Three extras from the Twins’ fifth consecutive victimization of a last-place team:
American League managers don’t like giving up the designated hitter. But taking the risk on Monday paid off for Paul Molitor.
With the Twins trailing 1-0, catcher Bobby Wilson opened the seventh inning with a double to the warning track in left-center. Molitor immediately sent Jake Cave to run for Wilson, even though the team’s other catcher, Mitch Garver, was the DH. That meant that when Garver went behind the plate in the eighth, the Twins could no longer use a designated hitter.
The move worked, though. Cave moved to third on Joe Mauer’s single to right, hit too sharply for him to score. But when Eddie Rosario chopped a slow roller toward third base, Cave got down the line too quickly for Mike Moustakas to have any play at the plate.
“Cave got a good jump,” Rosario said of the play. “It tied the game.”
Trevor Hildenberger pitched the eighth, and was in the fifth spot in the batting order, where Robbie Grossman had been, since Cave stayed in the game and played center field, moving Max Kepler to right. The Twins sent six hitters to the plate in the eighth inning, scoring another run — Cave was in the middle of it, contributing a one-out single — but the pitcher’s spot never came up. If it had?
“I was going to put [Willians] Astudillo in there [at catcher] and roll with it,” Molitor said. “I talked to him before the game. I haven’t had a chance to play him since the interleague games, but you know, he’s staying ready.”
Rosario may have hit only a weak grounder to score that run, but he was proud of it. That’s because it came against Royals reliever Tim Hill, a tall lefthander with an unorthodox sidearm delivery.
“I was not comfortable. This guy has good stuff. Difficult for me,” Rosario said. “I wanted to try to put it in play. I was fighting, fighting, fighting. I think I did a good job.”
He did. Rosario quickly fell behind 0-2, but didn’t give up on the at-bat. He fouled off four pitches, working the count to 2-2. One of them was a chopper that went straight down into the ground, then hit Rosario on the leg. Had he been out of the batter’s box, he would have been out. But Rosario froze, his feet just inside the chalk line, so when it hit him, it was a foul ball.
“He made a smart play,” Molitor said. “He realized he was in the box and let it hit him before he took another step.”
Well, Rosario couldn’t take credit, he said. “I was scared a little bit. The umpire told me I was in the box and it was a foul ball,” Rosario said. “I said, ‘OK. Woof.’ “
On the ninth pitch of the at-bat, Rosario made weak contact, weak enough that Moustakas didn’t have a play except at first base.
“Those kind of guys are tough,” Molitor said. “Putting it in play is sometimes the best you can do and get rewarded.”
Jose Berrios pitches again on Saturday, and at 9-7, he’ll be trying to become the fifth Twins pitcher in the past decade to win 10 games before the All-Star break, joining Ervin Santana (2017), Phil Hughes (2014), Carl Pavano (2010) and Kevin Slowey (2009).
Starting Saturday against Tampa Bay means Berrios will have two days of rest before Tuesday’s All-Star Game in Washington; it would be his normal between-starts bullpen day. That should be enough to allow him to pitch an inning at Nationals Park, Molitor said.
“I would imagine that however [AL manager A.J. Hinch] decides to work that pitching staff, he should be fine,” Molitor said. “If something happens between now and the end of the next start, if we have any concerns, we would alert somebody. But there’s a good chance if he gets called on, he will be available.”