The prospect of being swept at home by a last-place ballclub motivated the Twins enough to dodge that fate. Still, their series finale was no cruise.
The Washington Nationals were 9-25 a month ago, and yet, for several agonizing moments Sunday, the Twins faced the prospect of getting swept by this woebegone squad.
No team coming off a 96-victory season can justify a weekend like that, especially at home, especially when its next nine games are against the Braves, Brewers and Mets.
So after the umpires overturned a two-run Washington homer, after his top relievers bailed out Boof Bonser, after his team singled and doubled its way to a 6-3 victory, manager Ron Gardenhire didn't sugarcoat his assessment.
"A grind-em-out win, which we needed desperately," he said.
Now 30-31, the Twins could have used a sweep themselves to start gaining traction on Cleveland and Detroit, but they lost the first two games to a pair of their former farmhands, Jason Simontacchi and Levale Speigner.
Would Mike Bacsik be added to the list on How Do You Like Me Now Weekend? He is, after all, the son of a pitcher by the same name who made 41 relief appearances for the Twins between 1979 and 1980.
It might have happened, but before Bacsik threw his first pitch, the Nationals had two runs wiped off the scoreboard.
With two outs and one runner aboard in the first inning, Dmitri Young hit a towering blast several rows deep into the right field upper deck. Young barely moved, thinking it was foul, but first base umpire Ron Kulpa signaled home run.
Bonser and catcher Mike Redmond started fuming, and Gardenhire came running from the dugout to argue.
The umpires gathered and reversed Kulpa's decision: foul ball.
Crew chief Dale Scott said three of the four umpires saw the ball go foul.
"The key on that is just getting the play right," Scott said.
Of the time it took the umpires to decide, Bonser said: "It was a long minute and a half. It seemed like forever."
But to Gardenhire, time seemed to stand still watching Bonser, who gave up nine hits and two walks while throwing 95 pitches in five innings.
The Twins used run-scoring singles from Jason Bartlett and Torii Hunter to take a 3-0 lead in the first inning. But the Nationals climbed back to make it 4-3 in the fifth.
"Boof was really ugly," Gardenhire said. "I don't know how to describe it. As somebody said in the dugout, it was like watching paint dry. Too much time on the field. Too many guys on base. But he got through it somehow."
Gardenhire turned to Matt Guerrier with that one-run lead in the sixth. Guerrier got five outs, Pat Neshek got four and Joe Nathan got the final three for his 14th save.
By the end, the Twins had 15 hits -- 13 singles and two doubles -- and Bonser (5-2) had his fifth victory in six starts.
|Chicago WSox - LP: J. Guerra||2||FINAL|
|Cleveland - WP: B. Shaw||3|
|Pittsburgh - LP: F. Liriano||3||FINAL|
|Cincinnati - WP: J. Cueto||6|
|Miami - LP: B. Hand||1||FINAL|
|NY Mets - WP: J. deGrom||9|
|Washington - WP: T. Roark||10||FINAL|
|Philadelphia - LP: K. Kendrick||3|
|Toronto - LP: R. Dickey||0||FINAL|
|Tampa Bay - WP: D. Price||3|
|St. Louis - LP: C. Martinez||2||FINAL|
|Milwaukee - WP: W. Peralta||11|
|Boston - WP: C. Buchholz||11||FINAL|
|Houston - LP: B. Peacock||0|
|Detroit - LP: J. Verlander||2||FINAL|
|Kansas City - WP: Y. Ventura||5|
|Atlanta - WP: J. Teheran||10||FINAL|
|Chicago Cubs - LP: T. Wood||7|
|LA Angels - WP: T. Skaggs||10||FINAL|
|Texas - LP: S. Baker||7|
|Arizona - LP: V. Nuno||4||FINAL|
|San Francisco - WP: M. Bumgarner||8|
|San Diego - LP: T. Ross||0||FINAL|
|Los Angeles - WP: H. Ryu||1|
|Minnesota - WP: P. Hughes||13||FINAL|
|Colorado - LP: B. Anderson||5|
|Oakland - WP: S. Gray||4||FINAL|
|Seattle - LP: C. Young||1|
|NY Yankees - LP: C. Whitley||1||FINAL|
|Baltimore - WP: K. Gausman||3|