Three left-overs from a Memorial Day matinee:
— The Twins preach first-pitch strikes, and Ricky Nolasco is one of the biggest proponents. But Nolasco said a change of strategy helped him against the Red Sox on Monday.
“Normally, you go out there and challenge [hitters], but I tried that the past couple of starts,” with so-so results, Nolasco said. “I know the scouting report on me is [to] swing early because I’m going to be throwing a lot of strikes.”
But Nolasco said he was just laying fastballs in the strike zone, in hopes of getting ahead in the count, unchallenged. “I’m thinking, free strike. But guys have been coming out swinging [at the] first-pitch fastball.”
His solution: focus on making the first pitch good, but not too good. He had only14 first-pitch strikes against 29 batters, and he used sliders and curveballs rather than fastballs. “You can be more aggressive, but guys have been swinging on me while I’m trying to be aggressive. [So I’m] just making a conscious effort to make a better pitch so guys can’t ambush me,” he said.
— The Twins piled up 16 hits in one game Monday, or five more than the 11 they managed during the entire three-game series the last time they played Boston, last July in Fenway Park. They also scored more runs in the first two innings (seven) than they had in the previous 37 innings (six) against the Red Sox.
— Manager Paul Molitor was especially pleased with the first inning of Monday’s game. The first two Red Sox hitters singled, but Nolasco got David Ortiz to fly out and Hanley Ramirez to hit into a 5-4-3 double play. Then Brian Dozier led off the Twins’ hand with a bloop double to left, moved up a base on Torii Hunter’s ground out to second, and scored on a sacrifice fly by Joe Mauer. “We come out of the top half unscathed, and we come back and have some good at-bats to manufacture a run,” Molitor said.