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

Postgame: Nolasco rethinks first-pitch approach

    Three left-overs from a Memorial Day matinee:

    — The Twins preach first-pitch strikes, and Ricky Nolasco is one of the biggest proponents. But Nolasco said a change of strategy helped him against the Red Sox on Monday.

    “Normally, you go out there and challenge [hitters], but I tried that the past couple of starts,” with so-so results, Nolasco said. “I know the scouting report on me is [to] swing early because I’m going to be throwing a lot of strikes.”

    But Nolasco said he was just laying fastballs in the strike zone, in hopes of getting ahead in the count, unchallenged. “I’m thinking, free strike. But guys have been coming out swinging [at the] first-pitch fastball.”

    His solution: focus on making the first pitch good, but not too good. He had only14 first-pitch strikes against 29 batters, and he used sliders and curveballs rather than fastballs. “You can be more aggressive, but guys have been swinging on me while I’m trying to be aggressive. [So I’m] just making a conscious effort to make a better pitch so guys can’t ambush me,” he said.

    — The Twins piled up 16 hits in one game Monday, or five more than the 11 they managed during the entire three-game series the last time they played Boston, last July in Fenway Park. They also scored more runs in the first two innings (seven) than they had in the previous 37 innings (six) against the Red Sox.

    — Manager Paul Molitor was especially pleased with the first inning of Monday’s game. The first two Red Sox hitters singled, but Nolasco got David Ortiz to fly out and Hanley Ramirez to hit into a 5-4-3 double play. Then Brian Dozier led off the Twins’ hand with a bloop double to left, moved up a base on Torii Hunter’s ground out to second, and scored on a sacrifice fly by Joe Mauer. “We come out of the top half unscathed, and we come back and have some good at-bats to manufacture a run,” Molitor said.

Twins open homestand with best record since 2010

    At 25-18, the Twins open a weeklong homestand at Target Field today with their best record since the final day of the 2010 season. 

    Brian Dozier hopes you’ve noticed.

    “You don’t want to get too high or too low in this game, but at the same time, we’re going good, and I think people need to see that,” said the Twins’ second baseman. “Get on the bandwagon and come on with us. We’re going good, so let’s go.”

    The clubhouse excitement is understandable; Dozier has played in 429 games in his career, but only 192 victories, so he has good reason to enjoy it. “Every time you win,” he said, “you enjoy it as much as possible.”

    The Twins had optimism as they left spring camp, but not as much Fort Myers’ other spring residents, the Red Sox. But while the Twins’ pitching has taken a big step forward from a year ago, Boston’s has fallen apart. Four of the Red Sox’ five starters own ERAs over 5.00, and as a result, Boston has had only one winning streak even three games long so far this season. The Red Sox have been outscored by 32 runs this year, the second-worst differential (after Chicago) in the American League.

    The teams will play seven times in the next 11 days, beginning with this Memorial Day matinee, so it’ll feel a little like spring training.

    It’s worth remembering that the last time these teams met in the regular season, last July in Fenway Park, the Twins held the Red Sox to five runs in three games — and got swept. On the other hand, none of the three Boston starters who held the Twins to two runs in the series remain on the roster. And the Twins have been hitting lately.

    Both teams will wear special Memorial Day uniforms for the 1 p.m. game, with camouflage brims on the caps, and camouflage lettering on the uniforms.

    Here are the lineups for today’s game:

RED SOX

 

Pedroia 2B

Betts CF

Ortiz DH

Ramirez LF

Sandoval 3B

Napoli 1B

Bogaerts SS

Nava RF

Swihart C

 

Kelly RHP

 

TWINS

 

Dozier 2B

Hunter RF

Mauer 1B

Plouffe 3B

Suzuki C

Escobar SS

Nunez DH

Rosario LF

Hicks CF

 

Nolasco RHP

7:10 PM (FSN)
Boston 21-24
Minnesota 26-18

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