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La Velle E. Neal III and Phil Miller report on the Twins from wherever they make news

Postgame: Twins beat Orioles because of plays at the plate

    The final score was 6-2 on Thursday, and this little-noticed edge — Gene Glynn 2, Bobby Dickerson 0 — may have been the reason why.

    Those are the Twins’ and Orioles’ third-base coaches, one of whom had a great night and the other a frustrating one.

    Baltimore whacked four hits off Kyle Gibson in the fourth inning, but scored only one run because two players were tagged out in plays at the plate. The Twins also had a four-hit inning, but theirs produced four runs, and the margin of victory, because while they also had two close plays at home, both runners were safe.

    “It was huge,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “They had a potential big inning.”

    They did, but it was foiled by their baserunning. Already leading 2-1, Baltimore got a leadoff single by Chris Davis, followed by Mark Trumbo’s double to center. But when Jonathan Schoop bounced a grounder to third base, Davis broke for the plate and Eduardo Escobar didn’t hesitate. His throw home easily beat Davis, and Juan Centeno tagged him out.

    But one runner cut down wasn’t enough.

    Pedro Alarez then grounded a ball through the hole between first and second base, and Max Kepler came charging in from right field. Trumbo rounded third and tried to speed up, but Kepler unleashed a one-hop throw that Centeno caught in front of the plate and whirled to put the tag on him. It was Kepler’s fifth assist of the season, which leads the Twins. And it was such a big pair of plays, it helped salve the fact that J.J. Hardy then drove in Schoop with a single to left.

    “Escobar cutting that ball off and needing to make an accurate throw, which he did. Kepler charging the ball, getting the ball online, that was the biggest thing to give us a chance,” Molitor said. “They were still able to capitalize, but it could have been a lot more damage there.”

    The Twins did their own damage in the seventh, when with the game tied, Robbie Grossman lined a one-out double. Joe Mauer was intentionally walked, and Brian Dozier followed with a stinging liner to left field. Glynn waved Grossman home, and he reached under Caleb Joseph’s tag with his left hand to score the tie-breaking run. 

    Kepler then grounded a pitch from Chaz Roe into right field, and this time it was Mauer sliding home, feet-first, just ahead of the tag, to make it 4-2. The game was broken open when Eddie Rosario mashed a pitch over center fielder Adam Jones’ head, a triple that scored Dozier and Kepler.

Escobar at third, Nunez at short as Twins meet Orioles in makeup game

    Eduardo Nunez has received plenty of accolades for his breakout season this year, most particularly as the Twins’ representative to the All-Star Game. He got another one on Thursday when manager Paul Molitor posted his lineup for tonight’s makeup game with the Orioles.

    Nunez is the shortstop.

    That may not seem like news, since Nunez has played the position, his preferred position, 50 times this season. But here’s what is different: Eduardo Escobar is in the lineup, too. Until tonight, and as recently as July 17, when both are in the lineup, Escobar has been the shortstop and Nunez has shifted to third base.

    “This is something I considered over the All-Star break,” Molitor said of his decision to make Escobar his primary utility infielder, and allow Nunez to settle in at just one position for the first time since joining the Twins. “Escobar is kind of the utility guy now, so he’s got to play around the infield. And Nunez deserves” to be able to focus on just one spot for now.

    Escobar will play second base, too, Molitor said. He hasn’t played third base in a year, since July 25, 2015, and his five games at the position last year all came with Danny Santana at short. But Escobar has been taking ground balls all over the infield in the past week, Molitor said.

    It’s a sign of respect for the season that Nunez has had, despite going just 9-for-52 (.137) since the All-Star break. He’s batting .300, leads the AL in stolen bases with 26, and is seventh in the league in singles, with 82. It’s also a night off for Miguel Sano, who has only two hits and eight strikeouts in his last three games.

    Tonight’s game is a makeup of the May 9 rainout, and one last chance to avoid being swept by Baltimore in the season series. The Twins opened 2016 with three straight losses at Camden Yards, and dropped both games at Target Field in May, losing 5-3 and 9-2. 

    Here are the lineups for tonight’s 6:10 p.m. game:

 

ORIOLES

 

Jones CF

Kim LF

Machado 3B

Davis 1B

Trumbo RF

Schoop 2b

Alvarez DH

Hardy SS

Joseph C

 

Jimenez RHP

 

TWINS

 

Nunez SS

Grossman DH

Mauer 1B

Dozier 2B

Kepler RF

Rosario LF

Escobar 3B

Centeno C

Buxton CF

 

Gibson RHP