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

Postgame: Eighth inning full of game-saving plays

    The eighth inning of the Twins’ 2-1 victory over Boston was tense. “It got a little dicey there,” is how manager Paul Molitor put it. But somehow the Twins emerged with their one-run lead intact. Here are three notable things  about that critical inning:

    — Blaine Boyer retired the first two Red Sox hitters easily on ground outs, but Dustin Pedroia’s ground ball up the middle got through the infield for a hit. Then Boyer threw a wild pitch to move the tying run to second, and he ended up walking Mookie Betts. That brought Pablo Sandoval to the plate, Molitor to the mound, and closer Glen Perkins into the game to try to earn his third four-out save of the season.

    One weird problem: The Twins didn’t know whether Sandoval, a switch-hitting third baseman, would hit right- or left-handed. He was hit by a pitch on his left knee a week ago, and it’s still sore. Sandoval batted left-handed against lefty Angels reliever Cesar Ramos over the weekend, and sure enough, he got in the left-handed batters box against Perkins.

    “Pablo hitting left-on-left — we don’t have any charts” to help him align the defense, Molitor said. “Where do you play? We went with straight up.”

    — Sandoval took a strike, then swung at a slider, hitting it up the middle. That’s when Brian Dozier made a play that may have saved the game.  Dozier hustled perhaps eight steps to his left and slid on the grass, knocking the ball down before it could reach the outfield. It was too late to retire a runner, but it saved a run, because Pedroia would surely have scored had the ball gotten through.

    “Luckily he didn’t hit as crisply as he would have liked,” Molitor said. “It gave Dozier an opportunity to slide over there and keep it in the infield. Instinctively, [Dozier] checked Pedroia going around third, and wisely didn’t throw because he didn’t round far enough.”

    — With the bases loaded, Perkins had to face cleanup hitter Hanley Ramirez, a dangerous right-handed hitter — he’s a career .306 hitter against left-handed pitching — without his slider, for fear of bouncing a pitch past catcher Kurt Suzuki. Perkins stuck to fastballs, but threw one in the dirt anyway. Suzuki somehow smothered it, another play that may have saved the Twins’ victory.

    “He’s as good as you could ask for as far as keeping the ball in front,” Molitor said of his All-Star catcher. “When you’ve got the tying run 90 feet away there, that’s a huge situation. And he’s prepared, he knows what’s coming. It’s just [a matter of] staying with the game. It gets tough after you’ve caught 150 pitches. He got the job done in that situation which was very big for us.”

    It was, because Ramirez finally swung at a 2-1 fastball, and sailed it to deep right field, where Eddie Rosario caught it in front of the warning track.

    Inning over. Lead preserved. It was tense, but the Twins got through it.

Twins/Boston underway after delay

    The Twins have won 10 of their last 12 games in Target Field, so they would really like to keep that momentum. The rainy weather that has enveloped the Twin Cities all day makes that a challenge tonight, however.

    It’s still raining at the ballpark, and radar shows it won’t stop for awhile. The second of three games with the Red Sox won’t start at 7:10 p.m. as scheduled, the Twins have already determined, but the team’s forecasters (and those at the National Weather Service) tell them the rain will let up enough to get the game in tonight.

    Both teams would prefer getting the game in, especially the Red Sox, who are scheduled to fly to Texas immediately after tomorrow’s afternoon game for a four-game series with the Rangers. So there is little appetite for a day-night doubleheader on Wednesday.

    The grounds crew has occasionally mopped the standing water off the tarp, and there are no puddles in evidence except on the warning track. The gates have opened, so the team clearly intends to wait out the weather.

    That will make things difficult for scheduled starters Mike Pelfrey and Clay Buchholz, who won’t want to prepare to pitch and then sit around. And the prospect of mid-game delays will be a challenge, too; Twins manager Paul Molitor says he has talked with pitching coach Neil Allen about sending a starter back to the mound after a long delay, but he said he has no set time limit in mind.

    If they play, Torii Hunter will serve as the designated hitter, the same position as his old teammate, David Ortiz, for Boston. Here are the lineups for tonight’s game:

RED SOX

 

Pedroia 2B

Betts CF

Sandoval 3B

Ramirez LF

Ortiz DH

Napoli 1B

Bogaerts SS

Castillo RF

Leon C

 

Buchholz RHP

 

TWINS

 

Dozier 2B

Hunter DH

Mauer 1B

Plouffe 3B

Suzuki C

Escobar LF

Rosario RF

Hicks CF

Santana SS

 

Pelfrey RHP

12:10 PM
Boston 21-25
Minnesota 27-18

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