A trio of extras from the Twins’ win over the Yankees, a potential rival for an AL wild card spot:
After some shaky defense in Houston over the weekend, Twins manager Paul Molitor was glad to see his fielders making some great plays again on Monday.
The biggest one belonged to shortstop Ehire Adrianza, who saved a run with some amazingly quick reflexes in the sixth inning. With Clint Frazier on third base and one out, the Twins drew the defense in to the edge of the grass. Matt Holliday shot a one-bounce laser that appeared headed to left field, but Adrianza somehow speared it, diving toward the outfield to make the play.
He jumped up, held Frazier at third, and threw Holliday out at first.
“He’s a good shortstop,” said Adalberto Mejia, who would have been charged with the run had Frazier scored. “He has good hands, moves really well defensively.”
Mejia was also saved a run by right fielder Max Kepler, who came racing in for Starling Castro’s two-out line drive in the fourth inning, diving to make the catch that left a runner stranded at third.
“It was nice to have a cleaner game on the defensive side,” Molitor said. “We needed it with that type of ballgame.”
Molitor was impressed by the work of his two best relievers, lefthander Taylor Rogers, who worked around a leadoff walk in the eighth inning, inducing a double play ball from Holliday, and Brandon Kintzler, who pitched through a driving rain in the ninth to earn his 26th save.
“It’s tough. It was coming down,” Molitor said of his All-Star closer. “You’re trying to keep your hand dry, keep your grip, trying to throw strikes. He was able to maneuver his way through a 1-2-3.”
He tried to do it as quickly as possible, too, before umpires could signal for the tarp. Kintzler threw just 10 pitches, striking out Garrett Cooper on just three. Then he missed a couple times to pinch-hitter Brett Gardner.
“I got to 2-1, and I’m like, ‘Good God, let’s hurry up,’ “ Kintzler said with a laugh. “Throw it down the middle and see what happens.”
Kintzler knew he would enter the game in the ninth, even if the game was still tied. When the Twins scored two in the eighth, “it gave me a little extra, because you know what your job has to be,” he said. “In a 2-2 ballgame, you have to approach it a little differently. But [the Twins] score runs, and all of a sudden, I can attack more. I don’t have be as careful because one swing won’t kill me.”
The Twins benefitted from a problem that has frequently bedeviled them this year: A tired bullpen. The Yankees played 34 innings in Fenway Park on Saturday and Sunday, and arrived in Minneapolis early Monday morning. So Molitor wasn’t certain which Yankee relievers might be available to pitch.
The answer: Pretty much only lefthander Caleb Smith, a starting pitcher who was making his major league debut. Smith, who hadn’t pitched since July 4, was handed the ball in the sixth inning, and went the final three, retiring the first six hitters he faced in order. But he got into trouble in the eighth, and still Joe Girardi left him in, a pretty good indication that nobody else was rested enough to pitch.
“I knew [closer Aroldis] Chapman had thrown a couple days in a row, and a couple other guys had been pitching a lot the past two or three days,” Molitor said. Including starter Bryan Mitchell, he said, “both of their young guys threw really well. It was nice to have them in reserve.”