Paul Molitor was wearing his Big Sexy T-shirt after the game, as were many Twins players and coaches. Great promotion, everyone agreed, including Big Sexy himself. Just one problem.
“Didn’t work,” Molitor shrugged.
No, Bartolo Colon, proud bearer of the Big Sexy persona (and owner of its trademark, too, all rights reserved), took a shutout into the fifth inning on Friday, but a leadoff home run by Kevin Pillar, another an inning later by Josh Donaldson, and a fateful leadoff walk in the seventh inning spoiled the party. Toronto seized that opening to rally for a 4-3 victory that stopped the Twins’ three-game winning streak and cut their lead for the second AL wild card to two over Los Angeles after the Angels won later Friday.
“Every team kind of gets an inning where they score some runs,” said Colon, who departed to a loud ovation after surrendering a tying double to Russell Martin, “and I think that was their inning.”
It turned into it, yes, when Colon walked Pillar on four pitches, then fell behind Martin 2-1 and tried to fool Martin with a high fastball that wound up tomahawked off the left field wall on a bounce, scoring Pillar. On a night of long and loud Toronto outs, Eddie Rosario had little chance of catching up to that one.
“Lot of balls in the air. Kind of the way he does it,” Molitor said. “Sometimes it’s going to be some fly balls that might scare you a little bit, and he’s going to give up some homers, too. That’s just how it works.”
The homers were plenty loud, too, with Pillar jumping on an inside fastball and lining it to the left field seats, and Donaldson absolutely crushing a similar pitch into the upper deck in left. But the game was ultimately decided by a ball that traveled only 60 feet on the fly.
That one was by Donaldson, too, after Ryan Pressly relieved Colon with the score tied 3-3 and gave up a bunt single to Ryan Goins. “It was just a good bunt. It was an awkward spot,” said Pressly, who cut off third baseman Eduardo Escobar to try to make the play but didn’t pick up the ball cleanly. “If I get to it, I don’t even know if I get him out.”
He retired Tenscar Hernandez on a popup and Richard Urena on a strikeout with a 98-miles-per-hour fastball. But Donaldson got the go-ahead run home by lining a ball off Pressley’s left foot.
“I’m trying to get out of the way, and the ball hits me,” Pressly said. “I know [Brian] Dozier is playing right behind me.”
That kind of night, Molitor said. “The ball was headed right toward Dozier,” he agreed. “But as baseball can do, a foot got in the way and [it was the] difference in the game.”
It spoiled a festive night for the announced 27,902 fans, except for the large and noisy percentage of them Canadians. After two consecutive nights of walkoff home runs, there was a pennant-race atmosphere in Target Field, and it only grew as the Twins took leads of 2-0 and 3-1 off lefthander J.A. Happ, getting a third-inning sacrifice fly from Joe Mauer, a two-out RBI single in the fourth from Chris Gimenez and Brian Dozier’s 31st homer of the season in the fifth.
The ending was a letdown. But at least people got collector’s item T-shirts. “It’s awesome to see fans and my teammates and coaches [wear those] for me,” Colon said. “I’m very thankful for them, and I know my family is very thankful.”
Molitor was, too. “I think this will be my winter workout shirt,” he said.