Here are a few extras from a nice win for the Twins on Monday, a bounce-back performance after Sunday’s disappointing loss:
Aaron Hicks watched a 98-mph fastball from Yordano Ventura whiz past for a strike to open the game. Then he watched a 99-mph fastball sail outside for a ball.
On the third pitch, Ventura tried an 87-mph changeup. It landed in the Twins’ bullpen.
It was the second time this season that Hicks has opened a game with a home run, and it gives the Twins an MLB-leading eight such homers this season — Brian Dozier has the other six.
“It’s nice to start a game that way,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said, “especially with a guy like Ventura, on the road. He went to an off-speed pitch and left it up.”
The number that really impresses Molitor, however, is a little higher.
“Hicks, in I don’t know how many at-bats — 250? [Actually 264] — he’s got 10 home runs,” Molitor said. “He’s starting to show he’s capable of hitting the ball over the fence.”
He’s got as many this season, in fact, as in his previous two seasons combined (nine). And Monday’s blast off Ventura was his fourth from the left side, so his power is coming both ways.
Tommy Milone was especially grateful for a run-saving, inning-ending play that Eddie Rosario made on Monday. So was Molitor — though, in true managerial form, he noted Rosario’s mistake, too.
There were two outs in the seventh, with Mike Moustakas on first base, as Milone faced Paulo Orlando. Molitor had considered going to Casey Fien in that situation, but anticipated that Royals manager Ned Yost might counter by using Alex Gordon to pinch-hit. So he stuck with Milone, which appeared to be a bad decision when Orlando smacked a fly ball that carried over Rosario’s head.
Rosario collided with the fence, and appeared to jar his shoulder, but he scrambled quickly to pick up the ball and fire it toward the infield. Trevor Plouffe caught it at third base, spun and fired it home, just in time for Kurt Suzuki to tag him out.
“Anything can happen with Rosario in the outfield,” Milone said. “I thought maybe he hurt himself at the time, but he was able to get the ball to Plouffe in time.”
He did, and in doing so, registered his 15th assist of the season, just one fewer than MLB leader Avisail Garcia of the White Sox. But Molitor noted that while the throw to Plouffe was indeed an effective one, that wasn’t who Rosario was supposed to throw the ball to. Shortstop Eduardo Escobar was the cutoff man, and was standing in shallow left field when Rosario threw it past him.
“I think Eddie rushed it a little bit,” Molitor said. “He tried to find the guy he’s supposed to, but he missed him.”
None of the Twins, and especially Milone, were complaining.
Torii Hunter, stuck in a slump for most of August, seems to be emerging from it in September. The veteran outfielder, battling some minor sickness, followed up his three-hit game Sunday in Houston by smashing two more Monday in Kansas City.
“Torii got it started for us,” Molitor said of the Twins’ three-run, sixth-inning rally to take the lead for good. “He had another really good night.”