ARLINGTON, TEXAS – Kennys Vargas stood in the way of a little bit of Twins history on Saturday. Specifically, he stood on third base, so Eddie Rosario couldn’t.
Rosario clubbed a home run, two doubles and a single at Globe Life Park, scoring four runs himself and powering the Twins to an 8-5 victory over the Rangers. And if not for his 300-pound Puerto Rican countryman, whose speed on the bases can generously be described as “deliberate,” he probably would have become the 11th Twin ever to hit for the cycle.
“Maybe,” Rosario said afterward of the possibility, as he looked at Vargas dressing nearby. “Maybe. … But, slow guy.”
He didn’t really mind, and neither did anyone else in a Minnesota uniform. The victory, pushed past midnight by an unusually late start time and a 70-minute rain delay, was the Twins’ sixth in nine July games, their fourth time scoring eight or more runs this month, and it clinched the season series (now 4-2) against the team with the American League’s best record, with one more game to play.
Ricky Nolasco, in his first career start in Arlington, earned his fourth win of the season despite allowing runners to reach base in five of his innings. But perhaps the biggest pitch he threw all night was to first base, not home plate. The Rangers looked certain to take a first-inning lead, except Nolasco picked Ian Desmond off first base.
“Getting out of the first was huge,” manager Paul Molitor said. “They hit some balls hard, but we got a pickoff and we got a zero.”
Shin-Soo Choo had led off with a line-drive single and Desmond followed with a hit of his own. After a fly out to deep center, Nolasco was facing Adrian Beltre. He tossed a throw to first base and Desmond appeared startled, but got back. Then Nolasco tried it again.
“I got a good, shocked reaction with my first pickoff, so I tried to make a quick one, a little better one. With my head movement, I was able to get him off balance,” Nolasco said after improving to 4-7 on the season. “A starting pitcher’s got to have a good move. Most of the time it’s [the runner’s] fault, not mine. I just try to keep them close.”
Nolasco’s performance was better than the one former Twins righthander Kyle Lohse delivered in his debut as a Ranger. Lohse, who signed with Texas in mid-May and was called up from Class AAA on Saturday, never threw a pitch harder than 88 mph, and left too many in the strike zone. The Twins collected at least one hit in every inning, piled up nine hits overall in Lohse’s five innings, and received home runs from Eduardo Nunez and Rosario.
The Twins’ scoring began in the second inning, and represented a missed opportunity for Rosario. With one out, Vargas drew a walk, then watched as Rosario embarked on a lengthy at-bat against Lohse. On the ninth pitch, Rosario lined a sinker deep into the gap in right-center, and it rolled to the wall. Vargas hustled to third base, and reached it as center fielder Ian Desmond fired the ball toward the infield. Third-base coach Gene Glynn put his hands in the air to halt him there — no sense risking a play at the plate so early in the game — and Rosario stopped at second.
Both players scored moments later on Juan Centeno’s single to right, and nobody could know that Rosario, who led the major leagues in triples last season with 15, had missed his best opportunity to reach a cycle. But Rosario singled to lead off the fourth inning, hammered his fourth home run of the season into the upper deck in right field off Lohse in the fifth, and doubled again in the seventh — ironically, reaching third base that time on Shin-Soo Choo’s throwing error.
The home run particularly impressed Molitor. “He wasn’t trying to do too much,” Molitor said. “He took a short swing and squared it up and the ball went plenty far.”
“Sometimes you don’t need to swing hard,” Rosario agreed. “You need only good contact and good swing.”
Not since 2009, when Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel both accomplished the feat, has any Twin hit for the cycle, and only 10 players have done so in franchise history, dating back to Rod Carew in 1970. But Rosario didn’t look at it as a missed opportunity, just a chance to prove he deserves more playing time.
Besides, Rosario said, “in Triple-A, I got four out of five” in one game with Vargas hitting directly in front of him. “I like to see my brother Puerto Rican in front of me.”