The ball eluded him. Cruz scored. It was 3-1 and the one was Engle’s first-inning homer.
Three innings later, Engle and rookie center fielder Jim Eisenreich failed to communicate on a bloop single by Mariner Joe Simpson. Engle wanted the ball. Eisenreich didn’t hear him and the two bumped each other. The ball was loose, runners advanced to second and third and Maler, up next, hit a sacrifice fly. It was 4-1.
Though not for long. Gaetti hit a three-run homer to deep left field in the bottom of the fourth, two innings after failing in his attempt to get, he says, the first inside-the-park homer of his career. This was the fourth outfield play of the night that hurt the Twins. Mariners center fielder Joe Simpson made it.
When he rounded third, “I felt my legs feeling like lead,” said the 23-year-old third baseman “with the 35-year-old legs.” As he chugged toward Mariners catcher Jim Essian he decided to slide headfirst.
“Actually it was more like a fall than a slide.” Essian tagged his left hand. “Less than six inches. Less than the length of my fingers,” said Gaetti.
Hatcher understood. Three innings later, the Mariners bases were loaded. The score was 7-4 and Maler lofted a dying plopper behind shortstop Roy Smalley and in front of Hatcher.
“I had it. I had it in my glove,” Hatcher said. “But my glove stuck to the turf. It didn’t slide.”
He said it was like a Velcro effect.
“Maybe I’ll put Vaseline on my glove the next time. But my glove hit the turf and I thought I broke my wrist.”
Three runs scored.
What remained was another Gaetti homer, and a two-run single by Kent Hrbek, following an Engel walk and a Smalley double.
What remained was Gaetti saying, “I think anybody that comes in here is going to be a power team. If you bloop the ball it bounces 20 feet and it’s a double.” Or you can hit home runs.
That wasn’t the way the Twins were supposed to win games this year. They were supposed to go with the pitching and the defense. They didn’t last night and they lost.