Startribune.com digital sports editor Howard Sinker used to cover the Twins and now shares season tickets with friends in Section 219 of Target Field. He blogs about baseball from the perspective of a long-time fan who loves the game, doesn’t always believe the hype and likes hearing what others think. Howard sometimes talks about sports with Cathy Wurzer on MPR's Morning Edition.
Those of us from the smallest crowd ever at Target Field who were still in our seats in the ninth inning weren't expecting much. After all, Gardy had used his entire skinny bench and there was no choice but for Eduardo Escobar to bat. That's the Eduardo Escobar who brought a .217 career batting average to the plate -- complete with more strikeouts (32) than hits (30) -- from his previous two short stints in the majors.
With two on, one out and the Twins trailing by one, you wished that Gardy and Terry Ryan had opted for one more bat on the bench instead of Wilken Ramirez, who had driven in the other run, and the small-ballers Escobar, Jamey Carroll and Darin Mastroianni.
Escobar walked to the plate and I said aloud, "Prove my cynicism unfounded, Escobar!"
Who would have thought that two full games into the season, the longest ball hit by a Twins player would come off the bat on Escobar, a little guy taking a big-guy swing that would have gotten him chastised -- "trying to do too much" -- if the ball hadn't kept sailing through the wind toward the wall in left-center -- and the Tigers outfielders hadn't been doing their best Delmon Youngs in pursuit.
The ball skipped against the wall and the Twins went all giddy on the field. A couple of years back, when they were on the outside of the division title chase in July -- just before starting their miserable slide -- the Twins beat Cleveland in similar walk-off fashion and the guys were chastised by some for a disproportionate-looking celebration. Someone got their jersey buttons ripped, if I remember correctly, and the wise consensus was that the guys should have acted like they'd been there and winning in that manner was no big deal.
Things have changed a lot. The Twins ran on the field and pounded one another in celebration. Josh Willingham gave Escobar the first big hug and Pedro Florimon almost jumped over both of them with a gleeful leap. Phil Coke walked toward the Tigers dugout alone and talking to himself, far different demeanor from when he retired Justin Morneau and Ryan Doumit to end the season opener.
On a chilly late afternoon, it all seemed appropriate because this group of Twins hadn't been there before.
And anyone who says they were anticipating "Eduardo Escobar, off the wall, walk-off double" is a liar.
Day game today. Enjoy.
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