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

Postgame: Gomez's aggressiveness helped the Twins

    Three extras from the finale of an interesting series with the first-place Astros:

    Carlos Gomez likes to disrupt things, but sometimes his best efforts backfire. The former Twins outfielder singled to lead off the second inning Sunday, and made sure Ervin Santana’s focus was on him a lot of the time. Santana threw to first base six times to hold him close, but when Luis Valbuena flied out to the warning track in left field, Gomez tagged up and easily moved up a base.

    Then he took a 15-foot lead off second base, forcing Brian Dozier and then Eduardo Escobar to edge closer to the bag. Santana threw over two more times, but Gomez was able to get back.

    “We all know Gomez tries to be aggressive,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “His lead looked enormous from the dugout, and I think Ervin was aware of that. Even with two outs, we threw there multiple times.”

    On the ninth pickoff throw of the inning, Gomez had finally gone too far. Santana whirled and whipped the ball to Escobar, who tagged Gomez’s head before his arm could reach the bag. Gomez was only the fifth runner picked off by Santana in his 11-year career, and his first since last June while with Atlanta.

    “That was a big out,” Molitor said. “When you can get outs on the base paths defensively, it helps your cause.”    

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        As Santana endured a terrible month of August, there was growing concern that the veteran righthander might be tipping his pitches. But Molitor said the Twins examined video of his starts and could find no evidence of it.

    “We really didn’t see much,” Molitor said. “We made sure we were locked in on him today, both from the stretch and the windup, and everything looked clean from our vantage point. Obviously, it looked a little different from the other dugout, but what we saw looked good.”

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    Eduardo Nunez didn’t play Saturday, so it was easy to miss a milestone in his career. When he bashed a Lance McCullers pitch off the ribbon scoreboard fronting the upper deck in left field, it marked the first time in Nunez’s career that he had hit home runs in back-to-back games.

    It also gave the Twins some breathing room after holding a 1-0 lead for six innings.

    “We weren’t able to put much together against McCullers. He really settled in” after a three-walk first inning, Molitor said. “But Nunez worked a good at-bat and he got a breaking ball on 3-and-2, which he hammered. It was nice to get a little separation there.”

Santana makes fourth attempt at first Target Field win

    Paul Molitor has been watching replays of Ervin Santana’s starts lately. Pinpointing the problem is easy, he said. Solving it, that’s the tricky part.

    “Missing his spots with the fastball is a big part of where it starts,” the Twins’ manager said. Pitching coach Neil Allen has spotted some minor mechanical adjustments, Molitor said, and has been trying to help the veteran righthander incorporate them as he prepares for today’s game against the Astros.

    “He’s been working hard between his starts,” Molitor said. “He’s had enough experience to where you hope something clicks for him.”

    Santana has a 9.12 ERA in his five August starts, and doesn’t have a win since July 23. And he’s been even worse in Target Field: a 9.77 ERA in his three home starts, with opponents batting .343 against him.

    The 32-year-old Santana has a carefree air about him, smiling through all the losses. But Molitor said fans shouldn’t take that as a sign he doesn’t care about how he’s pitching. “I know he’s got a little bit different demeanor, he’s not a real external guy in terms of what you see out there,” Molitor said. “But I know that’s not indicative of the passion and the competitiveness that he has. I know he wants to help us out here, and hopefully today is the beginning of that.”

    The Twins can win their third straight series with a victory, important with another 10-day road trip looming next weekend.

    Trevor Plouffe is getting a breather today, after playing every game this month. Eduardo Nunez, who homered on Friday, will start in his place.

    “People aren’t always happy when I make those decisions. He’s been at it consistently for us. He’s had a good year,” Molitor said. “But it seems like he’s been battling a little bit. [This will] give him a chance to back off, and then get back in there” on Tuesday.

    Kurt Suzuki and Torii Hunter also get the standard day-game-after-a-night-game break, with Chris Herrmann and Shane Robinson taking their place. On the Houston side, shortstop Carlos Correa remains out with a hamstring injury, meaning Twins fans won’t have a chance to see the likely AL Rookie of the Year until next season.

    Here are the lineups for today’s series finale with Houston:

ASTROS

 

Altuve 2B

Gonzalez SS

Gattis DH

Rasmus RF

Gomez CF

Valbuena 3B

Carter 1B

Conger C

Marisnick LF

 

McCullers RHP

 

TWINS

 

Dozier 2B

Escobar SS

Mauer 1B

Sano DH

Rosario RF

Nunez 3B

Robinson LF

Herrmann C

Buxton CF

 

Santana RHP

Final, 8/30 R H E
Houston 72-59 5 12 0
Minnesota 67-63 7 8 0

Today's Scoreboard

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    Toronto

     

    - F

    2

    9

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    - F

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    9

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    4

    5

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    6

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    4

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    4

    7

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    6

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    - F

    5

    7

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    - F

    0

    6

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    - F

    7

    5

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    7

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    72

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    61

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    New York

     

    - F

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