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

Postgame: Is Rogers a potential late-inning pitcher? Molitor thinks so

    Plenty of extras from a short night at the ballpark: 

   Taylor Rogers is left-handed, and the Mariners have a bunch of right-handed pinch-hitters, but Paul Molitor had a hunch. And it paid off.

    Rogers struck out the side in the eighth inning, whiffing three straight pinch-hitters to protect the Twins’ one-run lead and further cement himself in the team’s plans for next season. He looks like a natural set-up man, perhaps paired with right-hander Ryan Pressly.

    “I have to say, he’s done a pretty nice job of establishing himself with what he’s done. There’s a lot to like about Taylor Rogers, including the way he handles himself late in games,” Molitor, the Twins’ manager, said. “It hasn’t always gone perfectly, but he seems to be a guy who can be fairly resilient and not timid.”

    So is he late-inning material?

    “I would think that’s a pretty safe bet,” Molitor said.

XXX

    Miguel Sano makes no secret of his admiration for Robinson Cano, his fellow Dominican infielder, whose career he would like to emulate. So Sano appears to be clearly trying to impress his friend when they’re in the same ballpark.

    “It’s really fun to play with him. I’ve known him a long time,” Sano said after the Twins’ 3-2 win on Saturday. “My mom and father, they love Cano. … Now I be here with him.”

    So Sano enjoyed lining a home run just inside the foul pole in the fourth inning, putting the Twins in front just moments after the Mariners had tied the game.

    But in the ninth inning, after Cano led off with a single, Sano dropped a double-play grounder hit to him by Nelson Cruz, giving the Mariners a chance to rally. Fortunately for Sano, Kyle Seager then hit another grounder to him, and this time Sano didn’t muff it. He grabbed the ball, stepped on third base to retire Cano, and fired across the diamond to get Seager, too.

    Cano basically congratulated him on the play as they stood at third. “He said I need to keep going, play defense, catch the ball. Don’t worry about what happened, just make another play,” Sano said.

    Twins manager Paul Molitor knows how much Sano admires the veteran Mariner (and former Yankee). “I think Miggy likes some of those things, [like] playing against really good players that he’s befriended. He likes big stages like New York. He looks forward to some of those things that a major-league opportunity brings you,” Molitor said. “I see him making eye contact over in that [visiting] dugout quite a bit, which we’re going to try to clean up just a little. But he had a bit home run, and made a big play after a misplay, which is good to see.”

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    The Twins hit two home runs on Saturday, and now have 192 on the season. That’s the fifth-most ever for Minnesota, and while the franchise record of 126, set in 1963, is out of reach, they can still become just the third Twins team ever to hit 200 home runs.

    Too bad they’ll probably get only eight runs out of those next eight homers. The Twins are hitting homers but getting little other offense, which explains why their last nine home runs, and 25 of their last 29, have come with the bases empty.

XXX

    Let’s hear it for short games: Tonight’s game lasted two hours, six minutes, making it the quickest game at Target Field since June 15, 2011, a 4-1 win over the White Sox that also lasted 2:06. That, several Twitter posters pointed out, was the Carl Pavano / Gavin Floyd game in which both teams were trying to beat a rainstorm that arrived just after the final out.

    The game didn’t come close to the stadium record, though: A 1:52 nine-inning rush between Pavano and Mark Buehrle, of course, back on July 17, 2010.

Duffey takes the mound for Twins vs. playoff-minded Mariners

    Amid all the negative numbers that are swirling around Target Field — the Twins could lose their 100th game tonight, for example, or clinch the worst record in the majors — there is a positive one that’s still achievable. Though it, too, could be framed as a negative.

    Tyler Duffey, 8-11 in a disappointing sophomore season, starts tonight against the Mariners, and he’ll pitch again next Friday in Chicago. And he is the only starting pitcher remaining who has a shot at double-digit victories if he can win them both.

    Never in franchise history have the Twins had zero pitchers with at least nine wins, and only three times — in 1981, 2011 and 2013 — have they failed to have a 10-game winner. Obviously, those numbers, like a lot of others, are being swept away by the awfulness that this season has been in Minnesota.

    Duffey hasn’t pitched in 10 days, with manager Paul Molitor electing to give him a “mental break” after giving up at least five runs in four consecutive starts. Duffey hasn’t recorded a win since Aug. 13 and his ERA has ballooned to 6.39, yet he’s the winningest pitcher on the Twins’ staff.

    “I’m looking for a guy to go out there and show that he’s going to be aggressive,” Molitor said. “He’s basically, mostly a two-pitch guy. He commands his fastball [in order to] get people to swing at his breaking ball. But he’s had some issues with consistency.”

    Yes, that’s a polite way to put it.

    It’s the penultimate game at Target Field this season, and it means a lot to Seattle: With a victory, the Mariners could pull within one game of the final wild card playoff spot. They’ll send lefthander Ariel Miranda to the mound.

    Joe Mauer is not in the Twins’ lineup today, but Molitor said he hopes Mauer’s legs will feel well enough to allow him to play in the home finale tomorrow.

    Here are the lineups for tonight’s game:

MARINERS

 

Aoki LF

Smith RF

Cano 2B

Cruz DH

Seager 3B

Lind 1B

Martin CF

Zunino C

Marte SS

 

Miranda LHP

 

TWINS

 

Dozier 2B

Polanco SS

Grossman DH

Sano 3B

Vargas 1B

Kepler RF

Murphy C

Schafer LF

Buxton CF

 

Duffey RHP

Final, 9/24 R H E
Seattle 81-73 2 5 0
Minnesota 56-99 3 3 2