A trio of extras after the end to the Twins’ winning streak:
As Taylor Rogers walked into the dugout Tuesday after killing a Royals rally, Paul Molitor had a question for him.
“I asked him when’s the last time he was in a game in the second inning,” the Twins manager said. “He couldn’t remember, except when he started.”
That’s because it’s never happened. Rogers had pitched 163 major-league games, all in relief, and another dozen relief appearances in the minor leagues (he was primarily a starter until 2016), and he had never been summoned into a game in the second inning.
Turns out, it’s quite a good inning for him. Called in to relieve starter Aaron Slegers, Rogers needed only three pitches to get out of the jam by inducing Mike Moustakas to hit into an inning-ending double play. Then Rogers cruised through a 1-2-3 third inning — his first big-league third inning, too — with two ground balls and a strikeout. And he got two quick outs in the fourth before walking Adalberto Mondesi, causing Molitor to pull him because his pitch count had reached 37, one fewer than his major-league high.
Molitor hadn’t set out to try Rogers in a new role, but Slegers’ rough night made him consider it. And since Rogers had only thrown 13 pitches since July 1, he seemed particularly suited to emergency early work.
“Looking at the innings that I had, where we were, I knew that he was fresh and could probably give me close to two innings, if not a tad more,” Molitor said of Rogers, whose seven outs were also one fewer than his career high, set back in 2016. “I thought that was the best way to shut it down, try to keep it there until I turned it over to [Matt] Magill.”
Zack Duke loaded the bases in the eight inning, but escaped without allowing a run by striking out Moustakas. An inning later, Addison Reed had a rocky relief appearance, with a couple of rarities.
First, the righthander allowed a triple to Hunter Dozier, the first triple he’s given up since April 2017 and only the second triple hit off him in three years. If that wasn’t enough, he then surrendered a long home run to Alex Gordon, Reed’s eighth home run allowed this year.
Why is that unusual? Because Reed had owned the Royals’ outfielder before Tuesday night. Gordon was 0-for-10 in his career against the Twins’ righthander.
The Twins used a four-outfielder alignment against Lucas Duda on Tuesday, having third baseman Eduardo Escobar back up into left field when the left-handed slugger comes up, with the three regular outfielders all shifting to the right.
The shift paid off a couple of times, first on a first-inning popup into medium-depth left field, a play that Escobar made easily. Duda might have been retired by a conventional defense on that one, but not a later one. Leading off the sixth inning, Duda hit a hard liner into the right-field corner, a double in nearly every case. But because Max Kepler was shifted closer to the foul line, he was able to sprint into the corner and make a running catch, saving the extra-base hit.