A few extras from another dreary loss by the Twins:
Paul Molitor was careful not to blame Trevor Plouffe for not turning an inning-ending double play in the third inning, which turned out to be perhaps the decisive play in the Twins’ 9-4 loss. Had Plouffe’s relay to second base, after fielding Erick Aybar’s hard grounder and touching first, been in time to get Cameron Maybin, the Twins would have been back in the dugout with a 1-1 tie. Instead, Detroit took advantage of the extra out by tacking on five runs, first with a Miguel Cabrera double, then a J.D. Martinez single and finally, a Justin Upton three-run homer.
“I hate to categorize that as a missed double play. It was a nice play to field the ball, [and] it wasn’t really an option to try to get the force at second first because the play took him right to the bag,” Molitor explained. “It’s one of those spin-and-fire [plays]. I haven’t looked to see if a strong, accurate throw potentially might have ended [the inning], but it was against the odds that it was going to happen.”
Probably true. But so is this: A more experienced, nimble first baseman might have turned a near-impossible situation into an out. It’s not really Plouffe’s fault that he couldn’t; he’s a third baseman asked to handle a new position. But those are the type of plays that the best teams make.
Then there’s the base-running, which cost the Twins one and perhaps two runs on Wednesday, cost them a chance to build an early lead.
Brian Dozier led off the first inning with a two-strike single, and Robbie Grossman drew his first walk in a week. When Miguel Sano followed with a deep fly ball to right field, Dozier tagged up and moved to third, easily beating a throw. But Grossman held his ground at first base.
“We talked to Robbie about that,” Molitor said. “We thought he could have advanced when Dozier went to third.” Because he didn’t, he advanced only to second on Trevor Plouffe’s one-out single, and only to third on Jorge Polanco’s bloop hit to center. He could have scored on either hit had he moved up on the fly ball.
Then Polanco, a rookie, made a rookie mistake, one that drew an audible sigh from Molitor as he began to describe it. With bases loaded and one out, Eduardo Escobar hit a roller to Kevin Romine at second base. The ball, Polanco and Romine arrived at the same spot at nearly the same moment, and the second baseman tried to tag the baserunner. Polanco avoided the tag, but was called out for leaving the baseline, and Romine complete the inning-ending double play with a quick throw to first, beating Escobar.
Molitor pulled Polanco aside between innings to point out his fundamental mistake there: Don’t run into the tag. Polanco should have stopped between bases and forced Romine into a difficult decision.
“Any time you’re on first in a first-and-third or bases-loaded, one-out situation, you have to think ahead about that softer-hit ball to the second baseman. There’s just not a way you can allow them to finish the double play to get off the field,” Molitor said. “If they take it the routine route, and [throw] to second and they still beat us, that’s fine. Ideally, he tries to chase you down.”
In that case, he probably can’t get the ball to first in time to complete the double play. Or, if he throws to first for the out and then get Polanco in a rundown, the run counts because the out is no longer a force. But Polanco handed the Tigers a way out of the inning.
“I think he thought he could outrun the play,” Molitor said. “You see that happen a lot. But when you see the ball hit softly to second, you’ve just got to stop as fast as you can.”
Almost overlooked: Miguel Sano singled in the eighth inning. That broke an 0-for-24 skid that has pulled his batting average down to .239.
Hector Santiago’s left thumb is bruised, and has affected his grip on the baseball. The Twins aren’t certain whether the minor injury has contributed to his terrible first month with his new team, but they’ve decided to find out.
Santiago’s next start, scheduled for Friday in Toronto, will be taken by another lefthander, Pat Dean, Twins manager Paul Molitor said, in order to give the thumb a chance to heal completely.
“We talked about our options, whether you want to have him try to pitch through it or back him off for a start. We thought that was the best option given how much he’s been out there this year,” Molitor said of Santiago, who has thrown nearly 140 innings for the Angels and Twins in 2016. “We’ll give him a little extra time to get it feeling a little better.”
The Twins would like to feel better about his pitching, too. Santiago, acquired in an Aug. 1 trade for Alex Meyer and Ricky Nolasco, has made four starts as a Twin and has been progressively worse in each, allowing four runs, then five, then seven and, last Saturday in Kansas City, eight runs in just 4 2/3 innings. His ERA in Minnesota stands at 10.89.
“Maybe this will help him. You’re hoping he has a good finish here,” Molitor said. “I’m sure he hasn’t been overly pleased with how it’s gone initially here, and maybe [his thumb] has been a part of it.