Creative is the word Paul Molitor uses to describe outfielder Eddie Rosario, but that doesn’t seem creative enough. The Twins’ resident daredevil, thrill-seeker and fire-eating showman had an epic night of boldness Monday, and he powered the Twins’ 4-2 victory over Detroit.
Rosario frequently plays baseball like a barrel looking for a waterfall, oblivious to the danger. He’s crazy, right?
“Maybe for you guys,” said teammate Jose Berrios, who gave up only three hits over eight innings, “but that’s our Puerto Rican style right there. That’s the way he plays.”
Monday, it was better than good: Rosario swung at a shoulder-high pitch and somehow smacked a double to spark the winning rally, he made a running catch that nearly turned center fielder Byron Buxton into roadkill, and he caught the game’s final out by crashing into the wall while stretching his glove, a play even he didn’t think he made.
“I looked and I didn’t know,” said Fernando Rodney, whose 10-inning scoreless streak was extended by Rosario’s leap. “I said, ‘Why he celebrate?’ ”
And the capper on this craziness was some brilliant baserunning, an eighth-inning play that delivered a run that nobody else could have: When Tigers outfielder Leonys Martin caught a Robbie Grossman popup not far beyond second base, Rosario tagged up and pretended to make a suicidal dash for the plate. When Martin, deciding that Rosario wasn’t that impetuous, jogged casually toward the infield, Rosario took the dare and tore home. Martin’s startled, desperate heave was far off line, and Rosario easily scored an insurance run.
“I see the guy and he got comfortable. Maybe I’m not going,” Rosario explained with the sly smile of a survivor. “I’ve done it before. Every time the short fly, people be thinking the guy at third base is not running. So I put on a little fake, like I was walking a little bit. And after that, I ran hard.”
Who else would have the fearlessness to pull it off? The question stumped Molitor.
“That particular play, he might be the only guy,” he said. “He’s one of those don’t-blink players. You don’t know what’s going to happen at any moment when he’s involved.”
The game marked the return to Target Field of former Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, who was let go and replaced by Molitor after the 2014 season.
Rosario’s bravado helped the Twins win back-to-back home games for the first time in six weeks, and kept them from wasting another brilliant performance by Berrios. The righthander gave up only three hits over eight innings, and none after the third inning, retiring 16 of the final 17 hitters he faced. The Tigers hit some balls hard early — Nick Castellanos ambushed him with a first-pitch home run in the first inning, and later smacked a third-inning single that scored another run— but Berrios made the adjustment.
“At the beginning of the game, it felt like they knew what I was going to throw,” Berrios said after recording his fifth victory of the season. “So we went back to the dugout and came back with a different game plan that worked.”
Shut down early by soft-throwing lefty Blaine Hardy, the Twins eventually tied the score on Max Kepler’s two-out, two-run double in the fifth inning. In the eighth, Rosario’s double helped the Twins load the bases, and Logan Morrison drew a bases-loaded walk to break the tie.
Then came Rosario’s mad dash, and the Twins’ victory.
“More runs is more fun for the team,” Rosario said. “Everybody was happy.”