CHICAGO – After all that had happened, the rain delay and the various rundowns and the defensive mistakes and White Sox home runs, the Twins’ 5-2 victory over Chicago came down to one critical play Tuesday night: an intentional walk.
That was the White Sox’ big mistake, telling Joe Mauer to take his base — not because of the strategy, but because of who it offended. “I don’t think it’s smart. But I like it [because] I’m focused to have a better at-bat,” said Eddie Rosario, who turned that motivation into a tie-breaking, ninth-inning single. “I know everybody respects Joe Mauer. But I don’t like [getting] no respect.”
You’d think the White Sox would know better, considering Rosario has driven in a dozen runs against them this season, more than anyone except Detroit’s Nick Castellanos. But Sox reliever Jace Fry fell behind Rosario 3-1, then tried to sneak a low fastball past him. Didn’t work.
“Line drive. Base hit,” Rosario said of the fat pitch. “I tried to [drive] in the RBI to finish the game.”
He did, looping the ball into center field, then moving up to second when Adam Engel bobbled it. Jorge Polanco followed with a two-run single of his own, and the Twins had made a wreck of what White Sox fans had hoped would be the kickoff of the Michael Kopech Era.
Kopech, the much-hyped pitching prospect who was acquired from Boston in the Chris Sale trade, was the center of attention for only two innings, thanks to a sudden summer shower. He threw 52 pitches, most of them at 97 miles per hour, and struck out four, with the crowd roaring at his every move. They cheered him from the moment he stepped out of the dugout to warm up, after all.
That’s the sort of thing that motivates Rosario, too.
“A really good fastball,” Rosario said of Kopech, though the Twins outfielder followed Mauer’s first-inning single with one of his own. “I didn’t want to be the first strikeout for this guy. I think we’ll see this guy a lot.”
The White Sox will see Jose Berrios a lot, too, and that seems to be good for the Twins. Berrios, 6-1 with a 2.24 ERA in his career against the White Sox, waited out the hourlong delay, did his best to stay warm, and convinced Twins manager Paul Molitor to leave him in the game. He gave up a solo home run to Nicky Delmonico, but no other Sox hitter reached second base.
The Twins, who had scored nearly all their runs on home runs over the past five days, instead relied on crafty baserunning to take the lead Tuesday. With one out in the fourth inning, three consecutive singles, the last by Robbie Grossman, produced one run to tie the score, and left Jake Cave on third base and Grossman on first. Molitor signaled for a hit-and-run, but Bobby Wilson missed the sign. Grossman took off for second base — and stopped halfway, realizing he was going to be out.
But as White Sox first baseman Matt Davidson finally tracked down Grossman and tagged him out, Cave broke for the plate and easily beat Davidson’s throw, giving the Twins a 2-1 lead.
“Jake made a nice read,” Molitor said. “They got a little overcommitted on the tag, and Jake got a good jump.”
Behind the strong pitching of Berrios and Gabriel Moya, that lead held up into the seventh inning. But after retiring five of the first six batters he faced, Moya finally slipped up against Yoan Moncada — who, like Kopech, came to Chicago in the Sale trade. A hanging changeup on a 1-1 count wound up in the left-field seats, tying the game on Moncada’s 16th home run.
That merely set up Chicago’s decision to walk Mauer in the ninth. Their biggest mistake.