KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Usually, there are no saves awarded in an 11-5 victory like the Twins’ over Kansas City on Thursday night. But go ahead and credit Trevor Plouffe with a big save.
Plouffe intercepted Jordan Schafer as he muttered his way past umpire Ron Kulpa, the man at third base who had just called an irate Schafer out on an eighth-inning checked swing, wrapped his arm around his teammate’s shoulder, and escorted him safely to left field. With Plouffe’s intervention, Schafer was still around two innings later to deliver his third hit of the night, a two-run single in a six-run 10th inning that put the Twins’ first victory in five games out of reach.
“He’s hot, the umpire’s hot. Ron took a few steps toward him,” Plouffe said of the strikeout, after which Schafer threw his bat, and then his helmet to the ground in disgust. “I saw the whole thing. It’s your duty as a teammate to defuse that, because we need him in the game.”
Especially when the offense has been so sparse. After scoring one run each of the previous two nights, the Twins erupted, and Schafer was in the middle of it, collecting two singles, a double and four RBI. He doesn’t think he would have collected an ejection, too.
“No, I don’t think so,” Schafer said after raising his batting average to .328 in 21 games with the Twins. “I didn’t think I went around, but I wasn’t going to say anything to him.”
The Twins, though, had something to talk about for once. They took leads of 2-0, 4-2, and 5-4, but Tommy Milone couldn’t hold the first two leads, and Alex Gordon — yes, him again — homered off Ryan Pressly to eliminate the last one. The teams went to extra innings, when the Twins offense finally clicked off veteran lefthander Bruce Chen.
Oswaldo Arcia lined a triple off the center-field wall — “He was thinking triple all the way,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He was running hard out of the box” — and after an intentional walk to Plouffe, Joe Mauer waited out Chen for a walk. Eduardo Nunez broke the tie with a single up the middle, and Schafer brought home two more with a bloop hit to left. By inning’s end, the Twins had scored six runs, and salvaged the final game of a frustrating three-game series with the first-place Royals.
Milone lasted 5⅓ innings, the third consecutive time in four starts with the Twins he failed to finish the sixth inning.
Wednesday was a big night for the Vavra family, so thrilling that Gardenhire joked that “Joe Vavra’s hip is feeling better today.”
Maybe not that good. But the Twins coach’s two sons each made a big play to help their minor league teams clinch playoff berths in walk-off victories, and they did it almost simultaneously.
“They were pretty excited. I call it getting beat up at home plate — it’s fun to get beat up, because if means you’re celebrating,” said Vavra, who will undergo hip replacement surgery next month. “Both boys had great nights, both received ice-bucket baths. That’s always fun.”
Trey Vavra hit the 10th-inning ground ball that scored the winning run in Elizabethton’s 9-8 victory over Kingsport, insuring that the rookie-league Twins will win the West Division of the Appalachian League. Meanwhile, at Class A Cedar Rapids, Tanner Vavra raced home from second on an 11th-inning single to right, slid around a tag at the plate, and reached back to touch it, beating Kane County 3-2 and setting off a celebration now that the Kernels have reached the Midwest League playoffs.
“He sent me video of the play. I don’t know where he learned that” slide, the elder Vavra said. “Kids grow up playing hotbox all day long, and I guess they learn some of that stuff instinctively.”