him awhile to get control,” Molitor said. “He threw a ton of fastballs. I don’t think he threw an off-speed pitch until his 15th or 16th pitch, which means he felt strong. He was just trying to find the location of the pitch.”
The bullpen, statistically the worst in the majors, pitched five scoreless innings once Santiago left, their best performance since contributing 6 2/3 scoreless in a win over Miami on June 7. Six different relievers got into the game, which seems like a lot until you realize the Indians used nine relievers.
“We went though a lot of them. Some of these guys are on the same level, in terms of how we’re trying to use them, but they all came in and did the job,” Molitor said. “Some guys seem to be picking up the confidence because they’re getting better results.”
In particular, Molitor said, J.T. Chargois “has had a couple of good outings in a row.” He pitched the 12th, getting Chris Gimenez, Davis and Jason Kipnis in order, and earned his first career win.