Four extras from the Twins’ 10th win in their last 12 games:
— Phil Hughes now owns a 4.39 ERA in his four losses, and a 6.56 ERA in his two wins. So it’s a little hard for him to say all’s well right now. He feels fine, and he was rolling along with three hits through five scoreless innings on Saturday. But with a 7-0 lead, he started giving runs back, and after David Murphy’s pinch-hit home run — the first one the Twins have allowed since Yuniesky Betancourt of the Royals hit one on July 22, 2012 — he left without a quality start for the fifth time in seven starts.
He knows it, and he’s working on fixing it, he said.
“It’s fun to be part of a team that’s doing what we’re doing right now. It seems like, as starters, all we have to do is go out there and give ourselves a chance. We’re scoring runs in bunches, and it’s fun to be part of that,” Hughes said. “But on a personal level, I have to do a better job of maintaining my stuff deeper into starts, because you’re not always going to have seven runs to work with. When you put up five shutout [innings], you have to keep it rolling.”
— The Progressive Field crowd got loud during the seventh inning, when Cleveland rallied with three runs, then loaded the bases looking for more. Brian Duensing walked Michael Brantley, then battled for 10 pitches with Brandon Moss before walking him, too.
So Paul Molitor made a rare lefty-for-lefty switch, bringing in Aaron Thompson to face Lonnie Chisenhall with the bases loaded and the crowd roaring. But Thompson hardly paid the crowd any mind, he said.
“There’s really only one thing to do — you can look at it like, “The bases are loaded!” But really, I just have to get this guy at the plate,” Thompson said. “It’s kind of a Little League mindset, but that’s how I like to be. If you don’t let the magnitude get to you, it’s easier to keep your focus.”
After throwing a ball, he got two quick strikes, and that changed the at-bat, Thompson said. “The last thing I want is to walk one in. That’s there reality, there’s nowhere to go,” he said. “But remember, the pressure’s on him. He’s got to do it.”
Feeling no pressure, Thompson got Chisenhall to lift a fly ball to shallow center, and Jordan Schafer made the catch on the run to end the threat. Thompson then pitched a quiet eighth, setting up Glen Perkins for the save.
— Torii Hunter may be the team’s hottest hitter, but he impressed Molitor with his willingness to sacrifice his at-bat on Saturday. After the long seventh inning got the crowd back into the game, Brian Dozier led off the eighth with a walk. That’s when Molitor had an idea: hit-and-run. So he approached a guy who had seven hits and a walk in his last nine plate appearances.
“I was just trying to stem the momentum they had created in the seventh, and unselfishly, Torii was on board,” Molitor said. “I wanted to make the guy throw a strike, [so Hunter took two pitches]. We got to a count where we put the runner in motion, and he did his job.”
Hunter grounded to third, with Dozier moving to second base. “It was not a strike, but he was able to get it on the ground and put Doz in scoring position,” Molitor said. “I’m sure he’s aware when he’s got a little run going like that, but he’s all about trying to do what helps us win the game.”
— Sort of lost in Hunter’s hot streak is the fact that Dozier is hitting again, too. He batted .293 on the Twins’ 11-game homestand, doubled on Friday, and doubled again with a home run on Saturday. Of his 15 RBIs this season, 10 of them have come in that span.