BOSTON — Three extras from an eventful night in Fenway Park:
When the Twins put two runners on base with nobody out in the seventh inning, Paul Molitor decided to ask Jorge Polanco to bunt them into scoring position. It didn’t go well.
Polanco took a ball from Chris Sale, but then was charged with a strike on the second pitch when first-base umpire Jeff Kellogg ruled he had attempted to bunt a pitch that nearly hit his leg. Twins manager Paul Molitor wasn’t happy with the call. “Now he’s only got one pitch to get the ball down,” Molitor grumbled.
That one didn’t go well, either. Polanco, who has only one sacrifice bunt this season, fouled off Sale’s next pitch, then struck out on a slider. It was the second straight game that Polanco failed to lay down a sacrifice when Molitor signaled for one.
Bunting “should be a part of most guys’ game,” Molitor said. “Is Chris Sale an easy guy to bunt? Probably not. And he got one strike taken away from him. He’s one of our diligent early [workout] guys, so I know it’s not lack of work. Bunting off a coach or a machine is a little different than when a guy can throw that hard, but you’ve got to get it down. I think he got it a little too fine on the second attempt — just get it on the grass somewhere instead of trying to get it down the line.”
Had Polanco successfully bunted, Molitor had another change in mind, too. He had Joe Mauer on the bench, and was considering sending him up to pinch-hit for catcher Chris Gimenez, who had hit a tremendous home run earlier in the game.
“I was considering doing that. I don’t like to go too long in a ballgame with one catcher. If we advance the runners, I probably was going to pull the trigger,” the manager explained. “But once we didn’t get the guy over, I went ahead and let Gimmy take a shot at it.”
That didn’t work out any better than Polanco’s bunt. Facing reliever Heath Hembree, Gimenez grounded a 2-2 cutter to third baseman Tzu-Wei Lin, who triggered an easy 5-4-3 double play, ending the inning.
“That pitch backed up, and he got away with it,” Gimenez said. “Sometimes you can do everything wrong and get away with it. He left it in the middle of the plate, and I let him off the hook.”
Speaking of Gimenez, he hit one of the longest home runs of his career in the third inning, crushing the ball completely out of Fenway Park. It was Gimenez’s fifth home run of the season, which ties his career high set in 2015. It also marks just the second time in his career that he has homered in back-to-back starts; he hit one on Friday in Cleveland.
But none of that was the weird part, at least to Molitor.
“The surprising part to me was that it was an off speed pitch,” the manager said. “He’s kind of a dead-red guy. But he got a hanging slider. It’s good to see — he’s been contributing when he’s been out there.”
Even Gimenez admitted he was surprised at how far the ball went — or that it went at all.
“I felt like I saw the first one he threw really well. He threw another and I just tried to get out front,” Gimenez said. “It feels like the first one I’ve ever hit off an off-speed pitch. And it might be, against a lefty.”