Three extras from the Twins’ — what’s it called again? — winning streak:
When Jorge Polanco came to the plate in the fourth inning, he noticed third baseman Tim Beckham playing back. So he placed a bunt about 40 feet up the line, where neither Beckham nor pitcher Dylan Bundy could reach it in time.
The next batter, Max Kepler, smashed a Bundy pitch more than 400 feet, a two-run homer that gave the Twins a 5-0 lead.
Twins manager Paul Molitor savored the sequence — and not necessarily the part of it you might expect.
“As much as I love the long ball,” Molitor said after the game, “I don’t want to see Polanco’s bunt get overlooked. The intelligence that he brings to the field and starting a rally in that fashion, it was really good to see.”
Lance Lynn got some help from his defense, starting with the game’s very first pitch, which would have been a home run had Jake Cave not leapt to pull it back. But an even bigger play came in the sixth inning, when Lynn was wearing down during a long Baltimore inning.
Lynn walked Manny Machado to open the inning, then gave up consecutive singles to Mark Trumbo and Chris Davis, the latter scoring Machado. Up came Jonathan Schoop, who proceded to get into a drawn-out battle with the Twins righthander.
After fouling off a couple of pitches, Schoop took three straight balls, then spoiled pitch after pitch from Lynn.
“It was a good battle,” Lynn said. “He’s a tough guy to strike out. He covers a lot of the plate, both sides.”
Finally, on the 10th pitch of the at-bat, Schoop hit a sharp grounder to Polanco at shortstop, and the Twins turned a double play that short-circuited the Orioles’ hopes of a big inning. Trey Mancini grounded out moments later, and Lynn had escaped.
“A big play on the defensive side, getting the double play after they had a little something going there,” Molitor said. “To minimize there, after they had something going, to one run was pretty impressive.”
One good at-bat doesn’t necessarily change the ones that come after it. But Molitor hopes that Kepler’s home run, after batting only .204 in May and .163 in June, might help the young outfielder turn things around.
“At times, I think it has been wearing on him. He gets caught in between trying to get aggressive or being patient,” the manager said. “Sometimes [big hits] can help you calm down. He got what looked like a changeup to me, and he was all over that. It was good to see. You get a couple of good at-bats, and get that feel back, hopefully.”