The Twins don’t have a reputation for risk-taking, but they gamble here and there. They took a handful of chances on Wednesday night — and lost their wager each time.
That kind of night.
Zack Greinke kept the Twins from collecting any clutch hits, Los Angeles got just enough, and the Dodgers held on earn their 10,000th victory in franchise history, 6-4 in Target Field.
There were about a dozen ways the game might have been different, but Trevor Plouffe’s seventh-inning at-bat stood out. Trailing 5-1 with the bases loaded and two outs, Plouffe watched reliever Chris Withrow throw his first three pitches out of the strike zone. Manager Ron Gardenhire made a quick calculation: Plouffe’s a good fastball hitter and this is a fastball count. He flashed the swing-at-a-strike sign.
“We were excited about that situation. He’s a great fastball hitter,” Gardenhire said. “That’s why he’s here — when you get him in a fastball situation like that, that’s what we want to see.”
Plouffe swung at a high fastball — a little too high. He popped it up to short, and the Twins’ threat was history.
“He tried to get on top. I would have liked to seen it down just a little bit lower, but I’m happy with the way he took a swing at it,” Gardenhire said. “I’m glad he was willing to take that rip.”
Gardenhire had taken a calculated risk himself a few innings earlier, choosing to challenge a play at the plate. Former Twins catcher Drew Butera came home on Hanley Ramirez’s two-out single to left in the third inning, and it appeared that Jason Kubel’s threw beat Butera to the plate. Starting pitcher Kyle Gibson even cheered the play, then appeared shocked by umpire Chris Segal’s safe call.
But catcher Kurt Suzuki tagged Butera in the chest, Segal ruled, a fraction of a second after Butera’s outstretched hand touched home plate. Gardenhire came out to appeal.
“I thought it was really close. We got the thumbs-up [from video coordinator Sean Harlin]. The first view they showed, it looked like [Butera] was out,” Gardenhire said. “Plays like that, it’s a chance to get a run off the board, I take my chances there. ... And my catcher thought he had him.”
But a replay umpire in New York disagreed, ruling that the call stood, tying the score.
That provided all the cushion Greinke (5-0) needed. The righthander, who had been 0-3 with a 5.63 ERA in Target Field, ignored a light but steady rain and 40-degree temperatures to shut down the Twins, giving up seven hits and surrendering only a lone unearned run. The 2009 American League Cy Young Award winner with Kansas City ran his streak to 18 consecutive games of at least five innings pitched and no more than two runs allowed — a record that hasn’t been matched in the majors since 1914.
In turning around his luck at frigid Target Field, Greinke outpitched the Twins’ best starter this season, Kyle Gibson — but it could easily have been the other way around.
“I thought Gibson deserved better. He made pitches, they just put them in the right place,” Gardenhire said of the righthander, who gave up five runs in 6⅔ innings, two of them scoring after he had departed. The Dodgers “got a feather this way and a feather that way. It wasn’t like anybody was killing him, by any means.”
The Dodgers, who date their history back to 1890, join the Giants (10,709), Cubs (10,447) and Braves (10,241) as the only major league franchises to reach the milestone. The Yankees lead the American League, founded in 1901, at 9,962.