Did Twins manager Ron Gardenhire do more pacing than usual tonight or did the cameras just capture more shots of him on the move? He looked like he was training to be an Olympic race walker.
“I was really thirsty tonight,” Gardenhire said after his team defeated the Orioles 6-4 in a three-hour, 43-minute marathon. “I just needed water and Gatorade a lot. But there were some big moments there. I get worked up over these things. I still get excited and the adrenaline flows.”
Gardenhire tempted fate in the sixth inning, when he had rookie lefthander Tyler Robertson intentionally walk J.J. Hardy to face Jim Thome. The score was tied 4-4 with two outs, and the walk put runners at first and second for Baltimore.
Thome has 61 career home runs against the Twins, more than any other opposing hitter. He's tied with Sammy Sosa for seventh place on the all-time list with 609 home runs, and if he passes Sosa this week, it would only add to Thome's Target Field lore.
“I walked a guy to get to a Hall of Famer, and I’ve got his baseball over here and he might be mad at me,” Gardenhire said, referring to Thome’s 607th home run ball, which is still sitting on the manager’s desk. “That’s not the greatest moment in the world, thinking how far he wanted to hit that ball, but Tyler made some big pitches on him.”
Robertson ended the seven pitch at-bat with a slider, and Thome swung through it for strike three. Walking back to the dugout, Robertson said, “That was my favorite player growing up.” So yeah, he could have been a little star struck. It only added to the memory for Gardenhire.
“That’s a beautiful thing,” the 11th-year manager said. “That’s what the game’s all about.”
Gardenhire kept facing tough decisions. It’s going to be this way now with Matt Capps on the disabled list again, as Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson strategize how to finish games. Instead of relying on one closer, they are studying matchups and picking spots for lefty Glen Perkins and righty Jared Burton.
With a 6-4 lead, Perkins overwhelmed the Orioles in the eighth inning, striking out the side with 13 pitches, including 96-97 miles per hour fastballs and several filthy sliders.
Gardenhire sent Perkins back out for the ninth to face lefthanded hitting Nick Markakis, but he summoned Burton to face Hardy after Markakis singled. Hardy grounded into a 6-4-3 double play, but Thome walked, bringing All-Star Adam Jones to the plate. Jones had smashed his 21st homer earlier in the game.
The cameras kept showing Gardenhire pacing, but Burton fanned Jones with an 89-mph fastball, to seal his third save.
“Fun baseball game,” Gardenhire said, sounding very relieved that it was finally over.