CHICAGO – The spray charts and hitting statistics on Paul Molitor’s desk will have to be reprinted, because they were soaked. The uniform and T-shirt Molitor was wearing went straight into the laundry, smelling of alcohol. The smile on his face took a beating, too, but he will probably be wearing that one for awhile.
The 25 Twins players ambushed their new manager as he entered the visitors clubhouse Friday, drenching him in beer as they danced and shouted, in celebration of Molitor’s first victory, a 6-0 decision over the White Sox.
“The players were up at the top of the stairs waiting for me. It was unexpected, but it was nice,” Molitor said after a raucous, if brief, postgame party. “I got a little bit of a beer shower today. I can’t remember the last time I had any kind of an alcohol shower — probably had to be 20-some years ago. Hopefully I’ll get an opportunity to have one again someday.”
The Twins are a long way from popping championship champagne at the moment, but at least they experienced a little joy at U.S. Cellular Field. After an ugly three games in Detroit, Tommy Milone changed the atmosphere around the team by looking like a Tiger against the Twins: Shutout baseball, quick innings, virtually no scoring threats. “We got that first win, now everyone can relax,” he said.
Everyone but the White Sox, now the American League’s only winless team after they opened the season by getting swept at Kansas City. Friday, Chicago managed only two hits over 7⅔ innings against Milone, and the only scoring chance all day died at the plate to end the game, when Kurt Suzuki tagged Adam Eaton out.
“That’s the Tommy I remember from Oakland,” said Suzuki, who caught the lefthander with the Athletics in 2012. “He’s that guy who you say, ‘Gosh, I see the ball so good.’ Next thing you know, you’re 0-for-4.”
Milone did it almost entirely with a fastball that didn’t reach 90 miles per hour, fooling hitters by changing locations and velocities. He used only an occasional changeup or cutter, he said, preferring to hit corners and break bats.
“Just being able to throw the ball where I wanted to today, getting it up and in near the hands,” that’s all it took, Milone said. “I knew they were going to be aggressive. I knew they were going to swing, so I had to just keep it out of the middle.”
He issued two walks in the first inning, then struck out Adam LaRoche to stay out of trouble. He gave up a leadoff bunt single to Micah Johnson in the third, then picked him off as Johnson tried to steal third. And he almost effortlessly retired the next 16 hitters before a two-out double by Tyler Flowers in the eighth ended his day.
Brian Duensing retired Johnson to end that inning, and earned the second save of his career by retiring the White Sox in the ninth as well.
The Twins, meanwhile, took advantage of the wildness of Hector Noesi, who set up their first run with a wild pitch and simply handed them their second run with another. Noesi walked five unintentionally, hit Eduardo Escobar with a pitch, and even balked a runner into scoring position. The Twins doubled their lead with three ninth-inning runs off Zach Putnam.
Once the game was over, the good times began.
“We had a little song, danced a little bit, gave [Molitor] a little shower. He gave a little speech, we did too. It was pretty cool,” said Brian Dozier, who hit the Twins’ first homer of the season, off Matt Albers in the seventh. “It was good to move on after [three losses in] Detroit.”