When you’re facing an All-Star who’s mowing down your hitters and rarely makes a mistake — say, an Ervin Santana type Wednesday — what can a manager do about it? If you’re Angels manager Mike Scioscia, you try to create runs any way you can.
He called for a squeeze bunt, but Santana foiled it with an athletic play. And with two on and two outs in the sixth inning, after Albert Pujols failed to drive in a run, Scioscia signaled for a double steal. Kole Calhoun broke for second, catcher Jason Castro threw toward the bag, and Cameron Maybin sprinted for the plate, beating Brian Dozier’s relay back to Castro.
It was the first successful steal of home against the Twins in 14 years — and it ended up being decisive in Minnesota’s 2-1 loss to the Angels. The Twins still won two of the three games in the series.
“Mike, he’s always been aggressive,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “Their team knows how to run the bases, so it’s not surprising they’re looking to do those things in a well-pitched game to try to find a way to steal runs. We didn’t execute well enough.”
And the shame of it for the Twins was, Santana executed his job about as well as it can be done. The Twins’ ace, who steps up to a national stage at the All-Star Game in Miami next Tuesday, scattered seven hits, constantly worked ahead in counts, and forced Scioscia to resort to baserunning plays to score runs.
“Those are the toughest games for a manager,” Molitor said. “You get an effort like that, it’s hard to squander those. They’re hard to come by.”
Santana, who made one real mistake — a first-pitch, heart-of-the-plate fastball that Kole Calhoun drilled nearly 420 feet to right in the first inning — was so dominant, he even changed Molitor’s mind about removing him.
The pair had agreed in the dugout after the eighth inning that if an Angel reached base in the ninth inning, Santana, whose pitch count was already well over 100, was coming out. So after Andrelton Simmons’ two-out single, Santana held the baseball out for the manager, and stepped toward the dugout. But Molitor stopped him.
“I tried to give him the ball, and he said, ‘No no no no,’ ” Santana said. “ ‘We talked about [a situation with] nobody out. But two outs, you’re staying in.’ I said, ‘Thank you.’ ”
He quickly retired Cliff Pennington on a ground ball — the 17th Angel out recorded on a ground ball — and Molitor exhorted the team to score a couple of runs for its ace.
“Ervin was tremendous. We had chances. Just couldn’t get a hit at the right time,” Molitor said. “I felt pretty good, even late, that we were going to find a way to put one up there.”
Didn’t happen, though, because Angels rookie Parker Bridwell and the bullpen were almost as effective as the former Angel Santana. The Twins managed four hits and three walks in six innings, and after David Hernandez surrendered Minnesota’s first run on three singles, Cam Bedrosian and Bud Norris pitched perfect innings to make the lead — scored on the first steal of home against the Twins since Chicago’s Brian Daubach swiped the plate on April 27, 2003 — hold up.
“We didn’t lose on that, because we had opportunities,” Molitor said after his offense went 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position. “We have different plays that we run [on double steals]. We just didn’t execute the two throws quickly enough.”