CHICAGO – Baseball’s replay- challenge rule is brand new this year, as is Samuel Deduno’s role in the Twins bullpen. Both still have a few bugs to be worked out.
Manager Ron Gardenhire successfully objected to a call on the field in replay’s first-ever use in a Twins game Wednesday, but the deliberation took so long, Gardenhire felt it necessary to pull his starting pitcher. Deduno made his first relief appearance in three years, and his pitches were moving so much, two of them got past catcher Kurt Suzuki, including the game-winner. Glen Perkins blew a save, Trevor Plouffe bounced a critical throw to the plate, and Joe Mauer extended the second-longest hitting drought of his career — so yeah, lots of unusual, and mostly bad, things were going on.
It all added up to a 7-6, 11-inning loss to the White Sox that could have been prevented in so many ways. “Ultimately, when you have the lead and get the ball to your closer, you feel pretty good about it,” Gardenhire said. “It just didn’t work out.”
It didn’t, and the ending was as bizarre as the rest of the game. The Twins had used five pitchers already when Deduno, a converted starter making his first relief appearance since April 9, 2011, was summoned to pitch in a windy, 32-degree chill. Deduno, who never is sure where the ball is headed even when he’s at his best, got two quick strikes on ninth-batter Leury Garcia, who then made the risky decision to bunt with two strikes. The ball rolled just inches inside the third-base line, and Garcia was on.
From there, it was a race to see whether Deduno’s unhittable pitches could retire the White Sox before his self-destructiveness could give the game away. Turned out to be the latter.
“I came in to do my job,” Deduno said with a shrug, “[and] nothing happened good [Wednesday].”
First, he skipped coming set as he pitched to Adam Eaton, and Garcia moved up on the balk. Eaton struck out.
Then, he skipped a fastball past Kurt Suzuki while Marcus Semien batted, and Garcia reached third. Semien struck out.
After an intentional walk to Jose Abreu, Deduno ran the count to 3-2 on Adam Dunn, with Suzuki knocking down a couple of wild ones. And with the count full, Suzuki called for a curveball. “It’s the right pitch in the right situation,” Suzuki said. “If we get in the same situation, I’ll call the same pitch again.”
But the ball bounced in the dirt and to the backstop, and Garcia danced home with the game-winner, dropping the Twins to 0-2 this season and wasting an impressive comeback from a 3-1 deficit.
That rally, which featured three RBI by Plouffe and run-scoring doubles by Jason Kubel and Suzuki, put the game in Perkins’ hands with a 6-4 lead in the ninth. But three quick singles, none hit particularly hard, and a wild pitch made the score 6-5 and brought the infield in with Dayan Viciedo at third base. Eaton then hit a two-hopper to Plouffe, who charged the ball and threw home.
His throw, however, bounced in front of the catcher and short-hopped him, giving Suzuki no chance to tag Viciedo, who scored the tying run. In fact, had the ball not ricocheted off umpire Dan Iassogna, it likely would have bounced to the dugout and ended the game right then. “It’s a do-or-die play,” Plouffe said. “I was coming in, charging the ball. Viciedo was off on contact, and I didn’t make a throw. … It’s baseball.”
He’s not the only one who feels that way. Joe Mauer went 0-for-4 for his fourth consecutive game (extending back to last season), and the three-time batting champion’s 0-for-19 skid is now only two away from his career longest.
Then there’s Perkins, the usually reliable closer. He retired Semien and Dunn (who had homered earlier off Jared Burton) to send the game to extra innings, but his first appearance of the season registered as a blown save.
“Two broken-bat hits and a chopper to third,” Perkins said. “I made enough pitches to have a good inning.”
Correia made enough good pitches to earn his first win, too, but he only threw 82 of them. He retired 13 of the last 15 hitters he faced, and expected to pitch the seventh. But when a three-run Twins rally extended the inning, and Gardenhire’s challenge of a dropped fly ball took more than five minutes to resolve, he was told he was finished.
A few innings later, so were the Twins.