BALTIMORE – Either the grass-roots effort to get the Twins to bunt more is finally paying off, or the players just wanted to give their manager a nice birthday present.
“I think we just wanted to get him a win,” catcher Kurt Suzuki said.
The Twins on Saturday night dumped every tool they had in their toolbox all over Oriole Park at Camden Yards. They bunted. They squeezed. They used the hit-and-run. Twins manager Paul Molitor, who turned 59 Saturday, pushed all the right buttons in a 3-2 victory.
“We did everything we possibly could,” outfielder Torii Hunter said.
Byron Buxton’s first RBI in the majors, a single to left in the seventh inning, proved to be the winning hit. The Twins bunted three times and have bunted for a hit in every game this series. After getting swept in New York last week, the Twins have won three in a row from Baltimore and can sweep the Orioles on Sunday for the first time here since Aug. 23-26, 2007. And it would tie the Twins’ longest road winning streak of the season.
The Twins tied the score at 1-1 in the sixth on Brian Dozier’s RBI single off Chris Tillman. But the Orioles loaded the bases against Kyle Gibson in the bottom of the inning and got a sacrifice fly from J.J. Hardy to retake the lead. Casey Fien got the Twins out of the inning with only a one-run deficit, leaving the bases loaded by striking out Manny Machado.
Eddie Rosario, who hadn’t walked in 73 plate appearances, took a four-pitch walk to open the seventh. On a 2-1 pitch, he took off for second as Hunter grounded a single to right, a perfect hit-and-run that allowed Rosario to cruise to third.
On the next pitch, Suzuki bunted to the first base side of the mound and Rosario raced home. The squeeze worked, and the score was tied at 2-2.
Suzuki, who has eight RBI over his past six games, bunted on his own.
“Right there in that situation, I was going to give myself at least one shot to do that,” he said. “It’s a good play. You move the runner up and you get the run in. So you get a runner in scoring position and you score a run. It’s the best of both worlds. For me, it’s an easy way to score a run.”
Joe Mauer bunted for a hit in the first and Buxton set up Dozier’s RBI single with a sacrifice bunt in the sixth — almost beating it out. The Twins spent spring training and a lot of early afternoons working on bunting, but it’s only recently showing up more in games.
“It’s taken about seven months,” Molitor deadpanned. “We plant those seeds.”
Brad Brach replaced Tillman and threw three straight balls to Eduardo Escobar before walking him intentionally. That was only the second intentional walk of Escobar’s career. That lead to another question: What was the Twins’ record when Rosario (11 walks) and Escobar (16) walk in the same game?
“Is there one?” Molitor replied.
Buxton, in his second major league stint, then lined a single to left, scoring Hunter as the Twins took a 3-2 lead.
The bullpen locked down another one, as Gibson — who gave up two runs over 5⅔ innings — was followed by Fien, Trevor May and Kevin Jepsen, the same trio that finished out Friday’s victory. Fien (4-5) won in relief for the second time in as many nights, May pitched a scoreless eighth again and Jepsen pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to earn his second save in a row.
Tillman (9-8) held the Twins to Mauer’s bunt hit over the first five innings, but they outlasted him with one well-executed effort.
“It was a tough game, when you’re trying to score runs and battling to put something together,” Molitor said. “Had to scratch out some runs.”