Three extras from the finale of an interesting series with the first-place Astros:
Carlos Gomez likes to disrupt things, but sometimes his best efforts backfire. The former Twins outfielder singled to lead off the second inning Sunday, and made sure Ervin Santana’s focus was on him a lot of the time. Santana threw to first base six times to hold him close, but when Luis Valbuena flied out to the warning track in left field, Gomez tagged up and easily moved up a base.
Then he took a 15-foot lead off second base, forcing Brian Dozier and then Eduardo Escobar to edge closer to the bag. Santana threw over two more times, but Gomez was able to get back.
“We all know Gomez tries to be aggressive,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “His lead looked enormous from the dugout, and I think Ervin was aware of that. Even with two outs, we threw there multiple times.”
On the ninth pickoff throw of the inning, Gomez had finally gone too far. Santana whirled and whipped the ball to Escobar, who tagged Gomez’s head before his arm could reach the bag. Gomez was only the fifth runner picked off by Santana in his 11-year career, and his first since last June while with Atlanta.
“That was a big out,” Molitor said. “When you can get outs on the base paths defensively, it helps your cause.”
As Santana endured a terrible month of August, there was growing concern that the veteran righthander might be tipping his pitches. But Molitor said the Twins examined video of his starts and could find no evidence of it.
“We really didn’t see much,” Molitor said. “We made sure we were locked in on him today, both from the stretch and the windup, and everything looked clean from our vantage point. Obviously, it looked a little different from the other dugout, but what we saw looked good.”
Eduardo Nunez didn’t play Saturday, so it was easy to miss a milestone in his career. When he bashed a Lance McCullers pitch off the ribbon scoreboard fronting the upper deck in left field, it marked the first time in Nunez’s career that he had hit home runs in back-to-back games.
It also gave the Twins some breathing room after holding a 1-0 lead for six innings.
“We weren’t able to put much together against McCullers. He really settled in” after a three-walk first inning, Molitor said. “But Nunez worked a good at-bat and he got a breaking ball on 3-and-2, which he hammered. It was nice to get a little separation there.”