A trio of extras from a painful Twins’ loss, their fourth in a row:
— Aaron Hicks’ biggest bases-loaded mistake on Friday was dropping what should have been an inning-ending fly ball, an error that makes you cringe to watch it. “I feel sorry for him. It’s tough to see one of your teammates, especially a young one like him, have that happen,” said Torii Hunter.
But the error might not have mattered, or at least might not have cost the Twins the game, if Hicks had come through in another bases-loaded situation an inning earlier. Still leading 1-0, the Twins put three runners on in the seventh inning on a single and two walks — Eduardo Escobar drew the second one by fouling off strike after strike until, on the 10th pitch, he got to take his base — and knocked Wandy Rodriguez out of the game after 122 pitches.
In came hard-throwing reliever Keone Kela to face Hicks with two outs. The duel didn’t last long. Hicks took an off-speed strike, fouled off a 95-mph fastball, then grounded a 96-mph pitch to Elvis Andrus at short.
“He still gets excited, over-swings at times,” manager Paul Molitor said. “We were just looking for a base hit there. He got behind, [but] was able to put the ball in play with two strikes to at least give himself a chance. He just couldn’t sneak it up the middle.”
Hicks shrugged at the at-bat. “It’s tough hitting in the big leagues,” he said. “You’ve got a guy coming out throwing 97 mph, it’s not easy to hit.”
— Torii Hunter had a first-inning hit Friday in a most unusual way: He bunted his way on.
Wait, a 39-year-old man still has enough speed to beat out a bunt?
“Yeah, if you bunt it perfectly,” Hunter said of his first bunt single since last September, a ball that stopped about 20 feet from home plate. “I kind of chipped that, and it spun back. Pretty good, wasn’t it?”
It was, good enough for his 23rd career bunt single. Strangely, only eight of them have been with the Twins.
— Tommy Milone allowed only three hits over seven innings, a sign that he’s pitching confidently since his return from Class AAA. If he remains this effective, it sets up a difficult decision for the Twins when Ricky Nolasco gets healthy and Ervin Santana becomes eligible.
“Early on, [I was using] the breaking ball, but later, I felt my fastball command was getting better so I went more fastballs. The changeup was working really good,” Milone said. “But the biggest thing was that I was [forcing] them to expand the zone and get some swing and misses.”
He got a lot of them, striking out eight, the most he’s had as a Twin. He also walked only one batter, continuing his focus on being aggressive. The only mistake he made was the fastball that Elvis Andrus smacked out in the seventh inning. “With a runner on, he is good about playing the game, so we felt he was going to try to shoot the hole [by second base], drive the ball the other way,” Milone said. “I think he just saw the ball up and turned on it. Unfortunate.”