BOSTON — It was the argument of winners, a back-and-forth more celebration than debate. Why, Eddie Rosario wanted to know, didn’t Taylor Rogers celebrate more vigorously when Jason Castro tagged out Rafael Devers to end the game?
“If he’s out, you’re the umpire!” Rosario shouted amid a raucous Twins clubhouse.
“I gave it a massive fist pump!” Rogers objected.
The teammates laughed and grinned, the spoils of another win on a terrific road trip. They were exhilarated by the moment — but maybe a little relieved by the near-miss, too. Rogers, after all, left a low slider in the middle of the plate, and J.D. Martinez, with the tying run on base, applied the bat barrel that had pounded 34 home runs already this season.
But “I didn’t think [Martinez] had it. He got it pretty good, but it wasn’t clean,” Rogers, who could tell by the sound, said of the potential game-winning homer. “I figured it was going to hit off the wall — and I knew Rosie was out there.”
He was, and he was ready. Like when the Twins need a clutch walk-off, like when he sees a glimmer of a double in his routine singles, Rosario seized the moment.
“I didn’t want to try too much, and overthrow the ball to home plate. … When I saw [cutoff man] C.J. Cron, I said, ‘No cut the ball, no cut the ball,’ that’s the last chance to take this guy,” Rosario said. “That’s a big moment. That’s the most fun for me, the big moments.”
Yeah, his teammates have noticed.
“He’s got a knack for that stuff. Obviously he’s got great arm — and a knack,” Rogers said gratefully of the man who saved his 24th save. “It’s kind of the perfect combination.”
Here’s the amazing part about this night: Rosario’s play wasn’t even the best defensive gem of the game. That came in the seventh inning, when Jake Cave sprinted after Christian Vazquez’s deep fly ball, hoping to prevent it from turning into a double since he knew he had no shot to catch it.
Well, he thought he knew.
“As I was getting there, I realized I had a chance,” Cave said. “To me, that’s when you make the best plays, when you’re not really anticipating having to dive for something, and it just kind of happens.”
What happened was, Cave threw himself at the ball, stretched his arm out and and snagged it inches from the ground.
“Phenomenal,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “He closed on the ball exceptionally well. It was just a great catch in a game where we needed great plays.”
Willians Astudillo was an unorthodox choice to pinch-hit against Matt Barnes with the bases loaded and two outs in a tie game on Thursday.
Well, not to Baldelli.
“We’re facing a guy that has tremendous stuff, and misses a ton of bats, and we have a guy that has a chance to put the ball in play against almost anyone. Willi has that really unique ability to hit pitches that almost nobody else in the game can get a barrel on,” the manager said of his decision to pull Jonathan Schoop and send Astudillo to the plate. “You don’t know if it’s going to work, you just try to give yourself a fighting chance.”
Here’s the thing, though: Astudillo did know it would work. He even told hitting coach James Rowson.
Rowson was “telling me a big curveball guy was coming in,” said Astudillo, who patiently waited for Matt Barnes to run the count to 2-2, then cue-balled a too-high fastball into short right, breaking the 1-1 tie. “So I told [him], ‘Right field, base hit.’ So that’s what I did.”